(early) Poem of the Week, by Grant Clauser

It was surprisingly easy to get, someone who never should have been able to buy a gun once mused to me, a sentence that still turns my body to ice.

Last week at a Moth live show I sat in the front row the way I always do and watched warily as one of the storytellers brought a prop concealed in a plastic bag on stage. I turned to the stranger next to me and said I hope that’s not a gun in there, and then looked around to plot my exit routes. Should I crouch and scuttle or run in a zig zag?

We cover sockets with plastic caps, put car seats in cars, buckle our seatbelts, put locks on cabinets, stop signs at corners, add a rotten egg stink to odorless gas. We keep ourselves safer in common sense ways. We can do the same with guns. Mass violence is inevitable only if we shrug and say it is. Mass violence is acceptable only if we shrug and say it is. We are helpless only if we give up. So don’t give up. Take action. Here is one of my favorite organizations.

J35, by Grant Clauser
For two weeks
a killer whale
pushed its dead calf
around the ocean,
diving to the cold darkness
each time the desiccating baby
sank to the bottom.
She cradled her offspring
in her dangerous mouth,
raised the stillborn
back to the surface
to make sure its collapsed blowhole
could reach the air.

What if mythology
got it wrong about Sisyphus?
The rock not punishment
from the gods, but the weight
of regret falling
back on him,
grief rolling over
him each night
as he tried to quiet
the nightmares,
then woke again
to push it as far
up the mountain
as his shoulders could take.

Finally the whale-watchers
said it was over,
the body too decomposed
and eaten by fish
for the mother to keep
carrying, and the ocean
eventually separated them
by wave and storm,
the orca rejoined its pod
to follow the salmon,
something to focus on
while moving forward

Click here for more information about Grant Clauser.


Words by Winter: my podcast

Poem of the Week, by Eileen Sheehan

This quote is from my novel All Rivers Flow to the Sea. It pops up here and there around the world, on Instagram pages and Pinterest boards, translated into various languages. It’s taken on a life of its own, one I couldn’t have predicted. But I do remember writing these words, how the sentences spun themselves out as if they were trying to tell me something important. This poem feels the same way.

Holding the Note, by Eileen Sheehan

Singing class began with me being asked
to sing the scale. The class would laugh.

I never laughed because I already knew
I could not hold a tune, except inside my head.

For almost half a term I dreaded
Thursday mornings, until I told my mother

how I was used as an anti-tuning fork
to demonstrate how not to climb the scale.

My mother simplified it all with her advice,
Girl, on Thursday next, don’t sing.

So, next class I met her gaze dead on,
sealed my mouth tight shut. No matter

how many times she ordered me,
I allowed not one sound escape my throat.

Silence spread across the room
like a held note. I knew I had her then

for silence was my realm, not hers.
She rammed the tuning fork against

the wooden desk and instructed the
best singer in the room to lead

the group. My mother never asked a thing
when I got home but she sang, around the house,

a song that had my name in it:
and the girl inside the song could sing.

I carry every word and turn to The Spinning
Wheel: inside my head I sing it still.

For more information about Eileen Sheehan, please click here.


Words by Winter: my podcast

Poem of the Week, by Muriel Rukeyser

Yesterday I opened a can of tomatoes, squished them through my fingers to break them up, added them to the soup, and suddenly pictured the long line of people who made this possible. The invisible humans who planted the seeds, watched over the growing plants, harvested the tomatoes, hauled them to the processing plant, trucked them to the store, stocked the shelf I plucked them from. The people who made the can, cast the iron pot, strung together the gas lines that feed my stove.

I happily eat alone at restaurants and bars, go to movies alone, travel thousands of miles and across oceans alone, work alone, spend much of my time alone. But still, my life is entirely dependent on the decency of people I don’t know and will never know. Every time I read this poem I think about that.

Islands, Muriel Rukeyser

O for God’s sake
they are connected

They look at each other
across the glittering sea
some keep a low profile

Some are cliffs
The bathers think
islands are separate like them

For more information about Muriel Rukeyser, please click here.

Words by Winter: my podcast

Poem of the Week, by Sara Teasdale

The other night I dreamed I saw a girl in a treehouse, reading. A girl in a hay fort, reading. A girl in her room, reading about worlds she didn’t live in, worlds that weren’t hers but maybe someday could be.

All the girls were me. All were alone, none were lonely. None needed someone else to tell her what she could or couldn’t do with her life. Do unto others as you would not have them do unto you, Supreme Court injustices. I will disregard you. You’re afraid of that girl with a book because you should be.

The Crystal Gazer, by Sara Teasdale

I shall gather myself into myself again,
   I shall take my scattered selves and make them one,
Fusing them into a polished crystal ball
   Where I can see the moon and the flashing sun.

I shall sit like a sibyl, hour after hour intent,
   Watching the future come and the present go,
And the little shifting pictures of people rushing
   In restless self-importance to and fro.

For more information about Sara Teasdale, please click here.

Words by Winter: my podcast