July 10 – William Carlos Williams and Denise Levertov over decades of living

George Danko to John sj about two great poets, one mentoring the other  in George’s New Jersey home town.

“It turns out that Williams, despite fragile health in his later years, mentored younger poets at his home.   One of them was Denise Levertov, a favorite of yours.”  – – –

I met George in early September 1973;  we were both finding our way around on the first day at U Penn’s PhD program in American Civilization.  45 years later we remain good friends and sometimes trade stories of discovery, or grief, or beauty.   Yesterday, George surprised me.  From reading the Work Day/Hard Times poetry list, he knew that the poets William Carlos Williams and Denise Levertov often find their way from my memory and imagination onto the pages of this list.  Until yesterday morning I had no notion that Carlos Williams and Levertov, though a long generation apart,  had a personal connection – – an old poet-pediatrician mentoring a young poet just finding a way into her compelling public imagination.   Until yesterday, I had no notion that these two poets, both of whom I have come to cherish, shared a living room where William Carlos Williams listened to Denise Levertov’s young voice and told her what he heard.

George.  I owe you for many of your stories, including this one.  Thanks a million.

john sj

 

Today’s Post:   George Danko to John sj May 22

Dear John,

I recently read a children’s book, A River of Words, about William Carlos Williams, the pediatrician and poet who wrote and ministered to families in my hometown of Rutherford, New Jersey. His son also followed his father in a medical career and was my pediatrician. It turns out that Williams, despite fragile health in his later years, mentored younger poets at his home. One of them was Denise Levertov, a favorite of yours.

George

 

William Carlos Williams:     “The Manoeuvre”

I saw the two starlings
coming in toward the wires
But at the last,
just before alighting, they

turned in the air together

and landed backwards!

that’s what got me —
to face into the wind’s teeth.

William Carlos Williams
September 17, 1883 – March 4, 1963
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Carlos_Williams

 

Denise Levertov:  “The Poem Rising By Its Own Weight”
The poet is at the disposal of his own night.
Jean Cocteau

The singing robes fly onto your body and cling there silkily,
You step out on the rope and move unfalteringly across it,

And seize the fiery knives unscathed and
Keep them spinning above you, a fountain
Of rhythmic rising, falling, rising
Flames,

And proudly let the chains
Be wound about you, ready
To shed them, link by steel link,
padlock by padlock–

but when your graceful
confident shrug and twist drives the metal
into your flesh and the python grip of it tightens
and you see rust on the chains and blood in your pores
and you roll
over and down a steepness into a dark hole
and there is not even the sound of mockery in the distant air
somewhere above you where the sky was,
no sound but your own breath panting:
then it is that the miracle
walks in, on his swift feet,
down the precipice straight into the cave,
opens the locks,
knots of chain fall open,
twists of chain unwind themselves,
links fall asunder,
in seconds there is a heap of scrap-
metal at your ankles, you step free and at once
he turns to go —
but as you catch at him with a cry,
clasping his knees, sobbing your gratitude,
with what radiant joy he turns to you,
and raises you to your feet,
and strokes your disheveled hair,
and holds you,
holds you,
holds you
close and tenderly before he vanishes.

Denise Levertov
b. October 1923  d. December 1997

 

Posted in Poetry | Leave a comment

Wednesday, July 8, Joy Harjo “Grace” – Isaiah’s “Song of the Servant of God”

Wednesday,  July 8, 2020

I began learning to teach as a 24-year-old kid at Holy Rosary Mission on Pine Ridge in South Dakota.  My life daunted me pretty much every day – so much I didn’t know about teaching, or about Lakota culture, or about the violence of Western culture as it assaulted Lakota culture over a century and a half. One of my jobs in that 7-day-week boarding school was to take care of c. 110 boys ages 5 to 14 in double and triple deck bunk beds. I took the K-4th graders up an hour before the older boys, got them ready for bed, tended scrapes they had acquired through the day, and told them a story once they were in bed. As they fell asleep, I walked among the bunk beds. I understood that some of these beautiful children already knew about violence and probably would not make it into a durable adulthood – and others would, no knowing which. It broke my heart to see them sleeping in a safe place within an unsafe world. During those nights these 2 lines from Isaiah’s “Song of the Servant of God” befriended me.

“A bruised reed he shall not break,
a smoldering wick he shall not quench.”

