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Archive for poetry

Joy in the Labor

12 Days of Thanksgiving: DAY 10

I read this poem from the American Life in Poetry project last week and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I love the phrase “to claim a place in the bounty of earth.” Isn’t that what we really find ourselves about so many times? Claiming a place of bounty for our own hearts and spirits. So often we slip into thinking that bounty falls before us with no effort. That we are simply able to sit before a table amply spread and partake of bounty at no cost. But, as Mr. Levine writes, bounty more often comes through effort — through the conscious and persistent labors of grace in our lives and the staunch belief in our hearts that labor will be rewarded. And the belief that the bounty for which we labor is precious.

I’m reminded today that bounty must be cultivated as we root out the life of meaning that brings us joy. God is so incredibly generous. His provision is ample. But it is my responsibility to maintain that space for His abundance. It is my responsibility to put in the effort to cultivate my own heart, recognizing, claiming, and preserving what is important.

And, as the poem expresses, joy may be found in that labor. Our effort and struggle produces a greater measure of gratitude.

American Life in Poetry: Column 348

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

When we’re on all fours in a garden, planting or weeding, we’re as close to our ancient ancestors as we’re going to get. Here, while he works in the dirt, Richard Levine feels the sacred looking over his shoulder.

Believe This

All morning, doing the hard, root-wrestling
work of turning a yard from the wild
to a gardener’s will, I heard a bird singing
from a hidden, though not distant, perch;
a song of swift, syncopated syllables sounding
like, Can you believe this, believe this, believe?
Can you believe this, believe this, believe?

And all morning, I did believe. All morning,
between break-even bouts with the unwanted,
I wanted to see that bird, and looked up so
I might later recognize it in a guide, and know
and call its name, but even more, I wanted
to join its church. For all morning, and many
a time in my life, I have wondered who, beyond
this plot I work, has called the order of being,
that givers of food are deemed lesser
than are the receivers. All morning,
muscling my will against that of the wild,
to claim a place in the bounty of earth,
seed, root, sun and rain, I offered my labor
as a kind of grace, and gave thanks even
for the aching in my body, which reached
beyond this work and this gift of struggle.

——————————————————-

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright © 2010 by Richard Levine, from his most recent book of poetry, That Country’s Soul, Finishing Line Press, 2010, by permission of Richard Levine and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2011 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

poetry . Back From The Fields

A journey through a pasture is always an adventure. I have some experience in this. The wide open space with grasses of every flavor blowing becomes ripe for imagination regardless of the direction you’re traveling. In Spring and Summer, when the grasses are sharing their wealth and putting out seeds, you can’t help but walk carrying reminders of where you just stepped–little pieces of tomorrow’s blades and stalks stuck to your socks and shoes and pant-legs. You don’t really notice them while you’re in the pasture. The imaginative potential of each step is too overwhelming. The wealth of sensory intake from earth and sky and plants and wind is too distracting. It’s when you get home, that you see what you’ve brought back from the fields. This poem from the American Life in Poetry series talks about that moment. I wanted to share it because I’ve been thinking about journeys lately. In the winding paths of the lives we build, whether grassy fields or arduous hills, we bring the seeds from every step along with us–seeds just waiting to fall off in new places and sprout anew. Seeds waiting to be planted with intention in whatever fertile ground we cultivate. It’s so easy sometimes to overlook the potential of even the winding path, the hopelessly meandering journey or the seemingly wrong turn. But, seeds stick. With seeds, there is always potential.

American Life in Poetry: Column 313
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Go for a walk and part of whatever you walk through rides back on your socks. Here Peter Everwine, a California poet, tells us about the seeds that stick to us, in all their beauty and variety.

Back from the Fields

Until nightfall my son ran in the fields,
looking for God knows what.
Flowers, perhaps. Odd birds on the wing.
Something to fill an empty spot.
Maybe a luminous angel
or a country girl with a secret dark.
He came back empty-handed,
or so I thought.

