Poem for the day

The Birthing

Call out the names in the procession of the loved.

Call from the blood the ancestors here to bear witness

to the day he stopped the car,

we on our way to a great banquet in his honor.

In a field a cow groaned lowing, trying to give birth,

what he called front leg presentation,

the calf comes out nose first, one front leg dangling from his mother.

A fatal sign he said while rolling up the sleeves

of his dress shirt, and climbed the fence.

I watched him thrust his arms entire

into the yet to be, where I imagined holy sparrows scattering

in the hall of souls for his big mortal hands just to make way.

With his whole weight he pushed the calf back in the mother

and grasped the other leg tucked up like a closed wing

against the new one’s shoulder.

And found a way in the warm dark to bring both legs out

into the world together.

Then heaved and pulled, the cow arching her back,

until a bull calf, in a whoosh of blood and water,

came falling whole and still onto the meadow.

We rubbed his blackness, bloodying our hands.

The mother licked her newborn, of us oblivious,

until he moved a little, struggled.

I ran to get our coats, mine a green velvet cloak,

and his a tuxedo jacket, and worked to rub the new one dry

while he set out to find the farmer.

When it was over, the new calf suckling his mother,

the farmer soon to lead them to the barn,

leaving our coats just where they lay

we huddled in the car.

And then made love toward eternity,

Without a word drove slowly home. And loved some more.

  • Deborah Digges

Poem for the day:

The Path

Life, the saying goes, is a journey,

and who could argue with that?

We’ve all experienced the surprising turns,

the nearly-impassible swamp, the meadow

of flowers that turned out not to be quite

so blissful and benign as we first thought,

the crest of the hill where the road

smoothed out and sloped toward home.

Our job, we say, is to remain faithful

to the path before us. Which is an assumption

as common as it is absurd.

Really? Look ahead. What do you see?

If there is a path marked out in front of you

it was almost certainly laid down for someone else.

The path only unfolds behind us,

our steps themselves laying down the road.

You can look back and see the sign posts—

the ones you followed and the ones you missed—

but there are no markers for what lies ahead.

You can tell the story of how

you forded the stream or got lost

on the short cut that wasn’t,

how you trekked your way to courage or a heart,

but all of that comes after the fact.

There is no road ahead.

There is only the walking,

the tales we weave of our adventures,

and the songs we sing

to call our companions on.

  • Lynn Ungar

The Dog

What I was doing with my white teeth exposed

like that on the side of the road I don’t know,

and I don’t know why I lay beside the sewer

so that the lover of dead things could come back

with his pencil sharpened and his piece of white paper.

I was there for a good two hours whistling

dirges, shrieking a little, terrifying

hearts with my whimpering cries before I died

by pulling the one leg up and stiffening.

There is a look we have with the hair of the chin

curled in mid-air, there is a look with the belly

stopped in the midst of its greed. The lover of dead things

stoops to feel me, his hand is shaking. I know

his mouth is open and his glasses are slipping.

I think his pencil must be jerking and the terror

of smell—and sight—is overtaking him;

I know he has that terrified faraway look

that death brings—he is contemplating. I want him

to touch my forehead once again and rub my muzzle

before he lifts me up and throws me into

that little valley. I hope he doesn’t use

his shoe for fear of touching me; I know,

or used to know, the grasses down there; I think

I knew a hundred smells. I hope the dog’s way

doesn’t overtake him, one quick push,

barely that, and the mind freed, something else,

some other, thing to take its place. Great heart,

great human heart, keep loving me as you lift me,

give me your tears, great loving stranger, remember,

the death of dogs, forgive the yapping, forgive

the shitting, let there be pity, give me your pity.

How could there be enough? I have given

my life for this, emotion has ruined me, oh lover,

I have exchanged my wildness—little tricks

with the mouth and feet, with the tail, my tongue is a parrots’s,

I am a rampant horse, I am a lion,

I wait for the cookie, I snap my teeth—

as you have taught me, oh distant and brilliant and lonely.

  • Gerald Stern

all I have to offer

as one of those who have had the honor

of being called to be among your friends,

this is all i have to offer:

those of us who have been given

the blessing to deeply delve into the lives of plants

are gifted with the opportunity

to let them ground us in the earth forever.

what we learn through them is this:

that even the most gorgeous or delicious

plant in the world must be fitted

to a context that honors its peculiar stance,

or else we will be wasting its gift.

what I mean is that a plant never stands in isolation,

but is a holobiont woven into a fabric

of mycorrhizal threads, bacterial nodules,

resplendent pollinators and allegiant seed dispersers

who have shaped it --and us-- as much as we shape them.

the reason to be engaged in science

is to each day become more humble, more uncertain

that there is only way of looking at or being in the world,

to accept our capacity for being wrong,

and to embrace how truth is iterative and never final.

when we carry that sensibility with us

we slowly come to understand that every tyranny,

every disparity that has made humans less

than what we should be

has a solution to be found in the myriad ways

plants have managed to live under

harsh and unforgiving circumstances

(like those we are living in now)

while sustaining their dignity and capacity to delight.

if ever we adopt fresh ways of living in this world

that will might help us all survive,

plants can offer us

options that few human words

have yet to circumscribe.

  • Gary Nabham

Accidental Pastoral

I must have just missed a parade—

horse droppings and hard candy

in the road, miniature American

flags staked into the grass, plastic

chairs lining the curb down this

two-lane highway, 36 in the open

country, briefly Main Street in town.

