Friday, October 20, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Cecilie Løveid

One of the most celebrated writers in modern Norway, Cecilie Løveid writes prose, plays and poetry, but is known as a "genre transgressor." In short, she makes her own way. More information about this writer here.
by Cecilie Løveid
There is no doubt that there is a body
inside the music
The music would have made love with her
if it could
don’t you think?
If she were not a woman I mean
if she were music
Would she have made love with him if he weren’t music?
She didn’t throw herself out the window
when the music stopped
The morning woman
waits for the continuation
waits for the music
waits for a sign
Would she really have loved him if he were a man
and not music?
Where shall she find him when the music stops
other than deep inside herself
There where she is
The morning woman
Det er ingen tvil om at det er en kropp
inne i musikken
Musikken ville elsket med henne
hvis den kunne
tror du ikke?
Hvis ikke hun var kvinne mener jeg
hvis hun var musikk
ville hun elsket med ham hvis han ikke var musikk?
Hun kastet seg ikke ut vinduet
da musikken stanset
venter på fortsettelsen
venter på musikken
venter på et tegn
Ville hun virkelig elsket ham hvis han var en mann
og ikke musikk?
Hvor skal hun finne ham når musikken slutter
annet enn dypt inne i seg selv
Der hvor hun er


Friday, September 29, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: W.B. Yeats

I had a hard time choosing a poem today; I don't know why. Too many thoughts crowding in, too much to do. So I'll give you this classic, still good after all this time.

When You Are Old

by W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Lives of Quiet Desperation

We’ve all seen memes like this circulating social media, encouraging us towards kindness. We’ve read stories about the waitress with a sick child at home, the elderly neighbor who has no visitors, the special needs child excluded from dance class. These nuggets of inspiration and these stories, be they true or not, serve to remind us of our shared humanity. They remind us to take a real look at that person at the gas station, in the park or restaurant, and to imagine what struggles they may be facing, what heavy burdens they might be carrying.

Running is a mostly solitary endeavor and when I’m out on the sidewalks of my neighborhood, most of the people I pass are alone too. I find myself often thinking about a phrase—lives of quiet desperation—and I’ll come home and look for the quote again. It’s from Thoreau, the literary world’s expert on solitariness.

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things."                       –Henry David Thoreau

This is, of course, from Walden, Thoreau’s writings about his two-year experiment living in the woods near Walden Pond. His goal: “to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life.” What Thoreau found, after comparing life in the city to that of the country, was that men were basically the same everywhere. His “quiet desperation” refers to man’s desire to accumulate more and more material things, which requires him to work, worry and want, and to lose touch with not only the natural world but also with any chance for inner freedom.

This seems reasonably argued, but I think the whole idea of a life of quiet desperation can be embraced in a much larger context. In a universal, meme-worthy context. And while empathy is certainly a useful human function, it’s essential for a writer. When I pass an older woman walking, head down, hands shoved in her pockets, I imagine what types of problems await her back at home, behind closed doors. When a driver speeds around a corner, tires squealing, I wonder what drama is about to unfold when he gets where he’s going. What has he forgotten? Whom is he angry with? Whom is he avoiding?

Sometimes this tendency to look for trouble feels pessimistic, even condescending. What if that older woman is perfectly content, basking in some wonderful memory as she walks along? What if the driver is hurrying home to see his newborn daughter? It’s what we do, I guess, we writers. We’re constantly on the lookout for human problems, for people whose lives we can imagine as quietly desperate. Does that make us empathetic or selfish? Insightful or unrealistic? I’m not sure. If Thoreau were alive today, he’d most likely be using terms like centered and presence, and he certainly would be writing about taking time to observe the world around us. Maybe some of us just have a peculiar way of doing that.

"I should not talk so much about myself if there were any body else whom I knew as well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience.” ---also Thoreau, from Walden



Friday, September 22, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Ronald Stuart Thomas

Considered to be one of the most important modern Welsh poets, Ronald Stuart Thomas was an ordained Anglican priest, and much of his poetry reflects his time serving the farming population of rural, rugged Wales. Often compared with Robert Frost, "Thomas is making a universal statement... This pared-down existence, in a land of ruined beauty belonging to the past, is more human than any educated sophistication. Or perhaps one should say, it is more truly symbolic of the human predicament."

