Poem of the Week, by Muriel Rukeyser

I’d love to see you in one of my spring workshops! Details here.

Observation: anyone who thinks it’s an insult to describe someone as a “former comedian” has clearly never stood alone in front of a crowd of people with the intention of making them laugh. Doing so takes crazy courage, along with smarts, empathy, compassion, and an ability not only to sense but to change the energy of the room. Go to a Moth show sometime. Stand up on stage and tell a story. Put your heart on the line.

When you do that, you’ll likely be terrified. You’ll look out at the packed room and all you’ll see is the glare of the spotlight. You won’t see all the people cheering you on with the kindness it’s possible to show a stranger who’s putting themself on the line.

I don’t know what will happen in Ukraine. I do know that Zelenskyy, the former comedian, is brave as hell.

Poem (I lived in the first century of world wars), by Muriel Rukeyser

I lived in the first century of world wars.
Most mornings I would be more or less insane,
the newspapers would arrive with their careless stories,
the news would pour out of various devices
interrupted by attempts to sell products to the unseen.
I would call my friends on other devices;
they would be more or less mad for similar reasons.
Slowly I would get to pen and paper,
make my poems for others unseen and unborn.
In the day I would be reminded of those men and women,
brave, setting up signals across vast distances,
considering a nameless way of living, of almost unimagined values.
As the lights darkened, as the lights of night brightened,
we would try to imagine them, try to find each other,
to construct peace, to make love, to reconcile
waking with sleeping, ourselves with each other,
ourselves with ourselves. We would try by any means
to reach the limits of ourselves, to reach beyond ourselves,
to let go the means, to wake.

I lived in the first century of these wars.

Poem of the Week, by Warsan Shire

Yesterday a friend posted a plea to the dear people of earth, to stop, stop stop stop, please let’s just have one week that’s horror-free. Yes please. This tiny brain of mine wasn’t built to withstand the kind of information that comes at it day in and day out, every minute of every hour. Hell, my brain wouldn’t be able to handle constant good news, let alone the kind of news that these past few weeks have been all about. Sometimes you just keep waking up, all night long, thinking what can I do, what can I do, how can I make it better, how can I make it better, while images from the day’s onslaught scroll through your mind like videos. Breathe in, breathe out, focus on the breath, do what you can, do what you can, do what you can. Sometimes all you can do, before you haul yourself up and get back to trying, is seek out a poem that expresses exactly the way you feel in this moment. Like this poem below.



what they did yesterday afternoon
     – Warsan Shire

they set my aunts house on fire
i cried the way women on tv do
folding at the middle
like a five pound note.
i called the boy who used to love me
tried to ‘okay’ my voice
i said hello
he said warsan, what’s wrong, what’s happened?
i’ve been praying,
and these are what my prayers look like;
dear god
i come from two countries
one is thirsty
the other is on fire
both need water.
later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?
it answered


For more information on Somali-born Warsan Shire (whose poetry Beyonce set to music and movement in “Lemonade”), please click here.

Poem of the Week, by Brian Turner

Been sitting here for hours trying to choose the right poem. First I chose a classic one by Wilfred Owens, in WWI, but it was unbearable. Then I chose a lesser-known one by Archibald MacLeish, mid-20th century, but that one was also unbearable. Now I’ve been reading through Brian Turner’s Iraq war poems, and they too are unbearable. Because war is unbearable. So here we are.

Here, Bullet
– Brian Turner

If a body is what you want,
then here is bone and gristle and flesh.
Here is the clavicle-snapped wish,
the aorta’s opened valves, the leap
thought makes at the synaptic gap.
Here is the adrenaline rush you crave,
that inexorable flight, that insane puncture
into heat and blood. And I dare you to finish
what you’ve started. Because here, Bullet,
here is where I complete the word you bring
hissing through the air, here is where I moan
the barrel’s cold esophagus, triggering
my tongue’s explosives for the rifling I have
inside of me, each twist of the round
spun deeper, because here, Bullet,
here is where the world ends, every time.


–​For more information on Brian Turner, please click here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/240650

Poem of the Week, by Brian Turner

Someone once told me to think up a safe place where I could magically be transported when I needed to, when I had no reserves left to deal with whatever was going on around me. This place took about half a second to conjure itself up: a stream, flowers, grass, a sunny field beyond, and invisible me inside some kind of invisible hollow tree. Warm. I can see out but no one can see me. The sound of children playing nearby comes faintly through the invisible bark. There is nothing wrong, no tension and no anger in this place. I still go there sometimes, and the sense of it came rippling over me when I read this poem by Brian Turner.

     – Brian Turner
The curve of her hip where I’d lay my head,
that’s what I’m thinking of now, her fingers
gone slow through my hair on a blue day
ten thousand miles off in the future somewhere,
where the beer is so cold it sweats in your hand,
cool as her kissing you with crushed ice,
her tongue wet with blackberry and melon.
That’s what I’m thinking of now.
Because I’m all out of adrenaline,
all out of smoking incendiaries.
Somewhere deep in the landscape of the brain,
under the skull’s blue curving dome—
that’s where I am now, swaying
in a hammock by the water’s edge
as soldiers laugh and play volleyball
just down the beach, while others tan
and talk with the nurses who bring pills
to help them sleep. And if this is crazy,
then let this be my sanatorium,
let the doctors walk among us here
marking their charts as they will.
I have a lover with hair that falls
like autumn leaves on my skin.
Water that rolls in smooth and cool
as anesthesia. Birds that carry
all my bullets into the barrel of the sun.

​For more information on Brian Turner, please click here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/brian-turner​

Poem of the Week, by Archibald MacLeish

The Young Dead Soldiers, by Archibald MacLeish

The young dead soldiers do not speak.

Nevertheless, they are heard in
the still houses: who has not
heard them?

They have a silence that speaks for
them at night and when the clock

They say: We were young. We
have died. Remember us.

They say: We have done what we
could but until it is finished it is not

They say: We have given our lives
but until it is finished no one can
know what our lives gave.

They say: Our deaths are not ours;
they are yours; they will mean what
you make them.

They say: Whether our lives and
our deaths were for peace and a
new hope or for nothing we cannot
say: it is you who must say this.

They say: We leave you our deaths.
Give them their meaning.

We were young, they say. We
have died. Remember us.


F​or more information on Archibald MacLeish, please click here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/archibald-macleish​

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