No snow here, but

this poem still resonates. I love that it is a sonnet, and how that definition can stretch and morph. Orr’s bio is worth reading, too:

Aftermath Sonnet

Letting my tongue sleep,
And my heart go numb.

Sensing that speech
Too soon,
After such a wound,
Would only be
A different bleeding.

Even needing to leave
The page blank.
Long season
Of silence—

Trusting that under

Its bandage of snow,

The field of me is healing.

Greggory Orr

Gratitude

Something about the way this word is often used sets my teeth on edge–a whiff of self-satisfaction? Of hypocrisy? In any case, that made me doubly pleased to find a poem by Jon Davis with this title that I like without those reservations. It seems appropriate for today, especially as he is the director of the low residency MFA in Creative Writing at the Institute of American Arts:

Gratitude

Forget each slight, each head that turned
Toward something more intriguing—
Red flash of wing beyond the window,

The woman brightly chiming
About the suffering of the world. Forget
The way your best friend told the story

Of that heroic road trip, forgetting that you drove
From Tulsa to Poughkeepsie while he
Slumped dozing under headphones. Forget

The honors handed out, the lists of winners.
Forget the certificates, bright trophies you
Could have, should have, maybe won. Continue reading “Gratitude”

A few words from Brenda Hillman

This excerpt is from Brenda Hillman’s most recent book, Extra Hidden Life Among the Days. I had a hard time with it at first, but took a workshop that helped me understand the poems are about struggling to come to terms with the ecological disasters of the current moment, trying to find a way to make poetry in the midst of political, social, and natural disaster.  Here’s a brief section from the book:

 

Angrily Standing Outside in the Wind

 —kept losing self control
    but how could one lose the self
 after reading so much literary theory?
The shorter “i” stood under the cork trees,
     the taller “I” remained rather passive;
 the brendas were angry at the greed, angry
that the trees would die, had lost interest
 in the posturing of the privileged,

Continue reading “A few words from Brenda Hillman”

Punctuation

Last Thursday, Maurya Simon read some of her poems about punctuation at Marin Poetry Center. They were delightful. The next morning, I found this darker one from a poet I don’t know:

Comma

The comma is a heart murmur, tremor in hamstring. He is an almost; someone
calling in time about the man staggering out of American Bar into traffic—
mouths gasping into headlights.

He is headlights; two boy quickly push off each other. Commas dangling like
belt buckles from their ankled jeans as they run out to the brushes.

More than pause—comma as toddler asleep on crisp sheets, body fetaled in big snow
beneath I-40. Someone should call in time before comma becomes a period,
 ,                                                                                   his legs curled in against his body.

Jake Skeets

Monday Poem

Another gem from Poetry Daily:

God Is Not Right, He Is Big

The news isn’t all bad. July and August
were the hottest months in human history,

but a family found the pet tortoise
that went missing in 1982. The low cloud

above me passes under the high clouds
like a souped-up Civic passing on the right.

I’ve been all over this island and still
have no names for most of the trees.

Continue reading “Monday Poem”

A Haibun

This form, from the Japanese, was originally mostly used for travel journals–prose, then a haiku. But in English-language hands, it has become slipped into a looser form, a new way to write about whatever. Here’s one I particularly like:

On Teaching Poetry In A Men’s High Security Prison

I was searched at every edge. I wanted everyone, including me, to be innocent. One inmate squeezed my hand like a letter he’d been hoping for. In the workshop, he read his poem. I applauded. He hugged me. He smelt of stale soap. Leaning in, his stubble sandpapered my softer jaw. He tells me what he did.

He was drunk the night he blacked out, opened his eyes in the kitchen, his wife who wanted divorce, on the floor, dead. I see his wedding ring. I wish I knew her name so I could plant it here. Continue reading “A Haibun”

Reading Saturday in Oakland

I’m excited to be reading with the amazing Amanda Moore tomorrow at 2 pm at Gearbox Gallery on West Grand. We’ve woven together a reading about birth, childhood, adolescence, marriage and death, based on a reading I heard at the Community of Writers.  I think it’s really going to be fun.

Here’s a sample poem.

Jung on Dying

Is the psyche bound to the body?
Jung thinks not.
In dreams
the psyche travels
unconstrained by matter.
As for death, the unconscious
rejects it.

Those who live as if
the rich cloth of time
were unrolling endlessly before them
are better off.
It’s not a question of belief.

We need salt, he says,
does it matter why?
Food tastes better with it.

Adrienne Rich

I am amazed that in all the years of posting poems, I’ve neglected Adrienne Rich. She was a big influence back in the 70’s:

I actually heard her read at Stanford maybe 10 or 15 years ago. She was very brusque and cranky and I think she said she wouldn’t be able to sign books.  She seemed tired of being famous.

Shooting Script

Whatever it was, the image that stopped you, the one on which you
came to grief, projecting it over & over on empty walls.

Now to give up the temptations of the projector; to see instead the
web of cracks filtering across the plaster.

To read there the map of the future, the roads radiating from the
initial split, the filaments thrown out from that impasse Continue reading “Adrienne Rich”

Monday poem

I like the specificity of this poem, and how it moves from the specific into the metaphoric and back. Nice work!

One-Way Gate

I was moving the herd from the lower pasture
to the loading pen up by the road.
It was cold and their mouths steamed like torn bread.
The gate swung on its wheel, knocking at the herd
as they pushed through. They stomped
and pocked the freezing mud with their hooves.
This was January. I faced backward into the hard year.
The herd faced forward as the herd always does,
muscling through the lit pane of winter air. Continue reading “Monday poem”

Jericho Brown

Jericho Brown came to town to read on Thursday, and synchronistically, this poem appeared in the Sunday NY Times Magazine.

Crossing

The water is one thing, and one thing for miles.
The water is one thing, making this bridge
Built over the water another. Walk it
Early, walk it back when the day grows dim, everyone
Rising just to find a way toward rest again.
We work, start on one side of the day
Like a planet’s only sun, our eyes straight
Until the flame sinks. The flame sinks. Thank God Continue reading “Jericho Brown”

L’Shana Tova

This year I was lucky to return to the Mendocino coast for Rosh Hashana services at the wonderful Mendocino Coast Jewish Community, led by the always inspiring Rabbi Margaret Holub. She invited me to do a teaching this year, and I responded with a poem I wrote on the coast about twenty years ago:

The Afternoon Before the Day of Atonement

I thought I was going to see the seals
asleep on the rocks, but it turned out
the cormorant was the real show, wrestling
a twisting length of eel, persistently
untwisting with its beak to swallow it whole.
Then, as I watched, uncertain whether
I’d seen eel or kelp straighten and slide
down the long bird throat, speared its beak
into the surf and did it again,
unmistakably eel, writhing
for its life, no match for the skilled
beak-tossing cormorant. Continue reading “L’Shana Tova”