poetry


it’s time for something a little lighter: e.e. cummings’s “maggie and molly and milly and may.” i love his playfulness with language.

maggie and molly and milly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles, and

milly discovered a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles: and

may came home with a huge round stone
as small as the world and as big as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

for all those shattered by 2007…the last two sections of H.D.’s “Eros.” May 2008 bring you all the love you could possibly want.

VI
I had thought myself frail,
a petal
with light equal
on leaf and under-leaf.

I had thought myself frail;
a lamp,
shell, ivory or crust of pearl,
about to fall shattered,
with flame spent.
I cried:

“I must perish,
I am deserted in this darkness,
an outcast, desperate,”
such fire rent me with Hesperus,

Then the day broke.

VII
What need of a lamp
when day lightens us,
what need to bind love
when love stands
with such radiant wings over us?

What need—
yet to sing love,
love must first shatter us.

the timing on this is all wrong, since this is, by all rights, a february poem. but i find that the more i miss ruby this christmas the more i miss earl, and this poem was a gift to her from our dear friend and poet km. earl was delivered on the 21st of february, so today i remember her. my big girl. i miss you, sweet child, my first born.

Mid-Winter Grace

In February
the sky is brilliant blue and cold air,
sound travels faster: someone reports a chickadee calling from half a mile away.
Tress, undressed in this season, appear like the inside
of our lungs or a pocket of capillaries.
We belong to this place, our bodies modeled on earth,
or earth on body — who knows?

There is bodily loss and longing here
in the middle of winter,
the glory of a holiday worn off
and spring joy still too far ahead
to grasp: a hand always waving goodbye
but never actually leaving.

Consider, though, the cold air,
how it makes planes and birds rise faster
there’s more lift,
or less pull to earth.
And that sound of another calling out to you,
are you okay? take my hand.
It comes faster in February.

this has long been a favorite poem of mine, but it took on new meaning for me as i tried to recover my sense of myself after earl’s death. and now, missing ruby, i find myself occasionally wishing for someone to bless my forehead and help me love my own spiky spininess. and i know that person can only be me, and that self-blessing will come again with time.

Saint Francis and the Sow (by Galway Kinnell)

The bud
stands for all things,
even those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing,
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as St. Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
to the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of
the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking
and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.