Posts Tagged #poetry

Sharp, necessary things


Louise Erdrich says in her poem, “Thistles”:

“under loss and under hard words,
under steamrollers
under your heart,
it doesn’t matter. They can live forever.”

I think there are some feelings that are like thistles, that’s why Erdrich’s poem and the thistles along the sidewalk speak to me like an old friend as I ponder how some losses, some griefs, some pointy bits of the past never do entirely smooth over or disappear.

They simply die back for a while, and you think they are gone. Then you’re innocently snapping a photo, minding your own business, and they come back—sharp as ever.

But they are beautiful, thistles are. They endure for a reason.

You can read her whole gorgeous poem here:

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November Ginkgo

gingko tree

Gingko tree, Northern Kentucky, Novermber 26

Walking this weekend brought to mind a poem I remembered about Ginkgos. Their “yellow fluttering fans of light” never fail to inspire me. I attempt and fail to capture them in yellow/fossil/sucked-in-breath poems. They are the last of their division of tree (Ginkgophyta), all others being long extinct.

Ginkgo leaves are found in fossils dating back 270 million years, and though they are messy and somewhat smelly trees—they are my favorites at this time of year.I look up and get lost. Or look down and get lost, depending on which day I come upon them.

Here’s a stanza of the poem I had to come home and google around to find. It’s from “The Consent” by Howard Nemerov.

Late in November, on a single night
Not even near to freezing, the ginkgo trees
That stand along the walk drop all their leaves
In one consent, and neither to rain nor to wind
But as though to time alone: the golden and green
Leaves litter the lawn today, that yesterday
Had spread aloft their fluttering fans of light.

golden ginkgo leaves on the ground

Fallen ginkgo leaves.

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For Terence

scared sad face

For Terence

It’s like some evil game
nightmare edition
of Simon says

Why do so many people
who look like me
comb over the footage,
looking for a misstep?

The questions begin,
cloaked in willful blindness
the cloak victim-blaming
always wears:
“Yeah but–was he
fully complying?
Why didn’t he
comply exactly?”

The wrong questions,
and again,
world without end

Just ask Charles Kinsey
if hands up & unarmed
& lying on your back
on the road
begging for reason
will keep a black man from being
shot if someone decides
he looks like a threat
because he is breathing

Like someone decided
Tamir was a threat,
sitting alone, dreaming
little-boy dreams
that will never come true.

I dream of a world where
people who look like me
will ask vastly different questions,
harder ones,
braver ones,
again and again
until this world ends

And a new world opens
one where police will be expected
to protect and serve
a father of four
car broken down
who has his hands in the air

Where de-escalation
is the absolute expectation

A world where
Terence Crutcher
would still be here
heart beating,

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A poem for my neighbor’s hibiscus

pink hibiscus flower closeup

Hibiscus (aka Rosemallow, Rose of Sharon, Swampmallow)

A poem for my neighbor’s hibicus
Furled for the night,
see? They’re rolled up tight,
like tissue-paper cigars in the moonlight
in the morning they will spin open
I’ll be walking past
I’ll be sucked in, again
will spin with them, six-and-a-half again
ballerina fantasy
fairy dresses for princesses named
Hibiscus, Rosemallow, Swampmallow.
The white one, shining in a sunbeam?
Rose of Sharon, sweet savior of sinners—
This pink one, I’ll call her Roseasharn Joad
bearing what cannot be borne
blooming when heat swells
when dreams evaporate like raindrops
when petals unwind
magic tunnels in time
swallower of bees
and ladybugs
and me.








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Clouds rip open like my heart
bursts – whoosh, closed to wide open
Swoosh: a purple umbrella
floats past; droplets slip, wiggle
mercurial jelly-dots.
We swim in the same pool, this
heavenly, dirty fishbowl.



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On the roof

cat feet on roofI melt with the sun
butter in a warm blue pan
the world spins, molten

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Parallel worlds

foggy night, snowI drift to this place
where water turns to vapor
where the cold night melts

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window view

My view.

Have you ever wanted to be inside and outside at once?
Wished to be there and here?
Missed what you have, while you still have it?
Mourned the lost summer and the looming winter
while outside the leaves
blaze like a bonfire—
the kind of bonfire that makes Ted,
the actuarial guy two houses down,
pace nervously back and forth
past your place,
cellphone in hand, ready to call 911
while you are inside at your desk, looking out
at your other self who’s out there
willy-nilly feeding the flames
and how the you scribbling away, pen bleeding
and the you whose face is pinky-red radiant—
how both of you itch for Ted to get lost
and let you get on with this business of longing
that consumes you completely
like the leaves today,
flaring in the five o’clock sun


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Apple Crisp

applesApple Crisp
Start with apples.
The best thing is to pluck them
heavy handful by heavy handful,
from laden trees
on a sunny day
as the bees suck the sweet
from the windfalls at your feet

Otherwise, handpick them at the market –
the farmer’s market,
not the hypermarket.

The apples need to be relaxed, cheerful, tart,
dark red outside and
greeny-white inside
Rather than waxed, mealy and underripe.
Hypermarket apples do not bake well.
They have forgotten the feel of warm air and warm sun
They have been too cold too long
Too cold to let their juices run
in a hot oven mingling with cinnamon
and sugar and melting butter.

Fresh-picked apples and sunshine
Oats and brown sugar,



No and You Cannot


No and You Cannot

Rinsing a dish, I think:
When I grow up, I want to be a poem!
flaring, burning, writhing, flaming, feel my body
shrivel to ash, feel my soul
drift heavenward…

“Ri-dic-u-lous!” the twins chorus
No and You Cannot, that pair
who live in my head, have lived there
my whole life, givers of doubt
little shivers, always with me

They’ve strung hammocks, hung lanterns
sometimes, they sleep
their relentless snoring
rising, falling, sawing—a backdrop like the cicadas
outside in the mulberry tree

I sort knives, forks, spoons, bowls
Snug in my brain, the twins curl, lulled by my clatter
I scrub at some eggy crust and quietly think:
Sweet pumice stone,
Meet beating heart

Grind it down, down
grind it down,  smooth it away…
You Cannot kicks me. No (so dramatic!) screams in her sleep.
My dogged heart keeps on
enduring, enduring, enduring

Can you hear it? Like the cicadas
like the deep breaths of my hopes and my dreams
rising, falling, enduring
enduring, enduring. I’m fifty-two.
And I’ve decided: when I grow up, I want to be a poem.

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