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.

Small Hope by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

Nudged by hope
the heart rises
from exhaustion.

It’s like the great blue heron
I saw this morning
flying up from a wasteland

on broad gray wings
with strong, slow beats
for a moment charged

with grace
before—did you
see this, heart?—

it chose to land again,
bringing all its beauty
to the desolate place.

Small Hope

A simple poem, this, but like some of the simplest, it speaks with gravitas. This poet, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, posts a poem every day. Every day she finds something worthy of her attention and voice.

In those first three lines, she expresses the way that we can rise from our exhaustion (and who has not known that weariness) when we are Nudged by hope. Just a nudge, a gentle touch to the heart, that speaks to our latent awareness. She compares it to a great blue heron, flying up from a wasteland, that place of ennui or despair we all visit from time to time. I am always mesmerized by the occasional heron I see along the river – it’s broad gray wings, beating a slow tempo as it lifts and moves across the water.

I, too, have seen those wings charged / with grace, their simple elegance lifting something in me. Then, the pause of her question – did you / see this, heart? – did you see how it moved effortlessly before it came to earth again, bringing all its beauty / to the desolate place. This wondrous creature, as real as hope, that rises and falls, gracing our desolate places within.

May you see a heron today or the next or some time this summer and feel that nudge of hope such beauty evokes, small as it may be.

The Last Good Days by Lynn Ungar

What will you do with the last good days?
Before the seas rise and the skies close in,
before the terrible bill
for all our thoughtless wanting
finally comes due?

What will you do
with the last fresh morning,
filled with the watermelon scent
of cut grass and the insistent
bird calling sweet  sweet
across the shining day?

Crops are dying, economies failing,
men crazy with the lust for power and fame
are shooting up movie theaters and
engineering the profits of banks.

It is entirely possible
it only gets worse from here.
How can you leave your heart
open to such a vast, pervasive sadness?
How can you close your eyes
to the riot of joy and beauty
that remains?

The solutions, if there are any
to be had, are complex, detailed,
demanding. The answers
are immediate and small.

Wake up. Give thanks. Sing.

The Last Good Days

Here is a question to contemplate: what to do with the last good days – of your life? of the world? Either way, before the terrible bill / for all our thoughtless wanting / finally comes due. Sounds ominous, rather bleak. But then the poet offers us the watermelon scent / of cut grass and that irresistible birdcall of sweet sweet on the last fresh morning.

Then we are back again in a dystopian world of failing economies and crops, where the greed of rampant consumerism makes people crazy. But possibly, she tells us, it could get even worse. How can you leave your heart / open to such a vast, pervasive sadness? Indeed how do we leave our hearts open to the tragedies of this world? But wait, How can you close your eyes / to the riot of joy and beauty / that remains? She has named the paradox of this life of vast, pervasive sadness along with the riot of joy and beauty. Both exist so we must leave our hearts and eyes open to both.

She does not offer us simple solutions which if there are any / to be had, are complex, detailed, / demanding. But she does reveal that there are answers which are immediate and small. On these last good days, she is blunt, precise: Wake up. Give thanks. Sing. What else could we do, should we do, in the face of great sorrow balanced with the sweet sweet of joy and beauty.

What will be your song?

Field Guide by Tony Hoagland

Once, in the cool blue middle of a lake,
up to my neck in that most precious element of all,

I found a pale-gray, curled-upwards pigeon feather
floating on the tension of the water

at the very instant when a dragonfly,
like a blue-green iridescent bobby pin,

hovered over it, then lit, and rested.
That’s all.

I mention this in the same way
that I fold the corner of a page

in certain library books,
so that the next reader will know

where to look for the good parts.

Field Guide

Any field guide I’ve seen has been filled with various and multiple birds or plants or insects or whatever, so I wasn’t sure what I would find in this poem by that name. What I found and hope you may also, is a delight, a moment in time that the poet wants to share with us.

It’s still too chilly to go swimming this May, though I so love to put myself into the cool blue middle of any body of water, that most precious element of all, my favourite summer treat. Here, he notices a common pigeon feather, pale-gray, curled-upwards, floating on the surface which could be engaging enough. But then, in the next moment, a dragonfly appears, like a blue-green iridescent bobby pin, to rest on the feather awhile. That’s all, Hoagland says, that’s enough, just wanted to point this out to you, this small miracle of ordinariness.

I think the most intriguing part though, comes in the last lines where he explains that he is mentioning this event in the same way that I fold the corner of a page / in certain library books, his way of alerting the next reader where to look for the good parts. The good parts, the simple, solitary dragonfly’s iridescent beauty held on a weightless, floating feather – is that not worth noting?

Perhaps this may inspire you to consider what the good parts are in your days that you want to mark for the next person. In this way we can share the beauty around us.

A Prayer for Every Day Julia Fehrenbacher

Let me breathe only grace today, only
that which slows, steadies,
softens, sparks

only that which permits
and pardons and points
to the blossoms inside the broken,
the poetry inside the pain, the nourishing
newness inside the now
Let me breathe only grace
today, only that which invites
me to speak my very own
language for as long as I have breath,
only that which hums:

You can.
You will.

Let me breathe only grace today, only that which notices the tired
and says, lie back, Love—rest
for as long as you need to. It’s not
about how much you do
but how full you are.

And, my God, how beautiful you are when you are full.

A Prayer for Every Day

Serendipitously I came upon this gem while looking for another site – the wonders of internet rabbit holes! I admire Fehrenbacher’s work and previously posted Hold Out Your Hand back in December, 2018.

Here she offers us a prayer for grace which slows, steadies, / softens, sparks. A grace which permits / and pardons and points / to the blossoms inside the broken. Such deliciously inviting alliteration, a musical incantation. A grace which invites me to speak my very own / language, which says to You can. / You will. A language of confidence, of strength, of your own.

And then the permission, to breathe grace which notices the tired / and says, lie back. How might you breathe with relief to be given that invitation, to rest, to do nothing in a world that demands we be productive. She tells us what we all need to hear, that It’s not / about how much you do / but how full you are. What if you were to stop and consider your own rich fullness?

Is it not enough to be full of your own being, to listen and receive, not just to do and do more. Because as she emphatically reminds us, how beautiful you are when you are full. May you rest in your fullness today.