Now I find them:
thistles, goatheads,
the barbed weeds
all those with hooks or horns
the snaggle-toothed, the grinning ones
those wearing lantern jaws,
old ones in beards, leapers
in silk leggings, the multiple
pocked moons and spiny satellites, all those
with juices and saps
like the fingers of thieves
nation after nation of grasses
that dig in, that burrow, that hug winds
and grab handholds
in whatever lean place.

It’s been a good day.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2004 by Peter Everwine, whose most recent book of poetry is From the Meadow: Selected and New Poems, Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 2004. Poem reprinted from The Place That Inhabits Us, Sixteen Rivers Press, 2010, by permission of Peter Everwine and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2011 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

 

Flying Light

Today is Little Drummer Boy’s first day of “big school” kindergarten. We’ve been anticipating it and talking about it all summer, and the big day finally arrived. It’s really just one more episode in a thousand new things LDB has been experiencing. When you are young, change seems so much more acceptable for some reason. Perhaps it’s because so many monumental changes in size and communication skills and motor skills are compacted into those first few years, that it really becomes “old hat.” It’s no wonder we seem ready to slow the process as we get older.

Little Drummer Boy was raring to go, all dressed up in his yellow and khaki school uniform and boasting a Bumblebee Transformer backpack–no doubt all he needs to face the big world today. The most energizing factor about the backpack seemed to be the fact that it lights up when he moves. LDB was intent on making sure the lights would show up in all our “first day of school” photo opportunities. I guess something about the red blinking lights amped up the “cool” factor. It’s hard to squelch the light. A realization I’m enjoying at the moment.

The start of school always seems symbolically to represent the ending of summer for me, despite the reality that we’ll likely have at least two or three more months of summertime temperatures in Mississippi. Beyond that, this start of school for Little Drummer Boy seems to represent the ending of his “baby-hood” and his launch into full-fledged “boy-dom.” And although I often tell him “you’ll always be my baby,” there’s no turning back now. Yes, he was raring to go. And, I have to admit that I couldn’t help but want to hold the reigns a little tighter.

In the excitement of heading down the sidewalk toward Sudduth Elementary this morning, LDB stumbled and fell while holding my hand. My heart sank for a moment — a moment ripe with emotions and memories and hopes and a twinge of worry. Will he cry? Will a fall overshadow the fun of the morning? Will this squelch his excitement for the day and this new experience?  Little Drummer Boy’s response was to stand up without a flinch and say, “I’m ok. I love you Mommy.” It’s hard to squelch the light.

Earlier this week, the latest American Life in Poetry installment graced my inBox. The featured poem, Fireflies, couldn’t be more appropriate in my mind at the moment. “Lightening bugs,” as we call them around here, are the hallmark of Summertime and catching them is a typical joy for almost any “boydom” or “girlhood.” Little Drummer Boy and Bug have had their share of experiencing the chase and the wonder of these little incandescent creatures. Baby Girl hasn’t had the pleasure yet, but I’m sure she’ll enjoy the experience with her own flair in due time. Even as a grown-up, I can clearly remember that there is nothing quite as giggle-inducing or excitement-sparking as capturing the fly in two hands, peeking into the dark space to glimpse the light and then opening your fingers wide to see him fly away spreading his light into the night sky. That moment is beautifully described in this poem, and it reminded me… There’s nothing quite as exciting as holding their light and letting it go for the rest of the sky to experience.

Last Summer after one of the boys’ excursions in pursuit of fireflies, I recorded one of my favorite Little Drummer Boy quotes. I’ve shared it before, but I was thinking of it this morning. They bustled back into the house all sweaty and filled laughter. They had caught two lighting bugs. And in their inspection, LDB announced that one of them “COULD NOT turn his light off.” If there is any one thing I can hope for Little Drummer Boy as he embarks on this year’s new experiences it is that he CAN NOT turn his light off. It’s a brilliant light that deserves to fly.

