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.

Insha’Allah by Danusha Laméris

I don’t know when it slipped into my speech
that soft word meaning, “if God wills it.”
Insha’Allah I will see you next summer.
The baby will come in spring, insha’Allah.
Insha’Allah this year we will have enough rain.

So many plans I’ve laid have unraveled
easily as braids beneath my mother’s quick fingers.

Every language must have a word for this. A word
our grandmothers uttered under their breath
as they pinned the whites, soaked in lemon,
hung them to dry in the sun, or peeled potatoes,
dropping the discarded skins into a bowl.

Our sons will return next month, insha’Allah.
Insha’Allah this war will end, soon. Insha’Allah
the rice will be enough to last through winter.

How lightly we learn to hold hope,
as if it were an animal that could turn around
and bite your hand. And still we carry it
the way a mother would, carefully,
from one day to the next.

Insha’Allah

Though ‘God’s will’ is not in my vocabulary, I have always like the sound of insha’Allah, the soft music of it as well as the meaning I make that there is something beyond me that allows babies and rain and all those things not in my control. Already, I am thinking to myself Insha’Allah I will see you next summer as I wonder about the possibility of going east to my brother’s family and to walk my favourite beach. As Lamérus says, so many plans unraveled, easily as braids beneath my mother’s quick fingers, never more so than in these past many months.

Every language must have a word for this, she tells us. This feels true to me, especially when she invokes the grandmothers hanging the whites on a line in the sun or peeling potatoes as grandmothers have done for millennium. The steady prayers for the safety of sons, for war to end, for there to be enough food for the winter, waiting without knowing.

How lightly we learn to hold hope, with a cautious care that it may turn and bite us, disappoint us. And yet we do hold it, carry it the way a mother would, and we do it from one day to the next. May you be reminded to carry your own hopes lightly, carefully, trusting in possibilities even without certainty.

(My apologies for being so late in the day. I wish I could have found a poem about losing track of the days; I thought today is Tuesday but apparently not.)

Dandelion by Ted Kooser

The first of a year’s abundance of dandelions

is this single kernel of bright yellow

dropped on our path by the sun, sensing

that we might need some marker to help us

find our way through life, to find a path

over the snow-flattened grass that was

blade by blade unbending into green,

on a morning early in April, this happening

just at the moment I thought we were lost

and I’d stopped to look around, hoping

to see something I recognized. And there

it was, a commonplace dandelion, right

at my feet, the first to bloom, especially

yellow, as if pleased to have been the one,

chosen from all the others, to show us the way.

Dandelion

I got a new book of poetry this week! How to Love the World, edited by James Crews, a collection of poetry about gratitude and hope and love and beauty in the world. I’m excited to have a new source of poems to share with you, to shine a light on the good that exists in small but important ways.

One of the first to catch my eye is this one by Ted Kooser, a wonderful poet and the curator of the online American Life in Poetry for many years. I have always appreciated his taste in concise poems that speak volumes and this is one of his own that meets that criteria.

I haven’t yet seen many dandelions though before long they will be everywhere, that first one a single kernel of bright yellow / dropped on our path by the sun. The poet considers that we might need some marker to help us / find our way through life, after the long winter to find our way over grass blade by blade unbending into green.

Thinking we were lost and looking around, there it is, a commonplace dandelion, the first yellow bloom, as if pleased to have been the one, / chosen from all the others, to show us the way. And there it is, that common flower/weed pointing us to the renewal of life in April, reminding us that spring always arrives and that we will find our way. And yes, I know it is snowing this morning but still… it is spring!

Packing for the Future: Instructions by Lorna Crozier


Take the thickest socks.
Wherever you’re going
you’ll have to walk.

There may be water.
There may be stones.
There may be high places
you cannot go without
the hope socks bring you,
the way they hold you
to the earth.

At least one pair must be new,
must be blue as a wish
hand-knit by your mother
in her sleep.

*

Take a leather satchel,
a velvet bag an old tin box —
a salamander painted on the lid.

That is to carry that small thing
you cannot leave. Perhaps the key
you’ve kept though it doesn’t fit
any lock you know,
the photograph that keeps you sane,
a ball of string to lead you out
though you can’t walk back
into that light.

In your bag leave room for sadness,
leave room for another language.

There may be doors nailed shut.
There may be painted windows.
There may be signs that warn you
to be gone. Take the dream
you’ve been having since
you were a child, the one
with open fields and the wind
sounding.

*

Mistrust no one who offers you
water from a well, a songbird’s feather,
something that’s been mended twice.
Always travel lighter
than the heart.

Packing for the Future: Instructions

Listening to Lorna Crozier, whom I greatly admire, on CBC Sunday morning, I was reminded of this poem of hers which I’ve loved since I first read it. Haven’t you wished, at least once in your life, that someone would give you instructions for your unknown future? Some directions to help you navigate this life you find yourself in?

She has us begin with thick socks, the hope socks bring you, / the way they hold you / to the earth, ground you wherever you are. Bring a pair blue as a wish /hand-knit by your mother / in her sleep, an enchanting possibility. Even if your mother never knit, you could wish for that because you know that Wherever you’re going / you’ll have to walk.

You will need a satchel, a bag, an old tin box – / a salamander painted on the lid, something to hold that small thing you cannot leave – a key, a photograph, a ball of string to lead you out / though you can’t walk back / into that light. For myself it was a purple Crown Royal drawstring bag in which I kept my inexplicable treasures. And though I neglected the ball of string, I did leave room for sadness because that is the other language we must learn in order to move through this world. Perhaps most important is to take the dream / you’ve been having since / you were a child, that one where you were connected to the real world and its aliveness in a way that we seem to lose as we grow older.

