Poem of the Week, by Robin Rosen Chang

Four spots open in each of our two remaining one-day workshops next month – I’d love to see you there. Check them out here.

When my kids were tiny and one of them or their friends fell and hurt themselves, they would all cry in sympathy. I remember them touching their scrapes to my body, as if that would somehow take away the hurt.

If a tree is in distress, other trees funnel sugar and water to it through their roots. How many times have you seen someone in pain and felt your own throat close up in sorrow with them? We humans walk around contained inside skin but sometimes skin feels like a mirage.

Indian Creek with Neighbor Boy, by Robin Rosen Chang

When we were kids, we explored
the creek, meandered with it
through our yards and beyond
as if we had discovered it
ourselves. We wandered along its bed,
navigating its contours
until we learned where the water
moved fastest, where it trickled,
where its stones jutted out
forming steps for us to cross
from one side to the other.
When we knew the creek perfectly,
we rolled our pants,
tossed our dirty socks and damp sneakers
and waded through it,
lifting rocks to catch crayfish
and scooping up salamanders
shrouded in the cool mud.

In winters, we stomped along
its gray frozen surface like giants,
cracking the ice with our heavy steps,
or slid clumsily on the thicker patches
behind the McCabes’ house.
Once, you shattered it
and fell in. When you got up,
dripping wet, tears
streaming down your chubby child cheeks,
you turned to me,
as if maybe it was my fault.
A true friend wouldn’t just stand there.
To ease your pain,
I lay in the frigid creek,
in the exact spot where you had fallen.

For more information on Robin Rosen Chang, please check out her website.
Words by Winter: my podcast

Poem of the Week, by Robert Hedin

Four spots open in each of our two remaining one-day workshops next month – I’d love to see you there. Check them out here.

Long ago, I went to look at a little house for sale on a lake. My realtor and I showed up at the appointed time but the homeowner was still there. She stood at an ironing board in the living room, ironing pieced quilt squares with a grim-faced focus that made me wary and quiet. Are you making a quilt, I ventured, but she said nothing.

The rooms of the house emanated sadness and fury. She’s getting divorced and she doesn’t want to and she has to sell her house and she doesn’t want to do that either, was the thought that came to me. I inclined my head in the direction of the ironing board and left the house in silence.

This poem makes me think about the wild, silent grief and rage of that long-ago woman. It makes me think about what we’re really doing when we do the things we do.

Raising the Titanic, by Robert Hedin

I spent the winter my father died down in the basement,
under the calm surface of the floorboards, hundreds

of little plastic parts spread out like debris
on the table. And for months while the snow fell

and my father sat in the big chair by the Philco dying,
I worked my way up deck by deck, story by story,

from steerage to first class, until at last it was done,
stacks, deck chairs, all the delicate rigging.

And there it loomed, a blazing city of the dead.
Then painted the gaping hole at the waterline

and placed my father at the railings, my mother
in a lifeboat pulling away from the wreckage.

For more information about Robert Hedin, please check out his website.

Words by Winter: my podcast

Poem of the Week, by Hailey Leithauser

Two spots open in our Freedom of Form workshop tomorrow, and five spots each in our two remaining one-day creative writing workshops next month – I’d love to see you there. Check them out here.

Me talking to me: Alison! For God’s sake, respond to all those piled-up emails. Clean up the kitchen. Teach yourself the WWI history you never learned. Scrub the tub, re-learn all those Chinese characters, get busy studying Spanish, go to bed at a reasonable hour, get up early and go straight to work. Alison! Do this do that do better!

But sometimes I don’t want to do better. Sometimes I just want to stay up late and make a martini and turn off all the lights and dance around my living room and dining room to loud music while the sly curvy lines of this poem spin round and round and round in my head.

Late Night Poem, by Hailey Leithauser

Better to risk, she says,
the whiskey’s wheeze
and the throttle’s urge
and a blonde
with curves
like tennis serves
than to wait as a sheep
for the chilling nap,
the buttoned breeze,
the pallid tap
of an autumn moth,
kept safe by glass
from the candle’s breath.

For more information about Hailey Leithauser, please check out her website.
Words by Winter: my podcast

Poem of the Week, by Grace Cavalieri

Check out my one-day creative writing workshops this month and next – spots are still open in most of them and I’d love to see you in one!

Last Monday my daughter and I sat side by side on a gray couch, both of us working on our laptops while rain poured down the windows. In between tasks we talked idly about ginger-lemon tea, various regional terms for water fountains, and how to bleed radiators. We tried to figure out why anyone would choose to buy 66% less sodium salt. We laughed at funny Tiktok videos.

At one point she brought up the glittery plastic hair clip she had used throughout middle school and how that kind of clip was back in style.

I still have that thing! I said. It’s in the top bathroom drawer!

She smiled and petted the soft gray cat curled up between us on her long, long legs. I pictured that cheap glittery clip and was suddenly borne back in time to her kindergarten days, how every morning she wanted a different hairdo and how I tried and often failed to arrange her sproingy dark curls the way she wanted. All the years between then and now swam before me and once again I was swamped with the intensity of my love for her.

A glittery hair clip. Such a little thing, except not.

How a Poem Begins, by Grace Cavalieri

It’s a little thing. Could be
the long o’s in Kosovo, or
a woman
alone in the street
after the hurricane
sweeping Honduras.
Perhaps we tell of a child
beneath the flood
in New Orleans, or
feet bloody from
walking the rubble
of Afghanistan.
They say poetry is
such a tiny voice
no one can hear.
Sometimes it says
“I can’t breathe.”
That’s why we write of such
little things, insignificant things.

For more information about Grace Cavalieri, please check out her website.

Words by Winter: my podcast

Poem of the Week, by Ada Limon

Spots are still open in most of our one-day workshops this fall – maybe you should treat yourself to a class! Check them out here and let me know if you’re interested. I’d love to see you in one.

When I first read this poem, by the wondrous Ada Limon, it turned me still and focused the way all her poems do. I pictured my grandmother, a woman who refused to dance and was ashamed of her big body, the one time I came upon her swaying to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass in the kitchen when she thought she was alone.

I pictured my other grandmother, who at the moment she died appeared to my sleeping mother flying overhead, calling her name in a voice restored to youth and happiness.

I remembered the owl in the tree above me, who tilted his head back and forth with mine, whose eyes stared direct and unblinking at my eyes. I thought about Ada Limon’s friend, and about those rare times in life when all the names and roles others give us fall away, and we are only our essential selves.

Open Water, by Ada Limòn

It does no good to trick and weave and lose 
the other ghosts, to shove the buried deeper 
into the sandy loam, the riverine silt, still you come,
my faithful one, the sound of a body so persistent 
in water I cannot tell if it is a wave or you 
moving through waves. A month before you died 
you wrote a letter to old friends saying you swam
with a pod of dolphins in open water, saying goodbye,
but what you told me most about was the eye. 
That enormous reckoning eye of an unknown fish 
that passed you during that last–ditch defiant swim. 
On the shore, you described the fish as nothing 
you’d seen before, a blue–gray behemoth moving slowly 
and enduringly through its deep fathomless 
North Pacific waters. That night, I heard more 
about that fish and that eye than anything else. 
I don’t know why it has come to me this morning.
Warm rain and landlocked, I don’t deserve the image.
But I keep thinking how something saw you, something 
was bearing witness to you out there in the ocean 
where you were no one’s mother, and no one’s wife, 
but you in your original skin, right before you died, 
you were beheld, and today in my kitchen with you
now ten years gone, I was so happy for you.

For more information about Ada Limòn, please check out her website.
Words by Winter: my podcast