American Life in Poetry: Column 280
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Marilyn Kallet lives and teaches in Tennessee. Over the years I have read many poems about fireflies, but of all of them hers seems to offer the most and dearest peace.

Fireflies

In the dry summer field at nightfall,
fireflies rise like sparks.
Imagine the presence of ghosts
flickering, the ghosts of young friends,
your father nearest in the distance.
This time they carry no sorrow,
no remorse, their presence is so light.
Childhood comes to you,
memories of your street in lamplight,
holding those last moments before bed,
capturing lightning-bugs,
with a blossom of the hand
letting them go. Lightness returns,
an airy motion over the ground
you remember from Ring Around the Rosie.
If you stay, the fireflies become fireflies
again, not part of your stories,
as unaware of you as sleep, being
beautiful and quiet all around you.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2009 by Marilyn Kallet, from her most recent book of poetry, Packing Light: New and Selected Poems, Black Widow Press, 2009. Reprinted by permission of Marilyn Kallet. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

The Shape of the World

I’ve been holding on to this installment of the American Life in Poetry project in my inbox for some time now–from back in September of last year. I was so moved by the picture of hard work, of changing the landscape, of observing the motion of change. I just couldn’t let go of it, but I also didn’t know quite what to do with it.

My life is undergoing some changes right now. (Aren’t all our lives?) I hope to share more over the next several weeks, but at the moment, so many things are in that frustrating state of transition that I can barely breathe. Transition is incredibly uncomfortable. In the vernacular of Ms. Woloch’s poem, that ill-defined process of going from chunks of rock to dust somewhere between the old place of concrete and the new place of re-formed earth is frightening to watch–and to live. I like for things to be settled. I like to know what’s going on, what’s going to happen, where I stand. In real life, that’s not always possible. What do you do?

The best course revealed itself with another reading of this poem as I was clearing out the cobwebs in Mac Mail. The simple thought of changing the shape of the world with each single motion seemed powerful. In the seemingly powerless state of changing circumstances, my old friend diligence brings comfort and purpose. I want it now. I want it done. I want it really with as little effort and discomfort as possible. But, in reality, not much change happens that way, does it? The diligent and steady movement toward change may be sweaty, but it works. Simple and consistent–even faithful–acts affect change. They affect change at a pace that is manageable. With each blow to the hardened concrete or the bumpy ground to create flattened space, I grow more and more comfortable with the new form of my life. I’m more and more able to embrace the new terrain. And, I’m more and more capable of tilling it into new fertile ground. Diligent acts. They change the shape of the world. And, they change the shape of the world again.

American Life in Poetry: Column 236
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Cecilia Woloch teaches in California, and when she’s not with her students she’s off to the Carpathian Mountains of Poland, to help with the farm work. But somehow she resisted her wanderlust just long enough to make this telling snapshot of her father at work.

The Pick

I watched him swinging the pick in the sun,
breaking the concrete steps into chunks of rock,
and the rocks into dust,
and the dust into earth again.
I must have sat for a very long time on the split rail fence,
just watching him.
My father’s body glistened with sweat,
his arms flew like dark wings over his head.
He was turning the backyard into terraces,
breaking the hill into two flat plains.
I took for granted the power of him,
though it frightened me, too.
I watched as he swung the pick into the air
and brought it down hard
and changed the shape of the world,
and changed the shape of the world again
.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Reprinted from When She Named Fire, ed., Andrea Hollander Budy, Autumn House Press, 2009, by permission of Cecilia Woloch and the publisher. The poem first appeared in Sacrifice by Cecilia Woloch, Tebot Bach, 1997. Introduction copyright © 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

In a Wildflower

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.

(William Blake)

These first four lines are likely the most recognized of William Blake’s much longer rhyming treatise on nature’s lessons and need for protection alongside human nature’s frailties and inescapable tethering to creation. It’s from the poem, “Auguries of Innocence.”  To me, it has always been the colossal urging to pay attention to the details. It’s so easy to miss the longevity of a single moment.