I began to imagine that The Servant of God about whom Isaiah spoke would not be frightened off by violence in the world. It’s one reason why I came to love Joy Harjo’s poem about the coming of spring after a hard winter in a racist prairie town.  I repeat it today because “Grace” reminds me of “The Servant Song.”  Perhaps also because very many people today must stretch so hard to let their imaginations be touched by tenderness and hope . . . in these wearing times.

Best to read both Isaiah’s song and Joy Harjo’s “Grace” out loud, with pauses.

Have a blest mid-week,

 

john sj

 

Isaiah and Joy Harjo  –  two prophets of hope
Today’s Post  –  “Grace

I think of Wind and her wild ways the year we had nothing to lose and lost it anyway
in the cursed country of the fox. We still talk about that winter, how the cold froze
imaginary buffalo on the stuffed horizon of snowbanks.

The haunting voices of the starved and mutilated broke fences, crashed our thermostat
dreams, and we couldn’t stand it one more time.

So once again we lost a winter in stubborn memory, walked through cheap apartment
walls, skated through fields of ghosts into a town that never wanted us,
in the epic search for grace.

Like Coyote, like Rabbit, we could not contain our terror and clowned our way through a
season of false midnights.

We had to swallow that town with laughter, so it would go down easy as honey.

And one morning as the sun struggled to break ice, and our dreams had found us with
coffee and pancakes in a truck stop along Highway 80, we found grace.

I could say grace was a woman with time on her hands, or a white buffalo escaped from

memory. But in that dingy light it was a promise of balance.

We once again understood the talk of animals, and spring was lean and hungry with the
hope of children and corn.

I would like to say, with grace, we picked ourselves up and walked into the spring thaw.

We didn’t; the next season was worse.

You went home to Leech Lake to work with the tribe and I went south.

And, Wind, I am still crazy.

I know there is something larger than the memory of a dispossessed people. We have seen it.

Posted in Poetry | Leave a comment

July 6 – – Kenji Miyazawa – (宮沢 賢治 Miyazawa Kenji?) “Be not Defeated by the Rain”

Monday,  July 6   {first posted August 14, 2017}

“Unbeaten by the rain
Unbeaten by the wind
Bested by neither snow nor summer heat”

Some years ago, browsing “A Week of Being Here,” Kenji Miyazawa met me for the first time.  I’d never heard of him.  This poem was found in his trunk after he died in his early thirties. It stops me just as does standing on the shore of Belle Isle can stop me.  {Kenji Miyazawa (宮沢 賢治 Miyazawa Kenji?, 27 August 1896 – 21 September 1933) was a Japanese poet and author of children’s literature from Hanamaki, Iwate in the late Taishō and early Shōwa periods. He was also known as an agricultural science teacher, a vegetarian, cellist, devout Buddhist, and utopian social activist.[1]}

Even more than most poems, “Be Not Defeated” should reward reading aloud with pauses.   I think this Buddhist poet will meet readers of the list again.

Have a blest week.

 

john sj

 

Today’s Post  —  Kenji Miyazawa: “Be Not Defeated by the Rain”

Unbeaten by the rain
Unbeaten by the wind
Bested by neither snow nor summer heat
Strong of body
Free of desire
Never angry
Always smiling quietly
Dining daily on four cups of brown rice
Some miso and a few vegetables
Observing all things
With dispassion
But remembering well
Living in a small, thatched-roof house
In the meadow beneath a canopy of pines
Going east to nurse the sick child
Going west to bear sheaves of rice for the weary mother
Going south to tell the dying man there is no cause for fear
Going north to tell those who fight to put aside their trifles
Shedding tears in time of drought
Wandering at a loss during the cold summer
Called useless by all
Neither praised
Nor a bother
Such is the person
I wish to be

“Be Not Defeated by the Rain” by Kenji Miyazawa. Translated from the original Japanese by Hart Larrabee. Text as posted on Tomo (08/05/2012).

Curator’s note: After the poet’s death, a black notebook containing this text was found in his trunk. The poem appears in bold strokes amidst his repetitious copying of a Buddhist mantra. According to its date (November 3, 1931), he had composed it while on his deathbed. He was only in his thirties. Visit this link to view a photograph of the poem in the notebook, the original Japanese text, two very different translations (including Larrabee’s, which I prefer), and interviews with the interpreters.

Posted by Phyllis Cole-Dai on Aug 19, 2015 12:00 am

Art credit: “Girl in the rain,” Giclée print by Pavlo Tereshin.

