Poem of the Week, by Lisel Mueller

Screen Shot 2018-04-05 at 8.43.51 AMRough, rough week. Children torn from their parents at borders, the suicides of loved people who projected happiness, the cruelty of our elected employees and the ongoing and unfathomable cowardice of their minions who stand by, watching our democracy crumble. Last night I scrolled through poem after poem, looking for one with clear eyes and a level gaze, like this one below. A poem that sees the situation for what it is and imagines it as it can be. Time for us to be the goddesses who remake this world. 

 

The End of Science Fiction
     – Lisel Mueller

This is not fantasy, this is our life.
We are the characters
who have invaded the moon,
who cannot stop their computers.
We are the gods who can unmake
the world in seven days.
Both hands are stopped at noon.
We are beginning to live forever,
in lightweight, aluminum bodies
with numbers stamped on our backs.
We dial our words like Muzak.
We hear each other through water.
The genre is dead. Invent something new.
Invent a man and a woman
naked in a garden,
invent a child that will save the world,
a man who carries his father
out of a burning city.
Invent a spool of thread
that leads a hero to safety,
invent an island on which he abandons
the woman who saved his life
with no loss of sleep over his betrayal.
Invent us as we were
before our bodies glittered
and we stopped bleeding:
invent a shepherd who kills a giant,
a girl who grows into a tree,
a woman who refuses to turn
her back on the past and is changed to salt,
a boy who steals his brother’s birthright
and becomes the head of a nation.
Invent real tears, hard love,
slow-spoken, ancient words,
difficult as a child’s
first steps across a room. 

For more information about Lisel Mueller, please click here.  

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Poem of the Week, by E.E. Cummings

Screen Shot 2018-04-05 at 8.44.54 AMSometimes I dream that I’m trying to get to Paris. I’m at the airport but I left my passport at home, and I can’t get a cab to go fetch it, and once I’m home I can’t remember where the passport is, and once I’m back at the airport I’m at the wrong terminal, and now I can’t find my ticket, and what happened to my roller bag, and, and, and this dream goes on all night long and I wake up exhausted. Sometimes don’t you want to step out of yourself for a day, or even a few hours, and just be someone else? Or no one else? This is when you need to read the poem below, by the hypnotic Mr. Cummings, because he knows exactly how you feel.

 

You Are Tired, by Edward Estlin Cummings

You are tired,
(I think)
Of the always puzzle of living and doing;
And so am I.

Come with me, then,
And we’ll leave it far and far away —
(Only you and I, understand!)

You have played,
(I think)
And broke the toys you were fondest of,
And are a little tired now;
Tired of things that break, and —
Just tired.
So am I.

But I come with a dream in my eyes tonight,
And knock with a rose at the hopeless gate of your heart —
Open to me!
For I will show you the places Nobody knows,
And, if you like,
The perfect places of Sleep.

Ah, come with me!
I’ll blow you that wonderful bubble, the moon,
That floats forever and a day;
I’ll sing you the jacinth song
Of the probable stars;
I will attempt the unstartled steppes of dream,
Until I find the Only Flower,
Which shall keep (I think) your little heart
While the moon comes out of the sea.

 

​For more information on E.E. Cummings, please click here.​

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Poem of the Week, by Warsan Shire

Screen Shot 2018-04-05 at 8.44.01 AMI’ll rewrite this whole life and this time there’ll be so much love, / you won’t be able to see beyond it. 

These lines, from the gorgeous poem below, bring me back to childhood and the novel that more than any other book made me want to be a writer. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is about Francie Nolan, who grew up on the mean streets of Brooklyn in the early part of the 20th century.

She was a lonely girl, even though she was loved, and so was I. Her love for the world and being alive in it was wild and intense, and so was mine. She was filled with longing and confusion, and so was I. That one teacher –the one she adored—told her that in life, she should tell the truth of the way things happened, but that in the stories she wrote, she could make up her own endings. She could write life the way it should be. Warsan Shire is too young to have read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but she knows way down deep in her bones the profound power of words to transcend experience.  

 

 

Backwards, by Warsan Shire
 
         for Saaid Shire
The poem can start with him walking backwards into a room.
He takes off his jacket and sits down for the rest of his life;
that’s how we bring Dad back.
I can make the blood run back up my nose, ants rushing into a hole.
We grow into smaller bodies, my breasts disappear,
your cheeks soften, teeth sink back into gums.
I can make us loved, just say the word.
Give them stumps for hands if even once they touched us without consent,
I can write the poem and make it disappear.
Step-Dad spits liquor back into glass,
Mum’s body rolls back up the stairs, the bone pops back into place,
maybe she keeps the baby.
Maybe we’re okay kid?
I’ll rewrite this whole life and this time there’ll be so much love,
you won’t be able to see beyond it.

You won’t be able to see beyond it,
I’ll rewrite this whole life and this time there’ll be so much love.
Maybe we’re okay kid,
maybe she keeps the baby.
Mum’s body rolls back up the stairs, the bone pops back into place,
Step-Dad spits liquor back into glass.
I can write the poem and make it disappear,
give them stumps for hands if even once they touched us without consent,
I can make us loved, just say the word.
Your cheeks soften, teeth sink back into gums
we grow into smaller bodies, my breasts disappear.
I can make the blood run back up my nose, ants rushing into a hole,
that’s how we bring Dad back.
He takes off his jacket and sits down for the rest of his life.
The poem can start with him walking backwards into a room.

 

 

For more information on Warsan Shire, please read this profile of her.

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Poem of the Week, by John Freeman

Screen Shot 2018-04-05 at 8.43.51 AMWhat wearies you? What renews you? Who brings you joy? Who exhausts you? When you think of safety and comfort and happiness, what place or person comes to mind? The answers to these questions are already known to you. They live in your body, in a place beyond conscious thought and its dangerous companions, rationalization and overriding.

If you turn to your body for answers you will know when someone’s love is not love but control and need. You will know when you are living not in safety but in fear. Over time, you will slowly learn to trust yourself. When I first read this small, curious poem below, a deep heaviness descended on me and I physically shrank into my chair in recognition and sorrow. John Freeman says so much in so few words. 

 

Mail, by John Freeman

We wrote one another a lot
those days, long winding
letters that crossed a country, in which
I asked if she knew my gratitude;
her replies so generous
it’s only now I realize
my gratitude wasn’t gratitude
but another request.