Friday, December 06, 2019

Poetry Friday: Wild Gratitude, by Edward Hirsch

I am wildly grateful for Poetry Friday and for the marvelous people it has brought and continues to bring into my life.

Our fearless hostess, Tanita Davis (along with the Poetry Sisters), is focusing on gratitude. Tanita says:

Gratitude is the theme the Poetry Sisters chose this month for our original poems. It’s kind of a low-key challenge for those of us who are in the teeth of exams and end-of-year work emergencies, or who, like me, are preparing for the slog of holiday concerts and staying upright and healthy until the final notes are sung. At this point, we’re grateful for small things, like a full night’s sleep, an unexpected packet of tissues in a cardigan pocket, or the umbrella behind the driver’s seat, and not in the trunk.

One of my dearest friends is a singer, too (can't wait for her concert next week) so the "just staying upright and healthy" bit struck a chord, making me think of her. Then I thought of how grateful I am for her friendship. How grateful I am for so many people who keep me upright and sane.

Tanita's post, her original poem this week, and the Carl Denis poem she shared all fueled my own December gratitude, which I'm trying to focus on more deliberately this year. It can be a beautiful, hard time of year for me. (Every year is different. Why must every year be different? Because change is the only constant.) I love Advent, adore all the preparations for Christmas, but things are never quite as quiet and peaceful as I dream they will be. Just as I always have a skewed vision of summer and its feel but eventually realize that "our days unfold with a lovely balance of planning and coasting," I am open to the unexpectedness of Advent this year, to the deeper ponderings that accompany the whimsy of chocolate coins on St. Nicholas morn. As the short, dark days can fuel the anxiety I battle off and on (hello, light therapy lamps!), I am also grateful for the reminder that darkness will always be swept away by light with every new day.

Last summer, after reading my post about my off-kilter expectations for a perfect summer, my friend the singer said, "Do you think we're just longing for Heaven?"

Yes. And one of the best ways to ponder the thing we long for is to say, over and over again, "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."

Wild Gratitude
by Edward Hirsch

Tonight when I knelt down next to our cat, Zooey,
And put my fingers into her clean cat’s mouth,
And rubbed her swollen belly that will never know kittens,
And watched her wriggle onto her side, pawing the air,
And listened to her solemn little squeals of delight,
I was thinking about the poet, Christopher Smart,
Who wanted to kneel down and pray without ceasing
In every one of the splintered London streets,

(Read the poem in its gorgeous entirety here, at Edward Hirsch's website.)


Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving

Today I am grateful for unexplained and unexpected beauty. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Poetry Friday: One Last Ode to November

Next week I'll be absent, busy with turkey and family and endless gratitude, so this week I'm sending you to read William H. Simpson's "November."

It's only eight lines so — copyrightly speaking — I don't think I have the right to copy any of it here. Just trust me and pop over to The Poetry Foundation.

Don't the last two lines succinctly sum up how we all make it through winter?

Now, go and enjoy all the other poetic goodness of Poetry Friday. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

A quick life lesson (talking to myself)

This morning, just after I got up, I took the dog out, which I do every day. It was dark, because, well, it's November and it was 6 a.m., so.... I was gazing at the stars, drawing lines from the Big Dipper to the North Star to Cassiopeia. Marveling over those stars, really, and pondering the books I'm reading, a book I'm writing, and just generally enjoying the crisp and the morning cold.

Then I realized I'd lost track of the dog. The yard is fenced, so I knew she wasn't lost. It was more about where-had-she-gone-and-how-long-was-she-going-to-take-because-she-certainly-doesn't-always-come-when-I-call-her-and-I-do-need-to-go-in-and-get-this-day-started. I squinted out at the yard. Was she was behind the shed? Investigating bunny homes around the bare lilac bushes? Where are you, doggo? I thought; the annoyance began to creep in. I sighed and shook my head. Here we go, I thought. Who knows how long she'll take?

Then I happened to glance around behind me and there was Doggo, already sitting on the back porch step, waiting for me, patiently ready and waiting to head inside.

And I was annoyed with my own annoyance. Why do I have to learn so many life lessons again and again?

Pay attention to the beauty, and the mundane will take care of itself.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Poetry Friday: Maggie Dietz

Another November poem!

