On the Last Day of the World by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

On the last day of the world, I would want to plant a tree.    ~W. S. Merwin

On the last day of the world, I would want
to feed you. Raspberries. Thin slices of apple.
Peaches so ripe they drip down our chins,
down our necks. I would want to sit with you
beneath a tree, no we’ll climb a tree, no
we’ll plant a tree, yes all of these. On the last
day of the world, I want to give myself permission
to feel exactly what I feel, to be exactly who I am,
to shed every layer of should and meet you
that way. Knowing we have only hours left,
could we put down our arguments with ourselves
and each other and find no energy to pick them up again?
On that day, I want us to write the last poem
together and let the writing undo us, let it teach us
how to get out of the way, how to obey what emerges.
Let’s run outside, no matter the weather, and praise
the light till the light is gone, and then praise the dark.

On the Last Day of the World

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer writes a poem every day (https://ahundredfallingveils.com/), so it’s hard to choose just one or two but this one invited itself here today. The quote from WS Merwin has stayed with me since I first read it – such a generative intention, full of hope for the future. On the last day of the world, how startling to contemplate – what would you do?

In this poem, she offers us raspberries, apple slices, peaches so ripe they drip down our chins. She wants to plant a tree, climb one, sit with you beneath a tree. She wants to meet you just as she is, to shed every layer of should (shedding shoulds – yes!). With only hours left, what if we put down our arguments with ourselves / and each other. What if we let go of all that and just sat quietly with ourselves, exactly as we are.

She invites us to write that last poem together, let it teach us how to get out of the way, how to follow the wisdom that emerges when we let go of the ‘shoulds’. Then we could run outside even in the rain, especially in the rain, and praise / the light til the light is gone. That’s the easy part. Then praise the dark, because both are necessary, both worthy of our appreciation.

Think about this: what might you do on the last day of the world if it could be anything?

The Most Important Thing by Julia Fehrenbacher

​I am making a home inside myself. A shelter

of kindness where everything
is forgiven, everything allowed—a quiet patch

of sunlight to stretch out without hurry,

where all that has been banished

and buried is welcomed, spoken, listened to—released.

A fiercely friendly place I can claim as my very own.

I am throwing arms open
to the whole of myself—especially the fearful,

fault-finding, falling apart, unfinished parts, knowing

every seed and weed, every drop
of rain, has made the soil richer.

I will light a candle, pour a hot cup of tea, gather

around the warmth of my own blazing fire. I will howl

if I want to, knowing this flame can burn through
any perceived problem, any prescribed perfectionism,

any lying limitation, every heavy thing.

I am making a home inside myself
where grace blooms in grand and glorious

abundance, a shelter of kindness that grows

all the truest things.

I whisper hallelujah to the friendly
sky. Watch now as I burst into blossom.

The Most Important Thing

Just reading the title of this poem, right away, I needed to hear what the poet names as the most important thing. Fehrenbacher writes of making a home inside herself – a shelter of kindness…a quiet patch / of sunlight to stretch out without hurry – can you already feel the invitation of such a home, a fiercely friendly place of your own.

She invites opening to it all, especially the fearful, / the fault-finding, falling apart, unfinished parts – anything you recognize here? I certainly do. She lights a candle for the flame to burn through any perceived problem, any prescribed perfectionism, / any lying limitation, every heavy thing. That seems to cover most, if not all, of what may hold us back from being fully present to life’s joys.

She ends with returning to the imagery of making a home inside herself, where grace blooms in grand and glorious / abundance. Is this not what we each long to create, that compassion for ourselves that allows mistakes, offers forgiveness, kindness? Could it be that such a home is available to each of us when we open the door?

Those last two lines catch my breath. To whisper hallelujah as I burst into blossom. Such an extraordinary image, but more than that, I can feel it in my body, a fiercely friendly place.

Nobody Cares by William Stafford

Nobody cares if you stop here. You can
look for hours, gaze out over the forest.
And the sounds are yours too—take away
how the wind either whispers or begins to
get ambitious. If you let the silence of
afternoon pool around you, that serenity
may last a long time, and you can take it
along. A slant sun, mornings or evenings,
will deepen the canyons, and you can carry away
that purple, how it gathers and fades for hours.
This whole world is yours, you know. You can
breathe it and think about it and dream it after this
wherever you go. It’s all right. Nobody cares.

Nobody Cares

Nobody cares could sound cruel, the kind of adolescent throw-away comment of disregard you may have received at some time or other. But I believe Stafford means this differently, a gentle admonishment to live without fear of others’ opinions or expectations, to just be who you are.

To begin, Nobody cares if you stop here, right here, right now, to gaze at the view around you without limits. And the sounds are yours too he tells us, the wind whispering or becoming ambitious (great word choice) as it does before a storm. Or you can let the silence of / afternoon pool around you, that kind of quiet that fills you with tranquility – you can even take it with you.

