advice

Standard

Advice
Naomi Shihab Nye

My friend, dying, said do the hard thing first.
Always do the hard thing and you will have a better day.
The second thing will seem less hard.

She didn’t tell me what to do when everything seems hard.

Photo by Ryan Moreno on Unsplash

anatomy

Standard

The Anatomy of the Heart
Linda Hogan

Screen Shot 2019-11-28 at 04.50.21
This is not an attack, as they say. It is a broken heart.
Ask me if you can die from a broken heart
and I will tell you, Yes,
if I could speak that word.
If they ask can you die from broken land
I would also say, Yes.
There is the beating thread of connection
in this place where we have felt our great love
though others have hated our presence
and stolen our land
sent us away
to the streets
and yet how magnificent the world has been
in other places I have seen.

You can understand why your heart could let you down,
would leave you to fall,
would even close itself
where the arteries all meet
like great rivers.
They want to travel
out into the world of the body
with beautiful waters,
to larger seas.

How fragile it all is now
inside this speeding, lighted, screaming
machine, the roadway a path for possibility
for myself who always knew the fragility of the
outer world.
That was what I suffered in the tender organ.
It is the sacrificed in the stories I have never believed
or wanted to hear, oh the beautiful heart, in love,
or forlorn, most vulnerable, most venerable.
It is only broken.
It is only a broken heart,
I want to say.

Image (c) S Donaghy

swerve in the light

Standard

An Almost
David Whyte

An almost,
a something
just beyond me,
a swerve in the light,
and a passing blur
like a peregrine
from a cliff edge,
sometimes a darkness,
a pushing away,
a not wanting,
often a digging in,
a head down
concentration working
against a coal face
of nothing,
a breathing close
and at the same time
a fight for breath.

Many times, a someone
I do not recognize,
a wondering if,
a hand in mine,
pulling me on,
above all, an invitation,
and always in the end
a lovely and difficult surprise,
like silk torn in two,
a rested view from
a high window,
passion followed
by real love,
and like love,
an edge and then
the willingness
for the necessary
but as yet
unannounced
sacrifice.

Always a death,
the passing by
of a grave
on the way
to somewhere else,
my hat dipping
slowly in calm respect,
above the grave
birdsong,
yes, happy birdsong,
then not birdsong,
mourning,
an annunciation
not quite heard,
a frontier
deep in the chest;
most of all,
being called
a sense of great migration
a needing to leave,
a wanting to cross.

Then, that good day,
standing on the threshold
between this world
and the next,
like the crest of a pass,
and the path
going over, through cloud,
about to descend
to the promised land,
the flurry of wind telling me
I’m about to free myself
of an upward way,
my vision a notch in the sky
opening wide,
and above the lark song
filling the living, breathing world,
with its own anticipation,
its own way looking back
at me, and through me,
and like me, always
found in a new light,
always ready to be
wanted again.

work, for the night is coming

Standard

Work for the Night is Coming
Jared Carter

On the road out of town past the old quarry
I watched a light rain darkening the ledges
blocked and carded by the drill’s bit

twenty years back. Within those stiff lines,
places half-stained with damp, the rock face
opened to a deeper grain – the probable drift

of the entire ridge outlined for a moment
by the rain’s discoloring. Then all turned dim –
grass holding to the seams, redbud scattered

across the cliff, dark pool of water
rimmed with broken stones, where rain, now
falling steadily, left no lasting patterns.

breathless

Standard

Breathless
Billy Collins

Some like the mountains, some like the seashore,
Jean-Paul Belmondo says
to the camera in the opening scene.

Some like to sleep face up,
some like to sleep on their stomachs,
I am thinking here in bed–

some take the shape of murder victims
flat on their backs all night,
others float face down on the dark waters.

Then there are those like me
who prefer to sleep on their sides,
knees brought up to the chest,

head resting on a crooked arm
and a soft fist touching the chin,
which is the way I would like to be buried,

curled up in a coffin
in a fresh pair of cotton pajamas,
a down pillow under my weighty head.

After a lifetime of watchfulness
and nervous vigilance,
I will be more than ready for sleep,

so never mind the dark suit,
the ridiculous tie
and the pale limp hands crossed on the chest.

Lower me down in my slumber,
tucked into myself
like the oldest fetus on earth,

and while the cows look over the stone wall
of the cemetery, let me rest here
in my earthy little bedroom,

my lashes glazed with ice,
the roots of trees inching nearer,
and no dreams to frighten me anymore.

Image (c) S Donaghy

my history as

Standard

My History As
Emily Skaja

In my history, I was bones eating paper
or I was paper eating bones. Semantics.

I lived in a narrow house;
I lived with a man who said

You fucked up your own life, who said
I could never love someone so heavy.

The place was brick on brick
with iron grates covering the windows—

rowhouse cage, South Philly. I was learning
how some of us are made to be carrion birds,

& some of us are made to be circled.
Somewhere in this education

I stopped eating. Held up my hands
to see if my bones would glow in the dark.

My boat name could have been
HMS Floating, Though Barely.

Meanwhile I had a passion for cartography.
Not leaving, just coloring the maps.

I covered all the walls with white paint, whiter paint, spiraling out— a weather
system curling over water.

I always drew the compass rose flat.
I was metal-blue, I was running my mouth

like a bathtub tap. A bone picked clean of particulates.
Everything has some particular science.

By its nature, a vulture can’t
be a common field crow, for instance.

Look at the wings, look at that hard
mouth, look at the feet.

When I tell my history, I can’t leave out
how I hit that man in the jaw,

how I wasn’t good at mercy,
how eating nothing but white pills & white air

made me unchartable—
I can’t skip to the end just to say

well it was fragile & I smashed it
                                   & everything’s over, well now I know things

that make me unlikely.
What am I supposed to say: I’m free?

I learned to counter like a torn edge
frayed from the damp. That’s how I left it.

Leaving the river, leaving
wet tracks arrowed in the brush.

meeting after years

Standard

A Meeting after Many Years
Ted Kooser

Our words were a few colorful leaves
afloat on a very old silence,
the kind with a terrifying undertow,
and we stood right at its edge,
wrapping ourselves in our own arms
because of the chill, and with old voices
called back and forth across all those years
until we could bear it no longer,
and turned from each other,
and walked away into our countries.

Photo by Greg Shield on Unsplash

feather of mist

Standard

Heaven
David Baker
All afternoon the sprinkler ticks and sprays,
ticks and sprays in lazy rounds, trailing
a feather of mist. When I turn it off,
the cicadas keep up their own dry rain,
passing on high from limb to limb.
I don’t know what has shocked me more,
that you are gone, that I am still here,
that there is music after the end.

snow

Standard

Snow
Vladimir Holan

It began to snow at midnight. And certainly
the kitchen is the best place to sit,
even the kitchen of the sleepless.
It's warm there, you cook yourself something, drink wine
and look out of the window at your friend eternity.
Why care whether birth and death are merely points
when life is not a straight line?
Why torment yourself eyeing the calendar
and wondering what is at stake?
Why confess you don't have the money
to buy Saskia shoes?
And why brag
that you suffer more than others?

If there were no silence here
the snow would have dreamed it up.
You are alone.
Spare the gestures. Nothing for show.

____