A poem to remember yourself…

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Do you need a poem to remember who you are today? Who you might be?

There But For The Grace

It could have happened.
It had to happen.
It happened sooner. Later.
Nearer. Farther.

It happened not to you.
You survived because you were the first.
You survived because you were the last.
Because you were alone. Because of people.
Because you turned left. Because you turned right.
Because rain fell. Because a shadow fell.

Because sunny weather prevailed.

Luckily there was a wood.
Luckily there were no trees.
Luckily there was a rail, a hook, a beam, a brake,
a frame, a bend, a millimeter, a second.

Luckily a straw was floating on the surface.

Thanks to, because, and yet, in spite of.
What would have happened had not a hand, a foot,
a step, a hairsbreadth

by sheer coincidence.

So you’re here? Straight from a moment still ajar?
The net had one eyehole, and you got through it?
There’s no end to my wonder, my silence.

Listen how fast your heart beats in me.

–Wislawa Szymborska

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A poem for the broken….

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Yesterday, I posted on social media that I was looking for a poem about what broken felt like…. I think that Robert Hass has approached one sort of broken.

Faint Music

Maybe you need to write a poem about grace.
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When everything broken is broken,
and everything dead is dead,
and the hero has looked into the mirror with complete contempt,
and the heroine has studied her face and its defects
remorselessly, and the pain they thought might,
as a token of their earnestness, release them from themselves
has lost its novelty and not released them,
and they have begun to think, kindly and distantly,
watching the others go about their days—
likes and dislikes, reasons, habits, fears—
that self-love is the one weedy stalk
of every human blossoming, and understood,
therefore, why they had been, all their lives,
in such a fury to defend it, and that no one—
except some almost inconceivable saint in his pool
of poverty and silence—can escape this violent, automatic
life’s companion ever, maybe then, ordinary light,
faint music under things, a hovering like grace appears.
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As in the story a friend told once about the time
he tried to kill himself. His girl had left him.
Bees in the heart, then scorpions, maggots, and then ash.
He climbed onto the jumping girder of the bridge,
the bay side, a blue, lucid afternoon.
And in the salt air he thought about the word “seafood,”
that there was something faintly ridiculous about it.
No one said “landfood.” He thought it was degrading to the rainbow perch
he’d reeled in gleaming from the cliffs, the black rockbass,
scales like polished carbon, in beds of kelp
along the coast—and he realized that the reason for the word
was crabs, or mussels, clams. Otherwise
the restaurants could just put “fish” up on their signs,
and when he woke—he’d slept for hours, curled up
on the girder like a child—the sun was going down
and he felt a little better, and afraid. He put on the jacket
he’d used for a pillow, climbed over the railing
carefully, and drove home to an empty house.
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There was a pair of her lemon yellow panties
hanging on a doorknob. He studied them. Much-washed.
A faint russet in the crotch that made him sick
with rage and grief. He knew more or less
where she was. A flat somewhere on Russian Hill.
They’d have just finished making love. She’d have tears
in her eyes and touch his jawbone gratefully. “God,”
she’d say, “you are so good for me.” Winking lights,
a foggy view downhill toward the harbor and the bay.
“You’re sad,” he’d say. “Yes.” “Thinking about Nick?”
“Yes,” she’d say and cry. “I tried so hard,” sobbing now,
“I really tried so hard.” And then he’d hold her for a while—
Guatemalan weavings from his fieldwork on the wall—
and then they’d fuck again, and she would cry some more,
and go to sleep.
                        And he, he would play that scene
once only, once and a half, and tell himself
that he was going to carry it for a very long time
and that there was nothing he could do
but carry it. He went out onto the porch, and listened
to the forest in the summer dark, madrone bark
cracking and curling as the cold came up.
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It’s not the story though, not the friend
leaning toward you, saying “And then I realized—,”
which is the part of stories one never quite believes.
I had the idea that the world’s so full of pain
it must sometimes make a kind of singing.
And that the sequence helps, as much as order helps—
First an ego, and then pain, and then the singing.
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~Robert Hass

Treasure – Brigit Pegeen Kelly

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I thought that I might start sharing poems again that are treasures to hold during difficult days, or lens to look at the world, or psalms or spells or reminders.

Blessed is the Field

by Brigit Pegeen Kelly

In the late heat the snakeroot and goldenrod run high,

White and gold, the steaming flowers, green and gold,

The acid-bitten leaves….It is good to say first

An invocation. Though the words do not always

Seem to work. Still, one must try. Bow your head.

Cross your arms. Say: Blessed is the day. And the one

Who destroys the day. Blessed is this ring of fire

In which we live….How bitter the burning leaves.

How bitter and sweet. How bitter and sweet the sound

Of the single gold and black insect repeating

Its two lonely notes. The insect’s song both magnifies

The field and casts a shadow over it, the way

A doorbell ringing through an abandoned house

Makes the falling rooms, papered with lilies and roses

And two-headed goats, seem larger and more ghostly.

The high grasses spill their seed. It is hard to know

The right way in or out. But here, you can have

Which flower you like, though there are not many left,

Lady’s thumb in the gravel by the wood’s fringe

And on the shale spit beneath the black walnut that houses

The crow, the peculiar cat’s-paw, sweet everlasting,

Unbearably soft. Do not mind the crow’s bark.

He is fierce and solitary, but he will let us pass,

Patron of the lost and broken-spirited. Behind him

In the quarter ring of sumacs, flagged like circus tents,

The deer I follow, and that even now are watching us,

Sleep at night their restless sleep. I find their droppings

In the morning. And here at my feet is the self-heal,

Humblest of flowers, bloomless but still intact. I ate

Some whole once and did not get well but it may strike

Your fancy. The smell of burning rubber is from

A rabbit carcass the dog dragged into the ravine.

And the smell of lemon is the snakeroot I am crushing

Between my thumb and forefinger….There could be

Beneath this field an underground river full

Of sweet liquid. A dowser might find it with his witching

Wand and his prayers. Some prayers can move

Even the stubborn dirt….Do you hear? The bird

I have never seen is back. Each day at this time

He takes up his ominous clucking, fretting like a baby,

Lonely sweetling. It is hard to know the right way

In or out. But look, the goldenrod is the color

Of beaten skin. Say: Blessed are those who stand still

In their confusion. Blessed is the field as it burns.