I love these lines from Maggie Dietz, wondering if she loved October well enough. I, too, always wonder with the passing of each season if I did it justice, counted my blessings, knew what I had while it was right in front of me.

by Maggie Dietz

Show's over, folks. And didn't October do
A bang-up job? Crisp breezes, full-throated cries
Of migrating geese, low-floating coral moon.

Nothing left but fool's gold in the trees.
Did I love it enough, the full-throttle foliage,
While it lasted? Was I dazzled?

(Read the whole poem here, at The Poetry Foundation.)


Friday, November 08, 2019

Poetry Friday: November Night

Did I say I was finished with fall poems? 
I lied. 

November Night
Adelaide Crapsey 

Listen. . .
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees
And fall.

(This poem is in the public domain.)


Thursday, October 24, 2019

Poetry Friday: I'm Hosting!

This will perhaps be my last ode to autumn.

Or, perhaps not.

I may sing this song into November, as I'm reveling in the glorious golden days we've been having. When our weather is still gorgeous in late October, I think of it, as Helen Hunt Jackson does in this poem, as "one sweet, mad, last hour" and am thankful for days such as these — crisp, crackling, a gift.

Helen Hunt Jackson

Bending above the spicy woods which blaze,
Arch skies so blue they flash, and hold the sun
Immeasurably far; the waters run
Too slow, so freighted are the river-ways
With gold of elms and birches from the maze
Of forests. Chestnuts, clicking one by one,
Escape from satin burs; her fringes done,
The gentian spreads them out in sunny days,
And, like late revelers at dawn, the chance
Of one sweet, mad, last hour, all things assail,
And conquering, flush and spin; while, to enhance
The spell, by sunset door, wrapped in a veil
Of red and purple mists, the summer, pale,
Steals back alone for one more song and dance.

(This poem is in the public domain.)


I'm hosting today!

Leave your links with Mr. Linky, our ever-helpful Poetry Friday assistant. 

Friday, October 18, 2019

Poetry Friday: Mary Oliver's "Song for Autumn"

I can't get off this autumn poetry kick. But why would I want to? Autumn is truly, madly, deeply one of my favorite times of the year.

This poem, by Mary Oliver, has me thinking about what else the leaves might be dreaming of, the trees longing for, and what other whisperings are being exchanged, just out of earshot?

And then be sure to check out all the Poetry Friday goodness at Jama's Alphabet Soup.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Happy Feast of the Inimitable St. Teresa of Avila

Some words from St. Teresa of Avila that I've returned to often:

"Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die; that you have only one life ... If you do this, there will be many things about which you care nothing."

And, of course:

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

And, of course, of course, I love the story of Teresa questioning God's wisdom during a supremely annoying trial and reportedly receiving the reply, "You are my friend. This is how I treat all of my friends." To which Teresa replied, "If this is how you treat your friends, it is not surprising that you have so few of them!"

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Poetry Friday: Sending you elsewhere

I've been swamped! Between teaching The Writer's Jungle Online over at Brave Writer, and several other freelance projects (things rise and converge, and always at the same time) I've had a full plate.

I didn't get to Poetry Friday yesterday, but loads of others did. Check out their postings at Reading to the Core.

Friday, October 04, 2019

Poetry Friday: G.M. Hopkins and (the usual suspect) a Gatsby quote

In my usual  melancholy, stop-the-party-I-want-to-get-off   happy-go-lucky way, I'm sharing a Gerard Manley Hopkins heartbreaker.

Aren't I fun in the fall?

But, just in case an existential crisis isn't your thing this morning, I have another beloved autumn offering, a quote I feel compelled to share nearly every, single year:

"What'll we do with ourselves this afternoon?" cried Daisy, "and the day after that, and the next thirty years?"
"Don't be morbid," Jordan said. "Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall."
                                                ~~ The Great Gatsby 

I tend to bounce back and forth between mourning for Margaret and rejoicing in the crispness. How about you?


