My brother was birthed a soft whistle

Although Twin is older by almost an hour—
of course the birth got complicated when it was my turn—
he doesn’t act older. He is years softer than I will ever be.

When we were little, I would come home
with bleeding knuckles and Mami would gasp
and shake me: “¡Muchacha, siempre peleando!
Why can’t you be a lady? Or like your brother?
He never fights. This is not God’s way.”

And Twin’s eyes would meet mine
across the room. I never told her
he didn’t fight because my hands
became fists for him. My hands learned
how to bleed when other kids
tried to make him into a wound.

My brother was birthed a soft whistle:
quiet, barely stirring the air, a gentle sound.
But I was born all the hurricane he needed
to lift—and drop—those that hurt him to the ground.

~ Elizabeth Acevedo, “More about Twin” in The Poet X (HarperTeen, March 6, 2018)

The Poet X, highly recommended.

 


Notes:

  • Elizabeth Acevedo is a Dominican-American poet and author.  Her critically-acclaimed debut novel and NY Times Bestseller, The Poet X, won the 2018 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.
  • Portrait of Elizabeth Acevedo via wbur.com

Remember This

W. S. Merwin, a formidable American poet who for more than 60 years labored under a formidable poetic yoke: the imperative of using language — an inescapably concrete presence on the printed page — to conjure absence, silence and nothingness, died on Friday…He was 91.

“It is as though the voice filters up to the reader like echoes from a very deep well, and yet it strikes his ear with a raw energy,” the poet and critic Laurence Lieberman wrote… He added: “The poems must be read very slowly, since most of their uncanny power is hidden in overtones that must be listened for in silences between lines, and still stranger silences within lines.”

W.S. Merwin, “Black Cherries”:

Late in May as the light lengthens
toward summer the young goldfinches
flutter down through the day for the first time
to find themselves among fallen petals
cradling their day’s colors in the day’s shadows
of the garden beside the old house
after a cold spring with no rain
not a sound comes from the empty village
as I stand eating the black cherries
from the loaded branches above me
saying to myself Remember this

W.S. Merwin, from “To Paula in Late Spring”:

Let me imagine that we will come again
when we want to and it will be spring
we will be no older than we ever were
the worn griefs will have eased like the early cloud
through which the morning slowly comes to itself…
the light will be as it is now in the garden
that we have made here these years together
of our long evenings and astonishment

~ Margalit Fox, from “W.S. Merwin, Poet of Life’s Evanescence, Dies at 91″ (NY Times, March 15, 2019)


Notes:

  • W.S. Merwin Photo by Nancy Carrick Holbert 01/14/1969
  • W.S. Merwin biography
  • The Atlantic Monthly: “The intentions of Merwin’s poetry are as broad as the biosphere yet as intimate as a whisper. He conveys in the sweet simplicity of grounded language a sense of the self where it belongs, floating between heaven, earth, and the underground.

 

 

Lightly Child, Lightly.

A poet is someone
Who can pour Light into a spoon,
Then raise it
To nourish
Your beautiful, parched holy mouth.

~ Hafiz, “Your Beautiful, Parched Holy Mouth” in I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy: Renderings of Hafiz (Penguin, 2006)


Notes:

  • Poem: Thank you Make Believe Boutique. Illustration: bakanohealthy
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

 

Sunday Morning

 

philippe-conquet

Today, at the sacred site of your soul, make peace with your present reflection as you go in search of the body and face you were born with and excavate the many extraordinary faces that have evolved during your many lives…

Embrace the lines that stare back, the parts that sag in the middle or stick out where you think they shouldn’t, the hair that never keeps a curl or never loses it. Invoke the Tibetan poet Saraha’s psalm of praise:

“Here in this body are the sacred rivers; here are the sun and moon as all the pilgrimage places. …I have not encountered another temple as blissful as my own body.”

Sarah Ban Breathnach, from “Our Pilgrimage Places” in Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self

 


Notes: Quote: Thank you Beth @ Alive on all Channels. Photo: Philippe Conquet

Your turn. Go ahead. Light up your particle episode.

  
It is through the individual brain alone that there passes the momentary illumination in which a whole country-side may be transmuted in an instant…Man’s mind, like the expanding universe itself, is engaged in pouring over limitless horizons…The great artist, whether he is a musician, painter, or poet, is known for this absolute unexpectedness.  One does not see, one does not hear, until he speaks to us out of that limitless creativity which is his gift.

