Poem of the Week, by Gregory Orr

My poems podcast, Words by Wintercan be found here.

I’m no dancer but I love to dance anyway. So many memories of dancing. A ballet studio on the second floor of a frame house: First position. Second position. Plie. Arabesque. Releve. The Alibi: a bar in Vermont, my best friend and I waiting in the entryway every weekend until the cover dropped to half price. The tiny dance floor where every song, in my memory, is by the Police.

A swing dance party in Maine: me a newbie unable to follow the tight rhythms until a dark-eyed man curled my fingers around the tips of his: Resist me. Follow me, and at the same time resist me. A friend’s wedding: rainy night under a big tent. Boards laid across mud. The band strikes up and a laughing man holds out his hand: Come on, Alison, let’s go. Mud-soaked red shoes: one heel broken by the end of the night.

It’s been a while since things didn’t feel so messed up, politics and the planet melting down and movements bad and good rising up simultaneously, a future in which so much feels so uncertain. Been a while since I danced things out late at night in the living room, or thought of this poem.

To Be Alive, by Gregory Orr

To be alive: not just the carcass
but the spark.
That’s crudely put, but. . . 

If we’re not supposed to dance,
why all this music?

For more information about Gregory Orr, please check out his website

Poem of the Week (excerpt), by Amanda Gorman

My poems podcast, Words by Wintercan be found here.

Four years ago my family and I flew to DC to protest cruelty, bigotry, and oppression. My memories of that day, the people I met, the signs I saw, the peaceful and profound determination I witnessed, have stayed with me through the years and the marches since.

None of us are responsible for the world we’re born into, but all of us are obligated to right the wrongs we see. I used to think I was a pretty enlightened person when it came to the baked-in racism and sexism and fundamental unfairness of life in this country, but I wasn’t. My eyes are fully open now. Amanda Gorman’s fierce grace and power as she delivered her poem last Wednesday transfixed me.

The Hill We Climb (excerpt), by Amanda Gorman

We will not march back to what was
but move to what shall be
A country that is bruised but whole,
benevolent but bold,
fierce and free
We will not be turned around
or interrupted by intimidation
because we know our inaction and inertia
will be the inheritance of the next generation
Our blunders become their burdens
But one thing is certain:
If we merge mercy with might,
and might with right,
then love becomes our legacy
and change our children’s birthright
So let us leave behind a country better
than the one we were left with

When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid
The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

For more information about Amanda Gorman, please click here.
Words by Winter: my new podcast

Poem of the Week, by Yalie Kamara

My new poems podcast, Words by Wintercan be found here.

When someone in my family almost but doesn’t triumph at something, one of us might say But you didn’t, a phrase that goes back long ago to our friend Kareem, who almost but didn’t score an incredible soccer goal, and his mother who, after the fourth or fifth time he reminisced about the almost-ness of it, laughed and said “But you didn’t!”

It’s a code phrase known to all of us, the way Okay see youuuuu is what my younger daughter and I say instead of goodbye, the way the father in Kim’s Convenience, a show we both adore, says it to his customers when they leave his store. The secret codes between people who love each other, and how they can last a lifetime, are what I thought of when I read this beautiful poem by Yalie Kamara.

Besaydoo, by Yalie Kamara

While sipping coffee in my mother’s Toyota, we hear the birdcall of two teenage boys
in the parking lot: Aiight, one says, Besaydoo, the other returns, as they reach
for each other. Their cupped handshake pops like the first, fat, firecrackers of summer,

their fingers shimmy as if they’re solving a Rubik’s cube just beyond our sight. Moments
later, their Schwinns head in opposite directions. My mother turns to me, revealing the
milky, John-Waters-mustache-thin foam on her upper lip, Wetin dem bin say?

Besaydoo? Nar English?
 she asks, tickled by this tangle of new language. Alright.
Be safe dude
, I pull apart each syllable like string cheese for her. Oh yah, dem nar real padi,
she smiles, surprisingly broken by the tenderness expressed by what half my family might call

thugs. Besaydoo. Besaydoo. Besaydoo, we chirp in the car, then nightly into our phones
after I leave California. Besaydoo, she says as she softly muffles the rattling of my bones
in newfound sobriety. Besaydoo, I say years later, her response made raspy by an oxygen

treatment at the ER. Besaydoo, we whisper to each other across the country. Like
some word from deep in a somewhere too newborn-pure for the outdoors, but we
saw those two boys do it, in broad daylight, under a decadent, ruinous, sun.

For more information about Yalie Kamara, please check out her website.


Poem of the Week, by Shilpa Kamat

My poems podcast, Words by Wintercan be found here.

Yesterday I listened to a news commentator tell me that in a few weeks things will have died down and we’d be “back to normal.” Really?

Normal used to mean the legal enslavement of Black people. Normal, in my grandmother’s day, meant she couldn’t vote. Normal, when my mother was pregnant with me, meant she had to hide her pregnancy to keep her job. Normal, when I was a kid, meant if you were gay you pretended you weren’t. Normal right now means, among many things, that most citizens live paycheck to paycheck while a few make a billion dollars a month.

Normal is a prism that shifts and changes over time, depending on your skin color, your sex, your gender, your age, your job, your money or lack thereof. I don’t want to go back to normal. Where I want to go is forward.

the demons were never, by Shilpa Kamat 

evil just regular
                                      people who prayed
                                      and were granted

                                      before their hearts
                                      were grown
enough to keep

For more information about Shilpa Kamat, please click here.
Words by Winter: my new podcast

Poem of the Week, by Elizabeth Coatsworth

My new poems podcast, Words by Wintercan be found here.

As a kid I used to wake up at dawn and walk down the road to a small concrete ledge over a watering hole. There were never any cars, and I used to sit on the ledge and watch the sun come up over the valley. Sometimes, far up the hill, through the mist, the sound of cowbells (the nearest farmers were Swiss) came drifting down.

Back then I used to take photos in my mind of things I wanted to remember forever. The lone tree that stood in the field halfway up the hill. The pink and yellow dawn sky. That herd of Holsteins chiming their soft way down the hill to the watering hole, the way they looked at me with their velvet eyes. When I found this old-timey poem in an old-timey book of poems and quotes and aphorisms I pulled off my bookshelf a few weeks ago, those mind-photos came back. Happy New Year, everyone.

Swift Things Are Beautiful, by Elizabeth Coatsworth

Swift things are beautiful:
swallows and deer,
and lightning that falls
bright-veined and clear,
rivers and meteors,
wind in the wheat,
the strong-withered horse,
the runners’ sure feet.

And slow things are beautiful:
the closing of day,
the pause of the wave
that curves downward to spray,
the ember that crumbles,
the opening flower,
and the ox that moves on
in the quiet of power.

For more information about Elizabeth Coatsworth, please click here.
Words by Winter: my new podcast