For this week's round-up, get thee immediately to Library Matters


Spring and Fall
to a young child

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Poetry Friday: Autumn, by Alice Cary

I love the way Alice Cary's "Autumn" captures so much of what I've been feeling and thinking of late about the approaching season. Just a few nights ago, I took the dog outside around 8 p.m. and was suddenly struck by the dimness of evening. "Hey," I felt the need to call out to anyone and everyone, "have you noticed how much shorter the days are getting already?" Of course, everyone had noticed. ("Shorter and shorter now the twilight clips the days....")

Yesterday was languidly warm — in the upper 80s! — and humid. I could almost convince myself that the day would stretch out, push itself past nine p.m., but alas ... ("Save when by fits the warmer air deceives....")

This week, each of us, in turn, made mention of the crickets that have moved into the garage.
("The robin.../Has given place to the brown cricket now.")

Linger then, over the loveliness of this poem, and Alice Cary's erstwhile but evergreen observations about the slow fade that is summer bowing out, making room for autumn.

by Alice Cary

Shorter and shorter now the twilight clips
The days, as though the sunset gates they crowd,
And Summer from her golden collar slips
And strays through stubble-fields, and moans aloud,

Save when by fits the warmer air deceives,
And, stealing hopeful to some sheltered bower,
She lies on pillows of the yellow leaves,
And tries the old tunes over for an hour.

(Read the whole thing here, at the Poetry Foundation.)


The always lovely and wonderful Linda Baie has the roundup this week at TeacherDance

Friday, September 13, 2019

Poetry Friday: "Maybe if we reinvent whatever our lives give us...."

Here's a new-to-me poem from Naomi Shihab Nye. It's short; do click through and read the whole thing because it's delicious.

I think my favorite line (although it's always a challenge to pick a favorite line from one of her poems) is:

Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us
we find poems.


As one who has re-invented the unexpected, labyrinthine ways of her life, I say again: Yes.

Valentine for Ernest Mann
Naomi Shihab Nye

You can’t order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to the counter, say, “I’ll take two”

(Read the whole thing here, at


She's also hosting a giveaway of her new book, Snack, Snooze, Skedaddle! Check out the details in her post today.


Thursday, September 05, 2019

Poetry Friday: Our *Last* First Day of School

Although Ramona started French class as an early-enrollment student at the college a couple of weeks ago, I have always waited to "officially" start our homeschool after Labor Day and this year is no different.

Well, one thing is different.

Today is the last first-day-of-school for Ramona and me. My last first-day-of-homeschooling forever. She's a senior this year. (Whaaaat?) We have thoughts and plans and aspirations for this year, of course. And we'll tackle them fiercely, knowing all the while that we have no idea what this year actually holds.

Have we ever known what a year holds, before that year takes hold of us? Not really. Life has an annoying funhouse quality, with unexpected twists and surprises around heretofore unseen and unconsidered corners. I love the way this poem by Henrietta Cordelia Ray captures the breathless, naive, but utterly lovable optimism of being human while acknowledging the as-yet unknown shadows and gloom that will inevitably color and shape every life. And yet we soldier on and continue to "climb the slopes of life with throbbing heart."

Here's to a school year propelled by an eager pulse, rich song, and eyes wide-stretched. We cannot repine, Henrietta. No, we cannot repine.

Henrietta Cordelia Ray

We climb the slopes of life with throbbing heart,
And eager pulse, like children toward a star.
Sweet siren music cometh from afar,
To lure us on meanwhile. Responsive start
The nightingales to richer song than Art
Can ever teach. No passing shadows mar
Awhile the dewy skies; no inner jar
Of conflict bids us with our quest to part.
We see adown the distance, rainbow-arched,
What melting aisles of liquid light and bloom!
We hasten, tremulous, with lips all parched,
And eyes wide-stretched, nor dream of coming gloom.
Enough that something held almost divine
Within us ever stirs. Can we repine?



(Photo courtesy of Barbara A. Lane at Pixabay.) 

Friday, August 30, 2019

Poetry Friday: Indeed, why?

I've taken oodles of time off from the blog this summer but now I'm looking forward to the "second new year" of September and all of its cool, delicious promise.

I've been feeling enormously grateful lately. So many gifts: my family, my work, my friends, dark chocolate, open windows. Time, then, to rerun this little bit of perfection from Chesterton:

by G.K. Chesterton

Here dies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands
And the great world round me;
And with tomorrow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?