I heard Jane Hirshfield read this poem at a benefit for the beautiful Columbia Gorge. I kept thinking of it every time I cooked something with carrots or onions, which is pretty often. So I asked and she graciously sent me a copy
As If Hearing Heavy Furniture Moved on the Floor Above Us
As things grow rarer, they enter the ranges of counting.
Remain this many Siberian tigers,
that many African elephants. Three hundred red-legged egrets.
We scrape from the world its tilt and meander of wonder
as if eating the last burned onions and carrots from a cast iron pan.
Closing eyes to taste better the char of ordinary sweetness.
You can heae her read at Dominican University on September 4, to support immigrant families.
This poem won the Lyric Poetry award from the Poetry Society of America two years ago. Hope you like it:
As a Human Being
There is the happiness you have
And the happiness you deserve.
They sit apart from one another
The way you and your mother
Sat on opposite ends of the sofa
After an ambulance came to take
Your father away. Some good
Doctor will stitch him up, and
Soon an aunt will arrive to drive
Your mother to the hospital
Where she will settle next to him
Forever, as promised. She holds
The arm of her seat as if she could
Fall, as if it is the only sturdy thing,
And it is since you’ve done what
You always wanted. You fought
Your father and won, marred him.
He’ll have a scar he can see all
Because of you. And your mother,
The only woman you ever cried for,
Must tend to it as a bride tends
To her vows, forsaking all others
No matter how sore the injury.
No matter how sore the injury
Has left you, you sit understanding
Yourself as a human being finally
Free now that nobody’s got to love you.
It’s been awhile since I posted a prose poem. This one, from Poetry Daily, caught my eye although we are still in the the long light days as summer wends to a close.
In the Winter in Fairbanks, Even the Light Comes Late to Class
I just finished this book, Darwin Comes to Town by Menno Shilthuizen, about adaptation and evolution in urban environments, which seemed somewhat hopeful. It’s a discussion about how quickly certain species change to thrive in cities. Stories include the hawksbeard dandelion, which evolved to produce heavier seeds so their little parachutes would keep them in the island of green instead of floating off onto asphalt and how crows learn to throw heavy-shelled walnuts into intersections, wait for cars to run over them and then when the light changes, run out to grab the walnut meat after the cars crush the shells.
But most encouraging was his chapter on the way cites are cooperating globally to understand and improve urban environments. He notes that cities all over the word have similar soil compositions, microbes, insect, bird, and plant life. So “cities as far apart as 2,500 miles share about half their birds, while the avifaunas of natural areas that distant are almost completely different.” The author states that “cities worldwide are beginning to exchange information and undertake concerted action.”
Given the pace at which the natural world is disappearing, at least it’s heartening to know that there are many groups working on innovative ways to make urban spaces more habitable for plants and animals, including humans. My only quibble with the book is the often anthropomorphic language of the anecdotes. Still, worth a read.
Almost every day, a new solicitation for a poetry contest pops into my inbox. I have read articles and heard rumors about their transparency or lack of transparency. But even if all entries are read blind, and the awards are based solely on what the appointed judges fell is the best work (or the best of the screened entries provided to them), I am writing this very short rant against the whole dynamic of the poetry contest.
At this point there is almost a contest every day–some days multiple contests. Entry fees go from $15-40 per contest. In fact, the raison d’être of the contest is to fund the offering organization, a journal, a publisher, whatever. Some organizations run multiple contests a year, a continuous income stream. Each of these contests must have a winner regardless of the quality of the submissions, producing a glut of meaningless winners of contests, and allowing the organization to keep publishing.
This glut of fundraisers masquerading as contests seems opposed to the very spirit in which poetry should be written. I have entered and won or been a finalist in contests in the past, and with this little note plan to opt out in the future. Let my poetry stand or fall based on my own taste and the pleasure of those who read or hear it.