As a way of keeping in contact with friends and family while we were away from home, within our first week, I began sending out daily poems to people through email. The launch was set by a group email from my friend, Michelle Fine, who wrote to current and former friends and family of the CUNY Graduate Center to check in on how we all were doing. I responded to her and her full list with a poem. Since then, the list of "Poetry Friends" has grown and nearly 350 poems and wise words have been delivered. The poetry posting has become an important part of my morning ritual, a very rewarding way of being in contact with others during this very difficult time we are all struggling to get through.
From time to time, I plan to post on this blog selections from the daily emails (I promise, not too many), as a way of keeping a record. Today, I share some very favorite early poems from Mexico.
The darkness lifts, imagine, in your lifetime.
There you are - cased in clean bark you drift
through weaving rushes, fields flooded with cotton.
You are free. The river films with lilies,
shrubs appear, shoots thicken into palm. And now
all fear gives way: the light
looks after you, you feel the waves' goodwill
as arms widen over the water; Love
the key is turned. Extend yourself -
it is the Nile, the sun is shining,
everywhere you turn is luck.
– Louise Glück
In the Morning, Before Anything Bad Happens
The sky is open
all the way.
Workers upright on the line
I know there is a river somewhere,
lit, fragrant, golden mist, all that,
whose irrepressible birds
can’t believe their luck this morning
and every morning.
I let them riot
in my mind a few minutes more
before the news comes.
– Molly Brodak (1980-2020)
In a world of grief and pain,
- Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828)
Goodbye to Tolerance
Genial poets, pink-faced
you have given the world
some choice morsels,
gobbets of language presented
as one presents T-bone steak
and Cherries Jubilee.
I don’t care
if I never taste your fine food again,
neutral fellows, seers of every side.
Tolerance, what crimes
are committed in your name.
And you, good women, bakers of nicest bread,
blood donors. Your crumbs
choke me, I would not want
a drop of your blood in me, it is pumped
by weak hearts, perfect pulses that never
to nightmare reality.
It is my brothers, my sisters,
whose blood spurts out and stops
because you choose to believe it is not your business.
shut their little mouths,
your loaves grow moldy,
a gulf has split
the ground between us,
and you won’t wave, you’re looking
We shan’t meet again--
unless you leap it, leaving
behind you the cherished
worms of your dispassion,
your pallid ironies,
your jovial, murderous,
wry-humored balanced judgment,
leap over, un-
balanced? ... then
how our fanatic tears
would flow and mingle
for joy ...
What Issa Heard
Two hundred years ago Issa heard the morning birds
singing sutras to this suffering world.
I heard them too, this morning, which must mean,
since we will always have a suffering world,
we must also always have a song.
- David Budbill
The World Has Need of You
seems to need us
—Rainer Maria Rilke
I can hardly imagine it
as I walk to the lighthouse, feeling the ancient
prayer of my arms swinging
in counterpoint to my feet.
Here I am, suspended
between the sidewalk and twilight,
the sky dimming so fast it seems alive.
What if you felt the invisible
tug between you and everything?
A boy on a bicycle rides by,
his white shirt open, flaring
behind him like wings.
It’s a hard time to be human. We know too much
and too little. Does the breeze need us?
The cliffs? The gulls?
If you’ve managed to do one good thing,
the ocean doesn’t care.
But when Newton’s apple fell toward the earth,
the earth, ever so slightly, fell
toward the apple.
– Ellen Bass