Poetry Friday: Be Kind by Michael Blumenthal

Poetry Friday is hosted by Donna at Mainely Write.

I found this poem while scrolling through the archives of The Writer’s Almanac, which I often do when the news of the world fills me with trepidation and rage, and I need words of comfort and beauty.  I loved it instantly…that, and last evening’s sky, put me in a better frame of mind.

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Be Kind by Michael Blumenthal

 

Not merely because Henry James said
there were but four rules of life—
be kind be kind be kind be kind— but
because it’s good for the soul, and,
what’s more, for others; it may be
that kindness is our best audition
for a worthier world, and, despite
the vagueness and uncertainty of
its recompense, a bird may yet wander
into a bush before our very houses,
gratitude may not manifest itself in deeds
entirely equal to our own, still there’s
weather arriving from every direction,
the feasts of famine and feasts of plenty
may yet prove to be one, so why not
allow the little sacrificial squinches and
squigulas to prevail? Why not inundate
the particular world with minute particulars?
Dust’s certainly all our fate, so why not
make it the happiest possible dust,
a detritus of blessedness? Surely
the hedgehog, furling and unfurling
into its spiked little ball, knows something
that, with gentle touch and unthreatening
tone, can inure to our benefit, surely the wicked
witches of our childhood have died and,
from where they are buried, a great kindness
has eclipsed their misdeeds. Yes, of course,
in the end so much comes down to privilege
and its various penumbras, but too much
of our unruly animus has already been
wasted on reprisals, too much of the
unblessed air is filled with smoke from
undignified fires. Oh friends, take
whatever kindness you can find
and be profligate in its expenditure:
It will not drain your limited resources,
I assure you, it will not leave you vulnerable
and unfurled, with only your sweet little claws
to defend yourselves, and your wet little noses,
and your eyes to the ground, and your little feet.

Poetry Friday: The Round by Stanley Kunitz

Poetry Friday is hosted by Katie at The Logonauts 

This has been a different kind of summer – a summer of giving myself over to the quiet beauty of the farm, where the sounds of birds calling to each other across the valley and corn rustling into its green growth is often all I hear all day.  This is by choice.

This has been a summer of also giving myself over to the life of being a reader and being a writer.  Not the “I’ll read a chapter or two when I find the time” kind of reading.  Not the “I’ll write a few lines when I can” kind of writing.  But an immersive reading and writing that is at the center of my day, every day.

Because, from September through June, I am immersed in the lives of fifty readers and writers – my days are all about their journeys.  This summer is all about mine.  And, in the serenity of the farm, the ever changing unchanging of  its everyday beauty, I am discovering again the glory of being lost in an exquisitely written book for hours upon end…the joy and discipline of the writing life.

Jane Kenyon, the poet of my heart and soul, advised this: “Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours.”

So, that has been my summer work.  Unlike Stanley Kunitz, however, I don’t have quite enough discipline to find a cellar in which to hide from the view, which is after all, a rather fleeting summer view:

 

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The Round
Stanley Kunitz

Light splashed this morning
on the shell-pink anemones
swaying on their tall stems;
down blue-spiked veronica
light flowed in rivulets
over the humps of the honeybees;
this morning I saw light kiss
the silk of the roses
in their second flowering,
my late bloomers
flushed with their brandy.
A curious gladness shook me.

So I have shut the doors of my house,
so I have trudged downstairs to my cell,
so I am sitting in semi-dark
hunched over my desk
with nothing for a view
to tempt me
but a bloated compost heap,
steamy old stinkpile,
under my window;
and I pick my notebook up
and I start to read aloud
the still-wet words I scribbled
on the blotted page:
“Light splashed . . .”

I can scarcely wait till tomorrow
when a new life begins for me,
as it does each day,
as it does each day.

Poetry Friday: The Sound of a Train by Faith Shearin

Poetry Friday is hosted by Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference

Growing up in India during the 1960’s, we travelled by train when we travelled at all.  My favorite trip was the one we took every year from Bombay to Cape Comorin, which is at the very tip of the Indian continent, where three oceans meet: the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.  It was a long trip, but our traveling days were graced by the beauty of the Indian coastline and…the fabulousness of our sleeping car!   For four days, my siblings and I (along with two nannies who spent a lot of time sleeping, if I remember correctly) shared an entire railroad car with bunk beds, arm chairs, our own bath room and a dining alcove. It was bliss.

All these years later, I have many vivid memories of these journeys, especially the views of India’s coastline and some of the bridges we crossed as we made our way to our destination.  And all these years later, it takes just the sound of a train whistle to send me back in time.  And, today, in the midst of the cornfields of upstate New York, I heard the faint sound of a train somewhere off in the distance…and thought of my far away homeland, of travel, and the journeys I’ve taken.