You can find more information about Thomas and his life and work here.

A Day In Autumn

by Ronald Stuart Thomas (1913-2000)
It will not always be like this,
The air windless, a few last
Leaves adding their decoration
To the trees’ shoulders, braiding the cuffs
Of the boughs with gold; a bird preening

In the lawn’s mirror. Having looked up
From the day’s chores, pause a minute,
Let the mind take its photograph
Of the bright scene, something to wear
Against the heart in the long cold.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: John Ashbery

This week, many people are sharing their favorite lines or poems written by John Ashbery, one of our very best poets, who passed on September 5th at the age of ninety. He had a long and prolific career, and touched a great many lives; find his biography here.

The New Higher

by John Ashbery (1927-2017)

You meant more than life to me. I lived through
you not knowing, not knowing I was living.
I learned that you called for me. I came to where
you were living, up a stair. There was no one there.
No one to appreciate me. The legality of it
upset a chair. Many times to celebrate
we were called together and where
we had been there was nothing there,
nothing that is anywhere. We passed obliquely,
leaving no stare. When the sun was done muttering,
in an optimistic way, it was time to leave that there.

Blithely passing in and out of where, blushing shyly
at the tag on the overcoat near the window where
the outside crept away, I put aside the there and now.
Now it was time to stumble anew,
blacking out when time came in the window.
There was not much of it left.
I laughed and put my hands shyly
across your eyes. Can you see now?
Yes I can see I am only in the where
where the blossoming stream takes off, under your window.
Go presently you said. Go from my window.
I am in love with your window I cannot undermine
it, I said.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Maya Angelou

A Brave And Startling Truth

by Maya Angelou

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Jane Hirshfield

I recently watched this documentary about the Buddha, which features many speakers but I recognized the poet Jane Hirshfield immediately, because I had recently flagged one of her poems for this feature. Kismet, I guess, especially because this poem speaks to me quite loudly today. Hirshfield has received many accolades for her poetry and she's also an essayist, a translator, and a student of Zen Buddhism who spent three years in monastic practice. I love what she says here comparing writing poems to Buddhist practice, and I'd also highly recommend her poem "On the Fifth Day," which she read at the March for Science on April 22 of this year. But for this space, here's this one:

The Weighing

by Jane Hirshfield

The heart's reasons
seen clearly,
even the hardest
will carry
its whip-marks and sadness
and must be forgiven.

As the drought-starved
eland forgives
the drought-starved lion
who finally takes her,
enters willingly then
the life she cannot refuse,
and is lion, is fed,
and does not remember the other.

So few grains of happiness
measured against all the dark
and still the scales balance.

The world asks of us
only the strength we have and we give it.
Then it asks more, and we give it.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Changing Currents

The Greek city of Chalcis (also known as Chalkida) is built on the two coasts of the straight of Evripos. As such, it’s a city of water and bridges. Perhaps the most famous is the sliding Negroponte Bridge, where tourists gather to watch the tidal phenomenon that has made Chalcis famous since ancient times. Here, the currents reverse direction every six hours. The water flows from the north Evian Gulf to the south for six hours, then becomes still for approximately eight minutes, then reverses direction. Because the currents can reach up to nine miles per hour, the churning visible from the bridge earned the nickname “mad waters” or “crazy waters.” The flow of the currents is entirely dependent on the moon and is directly connected to the duration of each lunar month.
There’s much to contemplate about this natural occurrence—scientifically, nautically, philosophically. Maybe you can relate to a time when you were between acts and seemed to be spinning endlessly, or stuck in a dormant lull. From all sides, the competing pulls of inspiration and obligation, as you churn in place, deciding. Or, an ominous surface as smooth as glass, too lacking in impressions to fully enjoy.
I’m between writing projects. Taking a break. Changing course. Attempting to appreciate the waves, the periods of calm. I read about Chalcis while doing research for a short story. Online, much information can be found. There are tourism sites touting the incredible sight of the “crazy waters.” Former visitors have posted videos and photos of the phenomenon. One website breaks down the entire lunar schedule for the changing of currents, minute by minute, hour by hour. But my favorite site about the amazing waters of Chalcis waxes philosophic about the whole thing:
The continuous function of the phenomenon in accordance with the laws of nature, for thousands of years, shows us that each and every day is a carrier of eternity."
"Some have believed they have explained it—and remained with this illusion. Some others have comprehended its infinity and insolubility. Explanations are for mortals. The Universe never requires explanation in order to carry on its course in the infinite space."
“Observing the tidal phenomenon one discovers, each and every time, that he has never been there before, even though he may have witnessed it so many times.”
Yep. Pretty much sums up the routine and surprise of creativity, its endless cycle of changing course, dormancy, and maelstrom. For now, I’m trying to enjoy the churning.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: James Baldwin

