Poem of the Week, by David Kirby


Never done before, mosaic detail

There’s a video somewhere in my house, laboriously taken on a huge VHS camcorder and then laboriously transferred years later to a cd, of a Rope Power competition at my children’s elementary school. Rope Power is a compilation of incredible feats of jump ropery –synchronized jump roping, trick jump roping, speed jump roping– practiced for weeks and months on end.  At the completion of Rope Power there’s a performance that all can attend. Loud music. Team t-shirts. Scads of children wildly jumping to the gasps and applause of the audience. Toward the end of my home video the gym clears for a special performance by an ace jump roper, who enters with one leg wrapped around his neck, jump-roping on the other. At one point he may do a sort of flip-thing while still jumping. It’s not clear, because at that point in the video the camera suddenly jostles and you can hear me yell (having just realized it), “Holy shit! That’s my son!” There are many reasons why I love this poem, and the line But I also wanted to learn that trick where you grab your left ankle in your right hand and then jump through with your other leg is one of them.


Taking It Home to Jerome
     – David Kirby

In Baton Rouge, there was a DJ on the soul station who was
always urging his listeners to “take it on home to Jerome.”

No one knew who Jerome was. And nobody cared. So it
didn’t matter. I was, what, ten, twelve? I didn’t have anything

to take home to anyone. Parents and teachers told us that all
we needed to do in this world were three things: be happy,

do good, and find work that fulfills you. But I also wanted
to learn that trick where you grab your left ankle in your

right hand and then jump through with your other leg.
Everything else was to come, everything about love:

the sadness of it, knowing it can’t last, that all lives must end,
all hearts are broken. Sometimes when I’m writing a poem,

I feel as though I’m operating that crusher that turns
a full-size car into a metal cube the size of a suitcase.

At other times, I’m just a secretary: the world has so much
to say, and I’m writing it down. This great tenderness.


For more information about David Kirby, please click here.

Poem of the Week, by Richard Jones

Whatever brain function places memory within the context of time is lacking in me, which means that something that happened 20 years ago could have happened last year. That is why every Saturday, when I find the right poem to send out, I check my Sent files to make sure I didn’t already send it a few weeks ago. When I came to this one, which I’ve loved for twelve years because it feels like a tiny prayer of redemption, I was sure I’d sent it recently. But the only Richard Jones reference in any of my 64,428 emails was a note from my poetry-loving son in 2012, telling me about one of his professors in Chicago, a guy named Richard Jones, who was a poet whose work he thought I would like. Which goes to prove that 1) the world is small, 2) a beautiful poem transcends time, and 3) my son is so awesome.

After Work

– Richard Jones
Coming up from the subway
into the cool Manhattan evening,
I feel rough hands on my heart –
women in the market yelling
over rows of tomatoes and peppers,
old men sitting on a stoop playing cards,
cabbies cursing each other with fists
while the music of church bells
sails over the street,
and the father, angry and tired
after working all day,
embracing his little girl,
kissing her,
mi vida, mi corazon,
brushing the hair out of her eyes
so she can see.

​For more information on Richard Jones, please click here.

Is This Where We Are?

little-luke-and-devUntil about half an hour ago I would have responded, had you asked me if I kept a journal, “No. I don’t keep a journal.”

Because I don’t.

If you had persisted, and asked me, “Did you ever keep a journal?” I would have said, “Yeah, when I was in fifth grade. It was one of those tiny little diaries that you lock with a tiny little key, and every entry was about a) the boy I had a crush on from kindergarten through senior year, or b) my tiny little baby brother, just born that year, whom I adored.”

I might then have followed it up by saying,  “But as an adult? No. I never kept a journal” –

forgetting entirely about the years when, in fact, I did keep a journal. They were what I think of as the years of blurred-ness, back in the nineties mostly, when I had the three tiny little kids and I was trying to do a million different things at once. Which I still am, but in a slightly less blurred fashion. Or so I hope.

Anyway, back to the subject. Which was what? Oh yes, something to do with keeping a journal. I was looking through old files, of which there are perhaps thirty trillion or so on my computer, and which I figuratively drag from one computer to another computer as soon as the old one breaks down, which, if you’re me, is a maximum of every two years because I am to computers what some people are to watches. They stop working in my presence, possibly because they know I need them so damn much.

Back to the subject again, which is the fact that I do have journal entries, quite a few, dating back many years, journal entries that I had completely forgotten about. And I’m here to tell you that it can be simultaneously horrifying and comforting to see how much you haven’t changed, deep down, lo these many years.

Have my children changed? I’m talking about inside, way down deep, from the beings they used to be, housed in those tiny little bodies that now are bigger than mine.

I’m guessing not. I remember being tiny, and wondering about the same things that I wonder about now, a lifetime later. These are the wonderings of my son, then age six.

“Mom, somewhere in the world, right now, a ship is sinking, a house is on fire, and a person is being robbed.”

“What if there was no time?  What if there was no past and no future?”

“I feel short.  I feel very, very short.”

“What kinds of things haven’t been invented yet?”

“I feel nothing.  I feel as if I weigh nothing, as if I feel nothing, as if I can think of nothing.  Nothing.”

“Mom, what if we’re all, all of us, just characters in a book, and someone is writing us right now?”

“Where do spirits live?”

“How high is heaven?  Does it come before outer space?  Is it lower than the clouds?”

I wonder how I answered him, back then. Did I answer at all?

Or did I just listen and then, late at night or at dawn the next morning, write it all down.