Little Drummer Boy and Bug have taken to bringing me “prizes” in the form of wildflowers (and sometimes grass, sticks or the occasional lizard) found around our lawn. They are quickly coming to realize that mommies always love flowers. This knowledge has something to do with the squeals I offer them in return every time.

They each presented half of this bunch to me last week and were eager to see the blossoms find a home in my “flower glass.” They seemed satisfied with this spice jar repurposed to showcase their treasure. And a treasure it is. It’s been way too long since I’ve buried my face in a mound of clover blossoms to enjoy their sweet and tender fragrance — it is summertime’s rite of passage in Mississippi. Last Wednesday, I was all too eager to poke my nose into the center of this bouquet at the insistence of the boys. “It smells!” they said with renewed discovery. It was a discovery for me as well. I had almost forgotten that these ever-present reminders of the grass’ need for mowing actually have a scent. How often I miss the sacred place found in something simple like a collection of white tiny-petaled “weeds.” How often I breeze past the pursuit of these treasures by pudgy, dirt-stained fingers just to get inside the door at the end of the day. How often I fail to embrace and really soak up the infinity of that moment as these prizes move from their sweaty palms to mine.

Yes, I’d like to get back in touch with that little girl who didn’t mind burying her head in a field of clover. In the mean time, although it wasn’t quite the same as lying facedown in the field of green shapes, to bury my head in each of their little bodies in a thank you embrace was most definitely heaven.

My Yellow Bowl is Green

This weekly installment from the American Life in Poetry Project dropped into my inBox yesterday. It was a busy day after a busy weekend after a busy week before. My emotions were stretched and frayed from the stuff of life. I was having a hard time concentrating and a hard time catching up. I was immersed in that unique loneliness of my own thoughts. That quality of my brain that bars any intrusions. That part that keeps me focused internally and resists exposure. Then I saw this email. It stopped me. It stilled me. It enticed me to “bathe in the light” of this woman’s attention, as Mr. Kooser described.

I have this light pouring like water, only mine floods the dining room or a pink and green bedroom. I have this rug, only mine is the brick of the front porch or the glean of the hardwood floors. I have this yellow bowl, only mine is green and filled with lemons and Granny Smiths. I have this song. I’m singing it bent over the faces of my own babies. These easy words and descriptions jarred me from that internal immersion, that loneliness that comes from being bound by thought. They directed my attention around me to the mundane activity there. To the simple giving and living. Like you, perhaps, I spend much of my life in the silence of constant motion, of a thousand activities and conversations and concerns robbing stillness. But, here in this newly recognized place, the loneliness of hardship and disappointment and busyness and thought is misshapen. Now, it’s only quiet. And, quiet is ok.

[I’m continually astounded by the power of words, whether composed in verse or in paragraphs. Poetry, in particular, possesses the ability to speak into our common experience and pull from it a varied meaning. April is National Poetry Month. In these last few days of celebration, reacquaint yourself with American poets and their amazing clarity. The American Life in Poetry project is a great place to start.]

American Life in Poetry: Column 266
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

The great American poet William Carlos Williams taught us that if a poem can capture a moment in life, and bathe it in the light of the poet’s close attention, and make it feel fresh and new, that’s enough, that’s adequate, that’s good. Here is a poem like that by Rachel Contreni Flynn, who lives in Illinois.

The Yellow Bowl

If light pours like water
into the kitchen where I sway
with my tired children,

if the rug beneath us
is woven with tough flowers,
and the yellow bowl on the table

rests with the sweet heft
of fruit, the sun-warmed plums,
if my body curves over the babies,

and if I am singing,
then loneliness has lost its shape,
and this quiet is only quiet.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2008 by David Lee Garrison, whose most recent book of poems is Sweeping the Cemetery: New and Selected Poems, Browser Books Publishing, 2007. Poem reprinted from Rattle, Vol. 14, No. 2, Winter 2008, by permission of David Lee Garrison and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

One of Everybody

What is it about those we sometimes deem the “lesser” individuals of society that usually makes them the most indiscriminate? I’ve had this installment from the American Life in Poetry project sitting in my mailbox for a while. It is one of my favorites of Mr. Kooser’s selections.

