Saturday, December 24, 2011

To the Gods

When did you stop
telling us what we could believe

when did you take that one step
only one
all that

as once you stepped
out of each of the stories
about you one after the other
and out of whatever
we imagined we knew
of you

who were the light
to begin with
and all of the darkness
at the same time
and the voice in them
calling crying
and the enormous answer
neither coming nor going
but too fast to hear

you let us believe
the names for you
whenever we heard them
you let us believe the stories
how death came to be
how the light happened
how the beginnings began
you let us believe
all that

then you let us believe
that we had invented you
and that we no longer
believed in you
and that you were only stories
that we did not believe

you with no
moment for beginning
no place to end
one step above
all that

listen to us
believe in us

--W.S. Merwin

Thursday, November 24, 2011


With the night falling we are saying thank you
We are stopping on the bridge to bow from the railings
We are running out of the glass rooms
With our mouths full of food to look at the sky
And say thank you
We are standing by the water looking out
In different directions

Back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
After funerals we are saying thank you
After the news of the dead
Whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
In a culture up to its chin in shame
Living in the stench it has chosen we are saying thank you

Over telephones we are saying thank you
In doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
Remembering wars and the police at the back door
And the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
In the banks that use us we are saying thank you
With the crooks in office with the rich and fashionable
Unchanged we go on saying thank you thank you

With the animals dying around us
Our lost feelings we are saying thank you
With the forests falling faster than the minutes
Of our lives we are saying thank you
With the words going out like cells of a brain
With the cities growing over us like the earth
We are saying thank you faster and faster
With nobody listening we are saying thank you
We are saying thank you and waving
Dark though it is

- W.S. Merwin

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Seven Of Pentacles

Under a sky the color of pea soup
she is looking at her work growing away there
actively, thickly like grapevines or pole beans
as things grow in the real world, slowly enough.
If you tend them properly, if you mulch, if you water,
if you provide birds that eat insects a home and winter food,
if the sun shines and you pick off caterpillars,
if the praying mantis comes and the ladybugs and the bees,
then the plants flourish, but at their own internal clock.

Connections are made slowly, sometimes they grow underground.
You cannot tell always by looking what is happening.
More than half the tree is spread out in the soil under your feet.
Penetrate quietly as the earthworm that blows no trumpet.
Fight persistently as the creeper that brings down the tree.
Spread like the squash plant that overruns the garden.
Gnaw in the dark and use the sun to make sugar.

Weave real connections, create real nodes, build real houses.
Live a life you can endure: Make love that is loving.
Keep tangling and interweaving and taking more in,
a thicket and bramble wilderness to the outside but to us
interconnected with rabbit runs and burrows and lairs.

Live as if you liked yourself, and it may happen:
reach out, keep reaching out, keep bringing in.
This is how we are going to live for a long time: not always,
for every gardener knows that after the digging, after
the planting,
after the long season of tending and growth, the harvest comes.
- Marge Piercy

Friday, September 16, 2011


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

--Naomi Shihab Nye

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

by Lucille Clifton

won't you celebrate with me

won't you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Long Afternoon Light

Small roads written in sleep in the foothills
how long ago and I believed you were lost
with the bronze then deepening in the light
and the shy moss turning to itself holding
its own brightness above the badger's path
while a single crow sailed west without a sound
we trust without giving it a thought
that we will always see it as we see it
once and that what we know is only
a moment of what is ours and will stay
we believe it as the moment slips away
as lengthening shadows merge in the valley
and a window kindles there like a first star
what we see again comes to us in secret

W.S. Merwin

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

One of the Butterflies

The trouble with pleasure is the timing
it can overtake me without warning
and be gone before I know it is here
it can stand facing me unrecognized
while I am remembering somewhere else
in another age or someone not seen
for years and never to be seen again
in this world and it seems that I cherish
only now a joy I was not aware of
when it was here although it remains
out of reach and will not be caught or named
or called back and if I could make it stay
as I want to it would turn into pain

--W.S. Merwin

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueback cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

- Robert Hayden