Safety Net by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

This morning I woke
thinking of all the people I love
and all the people they love
and how big the net
of lovers. It felt so clear,
all those invisible ties
interwoven like silken threads
strong enough to make a mesh
that for thousands of years
has been woven and rewoven
to catch us all.
Sometimes we go on
as if we forget
about it. Believing only
in the fall. But the net
is just as real. Every day,
with every small kindness,
with every generous act,
we strengthen it. Notice,
even now, how
as the whole world
seems to be falling, it
is there for us as we
walk the day’s tightrope,
how every tie matters.

Safety Net

When I first read this poem, I was reminded of something my then-4-year-old son said one night before drifting off to sleep, that he imagined all the people in the world were as if at the cross-points on a spider’s web, that we are all somehow connected. Rather a profound thought for such a young mind but you know what they say about the mouths of babes. In this poem, Trommer offers a similar notion but takes it a step further, that this is a wide net of all the people I love / and all the people they love, ready to catch us all.

She is thinking how big the net / of lovers, all those unseen connections, interwoven like silken threads, creating a mesh woven and rewoven / to catch us all. She tells us we sometimes forget about this net, believing only / in the fall when in fact with every small kindness, / with every generous act, / we strengthen it. She is asking us to notice how even as the whole world / seems to be falling (and there are many days it feels this way), that this net is there for us as we / walk the day’s tightrope. That’s what kindness can do, what a safety net is for, is it not? Ready to catch us if we fall, to hold us in its unseen mesh.

The last line says it all for me, how every tie matters, how it is our interdependence and connection that saves us daily. We are each, as my son told me, a critical point on this invisible web, the whole incomplete without each of us taking our place with love and kindness.

What to Do by Joyce Sutphen

Wake up early, before the lights come on
in the houses on a street that was once
a farmer’s field at the edge of a marsh.

Wander from room to room, hoping to find
words that could be enough to keep the soul
alive, words that might be useful or kind

in a world that is more wasteful and cruel
every day. Remind us that we are
like grass that fades, fleeting clouds in the sky,

and then give us just one of those moments
when we were paying attention, when we gave
up everything to see the world in

a grain of sand or to behold
a rainbow in the sky, the heart
leaping up.

What to Do

This is the kind of advice which I am always eager to hear, from a poet who has a way of expressing it unlike the directive voices of those who say they know with certainty what to do. Wake up early, she says, to greet the day before others rise. Wander from room to room, as one might when one is unsure of what could be enough to keep the soul / alive; when we are searching for words that might be useful or kind. Because kindness, I believe, is always necessary in a world that is more wasteful and cruel / every day. And always possible, the Dalai Lama tells us.

She reminds us that we are as ephemeral as grass, as clouds, and yet, we are given just one of those moments / when we were paying attention. One of those moments when we see the world in / a grain of sand as William Blake wrote over 200 years ago, a reminder that we are all connected to the natural world. And in those moments of paying attention, there it is, the heart / leaping up. You know what that feels like, don’t you.

Really, that’s all it takes, a brief moment of awareness to see past the cruelty, without words, and feel our heart respond. What to do in the moment can be that simple if we allow it to be.

Summer Arithmetic by Maya Stein

A volume of seawater, waded up to at the ankles, equals let’s take it slow. A ripe peach,

sliced into quadrants over the kitchen sink, equals there is more than enough. Kittens,

asleep on the shower tiles, equals listen to your body. The first of the tomato flowers

plus an afternoon downpour equal you are safe, my love. Sweat equal work times

patience. A blade of grass equals work times patience. Boats clustered in a makeshift

marina equals all is not lost. Sprinklers and Fiona equals the brief disappearance

of worry. The neighborhood dogs times two or three equals you have not lost your touch.

Breakfast waffles plus humidity equals stop feeling so guilty. A full moon

divided by four equals a full moon. Your father’s last birthday times time

equals infinity.

Summer Arithmetic

The subtitle to this delightful poem is or: when it’s too hot to think. We’ve had some of those too hot and humid days so far this summer (not complaining) and I’m intrigued by what Stein has done with her concrete observations of the outside world and her felt inner sense of these summer experiences. She is a Maine poet, living on the coast so she starts with wading in seawater, equating it to let’s take it slow. A sliced peach equals there is more than enough. Already I’m with her, immersed in these evocative responses to summer.

Kittens, tomato flowers, sweat, grass, boats, sprinklers, dogs, surely you have known all of these things in your own way. Yet perhaps your particular math has not added up to listen to your body; you are safe, my love; patience; all is not lost; the disappearance of worry, you have not lost your touch. The addition of these simple things is more than the sum of its parts.

Breakfast waffles without guilt and a full moon divided by four are wonderful equations. But the one that touched me most deeply is the last: Your father’s birthday times time equals infinity. Loss is both a subtraction and a multiplication – the way someone we love echoes through our lives long past their time on earth.