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The Sound of a Train by Faith Shearin

 

Even now, I hear one and I long to leave
without a suitcase or a plan; I want to step
onto the platform and reach for
the porter’s hand and buy a ticket
to some other life; I want to sit
in the big seats and watch fields
turn into rivers or cities. I want to eat
cake on the dining car’s
unsteady tablecloths, to sleep
while whole seasons
slip by. I want to be a passenger
again: a person who hears the name
of a place and stands up, a person
who steps into the steam of arrival.

 

Poetry Friday: Sunday Morning Early by David Romtvedt

Poetry Friday is hosted by Diane @ Random Noodling

I read this poem on The Writer’s Almanac the other day, and it has stayed with me. Perhaps it’s because as I get older I find that I experience and value time differently. Perhaps it’s because my children are grown and are finding their place in the world outside our home and family life, and I feel their absence.  Perhaps it’s because I seem to have finally learned the trick of how “to leave well enough alone”, after a fairly long life of not knowing how to.

At any rate, it’s a beautiful poem for this Poetry Friday:

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Sunday Morning Early

My daughter and I paddle red kayaks
across the lake. Pulling hard,
we slip easily through the water.
Far from either shore, it hits me
that my daughter is a young woman
and suddenly everything is a metaphor
for how short a time we are granted:

the red boats on the blue-black water,
the russet and gold of late summer’s grasses,
the empty sky. We stop and listen to the stillness.
I say, “It’s Sunday, and here we are
in the church of the out of doors,”
then wish I’d kept quiet. That’s the trick in life—
learning to leave well enough alone.

Our boats drift to where the chirring
of grasshoppers reaches us from the rocky hills.
A clap of thunder. I want to say something truer
than I love you. I want my daughter to know that,
through her, I live a life that was closed to me.
I paddle up, lean out, and touch her hand.
I start to speak then stop.

Before the Blight by Ruth Stone

Poetry Friday is hosted by Carol at Carol’s Corner

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Growing up in upstate New York, my husband Scott always associated scorching hot summers with the cool green shade of towering  Elm trees.  Those trees of his youth are all long gone now; one by one each fell victim to Dutch Elm disease and had to be cut down many years ago.

Still, when the first really hot days of summer arrive, Scott is often given to reminiscing about those summer days and those magnificent trees.

Before the Blight by Ruth Stone

The elms stretched themselves in indolent joy,
arching over the street that lay in green shadow
under their loose tent.
And the roses in Mrs. Mix’s yard pretzeled up her trellis
with pink Limoges cabbage blooms like Rubens’ nudes.
My lips whispered over the names of things
in the meadows, in the orchard, in the woods,
where I sometimes stood for long moments
listening to some bird telling me of the strangeness of myself;
rocked in the sinewy arms of summer.

 

Poetry Friday: Peonies by Mary Oliver

Poetry Friday is hosted by Mary Lee at A Year of Reading

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Our peonies are in full bloom this week, just in time for the rain storms that will also bow their heads deep into the grass and fling their petals far and wide.  At the first sign of a downpour, if I am home, I race out to rescue what I can.  They are the loveliest flower…why must they have the shortest season in which to bloom?

‘Peonies’   by Mary Oliver

This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers

and they open —
pools of lace,
white and pink —
and all day the black ants climb over them,

boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away

to their dark, underground cities —
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,

the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise,
their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again —
beauty the brave, the exemplary,

blazing open.
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?

Poetry Friday:Marching Through a Novel by John Updike

Poetry Friday is hosted by Margaret Simon @  Reflections on the Teche

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We’ve just begun our last round of book clubs in our sixth grade year.  Usually, our book club rounds follow genre studies, with a read aloud to analyze the structure and characteristics of that particular genre.  But this year, my students asked if they could close the year with  whatever genre they wanted, which sounded like an excellent idea to me.  Book groups and partnerships soon formed around every genre in our classroom library, from historical fiction to dystopian to realistic fiction.

When we gathered on our reading rug to plan our meeting dates, one student remarked at this range of books, which prompted another to ask, “how do they do this? The authors, how do they keep coming up with so many different types of stories and characters?”  This , of course, led to a high spirited discussion about imagination and craft and topics, and how writers pick and choose what they want to write about and how they write it.   Authors, it was decided, were “imagination magicians”…a term I instantly loved, and intend to use in my teaching life.

Here’s one of those imagination magicians, telling us something about his process:

Marching Through a Novel by  John Updike

Each morning my characters
greet me with misty faces
willing, though chilled, to muster
for another day’s progress
through dazzling quicksand,
the march of blank paper.
With instant obedience
they change clothes and mannerisms,
drop a speech impediment,
develop a motive backwards
to suit the deed’s done.
They extend skeletal arms
for the handcuffs of contrivance,
slog through docilely
maneuvers of coincidence,
look toward me hopefully,
their general and quartermaster,
for a clearer face, a bigger heart.
I do what l can for them,
but it is not enough.
Forward is my order,
though their bandages unravel
and some have no backbones
and some turn traitor
like heads with two faces
and some fall forgotten
in the trench work of loose threads,
poor puffs of cartoon flak.
Forward. Believe me, I love them
though I march them to finish them off.