Tag Archives: poetry

Dealing with the days

The Age Demanded” by Ernest Hemingway

The age demanded that we sing
And cut away our tongue.

My head has been too stuck in the above mode this last month. Too much going on, too many hours at the office, sapping the good stuff of life too quickly and consistently, before the tree can replenish itself, and I haven’t been feeling myself. Or reading. Or watching movies. Or just being happy.

But like I said the other day, Maine was restorative. And gave glimpses of an alternative life. And has come amid serious digging. Digging out of the hole, catching up with what overtook me earlier this year and especially this summer. I’m starting to have some success there, I think. We’ll see.

So, I’ve moved on to poems about digging out and replenishing.

Living with the News” by W.S. Merwin.

Can I get used to it day after day
a little at a time while the tide keeps
coming in faster the waves get bigger
building on each other breaking records

We grow accustomed to the Dark-” by Emily Dickinson.

The Bravest – grope a little –
And sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the Forehead –
But as they learn to see -

Ways of Talking” by Ha Jin.

After losing a land and then giving up a tongue,
we stopped talking of grief
Smiles began to brighten our faces.
We laugh a lot, at our own mess.

Heart” by Sue Song.

Forgive those years I left you
pounding your Morse of grief, alone—

On the other side of refilling, I hear there are good things and good sleep.

Send Me a Leaf” by Bertolt Brecht.

Lights Out” by Edward Thomas.

Here love ends,
Despair, ambition ends;
All pleasure and all trouble,
Although most sweet or bitter,
Here ends in sleep that is sweeter
Than tasks most noble.

More NoMa graffiti poems

After I posted about the Robert Frost graffiti on the sidewalk a block from NPR HQ, friends alerted me to sibling graffiti nearby at NoMa Metro.


“With out you, today’s emotions are just the scurf of yesterdays” is a line from Amelie. Which was a terrific movie and poetic in many ways. But the source adds new mystery. Is the graffiti artist trying to broaden our poetic definitions? Or random grabbing from a quote site? The theme certainly fits with that of the Frost quote: sadness at loss of someone close.

And — Jess pointed me toward the New Yorker blog post about mysterious poetry turning up in Central Park. (In the last month, I’ve fallen so behind on my reading. It’s the worst.) About the placard found: “I was enchanted to find a park sign filled with poetry rather than the usual mishmash of information, rules, and thinly veiled threats. And such doting poetry: the park, the sign implied, had not been entirely beautiful without me….”

There’s apparently one more poem near the Metro. I think I’ve seen it but only too quickly in passing. Need to photograph and look it up.

Frost was here


Spray-painted verse appeared the other week on a sidewalk near work. I took a pic and planned to look it up later. I remembered the photo today and the source came up quickly: the end of Robert Frost’s “Reluctance.”

Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?

Wonderful — and what a mystery. Cool Disco Bob! How often does Frost get graffiti? Who’s the writer? A graffitist with a MFA and a broken heart?

Who’s the intended recipient? An NPR staffer? A resident of the next-door apartments? They make up most of the people walking that way down the block. Are there other verses in the neighborhood? I hate to see graffiti in a beautifully rebuilt block. But I also wonder if any others find this mystery intriguing and a little warming. Does good graffiti makes good neighbors?

Four poems for tonight’s rain


It just finished raining. Pouring. Barely thundering. Barely lightening. At least where I was, it was all about the rain. There may be a few drops still falling, but a drainspout above my apartment porch makes it hard to tell. Above is my contribution to this evening’s sky and rainbow pictures.

So… here are four poems about rain and water that I’ve loved recently.

Kazim Ali’s “Rain” because what a glorious opening. “With thick strokes of ink the sky fills with rain. / Pretending to run for cover but secretly praying for more rain.” With a minimum of words, the poem grows more intense.

Brooklyn Copeland’s “Prayer’s End” because the stutter-step of the lines mimics drops as the poem pursues nature and finds nature leading it back through time and what time inflects. “The wind / speaks fluent / rain.”

Don Patterson’s “The Wave” because anthropomorphizing so often falls short, and this rolls as smoothly and powerfully as what it captures. “For months I’d moved across the open water / like a wheel under its skin….”

E.E. Cummings’ “somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond” (lack of space, his, I think) because the poem’s end may be familiar, “nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands,” but the journey to that point is one I’d forgotten. We usually think of the poet’s twisting fun. Here, passion rules.

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

Ten poems for summer because it will be 97 degrees tomorrow

Emily Dickinson’s “I Dwell in Possibility–” because you think you know a poem and then read it after not seeing it for a while and you are surprised by the breeze across the field and the bright light from above that isn’t as hot as you expect or deserve. You are saved. You are not the 97 degrees.

Beth Weaver-Kreider’s “Pebbles” because when you went to the beach you ran into the water on its rougher days, harbingers of the hurricane approaching you might say later though earlier you hadn’t seen weather reports and the storm might not have been responsible at all, and waves threw you down as if to throw you out and filled your trunk pockets with pebbles and their shell cousins and sand, ground like the waves sought to grind you, you big-footed interloping beast.  But you love them anyway.

Maxine W. Kumin’s “Together” because this poem tells the rest of the fantasia above, after the waves win over you but your story doesn’t end. Why should it? “The water closing / over us and the / going down is all.  / Gills are given.  / We convert in a / town of broken hulls / and green doubloons.” And it turns out your story is a love story. Did you know?

Ron Padgett’s “The Love Cook” because short and simple is how love sometimes is when you’re not smashing about in the ocean and if you don’t allow yourself the time or deletion of pretense or vantage points, then you have some thinking to do. Or not some thinking. Or some not-thinking. Forget where you were. You have serious not-thinking to do.

Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman” because when you initiate your not-thinking, when you’ve disposed of your vantage point and the horizon itself vanishes, you begin to work from the inside out and love is not an activity nor an observation but the first fire of yourself and then you have choices about what to do with yourself but fire can do most anything.

Stacie Cassarino’s “Summer Solstice” because a question like “Where is the evidence I will learn / to be good at loving?” is a surprisingly good one for the longest day of the year, in which we realize more than the rest of them that we can never take full advantage of the day, 100% advantage, every-minute-of-sunlight advantage. The poem gives lines destined for a wall-hanging, e.g., “I am visiting my life with reckless plenitude.” But the previous line is “We measure the isopleths.” Screw you, wall-hanging!

(The word turns out to be perfect.)

David Mason’s “In the Mushroom Summer” because “the ineffectual panic of a squirrel” is not only my favorite line of the summer (maybe!) but also a very silly way to set up sadness and removal of sadness, which is cool.

Hailey Leithauser’s “Bad Sheep” because summer is not all sunny days and prat-falling squirrels and balanced examinations of self. Summer is also the worst. Like you. You are the worst, and there’s nothing you can about it until the poem ends or the day gives up. Tomorrow you can be the best. But today you are stuck with yourself and the day til it ends, unrelenting heat not enticed by your offer of ice cream or air-conditioning or water.

Gwendolyn Brooks’ “truth” because it is too easy to think summer is just about summer. The seasons distill us in ways the days do not. The poem is about race and privilege, and no American summer is without either.

Linda Pastan’s “Eyes Only” because Pastan begins her poem, “Dear lost sharer / of silences” and no poem has hooked me so deeply this summer. I want to write you nearly every hour of the day and only infrequently find words, not specifically the right words, just words at all. I wish we shared the silences as Pastan means, with sharing in all its definitional splendor. Too often silence shares us, and words we churn for work beat their wings into numbing and injurious hums. I have higher expectations of summer.