When I was small, I sat on a curb

only a dozen miles from here, my feet

in the ashtray-dirty gutter, and watched

stars-and-stripes girls wheeling

their batons, slicing the sun-dumb

air into streamers. I can still hear

the click of cellophaned candies

on pavement. I didn’t want to

leave town, not then, and I never left.

I am not a parade, my one car passing

through Centerburg, Ohio, too late.

The chairs are empty. The children

are unwrapping golden butterscotches

in the cool, shuttered houses.

But look up—the clouds are stories

tall, painted above Webb’s Marathon,

and flat-bottomed as if resting on something

they push against though it holds them.

  • Maggie Smith

Poem for the day:

What Is Broken Is What God Blesses

The lover’s footprint in the sand

the ten-year-old kid’s bare feet

in the mud picking chili for rich growers,

not those seeking cultural or ethnic roots,

but those whose roots

have been exposed, hacked, dug up and burned

and in those roots

do animals burrow for warmth;

what is broken is blessed,

not the knowledge and empty-shelled wisdom

paraphrased from textbooks,

not the mimicking nor plaques of distinction

nor the ribbons and medals

but after the privileged carriage has passed

the breeze blows traces of wheel ruts away

and on the dust will again be the people’s broken

footprints.

What is broken God blesses,

not the perfectly brick-on-brick prison

but the shattered wall

that announces freedom to the world,

proclaims the irascible spirit of the human

rebelling against lies, against betrayal,

against taking what is not deserved;

the human complaint is what God blesses,

our impoverished dirt roads filled with cripples,

what is broken is baptized,

the irreverent disbeliever,

the addict’s arm seamed with needle marks

is a thread line of a blanket

frayed and bare from keeping the man warm.

We are all broken ornaments,

glinting in our worn-out work gloves,

foreclosed homes, ruined marriages,

from which shimmer our lives in their deepest truths,

blood from the wound,

broken ornaments—

when we lost our perfection and honored our imperfect sentiments, we were

blessed.

Broken are the ghettos, barrios, trailer parks where gangs duel to death,

yet through the wretchedness a woman of sixty comes riding her rusty bicycle,

we embrace

we bury in our hearts,

broken ornaments, accused, hunted, finding solace and refuge

we work, we worry, we love

but always with compassion

reflecting our blessings—

in our brokenness

thrives life, thrives light, thrives

the essence of our strength,

each of us a warm fragment,

broken off from the greater

ornament of the unseen,

then rejoined as dust,

to all this is.

  • Jimmy Santiago Baca

Rain Magic

I miss the rainy years,

when the skies darkened for days at a time.

Those years when the leaves wept with gratitude

for the quenched thirst in their roots.

I remember splashing in the puddles

In my rubber boots

And how the mud on my soles

sang with the joy of a slippery earth.

I loved the excuse to stay indoors

with a good book

A cup of tea

Maybe a fire in the hearth.

Or maybe nothing at all,

But the soothing backdrop of rain

Rhythmically syncing to the purring of my cat.

Hillsides of trees now show the gray of death.

They match the color of the smoke

hanging in the air from distant fires.

What happens when there’s no water to douse those flames?

This punishing drought

is not just of weather,

But a drought of decency

A drought of compassion

A drought of foresight to what’s ahead –

A perfect storm, but not the kind we want.

Where is the thunder of truth?

Where is the storm of outrage?

When will man’s heavenly decrees

yield to the mother earth

Who gives life only on her own terms?

Is that the magic we need

to call the rains down

upon our growing desert?

To dance the thunder into the ground

With the marching of our feet?

To stop and grieve real tears

for what we are losing?

Let us begin then

by embracing the fog

that still remembers

what it is to be moist.

  • Anodea Judith

Faithful Forest

I will wait, said wood, and it did.
Ten years, a hundred, a thousand, a million—

It did not matter. Time was not its measure,
Not its keeper, nor its master.

Wood was trees in those first days.
And when wood sang, it was leaves,

Which took flight and became birds.

It is still forest here, the forest of used-to-be.
Its trees are the trees of memory.

Their branches—so many tongues, so many hands—
They still speak a story to those who will listen.

By only looking without listening, you will not hear the trees.
You will see only hard stone and flattened landscape,

But if you’re quiet, you will hear it.

The leaves liked the wind, and went with it.
The trees grew more leaves, but wind took them all.

And then the bare trees were branches, which in their frenzy
Made people think of so many ideas—

Branches were lines on the paper of sky,
Drawing shapes on the shifting clouds

Until everyone agreed that they saw horses.

Wood was also the keeper of fires.
So many people lived from what wood gave them.

The cousins of wood went so many places
Until almost nobody was left—that is the way

Of so many families. But wood was steadfast
Even though it was hard from loneliness. Still,

I will wait, said wood, and it did.

-  Alberto Ríos

Up The Niger

For the dirt poor, the river is riches.
Anchored in mud, a man can
still skim the brown water for fish,
a woman scrub her naked baby.
Horse-drawn carts trudge back and forth
to its rotting jetty.
The one cafe in town overlooks its hypnotic swirl.
A baguette with butter and a view
of splashing children, goats drinking…
what more could a man ask for.
I drop coins in the blind beggar’s cup,
listen for a time to the tuneless singer.
That current, the color of monkey crap,
probably poison for all I know…
and yet, without it, this morning doesn’t exist.
I’m not unfolding the week old newspaper.
The Frenchman with the snowy beard
is not trying to cajole me into card games.
The boy doesn’t laugh, the girl lifts her dress
up to her knees and wades out to a floating ball.
I’d be home maybe, thinking to myself,
now where can I go where there’s a river.
This place would never come to mind.
Without its flow, nothing would.

- John Grey