This week marked what would have been the 93rd birthday of the poet, novelist, essayist and social critic James Baldwin. Extensive biographical information here, including some wonderful videos about his life and times. And here you can read some of his memorable quotes.

 by James Baldwin
              when you send the rain
              think about it, please,
              a little?
              not get carried away
              by the sound of falling water,
             the marvelous light
                on the falling water.
              am beneath that water.
              It falls with great force
              and the light
              me to the light.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Kenneth Mackenzie

The Australian poet and novelist Kenneth Ivo Brownley Langwell (Seaforth) Mackenzie was a character, and his colorful biography is well worth a read. Some excerpts: 

"at Guildford Grammar School, he took no interest in sport and studied only when he felt inclined."
"wherever Mackenzie was, 'wild comedy and wild adventures tended to break out'."
"He was strong, muscular and blonde, and immensely attractive to certain women."

Sadly, Mackenzie's life deteriorated, in large part due to a drinking problem. In his early forties, he accidently drowned in a creek while bathing.


by Kenneth Mackenzie (1913-1955)

Sometimes at night when the heart stumbles and stops
a full second endless the endless steps
that lead me on through this time terrain
without edges and beautiful terrible
are gone never to proceed again.

Here is a moment of enormous trouble
wen the kaleidoscope sets unalterable
and at once without meaning without motion
like a stalled aeroplane in the middle sky
ready to fall down into a waiting ocean.

Blackness rises. Am I now to die
and feel the steps no more and not see day
break out its answering smile of hail all's well
from east full round to east and hear the bird
whistle all creatures that on earth do dwell?

Not now. Old heart has stopped to think of a word
as someone in a dream by far too weird
to be unlikely feels a kiss and stops
to praise all heaven stumbling in all his senses...
and suddenly hears again the endless steps.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Jody Gladding

Jody Gladding lives in Vermont and teaches in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College of Fine Art. She has also translated almost thirty works from French. More biographical information here.

Blue Willow

by Jody Gladding

A pond will deepen toward the center like a plate
we traced its shallow rim my mother steering
my inner tube past the rushes where I looked
for Moses we said it was a trip around the world
in China we wove through curtains of willow
that tickled our necks let's do that again
and we'd double back idle there lifting
our heads to the green rain
swallows met over us later I dreamed
of flying with them we had all the time
in the world we had the world
how could those trees be weeping?

Friday, July 14, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Charles Wright

Charles Wright was named United States Poet Laureate in 2014. Born in Tennessee, he's an Army veteran, a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and a winner of the National Book Award. A more comprehensive biography can be found here.

Sitting at Night on the Front Porch

by Charles Wright

I’m here, on the dark porch, restyled in my mother’s chair.
10:45 and no moon.
Below the house, car lights
Swing down, on the canyon floor, to the sea.

In this they resemble us,
Dropping like match flames through the great void
Under our feet.
In this they resemble her, burning and disappearing.