Posted in Poetry | Leave a comment

July 1 — a glass of wine, a cup of sunshine

Monday, November 14   Shiraz, “the oldest sample of wine in the world”

Poet Fatema Keshavarz reaches deep in time so she can lift up the beauty of Shiraz, her home city in Iran.   Shiraz has lived as a center for art and beauty for c. 4000 years.   Wikipedia tells me that “The oldest sample of wine in the world, dating to approximately 7,000 years ago, was discovered on clay jars recovered outside of Shiraz.”  Detroit is only 319 years old and the United States a lot younger than that, but in these days of terrified immigrants and their children,  of taunts boiling up from decades of grinding working class peoples’ losses, the poet’s praise of her ancient home town in Iran, another home  place of the resonant beauty and raw nerves offers stillness and courage to celebrate the simple beauty of a glass of good wine.

I am using Fatemeh’s poem to celebrate, the U.S.,  this nation of immigrants today.  Lift a glass when you get off work.   Perhaps before that, read the poem out loud, with pauses.

Have a blest day.

 

john sj

 

Today’s Post:    “Shiraz”

Held up to gods
In the palm of a giant’s hands
A rare handcrafted marble cup
Brimming with sunshine
Defined at the outer edges
With tall cypress trees
That line up at dawn reverently
To interpret the horizons
In their meticulous green thoughts

***

My city is
That cup of sunshine
I can drink to the last drop
And be thirsty for more.

Shiraz, Dec.21, 2000

 


Fatemeh Keshavarz
b. 1952 – Shiraz Iran

Professor Keshavarz, University of Maryland’s Roshan Chair of Persian Studies, is a poet and a scholar.
On September 11, 2014 she read poetry for the university’s annual Celebrate Spirit Mass.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatemeh_Keshavarz

 

Posted in Poetry | Leave a comment

Monday, June 29 – Jamaal May “There are birds here”

Monday, June 29 –   “And no
his neighborhood is not like a war zone”

We, who live and work in Detroit, 8 Mile Road down to the River, live with many perceptions of Detroit.  Jamaal May’s “There are Birds Here” was new to me before a friend sent it, suggesting if for the “Work Day/Hard Time” poetry list.  Every poem does best when read out loud, with pauses – today’s, perhaps, especially so by the 3rd or 4th reading.  Detroit alive with vitality while carrying wounds as well.

Have a blest work week.

john sj


Today’s Post    “There Are Birds Here”
For Detroit

There are birds here,
so many birds here
is what I was trying to say
when they said those birds were metaphors
for what is trapped
between buildings
and buildings. No.
The birds are here
to root around for bread
the girl’s hands tear
and toss like confetti. No,
I don’t mean the bread is torn like cotton,
I said confetti, and no
not the confetti
a tank can make of a building.
I mean the confetti
a boy can’t stop smiling about
and no his smile isn’t much
like a skeleton at all. And no
his neighborhood is not like a war zone.
I am trying to say
his neighborhood
is as tattered and feathered
as anything else,
as shadow pierced by sun
and light parted
by shadow-dance as anything else,
but they won’t stop saying
how lovely the ruins,
how ruined the lovely
children must be in that birdless city.


1982-

Jamaal May, “There Are Birds Here” from The Big Book of Exit Strategies.
Copyright © 2016 by Jamaal May. Reprinted by permission of Alice James Books.
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26196185-the-big-book-of-exit-strategies

Posted in Poetry | Leave a comment

June 26 – Jim Janda – “Crying For a Vision”

Friday, June 26, 2020

“to cry for a vision is a sacred task”

The Lakota expression “hanblechia” means “he or she cries out for a vision.” It is the name of one of the most sacred Lakota rituals.  It begins with a sweat bath, singing begging prayers as the bodies of the people in the sweat lodge welcome supersaturated steam from igneous rocks,  which won’t explode when they have been fire heated to deep red; the people in the dark lodge have broken a sweat before the singer pours the first dipper of water onto the rocks.  The lodge has the shape of a half circle. The singer does not pour the first water until the door flap is closed and the people have all taken a position sitting cross legged and naked.  In that posture the roof of the lodge is only a few inches from the top of your head while you have bent forward to be close to the red hot stones which are a few inches from your face.

When the one seeking a vision finishes the sweat, s/he lets the holyman lead them to a place to pray alone, sometimes for 4 days of complete fasting, crying for a vision to help you, “usnsimala ya” “have pity on me.”  So I can receive a vision to live by.

It sometimes occurs to me that this ritual of begging for a vision can make a powerful prayer in these times when anger and danger and fear want to cloud our sense of our lives as sacred.   Jim Janda, a mystic poet and once a mystic Jesuit, wrote this poem out of his awareness of  “hanblechia”

Best to read the poem out loud, with pauses.

