Our coffee cups. And birds. And the green trees
with blue shadows. And the sun leaping from
one wall to another like a gazelle…
and the water in clouds with endless shapes
in what is left to us of sky,
and other things of postponed memory
indicate this morning is strong and beautiful,
and that we are eternity’s guests
—Mahmoud Darwish, from “A State of Siege” (tr. by Fady Joudah), in The Butterfly’s Burden. Copper Canyon Press, 2006
There’s actually an odd correlation between these ideas: poetry is either inadequate, even immoral, in the face of human suffering, or it’s unprofitable, hence useless. Either way, poets are advised to hang our heads or fold our tents. Yet in fact, throughout the world, transfusions of poetic language can and do quite literally keep bodies and souls together—and more.
from A Human Eye by Adrienne Rich
Next time what I’d do is look at
the earth before saying anything. I’d stop
just before going into a house
and be an emperor for a minute
and listen better to the wind
or to the air being still.
When anyone talked to me, whether
blame or praise or just passing time,
I’d watch the face, how the mouth
has to work, and see any strain, any
sign of what lifted the voice.
And for all, I’d know more — the earth
bracing itself and soaring, the air
finding every leaf and feather over
forest and water, and for every person
the body glowing inside the clothes
like a light.
Next Time by Mary Oliver
Charles Coakley Simpson, The Mermaid
Mary O’Donnell, from Fairy Rath
Your Peace Is What We Love, Not Your Mask (by antonio•merini)
- Pablo Neruda
Mid-Day. No one in this corner of the beach.
The Sun on high, deep, enormous, open
Has cleared the sky of every god.
Implacable as punishment, light falls
There are no ghosts, nor souls,
And the huge, solitary, ancient ocean
Seems to applaud.
- Sophia de Mello Breyner, from Marine Rose
Today, how many hours will tumble
into the well, into the net, into time:
they cluster together
like fish, they keep falling
in fistfuls, like pebbles, like bottles.
There underneath, hours
compose into days,
into illegible memories
and untenable nights,
into clothing and women and railroads and provinces;
or crumble away, the acid
of the ultimate vestiges rains down,
the black water
of midnight’s inversion.
—Pablo Neruda, “Today How Many Hours” from Late and Posthumous Poems 1968-1974, ed. and trans. by Ben Belitt (Grove Press, 1988)