Showing posts from November, 2011

Let Us Meditate the Virtue

by Donald Hall

Let us meditate the virtue of slogans.
Let us declare onomastic* solutions
to difficulties largely unnameable,
and by the mottoes

of euphemism contract verbal righteousness.
Let's indite bulletins to tell everyone
the Jargon of Things, to name Lifestyles, to learn
the Tongue of High Coy:

Do you desire to purchase a beverage?
We thank you for not smoking. Have a nice day.
May we share these suggestions with you? Let us
praise exultation,

never calling a route salesman a milkman,
nor an officer of the law a cop, nor
a senior citizen old, nor a starving
freezing bagwoman

poor. When we can't alter ills that upset us,
we will change their names to prevent compassion
from disturbing our ungulate composure:
words to deny worlds.

Vocabulary voids original sin;
cavalry of the lie reaches Calvary
just in time--to bugle Christ down from the cross.
But: no nails, no Christ.

*Onomastics or onomatology is the study of proper names of all kinds and the ori…

The Windhover

by Gerard Manley Hopkins
To Christ our Lord
I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dáwn-drawn Falcon, in his riding Of the rólling level úndernéath him steady áir, & stríding High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl & gliding Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding Stirred for a bird, -- the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty & valour & act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion Times told lovelier, more dangerous, o my chevalier!
No wónder of it: shéer plód makes plóugh down síllion Shine, & blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gáll themsélves, & gásh góld-vermílion.

Just Now

by W.S. Merwin

In the morning as the storm begins to blow away
the clear sky appears for a moment and it seems to me
that there has been something simpler than I could ever believe
simpler than I could have begun to find words for
not patient not even waiting no more hidden
than the air itself that became part of me for a while
with every breath and remained with me unnoticed
something that was here unnamed unknown in the days
and the nights not separate from them
not separate from them as they came and were gone
it must have been here neither early nor late then
by what name can I address it now holding out my thanks



by Rafael Jesus Gonzalez

Thanks & blessings be
to the Sun & the Earth
for this bread & this wine,
this fruit, this meat, this salt,
this food;
thanks be & blessing to them
who prepare it, who serve it;
thanks & blessings to them
who share it
(& also the absent & the dead).
Thanks & Blessing to them who bring it
(may they not want),
to them who plant & tend it,
harvest & gather it
(may they not want);
thanks & blessing to them who work
& blessing to them who cannot;
may they not want - for their hunger
sours the wine & robs
the taste from the salt.
Thanks be for the sustenance & strength
for our dance & work of justice, of peace.

Arms Full

by Rebecca del Rio

Gratitude means showing up on life’s doorstep,
love’s threshold, dressed in a clown suit,
rubber-nosed, gunboat shoes flapping.
Gratitude shows up with arms full of wildflowers,
reciting McKuen or the worst of Neruda.

To talk of gratitude is to be
the fool in a cynic’s world.
Gratitude is pride’s nightmare,
the admission of humility before something
given without expectation or attachment.

Gratitude tears open the shirt
of self importance, scatters buttons
across the polished floors of feigned indifference,
ignores the obvious and laughs out loud.

Even more, gratitude bears her breasts, rips open
her ribs to show the naked heart, the holy heart.
What if that sacred heart is not, after all, about sacrifice?
Imagine it is about joy, barefoot and foolhardy,
something unasked for, something unearned.

What if the beat we hear, when we are finally quiet is simply this:
Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

Cult of the Warrior

by Al Markowitz
originally published on November 12, 2007
On Memorial Day, for all the Veterans who marched against the War in Iraq and were jeered. Keep the faith!

A palpable silence of reverence where “soldier”
is synonymous with hero revered.
Where service in battle is holy and
mysterious dark foreigners feared.
We venerate our soldiers’ presence on the always far front
and with heads bowed in adoration try
to show off our symbols of public support –
as long as they shut up and die.

Partisan Press
P.O. 11417 Norfolk, VA 23517

Mending Wall

by Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it
And spills the upper boulder in the sun,
And make gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there,
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He …

"The Beauty Of Hopelessness"

by Rebecca del Rio

You are hanging from a branch
by your teeth. No
way to save yourself
or others who hang, too.
Arms that cannot reach
any branch, legs stretch but
cannot find the smooth safe trunk.

All around, your loved ones,
friends, strangers hang--
teeth clamp bony twigs
that suspend necessary hopes
and plans.