The homeless, the “crazy,” the children… they so often tend to see past the outward appearances or trapping s of status and find a commonality in being a person. I see it in my own children. We went to the local McDonald’s playland yesterday for lunch, and I noticed how easily the children play together even though they don’t know one another. They never notice the color of the other’s skin or the type of clothes they are wearing. They wave at strangers. They always watch out for Baby Girl, even though (at 19 months) she slows down the climbing and sliding process. They always ask “are you ok,” when someone falls down.

I’ve noticed that when we suddenly “arrive” at the station in life we feel we deserve with the requisite education, religion, possessions, network or reputation in tow, sometimes we forget those simple commonalities, the simple discipline of indiscrimination. It’s easy to see how the equal opportunity gathering of signatures was so memorable to the poet. She immortalized the open-hearted decision that all signatures were welcome and valued the same. She took pride in including hers among the thousands. It’s a much-needed reminder that “I am one of everybody.”

American Life in Poetry: Column 243
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Lots of contemporary poems are anecdotal, a brief narration of some event, and what can make them rise above anecdote is when they manage to convey significance, often as the poem closes. Here is an example of one like that, by Marie Sheppard Williams, who lives in Minneapolis.

Everybody

I stood at a bus corner
one afternoon, waiting
for the #2. An old
guy stood waiting too.
I stared at him. He
caught my stare, grinned,
gap-toothed. Will you
sign my coat? he said.
Held out a pen. He wore
a dirty canvas coat that
had signatures all over
it, hundreds, maybe
thousands.
I’m trying
to get everybody, he
said.
I signed. On a
little space on a pocket.
Sometimes I remember:
I am one of everybody.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2008 by David Lee Garrison, whose most recent book of poems is Sweeping the Cemetery: New and Selected Poems, Browser Books Publishing, 2007. Poem reprinted from Rattle, Vol. 14, No. 2, Winter 2008, by permission of David Lee Garrison and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Monday Music

This piece from the American Life in Poetry series crossed my Inbox at just the right time today. I had high hopes for the weekend, but found my worst enemy right there in the mirror. I spent the two days scurrying and worrying about this, disgruntled and complaining about that.  I feel I missed the opportunity to really wade in to what matters–to the lights of my life, to the joys of my life, to what inspires the best of my creativity. Today I’m listening to my own gifts’ example. Today I’m hearing the music anew, I came up to this site called MusicalInstrumentsExpert and it is amazing for music lovers. Today is a day to drink in deeply.

American Life in Poetry: Column 239

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006
It’s likely that if you found the original handwritten manuscript of T. S. Eliot’s groundbreaking poem, “The Waste Land,” you wouldn’t be able to trade it for a candy bar at the Quick Shop on your corner. Here’s a poem by David Lee Garrison of Ohio about how unsuccessfully classical music fits into a subway.
Bach in the DC Subway
As an experiment,
The Washington Post
asked a concert violinist—
wearing jeans, tennis shoes,
and a baseball cap—
to stand near a trash can
at rush hour in the subway
and play Bach
on a Stradivarius.
Partita No. 2 in D Minor
called out to commuters
like an ocean to waves,
sang to the station
about why we should bother
to live.
A thousand people
streamed by. Seven of them
paused for a minute or so
and thirty-two dollars floated
into the open violin case.
A café hostess who drifted
over to the open door
each time she was free
said later that Bach
gave her peace,
and all the children,
all of them,
waded into the music
as if it were water,
listening until they had to be
rescued by parents
who had somewhere else to go.
American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2008 by David Lee Garrison, whose most recent book of poems is Sweeping the Cemetery: New and Selected Poems, Browser Books Publishing, 2007. Poem reprinted from Rattle, Vol. 14, No. 2, Winter 2008, by permission of David Lee Garrison and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