This isn’t the kind of arithmetic I learned in school but I much prefer it. Just letting the mind float on the summer air, making unexpected connections. Try it yourself. And check her out for other of her ten line poems. https://mayastein.com/poetry

Promise by Barbara Crooker

This day is an open road

stretching out before you.

Roll down the windows.

Step into your life, as if it were a fast car.

Even in industrial parks,

trees are covered with white blossoms,

festive as brides, and the air is soft

as a well-washed shirt on your arms.

The grass has turned implausibly green.

Tomorrow, the world will begin again,

another fresh start. The blue sky stretches,

shakes out its tent of light. Even dandelions glitter

in the lawn, a handful of golden change.

Promise

So often promises can be unrealistic and unfulfilled – you know the kind: I promise to finish the dishes later; I promise we’ll take that trip around the world some day; and so on. But this is a promise that is real, grounded in the everyday, this day, the one stretching out before you. This is a promise that’s an invitation: Step into your life, as if it were a fast car, windows down, music playing.

The poet invites us to notice the blossoming trees festive as brides, to be found even in unlikely places, to notice the softness of the air, like a well-washed shirt on your arms – can’t you just feel that? Tomorrow and each day to follow, the world will begin again, with its implausibly green grass, the blue sky with its tent of light. And look at the common dandelions scattered across the lawn, a handful of golden change.

Sometimes it takes a poet to remind us to open ourselves to all that the world has to offer when there is much that we don’t wish to see or hear. But that invitation to step into your life can be just the reminder we need to notice the miracles all around us. Each day holds promise; I promise!

Arriving Again and Again Without Noticing by Linda Gregg

I remember all the different kinds of years
Angry, or brokenhearted, or afraid.
I remember feeling like that
walking up the mountain along the dirt path
to my broken house on the island.
And long years of waiting in Massachusetts.
The winter walking and hot summer walking.
I finally fell in love with all of it:
dirt, night, rock and far views.
It’s strange that my heart is full
now as my desire was then.

Arriving Again and Again Without Noticing

It is the last two lines of this poem that grabbed my attention – how what we can long for in our younger years can become what fills our hearts later in life. Those years of being angry, or brokenhearted, or afraid, who has not known such times? The feeling of always walking uphill, of being isolated as on an island, in a house broken by any manner of things and long years of waiting though we don’t even know for what.

Then, I finally fell in love with all of it: dirt, night, rock and far views – the grit, the darkness, the hard places. There comes a time when it is possible, though we may not realize it, having come to the same place over and over, that our longing transforms. That last line is so poignant to me: It’s strange that my heart is full / now as my desire was then. What I wanted then, thought I wanted, is now before my eyes when I finally notice.

May we each arrive at that surprising place where we notice at last the gifts of our lives and feel the fullness of our hearts.

Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota by James Wright

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,   
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.   
Down the ravine behind the empty house,   
The cowbells follow one another   
Into the distances of the afternoon.   
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,   
The droppings of last year’s horses   
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.   
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

Lying in a Hammock

When I first read Wright’s poem, enticed by the title, I came to the end and broke into smiles. I realize it may not strike you this way. Certainly that last line is an abrupt turn around from all the gorgeous pastoral images – butterfly, leaf, cowbells, sunlight, golden stones, a chicken hawk floats over. What does he mean?

I’m not going to analyse this, though I gather it has been the subject of much disagreement. Simply to say that when I read it, my response was Yes! Any time I have spent not appreciating the natural beauty around me is a waste of precious time.

I don’t have access to a hammock just now but I do know how to go sit by the river to listen to it tumble over rocks or lie on the front porch and watch the wind dance the gingko leaves. This is the time of year to be ‘lazy’, to be non-productive in a consumer world. An opportunity to be idle and blessed as Mary Oliver has so aptly put it in The Summer Day, another fine poem to wake us up to ourselves.

Let us not waste our life by foregoing valuable moments to notice the world around us, to take in the beauty that is strewn all around waiting to be appreciated. So, find your version of a hammock and get busy doing nothing while you can. Enjoy!

Diamonds by Ingrid Goff Maidoff

What if recognizing diamonds

was enough to make them yours

and you saw them now everywhere?

On the sunlit ocean; in the moonless sky;

on winter fields and the tips of branches after the rain;

in smiling faces; the brook; the lake; the stream;

the kitchen stove; stairs; puddles, ice, clouds;

anywhere life glimmers and light glints;

kisses, belly laughs, bubbly,

wine, decay and crumbs;

flights of fancy, feathers,

teeth, words, breath…

Diamonds, diamonds,

all diamonds.

Would you see

then in truth

the very richness

that you are?

Diamonds

Perhaps after reading this poem, thank you Maggie for introducing me to this one, you will notice diamonds everywhere, just as the poet predicts. They are in stars, in water in all its forms, anywhere life glimmers and light glints. In fact, once you begin to look, it can seem as if there are sparkles and shine that catch the light on everything, especially on days when the sun glitters in unexpected places but even in moonlight.