It is hopeless. No rescue will arrive.
So you relax, taste the clean,
unfamiliar tang of sap,
feel the forgiving wind against
your waving arms, arms
that swim through emptiness.

Without hope, life is
focused, fluid, a ledge
of fragile earth suspended
over the ocean of unknowing, the end
of the branch. Life is
the glorious moment
before the fall when all
plans are abandoned,
the love you give
as you hang, loving
those who hang with you.

The Summer Day

by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Listen to Ms. Oliver read her own poem.

If you want to read more of Mary Oliver’s poems, here are some that I like.

Copyright @ 1990 by Mary Oliver. Fir…


by Robert Frost
Although this was one of the first poems I learned by heart, when I was a teenager Frost's poems seemed too sentimental for my austere soul. Now I find myself turning to his elegant New England verses more and more. Is that a sign of growing older or some inner thawing?

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay.
Ice-storms do that. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust--
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for lo…

The Gift Outright

by Robert Frost

The land was ours before we were the land's.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England's, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.

To read this poem in Frost's own hand...
Please click here to go to a page I created for more of Frost’s poems.


by Robert Frost
[sometimes you have to hear a poem.]

Out of the mud two strangers came
And caught me splitting wood in the yard,
And one of them put me off my aim
By hailing cheerily "Hit them hard!"
I knew pretty well why he had dropped behind
And let the other go on a way.
I knew pretty well what he had in mind:
He wanted to take my job for pay.

Good blocks of oak it was I split,
As large around as the chopping block;
And every piece I squarely hit
Fell splinterless as a cloven rock.
The blows that a life of self-control
Spares to strike for the common good,
That day, giving a loose my soul,
I spent on the unimportant wood.

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March.

A bluebird c…

Acquainted With The Night

by Robert Frost

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain — and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

Stieglitz: ‘Reflections—Night’, New York, 1896 (in Picturesque Bits of New York and Other Studies, 1897)

Please click here to go to a page I created for more of Frost’s poems.

Discontinuous Poems

by Alberto Caeiro
Fernando António Nogueira Pêssoa (1888 - 1935)

The frightful reality of things Is my everyday discovery. Each thing is what it is. How can I explain to anyone how much I rejoice over this, and find it enough?
To be whole, it is enough to exist.
I have written quite a number of poems And may write many more, of course. Each poem of mine explains it, Though all my poems are different, Because each thing that exists is always proclaiming it.
Sometimes I busy myself with watching a stone, I don't begin thinking whether it feels. I don't force myself to call it my sister,
But I enjoy it because of its being a stone, I enjoy it because it feels nothing, I enjoy it because it is not at all related to me. At times I also hear the wind blow by And find that merely to hear the wind blow makes it worth having been born.
I don't know what others will think who read this; But I find it must be good because I think it without effort, And without the idea of others hearing me think,

God Does Not Answer Prayer

by Stephen Levine
for little Whitney of 5 weeks

God does not answer prayer.
It is a sacrilege to think so.
An insult to the god-drenched hearts
of all who pray through the night
and in the morning are nonetheless
handed a dead child.

The churches in Salem used to burn heretics
to increase attendance. Now those who feel
their prayer didn't reach quite far enough,
that they were not pure enough,
are victims of a merciless atheism
that says all good fortune comes from God
though the brutal often prosper
and it is not uncommon to torture
the pure of heart.

We pray for the best, forgetting
the unpredictable unfolding
that must occur for us to learn
prayer for others works better
than for ourselves. Jesus prays
in the garden of Gethsemane
and is refused. Ten thousand,
ten million prayers rise in Latin,
Arabic, Hindi, and Hebrew

yet their husbands and wives,
children and sisters, fathers and brothers
do not survive well if at all
though in their chest beats the strong sacred heart.

No pr…

Come, said my Soul

by Walt Whitman

Come, said my Soul,
Such verses for my Body let us write, (for we are one,)
That should I after death invisibly return,
Or, long, long hence, in other spheres,
There to some group of mates the chants resuming,
(Tallying Earth's soil, trees, winds, tumultuous waves,)
Ever with pleas'd smile I may keep on,
Ever and ever yet the verses owning---as, first, I hear and now,
Signing for Soul and Body, set to them my name,

Walt Whitman said that the Brooklyn Bridge was “the best, most effective medicine my soul has yet partaken”.