Have a blest weekend,

 

john sj

 

Today’s Post 

To cry for a
vision
is a sacred
task

after hearing
a holyman
after taking
a sweat bath
with sage and
sweet grass

one must climb a
mountain alone—

here a song
may be heard
here a vision
may be given
here a dance
may be learned—

one must then
leave
the mountain

to sing the
song
to live the
vision
to begin the
dance

J Janda

 

Jim Janda   d. August, 2010

p.s. Jim Janda lived as a mystic pilgrim for most of his 74 years. He died August 7, 2010 in Salt Lake City, a priest of that diocese since 1996. Jim also lived for a quarter century as a Jesuit which is when we met. Jim was “well known for his gentle and generous heart. . . . During his life he wrote and published a series of short religious stories for children, school plays and books of poetry.” So reads his obituary in the Salt Lake Tribune. The obit is accurate, as was the stated cause of his death, emphysema; I think he smoked too much. I can’t remember ever visiting with Jim without feeling bathed in wisdom and tenderness, and in his awareness of how deep grief runs in human beings, right there along with whimsy.

The Tribune’s evocation of “stories for children, school plays and books of poetry . . .” does not even hint at the flint-hard prose and fine-tuned ironies that throb and flow through his poems.

Jim Janda reminds me of Joy Harjo. I am glad I thought to pull his book off my poetry shelf.

Posted in Poetry | Leave a comment

June 24 Maria Ibarra Frayre “what it means to be Catholic when you are a young, liberal, feminist . . . “

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

“But how can they believe me?
When sometimes I don’t even believe myself.
Maybe it’s time to be loud.”

No strong poem is ordinary;  Maria’s surely is not ordinary either.  I am proud that the “Work Day in Hard Times” list has made a home for her voice among our poets and readers.    Best to read the poem out loud, with pauses.

Have a blest day,

 

john sj

 

Today’s Post –  “Being Catholic”

 

I wear my faith quietly,

like a pebble in your pocket

Smooth and cold,

Comforting when you hold it tight in your hand.

But to be more honest,

I wear my faith secretly, cautious of who

to tell the truth because

I’m not sure how my circle

of liberal, leftists, almost

socialists would take it.

How could I, a feminist who uses reason,

logic, and kindness, follow a church

that doesn’t let women be leaders?

Follow a God

who believes LGBTQ loved ones will rot in hell?

follow an institution

that rapes children?

Stop.

I want to tell them that

that isn’t my church, isn’t my God.

My God lives in jails and detention centers,

in water bottles left in the desert,

and school teachers who work too much for too little.

My God is in parents who love their gay

and trans kids as reflections

of God’s own image.

My faith is the holiness of women, the life

in service for others.

 

My God is liberation.

She is the power of the storm

and the stillness of it when it’s over.

She is Brown laborers

rebuilding a city,

and the sweat of their foreheads

feeding their families.

But how can they believe me? When

sometimes I don’t even believe myself.

Maybe it’s time to be loud.

As loud as the annoying (and wrong) fetus

fanatics who are pro-life without

really being pro-living.

Maybe it’s time to let my faith breathe. Take

my pebble and let throw it

in the water.

Let it make ripples.

No.

Let it make a fucking tsunami.

 

p.s.  Maria is the Southeast Michigan regional organizer for We the People Michigan. She immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico when she was nine years old and grew up Southwest Detroit and Dearborn. Maria has been fighting for immigrant justice for almost a decade, including grassroots organizing and political advocacy. She works closely with grassroots organizations to create alternative systems of immigrant-centered support and working to put people of color and women in positions of leadership. Maria graduated from the University of Detroit Mercy with a degree in English, and then went on to get a Masters of Social Work at the University of Michigan. On her free time Maria likes going for hikes, drinking expensive tea, and after reading Maria’s poem three or four times today, I came upon Karen Tumulty’s Washington Post column, “Why am I still a Catholic.”

Posted in Poetry | Leave a comment

Joseph A Brown, sj — wrote this poem for the ordination to priesthood of Joshua Peters S.J.

Monday, June 22 – Joseph A. Brown, S.J. written for a Jesuit soul friend Joshua Peters, celebrating Joshua’s ordination as a priest on June 20 of this year.

