Poem for the day

Praying Over Our Childrens’ Handbasket
(for the fourth graders of Uvalde, Texas)

Unheeded voicemails from dying
fourth graders blood-sacrificed to
lobbying Moloch’s high priesthood.

These Disunited States of what
has never been America
as written at its beginning.

God bless all of us blinded and
scuffling to cling to our nationwide
reverence for notion.

Give us this day our last gaspéd
breath and forgive us our plunge
down Desparation’s Cascade.

They shout that our country’s going
to hell in a hand basket but
they’ve said so since its founding.

When the vision filled water
glass falls and has shattered,
its substance unfurls dark as blood.

Can You in truth deliver us
from political cupidity
for contributions and control?

Colorless white men in power
exhibit quisling cowardice
in service to mighty paymasters

not minding voicemails from dying
fourth graders surrendered to
lobbying Moloch’s high priesthood.

- Ed Coletti

Failing and Flying

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.

It’s the same when love comes to an end,

or the marriage fails and people say

they knew it was a mistake, that everybody

said it would never work. That she was

old enough to know better. But anything

worth doing is worth doing badly.

Like being there by that summer ocean

on the other side of the island while

love was fading out of her, the stars

burning so extravagantly those nights that

anyone could tell you they would never last.

Every morning she was asleep in my bed

like a visitation, the gentleness in her

like antelope standing in the dawn mist.

Each afternoon I watched her coming back

through the hot stony field after swimming,

the sea light behind her and the huge sky

on the other side of that. Listened to her

while we ate lunch. How can they say

the marriage failed? Like the people who

came back from Provence (when it was Provence)

and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.

I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,

but just coming to the end of his triumph.

- Jack Gilbert

Praises

(A Walk at Fairfield Osborn Preserve)

When I listen deeply

bare feet on the earth

caress falling leaf carpets

oak leaf mash

path of yellow gold dust

lined with Bay Laurel balls

When I wander through fog-shrouded hills

with primal root forms

mosses enlivened by raindrops

lichens of gray and green

feathery horsetails

fungi’s secret messages

the flicker calls

the juvenile red hawk circling

the sapsucker drills couplets on poplars and aspens

(fly punctuates this writing on paper)

When I stop to inhale the scent of creek near dampness

hear frogs echo ageless water spirits

in a stream cradled by rocks

ancient lands reveal splashes of yellow maple

boulders move sloth-like down the hillside

This is how the knowing comes

up into the body 

    sap rising 

rooting me to earth

- Rebecca Evert

Candles in Babylon

Through the midnight streets of Babylon

between the steel towers of their arsenals,

between the torture castles with no windows,

we race by barefoot, holding tight

our candles, trying to shield

the shivering flames, crying

“Sleepers Awake!”

hoping

the rhyme’s promise was true,

that we may return

from this place of terror

home to a calm dawn and

the work we had just begun.

  • Denise Levertov

Summer Solstice

The garden is so full of its good green life -

Baby tomatoes swelling on the vine –

Pansies coming, rhododendrons going.

Cosmos opening up towards the sun –

Light lingers far into the evening now.

It is easy to ignore the return of the dark.

We won’t notice that

tomorrow’s daylight lessens.

Summer is here, with its

warm days and baseball,

beach trips and wine in outdoor cafes.

Why should we watch for shadowy fingers

reaching around the edge of the doorframe?

Dazzled by the light

We turn a blind eye to what comes this way.

Up the dusty road -

a stranger in a slouching hat,

approaches slowly and relentlessly

slicing through the heat shimmers.

Take your time, friend.

Your pockets may be filled with blood-red rubies

but we are not yet ready for your gifts.

Take your time.

  • Maya Spector

Ripening

The longer we are together

the larger death grows around us.

How many we know by now

who are dead! We, who were young,

now count the cost of having been.

And yet as we know the dead

we grow familiar with the world.

We, who were young and loved each other

ignorantly, now come to know

each other in love, married

by what we have done,

as much as by what we intend.

Our hair turns white with our ripening

as though to fly away in some

coming wind, bearing the seed

of what we know. It was bitter to learn

that we come to death as we come

to love, bitter to face

the just and solving welcome

that death prepares. But that is bitter

only to the ignorant, who pray

it will not happen. Having come

the bitter way to better prayer, we have

the sweetness of ripening. How sweet

to know you by the signs of this world!

  • Wendell Berry

Right To Life

A woman is not a pear tree

thrusting her fruit into mindless fecundity

into the world. Even pear trees bear

heavily one year and rest and grow the next.

An orchard gone wild drops few warm rotting

fruit in the grass but the trees stretch

high and wiry gifting the birds forty

feet up among inch long thorns

broken atavistically from the smooth wood.

A woman is not a basket you place

your buns in to keep them warm. Not a brood

hen you can slip duck eggs under.

Not the purse holding the coins of your

descendants till you spend them in wars.

Not a bank where your genes gather interest

and interesting mutations in the tainted

rain, any more than you are.

You plant corn and you harvest

it to eat or sell. You put the lamb

in the pasture to fatten and haul it in to

butcher for chops. You slice the mountain

in two for a road and gouge the high plains

for coal and the waters run muddy for

miles and years. Fish die but you do not

call them yours unless you wished to eat them.

Now you legislate mineral rights in a woman.