She expands the glint of diamonds from kisses, belly laughs, all the way through to words, breath… Could it be that she is pointing out to us that this luminescence exists all around us, just waiting to be noticed? Could it be that we ourselves shine with an incandescent light even when we don’t have eyes to see it?

Would you see / then in truth / the very richness / that you are? Can you recognize how we each glow with a priceless life force, quietly glittering from within? Each a multifaceted diamond of light. Sometimes it just takes a poet to remind us.

Divorce by José A. Alcántara

He has flown headfirst against the glass
and now lies stunned on the stone patio,
nothing moving but his quick beating heart.
So you go to him, pick up his delicate
body and hold him in the cupped palms
of your hands. You have always known
he was beautiful, but it’s only now, in his stillness,
in his vulnerability, that you see the miracle
of his being, how so much life fits in so small
a space. And so you wait, keeping him warm
against the unseasonable cold, trusting that
when the time is right, when he has recovered
both his strength and his sense of up and down,
he will gather himself, flutter once or twice,
and then rise, a streak of dazzling
color against a slowly lifting sky.

Divorce

Yesterday when this poem came to me for the third time, I was already entranced by it and knew it was time to share it with you. It is a rare poem that takes a weighty, broad topic like divorce and tells you about an experience of it without ever mentioning the word beyond the title. Were you surprised when you read to the end and realized what the poet had done?

I suspect most of us have heard the sudden thump on a window and jumped up to see what small bird has flown into the clear glass, wondering if it is still alive. Perhaps you, too, have picked up its delicate body to hold him in the cupped palms of your hands. And did you, too, realize the miracle / of his being, how so much life fits in so small / a space? And did you wait, trusting that / when the time is right, he will rise, a streak of dazzling / color against a slowly lifting sky? Did you recognize your own hurt self in this compassionate scene?

In all of this, the poet has not once told us he is writing about a bird, much less about a heart broken, whether by divorce or some other of life’s sorrows. This is the magic and medicine of poetry – that there is language to describe heartbreak and vulnerability and tender care and ultimately resilience. I hope that if this poem resonates with you, it will give you comfort, knowing you will gather yourself in time and rise into a slowly lifting sky.

The Lesser Goldfinch by Connie Wanek

It was hardly bigger than an apricot,

a goldfinch, yes, but smaller and paler,

a little ghost in the lavender

eating seeds too tiny for

my old eyes. Sometimes I think

Heaven needn’t measure

even two by two

inches, much less all the sky

above the Vatican;

for peace is lodged deep

within the very

spacious thought of itself.

Quiet bird, your gestures

are vast in such a place

as I dream of.

The Lesser Goldfinch

I saw a tiny goldfinch the other morning in our Hydrangea tree, a brief flicker of songbird sunshine before it flew elsewhere. And then I saw this poem and each seemed to speak to the other so here you are. The finch is said to symbolize liveliness, exuberance and enthusiasm in your life – I felt that in the moment.

I was taken by the idea of comparing this bird which I will likely never hold, to an apricot which I most likely will. This makes it tangible, gives it some weight, slight though it would be. Something so small and pale that it appears as a little ghost in the lavender, feeding on tiny seeds. Perhaps you have seen one too.

She moves from this elegant description of such a small bird to placing it in the context of a heaven which needn’t measure even two by two inches. This feathered creature is as good as heaven itself in the poet’s eyes and doesn’t need all the sky / above the Vatican – vast yet contained.

In this bird she sees peace deep within, with movements that give vision to such a place / as I dream of. The image of that fleeting goldfinch remains with me, a flash of golden light and a sense that it held so much more than its tiny body suggests.

Untitled by Abigail Echo-Hawk

When they buried the children

What they didn’t know

They were lovingly embraced

By the land

Held and cradled in a mother’s heart

The trees wept for them, with the wind

they sang mourning songs their mothers

didn’t know how to sing

bending branches to touch the earth

around them. The Creator cried for them

the tears falling like rain.

Mother Earth held them

until they could be found.

Now our voices sing the mourning songs

with the trees. the wind. light sacred fire

ensure they are never forgotten as we sing

JUSTICE

I could not think of any other poem that speaks more poignantly of this week’s heart-stopping news of the remains of 215 children at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops B.C. For years we have heard horrific tales of the abuse of indigenous children in these schools, stories that are hard to comprehend. This poem is a different story, one that says to me: pay attention; this is real; remember them; ensure they are never forgotten.

Abigail Echo-Hawk is a Pawnee artist and poet unknown to me until yesterday – thank you Julie for sharing this. So often it requires the tender fierceness of a poet’s voice to speak the unspeakable – Now our voices sing the mourning songs. May we all mourn these children lovingly embraced / by the land / held and cradled in a mother’s heart and their families, as well as the failure of goodness in humanity that led to this. And may we also remember that there are poets who can help us bear this weight by showing us that in the depths of grief, there is also beauty and reverence in the embrace of Mother Earth, a way to honour these lives.