And Here I Stand on Fire

“two women wiped my face
held my hands and stood
with me”

Joseph Brown wrote a poem for me in May 1970 to commemorate my ordination as a priest on the Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation.  As long ago as that was, I still carry the poem with me – “Note to a Priest.”  50 years later, Joseph wrote another young Jesuit a poem for his ordination this past Saturday.  It means a lot to me that I have a place in this long tradition of strong, serious poems about a moment of commitment taken with uncertainty about one’s future as it begins.

Best to read these two poems slowly, with pauses.  Perhaps slowly enough to imagine the 50 years that connect these two gifts from a first rate poet, Joseph Brown.

Have a blest week,

 

john sj

 

Post #1 – And Here I Stand on Fire (June 20, 2020)

“As they led him away they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian,

who was coming in from the country; and after laying the cross on him,

they made him carry it behind Jesus.” (Luke 23:26)

 

Oh  I know  the story

that somehow  I was seized by the soldiers

to walk

behind him

the burden of the day

heavier by far

than a single bar of wood

 

But  I know

how I fell out

into the road

as they pulled him along

 

My breath caught my throat   constricted

water streaming down my face

Oh  I know

 

He stumbled   he shook

he groaned

and I looked into his bloody eyes

 

They never seized me

He did

 

I grabbed the wood

I could not lift him

from the dirt   I could not leave

I could only see his back   his legs

 

II.

When the stumbling stopped

the beasts

pushed me back  into the crowd

two women wiped my face

held my hands   and stood

with me

until the silence and the dark descended

 

III.

They brought me to the hall

 

Men I did not know made me bathe

drink  what little wine they could spare

 

It was not sleep

it was a falling into nothing

I could dream

 

IV.

Days and nights made

no difference

 

V.

Please let me cry this  to you

 

Again the air grew warm

we all grabbed each other and leaned

into fear

the door   disappeared

and I saw

His eyes

his eyes

as steady as a fisher’s net

pulled me to him

Again I fell

and never broke the stare

His

hand upon my head

please let me

cry

His hand

and I said

Yes

 

And here I stand

on fire with his eyes

his hand

upon me still

 

for the Ordination of Joshua Peters, SJ
20 June 2020

— Luke

 

Post #2 – Note to a Priest (May 25, 1970)

this is not an easy age to handle mystery and myth

it is a time of disposable gods and quickly fashioned

signs and wonders

we have been brave enough to bury demons or burn them

or lock them into the dark places where they are not

heard

and soon even dead bones will rise without a secret

magic or a silent oath

 

if you choose to walk among us and allow the smell

of blood to feed your prophecies and move you to

forgiveness your vision is suspect to madness and

we will turn away

 

we say this   we have no need of you  we are content

with our earth and our air and whatever gives us life

this has been decided

 

and yet there is something in us that our courage will

not redeem

we have not outlived icarus and still fear the dark places

 

if you will stand there and point out the sun we may

come and follow you.

 

luke  1970

Posted in Poetry | Leave a comment

From Friday May 22, 2015 – “Balancing Our Economic Realities with Our call to the Margins” – – 2015 Heartland-Delta Virtual Conference

From Friday May 22, 2015 – “Balancing Our Economic Realities with Our call to the Margins” – – 2015 Heartland-Delta Virtual Conference

“Last evening 33 UDM women and men gathered in the Lansing Reilly front parlor area for a 3 hour conversation.  We came to prepare for next Thursday’s Virtual Heartland-Delta Conference.   Our invitation process included consultations from all three campuses.  We looked for a group that looked & sounded as much like UDM as possible.  We had faculty from most of the colleges, staff from all three campuses, some senior administrators, some old timers and some people very new to our world, some Mercy and Jesuit representation too.

After some schmoozing over a light supper — sandwiches and salads, beer, wine, coffee, tea, soda, icy water, and cookies — we introduced ourselves by name and budget area.  I don’t think anyone in the room knew everyone.  We had arranged people in 6 tables looking ahead to next Thursday and used last night to begin a communal life for the people of each table.    “Every person’s stories are worth the listening.  Story listening is maybe more important than story telling.” We suggested the following focus questions.

  • Why did I come to UDM?  Why do I stay?
  • What’s the heart of what I do here?
  • From the perspective of where I work and what I do, how do I see UDM’s relationship with its core defining adjectives —
    • “Catholic,” “Mercy,” “Jesuit,” and “Urban.”
  • What encourages me?  What wears on me?
  • The theme of the conference is “Balancing our Economic Realities with Our Call to the Margins.”  How would you define “Margins”?  How define “our economic realities” and how define “our”?