Finally, the instruction to always trust offerings of water from a well (that icy-clear taste), a songbird’s feather (a Jay’s impossible blue), something that’s been mended twice (my first pair of leather gloves). That last line: always travel lighter / than the heart, catches my breath each time, a gentle reminder not to let heart-heaviness weigh me down too long. I return to these instructions from time to time, when I feel I’m losing my way, pull on those sky blue socks and start walking.





Questions to Ask When Waking by Bernadette Miller

What would you do if you really knew
that life was wanting to sing through you?

What would you say if your words could convey
prayers that the world was waiting to pray?

What would you be if your being could free
some piece of the world’s un-whispered beauty?

What would you stop to bless and caress
if you believed that blessing could address
our painful illusions of brokenness?

What would you harvest from heartache and pain
if you understood loss as a way to regain
the never-forsaken terrain of belonging?

What would you love if your love could ignite
a sea full of stars on the darkest night?

Questions to Ask When Waking

Well, you probably know by now how much I love poems that ask important questions that I can’t really answer but which awaken my whole being. And of course the best time to hear such questions is in those early moments of waking before we are stolidly in our everyday routines, that liminal space where we are neither here nor there.

Each question begins with What would you do… or say or be or stop or harvest or love. Honestly, each one of these exquisitely crafted questions is enough to fill me up with wonder and carry me through my day. I especially love some piece of the world’s un-whispered beauty. There is so much beauty that is self-evident, reliable, traditional, but what of the unspoken beauties that are more hidden?

Can you believe that blessing could address / our painful illusions of brokenness? If we stopped to bless with our attention what we believe to be broken, would we find that it was whole? And then loss, that universal heartache, if we could understand it as a doorway into the never-forsaken terrain of belonging, understanding that we are not abandoned in our grief.

What would you love if it could ignite / a sea full of stars on the darkest night, if loving this world would bring more light (for how could it not), if your words could convey prayers? Is there a question here for you to wrestle with, to awaken you to some new understanding so that you know that life was wanting to sing through you?

About Standing (in Kinship) by Kimberly Blaeser

We all have the same little bones in our foot
twenty-six with funny names like navicular.
Together they build something strong—
our foot arch a pyramid holding us up.
The bones don’t get casts when they break.
We tape them—one phalange to its neighbor for support.
(Other things like sorrow work that way, too—
find healing in the leaning, the closeness.)
Our feet have one quarter of all the bones in our body.
Maybe we should give more honor to feet
and to all those tiny but blessed cogs in the world—
communities, the forgotten architecture of friendship.

About Standing (in Kinship)

I’ve always liked the concept of kinship, that state of relatedness with others, our affinity with other people, animals, earth beings. There is a connection, a sense of empathy which feels important to me and the rare kindred spirits in my life with whom I share this closeness are precious to me.

So I was pleasantly surprised by how this poet introduces us to the idea that we all share twenty-six little foot bones with funny names like navicular. How together they build something strong, how they hold us up, allow us to walk through our lives. How when one of those bones breaks, they get taped to the ones beside it for support. And then she reveals her lovely analogy: how things like sorrow work that way too, find healing in the leaning, the closeness. Oh yes, it is the leaning toward one another, the connection that can ease grief, even while we feel the pain of the loss, the broken place.

She suggests we might honour our feet, those 26 small bones that are so necessary to being upright and mobile, and also give honour to all those tiny but blessed cogs in the world – those interconnections of community, the forgotten architecture of friendship (such a lovely phrase). Consider if you will, the architecture of your own connections with people, your kinships, how we could not stand for long without them.

Perhaps as I walk today, I will feel those bones, feel the closeness with my kin, with all of you.

Kindness by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

Consider the tulip,
how it rises every spring
out of the same soil,
which is, of course,
not at all the same soil,
but new. How long ago
someone’s hands planted a bulb
and gave to this place
a living scrap of beauty.

Consider the six red petals,
the yellow at the center,
the soft green rubber of the stem,
how it bows to the world. How,
the longer we sit beside it,
the more we bow to it.

It is something like kindness,
is it not? The way someone plants
in you a bit of beauty—a kind word,
perhaps, or a touch, the gift
of their time or their smile.
And years later, in the soil that is you,
it emerges again, pushing aside
the dead leaves, insisting on beauty,
a celebration of the one who planted it,
the one who perceives it, and
the fertile place where it has grown.

Kindness

It is still too early for tulips in the garden though I happily bring home bright bunches of cut stems from the grocery store (flowers being as important as food, especially in March). The poet asks us to consider how tulips rise from the soil where they were planted, how someone’s hands planted a bulb which became the gift of a living scrap of beauty; the miracle of seed to flower.

Whatever colour you may choose (mine are yellow at the moment, a bouquet of sunshine), we watch as their green stems gently bow, a graceful still life. She suggests that the more we contemplate these early blooms, the more we bow to it. You really can lose yourself in the close-up intensity of colour and intricacy of the flower’s whorls, pausing for a moment to pay attention, to pay homage.

The connection she makes is enchanting: It is something like kindness, / is it not? The way a kind word or touch or smile from someone plants / in you a bit of beauty. How the flower of that kindness emerges in you, insisting on beauty. You are the fertile soil where that beauty has been planted which recognizes the giver of the gift as well as you, the receiver. This is indeed a celebration, simple kindnesses we all exchange with one other. Let us insist on beauty.