Everyone’s gone
And I’m here, sizing the dark, saving my mother’s seat.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Susan Mitchell

"Right now in America we are witnessing a paradigm shift in poetry, and while I think this is happening for all the reasons I have just mentioned, there is still another, maybe the most important reason: the poet's assertion of innerness, of mind, of psyche at a time when innerness is threatened by nearly all aspects of contemporary American lifestyle. Innerness refuses to be a sound byte on television. Innerness refuses to speak up at a huge poetry festival. Innerness demands that the reader slow down, take the time, pay attention. Innerness demands that the reader's attentiveness be equal to the attentiveness of the poet and the attentiveness of the poem." --Susan Mitchell

More about this acclaimed poet here.

The Dead

by Susan Mitchell

At night the dead come down to the river to drink.
They unburden themselves of their fears,
their worries for us. They take out the old photographs
They pat the lines in our hands and tell
our futures, which are cracked and yellow. Some
dead find their way to our houses. They go up to the
attics. They read the letters they sent us. insatiable
for signs of their love. They tell each other stories.
They make so much noise they wake us as they did
when we were children and they stayed up drinking
all night in the kitchen.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Suggestion of Color

I saw one of those quizzes on social media the other day, where you’re led through a series of seemingly innocuous questions until something is revealed about your true nature. This one had to do with color and how you see it. There was a square of a cool gray and the first question asked: What color do you see: gray, blue or green? And I immediately thought that I might have chosen gray, but now that blue and green had been suggested to me, those hues were apparent in the sample. It wasn’t green enough to be called green though, and certainly not blue enough to be blue, but now the gray was infused with these more lively tints and couldn’t really be seen as mere “gray” either. The fact that choices were offered had made me unsure of my perception.
It occurred to me that writing is an exercise in the offering of choices, in the suggestion of new or nuanced ways to view the world. Isn’t that what we’re doing by inhabiting a fictional world or the mind of a character, especially one who may see blue where we see gray?
Recently, I was inspired by an article about paint colors in a home decorating magazine. We’ve all wondered about the people who come up with the inventive names—because, certainly, there’s a quintessential human element in these names and their visceral modifiers, obscure historical references, and strange evocativeness. In fact, here’s an amusing article about what happened when a non-human tried to name paint colors. To me, color can infuse an entire setting, such as the endless green of a forest or the far-reaching blue of an ocean. It can be an intense character feature—a rancher’s dust-covered figure, a red-faced curmudgeon. It can set the mood for a story, such as all the feelings yellow brings to mind. Thinking this way inspired several stories in a collection I’m still working one; some of the stories take a color title: “Resonant Blue,” “Cadmium.”
Some people are born color blind, or can only see limited color. We’ve all seen the viral videos of a color blind person looking through special glasses that allow him or her to see color for the first time. How strange that must be, we think, a whole new world.
In Chekhov’s story, “Gusev,” a soldier returns from service, dying from an illness. He dies at sea and is tossed into the ocean. The men who remain on the ship watch stoically, Gusev’s body passes schools of fish and a large shark, and Chekhov’s narration then turns very inclusively omniscient:
“And up above just then, on the side where the sun goes down, clouds are massing; one cloud resembles a triumphal arch, another a lion, a third a pair of scissors . . . A broad green shaft comes from behind the clouds and stretches to the very middle of the sky; shortly afterwards a violet shaft lies next to it, then a golden one, then a pink one . . . The sky turns a soft lilac. Seeing this magnificent, enchanting sky, the ocean frowns at first, but soon itself takes on such a tender, joyful, passionate colors as human tongue can hardly name.”
Gusev’s experience, such as it is, the ultimate, unknown perception—death—is relayed with colors and strange sights. Imagine, Chekhov seems to be suggesting, imagine the unimaginable. Surely there are colors we’ve never seen, colors we’d hardly know how to describe. As writers, this is a quest we embark on joyfully, time and again, hoping to bring at least a few along with us.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith is our newest Poet Laureate of the United States. She's the author of three books of poetry and a memoir, and is the director of Princeton University's creative writing department. Here's an NPR article about her, with a link to hear her read one of her poems.

I Don't Miss It

by Tracy K. Smith

But sometimes I forget where I am,
Imagine myself inside that life again.

