Loaves and Fishes by David Whyte

This is not
the age of information.

This is not
the age of information.

Forget the news,
and the radio,
and the blurred screen.

This is the time of loaves
and fishes.

People are hungry,
and one good word is bread
for a thousand.

Loaves and Fishes

The news, whatever it is, whatever the source, always seems to be the background of my days – everything from faraway wars to local traffic accidents, covid statistics to political manoeuvring, an endless fount of information. There is only so much of the details that I can take in, much less want to absorb. Forget the news, / and the radio, / and the blurred screen – especially the blurred screen, this new Zoom lifestyle that we have adopted.

This is the time of loaves and fishes. Even with a modicum of biblical training, I recognize the story of the hungry multitudes waiting to be fed. And I hear the poet using that metaphor to say that people right now are hungry, not for food and not for information, but for compassion and generosity and kindness. Perhaps that one good word can come from a poem, offering beauty and comfort in difficult times.

This poem reminds me of a wonderfully succinct line by William Carlos Williams in the same vein: It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there. This is why I read poems more than newspapers, for what I find there, bread for my soul.

Abundance by Amy Schmidt

in memory of Mary Oliver

It’s impossible to be lonely

when you’re zesting an orange.

Scrape the soft rind once

and the whole room

fills with fruit.

Look around: you have

more than enough.

Always have.

You just didn’t notice

until now.


This poem appeared in Rattle magazine in January 2019, three days after the death of Mary Oliver, beloved poet of the present moment. In this brief yet profound poem, Schmidt captures the essence of Oliver’s attention to detail.

If you have never zested an orange, I suggest you do it now so that you will immediately understand what she means that the whole room / fills with fruit. Not just the scent of orange but the feel and taste and look of orange, its very presence in which you are not alone.

Then she invites us to realize that you have / more than enough. Not only do we have enough, we have always had enough. You just didn’t notice / until now. There is a quiet gratitude for this small gift that shows us our enough-ness in any moment.

It is true, is it not, that such a simple thing as the scent of citrus can remind us of the abundance in our lives. An abundance that has always been there, waiting for our attention, just like Mary Oliver taught in her poetry.

May the pungent or delicate scent of any fruit today bring you awake.

Dust by Dorianne Laux

Someone spoke to me last night,
told me the truth. Just a few words,
but I recognized it.
I knew I should make myself get up,
write it down, but it was late,
and I was exhausted from working
all day in the garden, moving rocks.
Now, I remember only the flavor —
not like food, sweet or sharp.
More like a fine powder, like dust.
And I wasn’t elated or frightened,
but simply rapt, aware.
That’s how it is sometimes —
God comes to your window,
all bright light and black wings,
and you’re just too tired to open it.


This is a poem I’ve been walking with, literally, for the past while, learning the lines as I walk my way through these times. And as the words became written on my heart, they gave voice to some of my own experience.

Laux’s recognition of a truth spoken to her in the night felt like a description of some of my dreams. Dreams in which I hear words that resonate, that I don’t try to ascribe to any particular source, that arise from my own experience. And hasn’t that happened to you? Half awake you know you should write down what you have heard but you can’t quite wake yourself up enough to do it. By morning it is usually gone except for an elusive sense of something important having happened.

She remembers a flavor of the words, like a fine powder, like dust, something ephemeral, difficult to hold onto, easily blown away by the breeze. It left her feeling simply rapt, aware, captivated, mindful even without understanding.

I so love how she reminds us That’s how it is sometimes, the ordinariness of it despite hearing something we know to be true. God, whoever that is to you, comes to your window and you’re just too tired to open it. Yes, that’s just how it is sometimes and yet we know we have heard something important, memorable.

Essential Gratitude by Andrea Potos

Sometimes it just stuns you
like an arrow flung from some angel’s wing.
Sometimes it hastily scribbles
a list in the air: black coffee,
thick new books,
your pillow’s cool underside,
the quirky family you married into.

It is content with so little really;
even the ink of your pen along
the watery lines of your dimestore notebook
could be a swiftly moving prayer.

Essential Gratitude

Here is a poet, new to me, who captures in so few words a brief message of appreciation. Gratitude is a quality that cannot be expressed too often and she does so without even using the word beyond the title.

Sometimes it just stuns you / like an arrow flung from some angel’s wing. This is how thankfulness can pierce us, take our breath away, the sudden realization of what we are given in any moment. Your list will likely be different but I imagine you will recognize at least one of these small but significant items – on these hot nights, turning my pillow over for the momentary coolness is truly a gift.

The point is, gratitude is content with so little really. There are so many opportunities in a day to notice and give thanks, our words becoming a swiftly moving prayer. This recognition is essential, this appreciation for the ordinary as well as the exceptional aspects of life.

When you feel the touch of an angel’s wing today may you be awakened into a renewed appreciation for the gift of being alive.

Relax by Ellen Bass

Bad things are going to happen.
Your tomatoes will grow a fungus
and your cat will get run over.
Someone will leave the bag with the ice cream
melting in the car and throw
your blue cashmere sweater in the drier.
Your husband will sleep
with a girl your daughter’s age, her breasts spilling
out of her blouse. Or your wife
will remember she’s a lesbian
and leave you for the woman next door. The other cat —
the one you never really liked — will contract a disease
that requires you to pry open its feverish mouth
every four hours. Your parents will die.
No matter how many vitamins you take,
how much Pilates, you’ll lose your keys,
your hair and your memory. If your daughter
doesn’t plug her heart
into every live socket she passes,
you’ll come home to find your son has emptied
the refrigerator, dragged it to the curb,
and called the used appliance store for a pick up — drug money.
There’s a Buddhist story of a woman chased by a tiger.
When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine
and climbs half way down. But there’s also a tiger below.
And two mice — one white, one black — scurry out
and begin to gnaw at the vine. At this point
she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.
She looks up, down, at the mice.
Then she eats the strawberry.
So here’s the view, the breeze, the pulse
in your throat. Your wallet will be stolen, you’ll get fat,
slip on the bathroom tiles of a foreign hotel
and crack your hip. You’ll be lonely.
Oh taste how sweet and tart
the red juice is, how the tiny seeds
crunch between your teeth.


One of my favourite poets, Ellen Bass writes compellingly about the challenges of life, always leaving us with an uplift. Right from the first line we are told: Bad things are going to happen. And then she goes on to imagine everything from fungus on your tomatoes to melted ice cream to a shrunken cashmere sweater. From there it is errant husbands or wives, heartbreaking daughters and sons, cat disease and death, loss of your keys, your hair, and your memory. Anything sounding familiar to you here?

Then she introduces the Buddhist story you’ve probably heard – the woman trapped by a tiger above and below, the yin and yang mice gnawing the vine as the woman sees a perfect wild strawberry. So here’s the view, the breeze, the pulse / in your throat. This is it, the truth that all these things can happen. And, you can still eat the strawberry, taste the juice and feel how the tiny seeds crunch between your teeth.

Here is the choice: to seize the present moment, to see the gifts before us especially when life is difficult. As Ellen herself says in a 2014 interview: And to praise this gorgeous, tender, terrifying life that is ours for just a second or two.

It’s strawberry season friends – no time like the present to practice. Relax.