As the sun rises or sets, that slanted light of extraordinary colour is yours to carry away with you, that purple, how it gathers and fades for hours. You can remember the soothing effect of those times of day whenever you need them. This whole world is yours, you know. You do know that, don’t you? He is reminding you that you carry all this with you wherever you go. And it’s all right because it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks or says, it’s yours to experience. Nobody cares.

It Is Enough by Anne Alexander Bingham

To know that the atoms
of my body
will remain

to think of them rising
through the roots of a great oak
to live in
leaves, branches, twigs

perhaps to feed the
crimson peony
the blue iris
the broccoli

or rest on water
freeze and thaw
with the seasons

some atoms might become a
bit of fluff on the wing
of a chickadee
to feel the breeze
know the support of air

and some might drift
up and up into space
star dust returning from

whence it came
it is enough to know that
as long as there is a universe
I am a part of it.

It Is Enough

With the recent revelation of the Webb Telescope photos giving us access to another world so far beyond our own, this poem caught my attention. I love how Bingham weaves our earthly presence with that of distant stars and concludes that it is enough that our atoms will remain in some form.

It is her belief that the atoms / of my body / will remain, will rise up through the roots of a great oak, to feed the leaves, the flowers, even the common broccoli, or perhaps as water, to freeze and thaw / with the seasons. A life beyond death if you will.

She imagines that some of our atoms might become a bit of fluff on the wing / of a chickadee, carried and supported by a breeze, some even drifting up and up into space. She is asking us to imagine becoming star dust returning from / whence it came.

For the poet, she is satisfied to know that as long as there is a universe, she belongs; as atoms, as star dust, she is part of it. Look again, perhaps you can find yourself in one of those photos.

Watching the Rower by Andrea Potos

Oh to find that still surface,
the glide of silk and silence,
sun lit along the oars,
the mind in the arms, threading
the seams of each moment.

Watching the Rower

How rare and precious to find a poem with so few words, five short lines, that paints such a rich canvas. This, by Andrea Potos, does just that. From the title, I can already envision a rower – perhaps an individual in an old wooden dingy, a Victorian couple in a Thames skiff, or a group of rowers in a dragonboat. Could be, you even feel yourself with those oars in your hands.

I’m imagining a lake, early morning or evening when the water is calm and smooth, that still surface, parted by the prow of the boat. The way it moves, the glide of silk and silence, such delicious alliteration, the repetition, all those ‘s’ sounds. There is sunlight on the oars, concentration in the arms with each pull, threading / the seams of each moment. Each stroke weaving my attention into the present moment, a moving meditation.

May you find that still surface somewhere this summer with great pleasure, whether you are on the water or observing from land.

Petition by K.A. Hays

Here floats the mind on summer’s dock.
The knees loose up, hands dither off,
the eyes have never heard of clocks.
The mind won’t feel the hours, the mind spreads wide
among the hours, wide in sun. Dear sun,
who gives the vision but is not the vision.
Who is the body and the bodies
that speak into the dark below the dock.
Who to the minnows in the sand-sunk tire
seems like love.
Make us the brightness bent through shade.
The thing, or rush of things, that makes
an opening, a way.

Petition

Right from the first line of this poem, I’m floating in the warmth and ease of summer, on summer’s dock. Here we have an appeal to the mind which spreads wide / among the hours, wide in the sun. The poet assures us that time loses its meaning, the eyes have never heard of clocks, a summer phenomenon so delicious to experience.

The body, as knees loose up, hands dither off, opens into a slower way of being, more liquid, pliable. Can you feel this too, even if you are not on an iconic summer lake dock? She takes us deeper to the minnows in the sand-sunk tire in their effortless dance below the surface which seems like love, and is it not?

To me, there is a dreamlike quality of both the tactile dock with the brightness of the sun, and the rush of things, that makes / an opening, a way. Summer, a time out of time, a time to be present in our bodies. Enjoy!

To Say Nothing But Thank You by Jeanne Lohmann

All day I try to say nothing but thank you,
breathe the syllables in and out with every step I
take through the rooms of my house and outside into
a profusion of shaggy-headed dandelions in the garden
where the tulips’ black stamens shake in their crimson cups.
 
I am saying thank you, yes, to this burgeoning spring
and to the cold wind of its changes. Gratitude comes easy
after a hot shower, when my loosened muscles work,
when eyes and mind begin to clear and even unruly
hair combs into place.
 
Dialogue with the invisible can go on every minute,
and with surprising gaiety I am saying thank you as I
remember who I am, a woman learning to praise
something as small as dandelion petals floating on the
steaming surface of this bowl of vegetable soup,
my happy, savoring tongue.