The flash of lightning in a single brain also flickers along the horizon of our more ordinary heads. Without that single lightning stroke in a solitary mind, however, the rest of us would never have known the fairyland of The Tempest, the midnight world of Dostoevsky, or the blackbirds on the yellow harvest fields of Van Gogh. We would have seen the blackbirds and endured the depravity of our own hearts, but it would not be the same landscape that the act of genius transformed. The world without Shakespeare’s insights is a lesser world, our griefs shut more inarticulately in upon themselves. We grow mute at the thought – just as an element seems to disappear from sunlight without Van Gogh. Yet these creations we might call particle episodes in the human universe – acts without precedent, a kind of disobedience of normality, unprophesiable by science, unduplicable by other individuals on demand. They are part of that unpredictable newness which keeps the universe from being fully explored by man.

Loren Eiseley, “Strangeness in the Proportion” from The Night Country


Image: eikadan

What a gift: being able to disappear without going anywhere at all.

Jones-Saeed-headshot

The process of writing poems felt like a reprieve. Concentrating so intensely on one word and then another and another took me away; so far away, in fact, that sometimes after I finished a poem, I’d sit up at my desk, a bit dizzy. It’d been a blur. What a gift: being able to disappear without going anywhere at all.

~ Saeed Jones, A Poet’s Boyhood at the Burning Crossroads


Saeed Jones was born in Memphis, TN and raised in Lewisville, Texas. He received his MFA in Creative Writing at Rutgers University – Newark. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Western Kentucky University where he won the Jim Wayne Miller Award for Poetry. Recently, his poems “Body & Kentucky Bourbon” and “After the First Shot” were nominated for Pushcart Prizes. His chapbook When the Only Light is Fire is available from Sibling Rivalry Press. He has studied with writers like Tom Hunley, Dale Rigby, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Rachel Hadas, and Tayari Jones. He currently lives and writes in New York City. (Source: For Southern Boy Who Consider Poetry)


Notes: photo credit.  Quote – Boston Poetry Slam

I find them evenly lit

mark-strand12

NY Times: Mark Strand, 80, Dies; Pulitzer-Winning Poet Laureate:

Mark Strand, whose spare, deceptively simple investigations of rootlessness, alienation and the ineffable strangeness of life made him one of America’s most hauntingly meditative poets, died on Saturday at his daughter’s home in Brooklyn. He was 80. Mr. Strand, who was named poet laureate of the United States in 1990 and awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1999 for his collection “Blizzard of One,” made an early impression with short, often surreal lyric poems that imparted an unsettling sense of personal dislocation — what the poet and critic Richard Howard called “the working of the divided self.”…“He is not a religious poet on the face of it, but he fits into a long tradition of meditation and contemplation,” said David Kirby…He makes you see how trivial the things of this world are, and how expansive the self is, once you unhook it from flat-screen TVs and iPhones.” Reading Mr. Strand, he said, “We learn what a big party solitude is.”…To critics who complained that his poems, with their emphasis on death, despair and dissolution, were too dark, he replied, “I find them evenly lit.”

He has too many favorite poems to share…so I have shared links to short excerpts, morsels, to enable you to feel the genius of this man.

  • Luminism: “And though it was brief, and slight, and nothing / To have been held onto so long, I remember it…”
  • Black Maps: “…A scar remembers the wound.” 
  • The Guardian: Why do I love what fades?”
  • The Triumph of the Infinite“All I could hear was my heart pumping and pumping.”
  • The Coming of Light: “..Even this late it happens: the coming of love, the coming of light.”
  • Dark Harbor: “…Sending up stars of salt, loud clouds of spume.”
  • The Continuous Life: “…You are slipping away with nothing completed, nothing / To prove you existed.”
  • Not Dying: “…On windless summer nights I feel those kisses…”
  • Sleeping With One Eye Open: “…We all have reasons for moving. I move to keep things whole.”
  • Lines for Winter: “…Tell yourself in that final flowing of cold through your limbs that you love what you are.” 
  • The Remains: “…The hours have done their job. I say my own name. I say goodbye.”