Recalcitrant mornings. Sun perhaps,
Or more likely colorless light

Filtering its way through shapeless cloud.

And when I begin to believe I haven't left,
The rest comes back. Our couch. My smoke

Climbing the walls while the hours fall.
Straining against the noise of traffic, music,

Anything alive, to catch your key in the door.
And that scamper of feeling in my chest,

As if the day, the night, wherever it is
I am by then, has been only a whir

Of something other than waiting.

We hear so much about what love feels like.
Right now, today, with the rain outside,

And leaves that want as much as I do to believe
In May, in seasons that come when called,

It's impossible not to want
To walk into the next room and let you

Run your hands down the sides of my legs,
Knowing perfectly well what they know.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Alice Oswald

Last night, one of the most lucrative awards in poetry was announced in Toronto. The Griffin Poetry Prize is awarded to two poets--one Canadian and one international--and this year, the prize went to Jordan Abel and Alice Oswald, who lives in Devon, England. This poem is the first in her award-winning collection, Falling Awake. News story about her win here.

A Short Story of Falling

by Alice Oswald

It is the story of the falling rain
to turn into a leaf and fall again

it is the secret of a summer shower
to steal the light and hide it in a flower

and every flower a tiny tributary
that from the ground flows green and momentary

is one of water’s wishes and this tale
hangs in a seed-head smaller than my thumbnail

if only I a passerby could pass
as clear as water through a plume of grass

to find the sunlight hidden at the tip
turning to seed a kind of lifting rain drip

then I might know like water how to balance
the weight of hope against the light of patience

water which is so raw so earthy-strong
and lurks in cast-iron tanks and leaks along

drawn under gravity towards my tongue
to cool and fill the pipe-work of this song

which is the story of the falling rain
that rises to the light and falls again

Friday, June 2, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Robley Wilson

Robley Wilson writes poems, short stories and novels and has worked as a writing teacher and editor. He lives in Florida. Here is a link to a short podcast that discusses this poem.

I Wish in the City of Your Heart

I wish in the city of your heart 
you would let me be the street 
where you walk when you are most 
yourself. I imagine the houses: 
It has been raining, but the rain 
is done and the children kept home 
have begun opening their doors. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Denis Johnson

The literary world is mourning Denis Johnson today. He was a poet, a novelist and a playwright, and winner of the National Book Award in 2007 for his novel, Tree of Smoke. Of his poetic influences, Johnson claimed "My ear for the diction and rhythms of poetry was trained by—in chronological order—Dr. Seuss, Dylan Thomas, Walt Whitman, the guitar solos of Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, and T.S. Eliot."

Johnson passed away yesterday, at the age of 67. Biographical information available here.

A Poem about Baseballs

by Denis Johnson (1949-2017)

for years the scenes bustled   
through him as he dreamed he was   
alive. then he felt real, and slammed

awake in the wet sheets screaming   
too fast, everything moves
too fast, and the edges of things   
are gone. four blocks away

a baseball was a dot against   
the sky, and he thought, my   
glove is too big, i will

drop the ball and it will be   
a home run. the snow falls   
too fast from the clouds,   
and night is dropped and

snatched back like a huge
joke. is that the ball, or is
it just a bird, and the ball is
somewhere else, and i will
miss it? and the edges are gone, my

hands melt into the walls, my   
hands do not end where the wall   
begins. should i move
forward, or back, or will the ball

come right to me? i know i will   
miss, because i always miss when it
takes so long. the wall has no   
surface, no edge, the wall

fades into the air and the air is   
my hand, and i am the wall. my   
arm is the syringe and thus I

become the nurse, i am you,   
nurse. if he gets
around the bases before the   
ball comes down, is it a home

run, even if i catch it? if we could   
slow down, and stop, we
would be one fused mass careening   
at too great a speed through
the emptiness. if i catch

the ball, our side will
be up, and i will have to bat,   
and i might strike out.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Georgia Douglas Johnson

Georgia Douglas Johnson (1880-1966) was an African-American poet, one of the earliest African-American female playwrights, and part of the Harlem Renaissance. In 2009, she was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame. Her biography is here.
The Heart of a Woman
by Georgia Douglas Johnson
The heart of a woman goes forth with the dawn,
As a lone bird, soft winging, so restlessly on,
Afar o’er life’s turrets and vales does it roam
In the wake of those echoes the heart calls home.