You lay claim to her pastures for grazing,

fields for growing babies like iceberg

lettuce. You value children so dearly

that none ever go hungry, none weep

with no one to tend them when mothers

work, none lack fresh fruit,

none chew lead or cough to death and your

orphanages are empty. Every noon the best

restaurants serve poor children steaks.

At this moment at nine o’clock a partera

is performing a table top abortion on an

unwed mother in Texas who can’t get

Medicaid any longer. In five days she will die

of tetanus and her little daughter will cry

and be taken away. Next door a husband

and wife are sticking pins in the son

they did not want. They will explain

for hours how wicked he is,

how he wants discipline.

We are all born of woman, in the rose

of the womb we suckled our mother’s blood

and every baby born has a right to love

like a seedling to sun. Every baby born

unloved, unwanted, is a bill that will come

due in twenty years with interest, an anger

that must find a target, a pain that will

beget pain. A decade downstream a child

screams, a woman falls, a synagogue is torched,

a firing squad is summoned, a button

is pushed and the world burns.

I will choose what enters me, what becomes

of my flesh. Without choice, no politics,

no ethics lives. I am not your cornfield,

not your uranium mine, not your calf

for fattening, not your cow for milking.

You may not use me as your factory.

Priests and legislators do not hold shares

in my womb or my mind.

This is my body. If I give it to you

I want it back. My life

is a non-negotiable demand.

  • Marge Piercy

Take Care of Yer Friends

Friend is a word that I don’t throw around

Though it’s used and abused, I still like the sound.

I save it for people who’ve done right by me.

And I know I can count on if ever need be.

Some of my friends drive big limousines

Own ranches and banks and visit with queens.

And some of my friends are up to their necks

In overdue notes and can’t write a check!

They’re singers or ropers or writers of prose

And others, God bless ‘em, can’t blow their own nose!

I guess bein’ friends don’t have nothin’ to do

With talent or money or knowin’ who’s who.

It’s a comf’terbul feelin’ when you don’t have to care

‘Bout choosin’ your words or bein’ quite fair

‘Cause friends’ll just listen and let go on by

Those words you don’t mean and not bat an eye.

It makes a friend happy to see your success.

They’re proud of yer good side and forgive all the rest.

And that ain’t so easy, all of the time

Sometimes I get crazy and seem to go blind!

Yer friend just might take you on home

Or remind you sometime that you’re not alone.

Or ever so gently pull you back to the ground

When you think you can fly with no one around.

A hug or a shake, whichever seems right

Is the high point of givin’, I’ll tell ya tonight,

All worldly riches and tributes of men

Can’t hold a candle to the worth of a friend.

  • Baxter Black

(1/10/1945 - 6/10/2022)

Week in Review

​ I
in a safe zone of generality
flush with an amalgam of cliché
mankind celebrates earthly holidays
with over-produced fumes of sentiment
and curdled complacency

​ II
this story never gets old
the whirring machinery of denial
embalmed in history
can only travel a single direction

​ III
coming into a starker relief
within the spin of the world
sleepy selves
try to navigate the familiar

​ IV
thoughts and prayers
bleat and thrum
hang long in the air
try to fill the empty

​ V
the broader mind
the fuller heart
try to construct wings
for an unhurried
vertiginous fall

​ VI
it’s tempting to believe
only confusion and ambivalence
define a paralysis of will
familiar unease never hurries
this well worn terrain

​ VII
in this climate of harm ​
desirous of great forgetting
we are complicit
shivery wishful thinking
useless as flower bouquets
withering with decay

- Les Bernstein

Characteristics of Life

Ask me if I speak for the snail and I will tell you
I speak for the snail.
speak of underneathedness
and the welcome of mosses,
of life that springs up,
little lives that pull back and wait for a moment.

I speak for the damselfly, water skeet, mollusk,
the caterpillar, the beetle, the spider, the ant.
I speak
from the time before spinelessness was frowned upon.

Ask me if I speak for the moon jelly. I will tell you
one thing today and another tomorrow
and I will be as consistent as anything alive
on this earth.

                    I move as the currents move, with the breezes.

What part of your nature drives you? You, in your cubicle
ought to understand me. I filter and filter and filter all day.

Ask me if I speak for the nautilus and I will be silent
as the nautilus shell on a shelf. I can be beautiful
and useless if that’s all you know to ask of me.

Ask me what I know of longing and I will speak of distances
between meadows of night-blooming flowers.
I will speak
the impossible hope of the firefly.

                                            You with the candle

burning and only one chair at your table must understand
such wordless desire.

                            To say it is mindless is missing the point.

- Camille T. Dungy

She Dances With Trees

Daughter in the valley,

she walks like a cat.

Princess on the mountain top,

she bends like a willow.

Her body tells stories

whether she wants to or not.

She dances in the forest

hauls her own weight

three stories high

and the massive redwood

holds her steady.

Barefoot she springs away

as if time were a memory;

spins like a child’s dream

of joy set free;

sways back gently

to her soft-barked partner

and again -

a soaring osprey

then a landing wren.

When she dances with trees

the ten thousand things dance as one.

Their silence sings.

Their stillness flows.

They reveal themself.

She heals.

Blockages like ravaged redwoods,

mounds of senseless debris

clog swollen stream-beds.

She knows

meridians of earth, herbs, bodies;

massive junctures can be cleared

with ancient-wisdom pinpricks,

the grace of passive activism.

Her only devotion

is Being.

When let go

to its own

nature goes,

water flows,

salmon return.

  • Kate Dougherty