“the way we are tidal islands”

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Orkney/This Life
Andrew Greig

For Catherine and Jamie

It is big sky and its changes,
the sea all round and the waters within.
It is the way sea and sky
work off each other constantly,
like people meeting in Alfred Street,
each face coming away with a hint
of the other’s face pressed in it.
It is the way a week-long gale
ends and folk emerge to hear
a single bird cry way high up.

It is the way you lean to me
and the way I lean to you, as if
we are each other’s prevailing;
how we connect along our shores,
the way we are tidal islands
joined for hours then inaccessible,
I’ll go for that, and smile when I
pick sand off myself in the shower.
The way I am an inland loch to you
when a clatter of white whoops and rises…

It is the way Scotland looks to the South,
the way we enter friends’ houses
to leave what we came with, or flick
the kettle’s switch and wait.
This is where I want to live,
close to where the heart gives out,
ruined, perfected, an empty arch against the sky
where birds fly through instead of prayers
while in Hoy Sound the ferry’s engines thrum
this life this life this life.

Photo: Stevekeiretsu [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

analgesia

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Q & A
Kenneth Fearing
Where analgesia may be found to ease the infinite, minute scars of the day;
What final interlude will result, picked bit by bit from the morning’s hurry, the lunch-hour boredom, the fevers of the night;
Why this one is cherished by the gods, and that one not;
How to win, and win again, and again, staking wit alone against a sea of time;
Which man to trust and, once found, how far—

Will not be found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John,
Nor Blackstone, nor Gray’s, nor Dun & Bradstreet, nor Freud, nor Marx,
Nor the sage of the evening news, nor the corner astrologist, nor in any poet,

Nor what sort of laughter should greet the paid pronouncements of the great,
Nor what pleasure the multitudes have, bringing lunch and the children to watch the condemned to be plunged into death,

Nor why the sun should rise tomorrow,
Nor how the moon still weaves upon the ground, through the leaves, so much silence and so much peace.

night reunites

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Night and the House
Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen
Night reunites the house and its silence
From the foundations up
To the still flower
Only the ticking of time’s clock is heard

Night reunites the house and its destiny
Now nothing is scattered nothing divided
Everything watches like the vigilant cypress

Emptiness walks in its living spaces

Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash

many prefer it

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Agreement
Kay Ryan
The satisfactions
of agreement are
immediate as sugar–
a melting of the
granular, a syrup
that lingers, shared
not singular.
Many prefer it.

Photo by Anh Nguyen on Unsplash

plains ignore us

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Visiting Mountains
Ted Kooser
The plains ignore us,
but these mountains listen,
an audience of thousands
holding its breath
in each rock. Climbing,
we pick our way
over the skulls of small talk.
On the prairies below us,
the grass leans this way and that
in discussion;
words fly away like corn shucks
over the fields.
Here, lost in a mountain’s attention, there’s nothing to say.

the light gatherer

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The Light Gatherer
Carol Ann Duffy
When you were small, your cupped palms
each held a candlesworth under your skin,
enough to begin,

and as you grew
light gathered in you, two clear raindrops
in your eyes,

warm pearls, shy,
in the lobes of your ears, even always
the light of a smile after your tears.

Your kissed feet glowed in my one hand,
or I’d enter a room to see the corner you played in
lit like a stage set,

the crown of your bowed head spotlit.
When language came, it glittered like a river,
silver, clever with fish,

and you slept
with the whole moon held in your arms for a night light
where I knelt watching.

Light gatherer. You fell from a star
into my lap, the soft lamp at the bedside
mirrored in you,

and now you shine like a snowgirl,
a buttercup under a chin, the wide blue yonder
you squeal at and fly in,

like a jewelled cave,
turquoise and diamond and gold, opening out
at the end of a tunnel of years.

without passion

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The Danger of Wisdom
Jack Gilbert
We learn to live without passion.
To be reasonable. We go hungry
amid the giant granaries
this world is. We store up plenty
for when we are old and mild.
It is our strength that deprives us.
Like Keats listening to the doctor
who said the best thing for
tuberculosis was to eat only one
slice of bread and a fragment
of fish each day. Keats starved
himself to death because he yearned
so desperately to feast on Fanny Brawne.
Emerson and his wife decided to make
love sparingly in order to accumulate
his passion. We are taught to be
moderate. To live intelligently.