The heart of a woman falls back with the night,
And enters some alien cage in its plight,
And tries to forget it has dreamed of the stars
While it breaks, breaks, breaks on the sheltering bars.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Thoughts on Mothering

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and I found myself remembering, amongst countless memories I’ve been blessed with since becoming a mother, this single moment: July 31, 2002, the day Geneva came home from the hospital, thirteen days after she and her brothers were born. Since the 18th, we had been shuttling back and forth to the hospital, feeding and holding them as often as we could. Geneva was a pound lighter than the boys and took longer to breathe fully on her own and eat the amounts they wanted. Teagan, a champion eater from the start (still true), had come home after ten days and Satchel at eleven. So many families visiting the NICU weren’t as lucky as we were, but those two weeks were among the hardest we’d ever had. Then, finally, she was home. I placed her in the crib between her brothers and felt an amazing calm, like a smooth ripple expanding in turbulent water. Finally, everyone was together, and home, and our family was complete.
There is a saying: a parent is only as happy as their unhappiest child. I think that’s true. There is a constant monitoring when you have children; you’re the barometer of their whereabouts, their health, their happiness. Even when they have grown taller than you are, you take note of what and how much they’ve eaten, and how long they slept (much to their annoyance). So having everyone home on that summer day in 2002, their six tiny feet lined up in the crib, was a relief of the most basic sort.

You wonder, when you’re pregnant the second time and having three babies (and I guess, when you’re having just one), if you’ll love them all as much as your first, precious child. Another miracle of motherhood, I suppose, is that you will, and you do, from that first moment. At least that’s how it was with me. That unconditional, unceasing love is the reason we all love our own mothers so much, because we know they have it for us. And it’s something you don’t appreciate, sometimes, until you’re a little older and maybe just the tiniest bit wiser.
So thanks, universe, for my four miracles and for joining their life forces to mine. Thanks, kids, for loving me through my grumbling and impatience, despite my imperfections and mistakes. I can’t imagine who I’d be without you, without all of us here, together.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) was a an American poet, writer, and editor, and the recipient of three Pulitzer Prizes: two for his poetry and one for his biography of Abraham Lincoln. "Limited" is from his first collection Chicago Poems. More about Sandburg here.


by Carl Sandburg

I am riding on a limited express, one of the crack trains
     of the nation.
Hurtling across the prairie into blue haze and dark air
     go fifteen all-steel coaches holding a thousand people.
(All the coaches shall be scrap and rust and all the men
     and women laughing in the diners and sleepers shall
     pass to ashes.)
I ask a man in the smoker where he is going and he
     answers: "Omaha."

Friday, May 5, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Jane Kenyon

The poet Jane Kenyon battled depression for most of her adult life, and her poetry often explored the inner life and the "mysteries of home life." She was New Hampshire's poet laureate when she died, too young, in 1995. Find her biography here.


by Jane Kenyon

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Billy Collins

Born in 1941 in New York City, the popular poet Billy Collins served two terms as Poet Laureate (2001-2003) and delivered a poem he wrote to Congress on the first anniversary of 9/11. You can read more about his writing and awards here.
by Billy Collins
   There is the sudden silence of the crowd
above a player not moving on the field,
and the silence of the orchid.

The silence of the falling vase
before it strikes the floor,
the silence of the belt when it is not striking the child.

The stillness of the cup and the water in it,
the silence of the moon
and the quiet of the day far from the roar of the sun.

The silence when I hold you to my chest,
the silence of the window above us,
and the silence when you rise and turn away.

And there is the silence of this morning
which I have broken with my pen,
a silence that had piled up all night

like snow falling in the darkness of the house—
the silence before I wrote a word
and the poorer silence now.
"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka