Poem of the Week, by Jim Moore

When someone signs up for a workshop they often say something like Alison, I need you to be hard on me. Don’t sugarcoat anything. I just tilt my head and smile.

When I was young I sat through lots of tense workshops in which a few lukewarm-nice things were said and then the “real” critique started, about everything wrong with the piece. Too many times I watched students turn bright red, fight back tears.

“I do best when a teacher is tough on me.” Do you, though? What about when someone focuses on what’s beautiful, what is yours and yours alone? Watch a wild, silent power emerge. The teacher in this poem speaks to the artist in me.

A Young Man, a Stranger, Smiled at Me, by Jim Moore

           Maybe I reminded him of his grandfather
or his favorite teacher in grade school,
           the one who lied to him
about his painting of the goldfish bowl,
           who looked hard at it and said, Beautiful.

For more information about Jim Moore, please visit his website.


Words by Winter: my podcast

Poem of the Week, by Jim Moore

My poems podcast, Words by Wintercan be found here.

The other day I passed a tall chemo-bald man in a fur hat despite the warm day. They cut the bad parts out and now I’m good to go, he told the UPS driver. I smiled at him and he waved, full of cheer.

The broken world is a phrase I see everywhere these days. Yeah, it’s broken, and yeah, wild worry about the future keeps me from sleep. But haven’t all our hearts been broken, over and over, and don’t most of us just want to keep going? Want to haul ourselves up from a fall, from surgery, from depression, from everything that gets thrown at us, so that we can keep on living? There’s something so beautiful about that.

Whatever Else, by Jim Moore

Whatever else, the little smile on the face of the woman
listening to a music the rest of us can’t hear and a sky at dawn
with a moon all its own. Whatever else, the construction crane
high above us waiting to be told how to do our bidding,
we who bid and bid and bid. Whatever else, the way cook #1
looks with such longing at cook #2. Let’s not be too sad
about how sad we are. I know about the disappearance
of the river dolphins, the sea turtles with tumors.
I know about the way the dead
don’t return no matter how long they take to die
in the back of the police car. I know about the thousand ways our world
betrays itself. Whatever else, my friend, spreading wide his arms,
looks out at the river and says,
“After all, what choice did I have?” After all,
I saw the man walking who’d had the stroke, saw the woman
whose body won’t stop shaking. I saw the frog in the tall grass,
boldly telling us who truly matters. I saw the world
proclaim itself an unlit vesper candle while a crow
flew into the tip of it, sleek black match, burning.

For more information about Jim Moore, please check out his website


Poem of the Week, by Jim Moore

IMG_0342On a moonless night a long time ago, just off the highway, I leaned against a cinder block wall with a payphone pressed to my ear. The only light came from passing cars and a bug-stained fluorescent bulb mounted above the phone. The voice on the other end was bored, disinterested. Across the miles I felt the connection diminishing, no, diminished, no, gone.

I ground my forehead against the wall and tried to sound un-desperate, un-despairing, un-lonely, un-everything I actually felt. At that moment something dropped onto my shoulder and then to the ground – a blob of white putty that turned into an albino frog that then dragged itself away into the weeds. 

That frog and that night still come washing over me sometimes, the way they did when I read this poem.


True Enough, by Jim Moore

         I have forgotten many things.
But I do remember
         the bank of clover along the freeway
we were passing thirty years ago
         when someone I loved made clear to me
it was over.


For more information about poet Jim Moore, please check out his website.

Prompted by a line from a poem by Wyn Cooper

“The stars have fallen onto the sheets, fallen down to sleep with me.”

Lines from poems scroll continuously through me. Beginning at dawn, when I wake up, and throughout the day, lines from poems come to me, recite themselves silently in my head, in my voice, like song refrains spoken not sung.

Without poetry I would be a lost person. Remembered lines and fragments calm the wildness of my heart, absorb it into their own wildness and wilderness, translate it into words, corral the inner chaos and make it bearable.

Without poetry I might have to set fire to myself, to make the fire go away. Bless you, you poems, you tiny mantras placing slender arms around the day: I care. I want you.

Which is itself a fragment from a poem. Like all the below, which have been through-threading themselves throughout my mind ever since I woke up today.

* * *


I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. What I do know is  how to pay attention, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be  idle and blessed.  . .

Whatever leads to joy, they always say, to more life, and less worry.

It is difficult not to love the world, but possible.

The life I didn’t lead took place in Italy.

But one man loved the pilgrim soul  in you, and loved the sorrows of your changing face.

Come up to me, love, out of the river, or I will come down to you.

Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I’m telling you is
Yes Yes Yes

What will you do with your one wild and precious life?

Today would be your birthday, and I send my love to you across the bridgeable divide.

Sometimes it is necessary to re-teach a thing its loveliness.

And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so?

Last night as I  was sleeping I dreamt – oh marvelous illusion – that I had a beehive here inside my heart. And the golden bees were making white combs and sweet honey from my old failures.

At night we consoled ourselves
By discussing the meaning of homesickness.
But there was no home to go home to.
There was no getting around the ocean.
We had to go on finding out the story
by pushing into it —

The sea was no longer a metaphor.
The book was no longer a book.
That was the plot.
That was our marvelous punishment.

I am not done with my changes.