To Say Nothing But Thank You

One can never hear those words too often. Lohmann is breathing thank you in and out with every step, a worthy practice whether inside your home or outside. She sounds equally grateful for the lowly shaggy-headed dandelions and for the tulips whose black stamens shake in their crimson cups.

She is saying thank you to this burgeoning spring, this slow-to-arrive season with the cold wind of its changes. There is easy gratitude for the hot shower, when eyes and mind begin to clear, when we can more plainly see all that surrounds us. Though of course, there are times when it is easy to forget to say thank you too.

I like what she calls dialogue with the invisible, which is also my experience of paying attention with gratitude, thanks for what is, just as it is. She is a woman learning to praise even, or especially, the smallest details - yellow petals of dandelions floating on the surface of her hot vegetable soup, the visual effect, her happy,savoring tongue.

Be it dandelions, hot water, a good soup, the last parking spot, there are always opportunities to say thank you, even if we say nothing else, even if we just breathe the thought.

All Joys Are Small by Sharon Corcoran

Yes, our wedding was an eruption of joy,
never to be repeated. But I’m talking
the daily visitations, like a flock
of finches that appears as I emerge,
that circles above the house and me
three times, exactly three, before
heading east and promptly vanishing
against the peaks. The joys
so small they barely register—
the sight of clouds lenticular
advancing over mountains,
a perk of our geography. Coyote choirs.
A cottonwood bedecked with blackbirds,
all with Puerto Rico on their minds.
A spontaneous hug from the one
I’ve been cooped up with every day.
These many joys rain down as grace,
connecting mine to all lives,
mycelia groping through the wet
and giving ground.

All Joys Are Small

Having just experienced my daughter’s wedding as truly an eruption of joy, I delight in the poet’s choice of words, an outpouring of joy, never to be repeated in just that way. But then this poet wants to talk about the small joys, the daily visitations – a flock of finches circling her three times, exactly three, before disappearing.

She tells us these joys are so small they barely register – lens-shaped clouds that can form over mountains, a chorus of coyotes, migrating blackbirds with Puerto Rico on their minds – everyday
natural miracles we may overlook, including a spontaneous hug from someone we see every day but don’t expect which makes it even sweeter.

These many joys rain down as grace, a simple elegance that surrounds us, connecting mine to all lives. That phrase touches me, that these small joys are the link to all beings, our interrelatedness we often overlook. They are like a fungal network branching through the wet and giving ground. Just as mycelia are vital to our ecosystems, so joy is essential to the human spirit.

The Patience of Ordinary Things by Pat Schneider

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they’re supposed to be.
I’ve been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?

The Patience of Ordinary Things

I had not considered how the ordinary things around me might denote patience, might in their stillness, teach me to slow down by their calmness, their equanimity. This poet offers us a rich statement/question to begin: It is a kind of love, is it not? Does that not invite you to read further, to find out more about this kind of love?

She speaks of the very ordinary – the cup holding your tea, the chair on which you may be sitting at this very moment, the floor on which we stand, the soles of our feet which know Where they’re supposed to be. All this is love, found in the simple things we take for granted. And then she speaks of patience: clothes hanging in closets – respectfully no less, towels drying our bodies and my favourite, the soap which dries quietly in the dish – in truth, it makes no sound.

She leads us then to the lovely repetition of stairs, patiently replicating themselves to take us up or down without demands. Then that last question: And what is more generous than a window? I marvel at that description as I look out my kitchen window at the generosity of green leaves, climbing roses in my neighbours’ yard, redwing blackbirds streaking by. Generous, patient, ordinary – it really is a kind of love.

Small Basket of Happiness by Naomi Shihab Nye

Small Basket of Happiness
BY Naomi Shihab Nye

It would never call your name.

But it would be waiting somewhere close,

perhaps under a crushed leaf

turned from pale green to gold

with no fanfare.

You hadn’t noticed

the gathered hush

of a season’s tipping.

Shadows flowing past

before any light came up,

people whom only a few

might remember,

so much accompaniment

inside a single breeze.

All whom we loved.

In the quiet air lived

the happiness they had given.

And would still give, if only.

You would slow down a minute.

You would bend.

Small Basket of Happiness

Just in the title, Naomi Shihab Nye, creates a visual image, a small basket of happiness – can you picture it? what would it contain? She assures us It would never call your name; it does not come looking for us; we must open our eyes to see how it may be waiting somewhere close.

She wants us to notice the gathered hush / of a season’s tipping, how easily we can miss that as the earth changes its position with the sun. There is so much accompaniment / inside a single breeze, so much just within that phrase – shadows, people you might remember.

It is these people, All whom we loved she invites us to recall, and the happiness they had given. Not only that they gave us happiness, but would still give, if only. If only, and I can feel the poem slowing down here, You would slow down a minute. If only you would bend toward the happiness that is waiting for you.