American Life in Poetry: Column 239
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

It’s likely that if you found the original handwritten manuscript of T. S. Eliot’s groundbreaking poem, “The Waste Land,” you wouldn’t be able to trade it for a candy bar at the Quick Shop on your corner. Here’s a poem by David Lee Garrison of Ohio about how unsuccessfully classical music fits into a subway.

Bach in the DC Subway

As an experiment,
The Washington Post
asked a concert violinist—
wearing jeans, tennis shoes,
and a baseball cap—
to stand near a trash can
at rush hour in the subway
and play Bach
on a Stradivarius.
Partita No. 2 in D Minor
called out to commuters
like an ocean to waves,
sang to the station
about why we should bother
to live.

A thousand people
streamed by. Seven of them
paused for a minute or so
and thirty-two dollars floated
into the open violin case.
A café hostess who drifted
over to the open door
each time she was free
said later that Bach
gave her peace,
and all the children,
all of them,
waded into the music
as if it were water,
listening until they had to be
rescued by parents
who had somewhere else to go.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2008 by David Lee Garrison, whose most recent book of poems is Sweeping the Cemetery: New and Selected Poems, Browser Books Publishing, 2007. Poem reprinted from Rattle, Vol. 14, No. 2, Winter 2008, by permission of David Lee Garrison and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

S is for Soft

Soft is the smooth touch
of my baby girl’s cheek
against mine, her skin
aglow in unfettered smiles
barely touched by the world.
the brush of eyelashes hovering
over a cloudless blue.
Soft is her sweet breath
against my nose, deepening
my inhale. in and out,
the gentle fluttering
of one thousand hopes and dreams
between her heart
and mine.
Soft is the whisper
of her sleepy fingers
against my shoulder,
the plump and eager toes
too worn with the day.
the patter of steps and moments
as they fly away.

maggie1

Soft is the smooth touch
of my baby girl’s cheek
against mine, her skin
aglow in unfettered smiles
barely touched by the world.
the brush of eyelashes hovering
over a cloudless blue.

Soft is her sweet breath
against my nose, deepening
my inhale. in and out,
the gentle fluttering
of one thousand hopes and dreams
between her heart
and mine.

Soft is the whisper
of her sleepy fingers
against my shoulder,
the plump and eager toes
too worn with the day.
the patter of steps and moments
as they tiptoe away.

Happy 1st Birthday, Baby Girl! Your softness has forever melted my heart.

poetry . Green Striped Melons

The latest column in the American Life in Poetry project reminded me that ripening happens not just in sunny days, but in rain and starry blackness as well. And, as the color deepens and becomes more varied on the surface of a time- and weather-worn life, we have hope that the lush and vibrant flesh beneath is becoming sweeter still–just waiting to crack open and spill out it’s fragrant juice. Here’s to American poets. Here’s to the poetry all around us. Here’s to a weighty life…

American Life in Poetry: Column 227
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Jane Hirshfield, a Californian and one of my favorite poets, writes beautiful image-centered poems of clarity and concision, which sometimes conclude with a sudden and surprising deepening. Here’s just one example.

Green-Striped Melons

They lie
under stars in a field.
They lie under rain in a field.
Under sun.

 

Some people
are like this as well–
like a painting
hidden beneath another painting
.

An unexpected weight
the sign of their ripeness.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c)2008 by Jane Hirshfield, whose most recent book of poems is “After,” Harper Collins, 2006. Poem reprinted from “Alaska Quarterly,” Vol. 25, nos. 3 & 4, Fall & Winter, 2008, by permission of Jane Hirshfield and the publisher. Introduction copyright (c)2009 by The Poetry Foundation.  The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.  We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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