Credits: Photo – jrbenjamin.com

In his house slippers dancing alone in his bedroom, humming step over step

paul celan

“In his youth, he worked in a factory, though everyone said he looked more like a professor of classical languages than a factory worker. He walked to work as if moving under water. He was a beautiful man with a slender body which moved in a mixture of grace and sharp geometrical precision. His face had an imprint of laugher on it, as if no other emotion ever touched his skin. Even in his fifties, the nineteen-year-old girls winked at him in trains or trolley-busses, asking for his phone number. Seven years after his death, I saw Celan in his house slippers dancing alone in his bedroom, humming step over step. He did not mind being a character in my stories in a language he never learned. That night, I saw him sitting on a rooftop, searching for Venus, reciting Brodsky to himself. He asked if his past existed at all.”

— Ilya Kaminsky on Paul Celan in “Traveling Musicians”


Paul Celan (1920 – 1970) was a Romanian poet and translator becoming one of the major German-language poets of the post-World War II era.

Poet Ilya Kaminsky was born in the former Soviet Union city of Odessa. He lost most of his hearing at the age of four after a doctor misdiagnosed mumps as a cold, and his family was granted political asylum by the United States in 1993, settling in Rochester, New York. After his father’s death in 1994, Kaminsky began to write poems in English: “I chose English because no one in my family or friends knew it—no one I spoke to could read what I wrote. I myself did not know the language. It was a parallel reality, an insanely beautiful freedom. It still is.”


Image Credit. Quote Credit: ounu via Schonwieder. Bios: Wiki and Poetry Foundation.


As though it said to man, “Behold my work. And yours.”

victor-hugo

“Nature is pitiless; she never withdraws her flowers, her music, her fragrance and her sunlight, from before human cruelty or suffering. She overwhelms man by the contrast between divine beauty and social hideousness. She spares him nothing of her loveliness, neither wing or butterfly, nor song of bird; in the midst of murder, vengeance, barbarism, he must feel himself watched by holy things; he cannot escape the immense reproach of universal nature and the implacable serenity of the sky. The deformity of human laws is forced to exhibit itself naked amidst the dazzling rays of eternal beauty. Man breaks and destroys; man lays waste; man kills; but the summer remains summer; the lily remains the lily; and the star remains the star.

As though it said to man, ‘Behold my work. And yours.”

~ Victor Hugo (1802-1885)
 

Victor Marie Hugo was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist. He is considered one of the greatest and best known French writers. In France, Hugo’s literary fame comes first from his poetry but also rests upon his novels and his dramatic achievements. Outside France, his best-known works are the novels Les Misérables, 1862, and Notre-Dame de Paris, 1831 (known in English as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame). He was not only revered as a towering figure in literature, he was a statesman who shaped democracy in France writing and supporting the major political, social and artistic causes at the time.  Hugo’s wish was to be buried in a pauper’s coffin. While this wish was granted, he was nevertheless, on his death in 1885, voted a National Funeral and was buried as a national hero in the Panthéon. It is estimated that at least two million people followed the funeral procession.

Hugo left five sentences as his last will to be officially published :

« Je donne cinquante mille francs aux pauvres.
Je veux être enterré dans leur corbillard.
Je refuse l’oraison de toutes les Eglises.
Je demande une prière à toutes les âmes.
Je crois en Dieu. »
(“I leave 50 000 francs to the poor.
I want to be buried in their hearse.
I refuse [funeral] orations of all churches.
I beg a prayer to all souls.
I believe in God.”)

Credits: Quote – Thank you Soul Proprietor. Image Credit. Hugo bio: Wiki.

Laugh, and the world laughs with you


The poem “Solitude” was written in 1983 by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, an American Author and poet (1850-1919). It was her most enduring work. The inspiration for the poem came as she was traveling to attend the Governor’s inaugural ball in Madison, Wisconsin. On her way to the celebration, there was a young woman dressed in black sitting across the aisle from her. The woman was crying. Miss Wheeler sat next to her and sought to comfort her for the rest of the journey. When they arrived, the poet was so depressed that she could barely attend the scheduled festivities. As she looked at her own radiant face in the mirror, she suddenly recalled the sorrowful widow. It was at that moment that she wrote the opening lines of “Solitude“: [Read more…]

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