No one, as far as I could see, wanted to stop.  When we gathered as a whole group for the last 20 minutes, body language said a lot: conversations in twos, in threes, in fours, people leaning toward each other in a room lively with listening.

I woke this morning with the feel of the room in those closing minutes, and looked for a strong poem.    Readers of this list will probably recognize today’s post as one of my soul poems.    Denise Levertov wrote this about the love between a woman and a man but last evening got me feeling that it works for a group of people who share life in a challenging university and a challenging city suffused with the beauty of kinship.”

Best to read the poem out loud, with pauses.

Have a great weekend,

 

john sj

Today’s Post – “Prayer for Revolutionary Love”

That a woman not ask a man to leave meaningful work to follow her
That a man not ask a woman to leave meaningful work to follow him.

That no one try to put Eros in bondage
But that no one put a cudgel in the hands of Eros.

That our loyalty to one another and our loyalty to our work
not be set in false conflict.

That our love for each other give us love for each other’s work
That our love for each other’s work give us love for one another.

That our love for each other’s work give us love for one another.
That our love for each other give us love for each other’s work.

That our love for each other, if need be,
give way to absence.  And the unknown.

That we endure absence, if need be,
without losing our love for each other.
Without closing our doors to the unknown.

Denise Levertov
1923-1997

Posted in Poetry | Leave a comment

June 12 – “My seventieth birthday” Dan Gerber

Wednesday,  June 17 –  Dan Gerber, the courage we live in

“How big is my heart, I wonder?
How will it encompass these men dressed in black?”

I’d looked at two or three poems before this one ran into me.  So precise, and so demanding.   The poem met me,  c. 2 hours into this Wednesday morning, radiant sun anointing a long and wearing work week.   Dan Gerber had run into me before, with his cacophony of tenderness and terror.  Now it is two hours into this workday morning of another week of fear and anger and astonishing mercy.   Dan Gerber reminds us of the courage we live in as we pay attention to what in the world wants our attention,  the courage we live from.

Dan Gerber is a hard read.  Best to read “Seventieth Birthday” out loud, with pauses.   Or perhaps even better to click on the link below the poem and listen to the poet read it to you.   Or both.

Have a blest week,

 

john sj

Today’s post:  “ON MY SEVENTIETH BIRTHDAY”  Dan Gerber
Sailing Through Cassiopeia (Copper Canyon Press, 2013)

Let everything happen to you:
beauty and terror.
Only press on: no feeling is final.
—Rilke

I read that tens of thousands of people
have drowned in Bangladesh
and that a million more
may die from isolation, hunger, cholera,
and its sisters, thirst and loneliness.

*****

This morning in our lime tree,
I noticed a bee
dusting a single new bud,
just now beginning to bloom,
while all the other branches were sagging
with heavy green fruit.

*****

I read that in Moscow
every man, woman, child, and dog
is inhaling eight packs of cigarettes a day—
or its equivalent in smoke—
from the fires raging over the steppes.

*****

I saw the god of storms
take the shape of a tree,
bowing to the desert
with her back to the sea.

*****

I saw on television,
a woman in Iran buried up to her breasts,
then wrapped in light gauze
(to protect the spectators),
weeping in terror and pleading for her life
while someone at the edge of the circle
of men dressed in black
picked up the first baseball-sized rock
from the hayrick-sized pile,
to hurl at her eyes, nose, mouth,
ears, throat, breasts, and shoulders.

*****

How big is my heart, I wonder?
How will it encompass these men dressed in black?

*****

Now the fog drifts in over the passes,
screening the peaks into half-tones.
And then into no tones at all.

*****

These goats with names,
with eyes that make you wonder,
these goats
who will be slaughtered today.
Why these goats?

*****

There are reasons,
but they are human reasons.

*****

I listened while my friend
spoke through his grief for his son,
shot to death in a pizza shop he managed
in Nashville
after emptying the safe
for a desperate young man with a gun—
who my friend told me he’d forgiven—
spoke of consolation through his tears,
the spirit of his son still with him, he said.
The spirit of his son still with him.

*****

Oak tree,
joy of my eye
that reaches in so many directions—
Are the birds that fly from your branches
closer to heaven?

*****

The moon
shimmering on the surface of the pond,
its rippling reflected in your eyes,
of which you are no more aware
than the wind, just passing through this oak,
of the acorns still bobbing.

*****

The mountains, resolute now
in fading light.
With her nose deep in the late-summer grass,
my dog calls up a new story.

Dan Gerber
1940 –
Hear the poet read his poem here

Posted in Poetry | Leave a comment