my birthday present

my birthday present
My awesome birthday present 1/26/11 (see story under my first post)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Window

Now and then I have an experience that peels back the everyday gray to reveal a smidgen of hope. As in this poem, reality inevitably returns, but I take comfort in feeling I am one step closer to enlightenment.

The Window

By Raymond Carver
A storm blew in last night and knocked out
the electricity. When I looked
through the window, the trees were translucent.
Bent and covered with rime. A vast calm
lay over the countryside.
I knew better. But at that moment
I felt I’d never in my life made any
false promises, nor committed
so much as one indecent act. My thoughts
were virtuous. Later on that morning,
of course, electricity was restored.
The sun moved from behind the clouds,
melting the hoarfrost.
And things stood as they had before.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Life Lessons

Rules for Being Human
1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it’s yours to keep for the entire period.
2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called, “life.”
3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial, error, and experimentation. The”failed” experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiments that ultimately “work.”
4. Lessons are repeated until they are learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can go on to the next lesson.
5. Learning lessons does not end. There’s no part of life that doesn’t contain its lessons. If you’re alive, that means there are still lessons to be learned.
6. “There” is no better a place than “here.” When your “there” has become a “here”, you will simply obtain another “there” that will again look better than “here.”
7. Other people are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself.
8. What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.
9. Your answers lie within you. The answers to life’s questions lie within you. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.
10. You will forget all this.

- See more at:

I'm not sure who wrote this, but I did note the source where I found it. I like this philosophy.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

I have often felt so blessed and fortunate to live this life I've been given. When I look around and see the suffering and trauma in the world I sometimes feel guilty. This poem addresses that. And it reminds me to continue to find beauty and gratitude in the ordinary, which makes all the suffering bearable.

A Brief for the Defense
Jack Gilbert

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered caf├ęs and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

From REFUSING HEAVEN (Knopf, 2005) 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Casting Out the Seven Devils.

Before you click on the link below, in which Marie Howe speaks her poem, Magdalene, read it through  to yourself. Although I felt confused on my initial reading, part of me understood and I felt connected. Hearing her read the poem is powerful proof that poetry needs to be read out loud. I will make a comment below the post explaining how the poem affected me. 

Magdalene – The Seven Devils

Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven devils had been cast out" —Luke 8:2.
The first was that I was very busy.
The second — I was different from you: whatever happened to you couldnot happen to me, not like that.
The third — I worried.
The fourth — envy, disguised as compassion.
The fifth was that I refused to consider the quality of life of the aphid,
The aphid disgusted me. But I couldn't stop thinking about it.
The mosquito too — its face. And the ant — its bifurcated body.
Ok the first was that I was so busy.
The second that I might make the wrong choice,
because I had decided to take that plane that day,
that flight, before noon, so as to arrive early
and, I shouldn't have wanted that.
The third was that if I walked past the certain place on the street
the house would blow up.
The fourth was that I was made of guts and blood with a thin layer
of skin lightly thrown over the whole thing.
The fifth was that the dead seemed more alive to me than the living
The sixth — if I touched my right arm I had to touch my left arm, and if I
touched the left arm a little harder than I'd first touched the right then I
to retouch the left and then touch the right again so it would be even.
The seventh — I knew I was breathing the expelled breath of everything that
was alive and I couldn't stand it,
I wanted a sieve, a mask, a, I hate this word — cheesecloth —
to breath through that would trap it — whatever was inside everyone else that
entered me when I breathed in
No. That was the first one.
The second was that I was so busy. I had no time. How had this happened?
How had our lives gotten like this?
The third was that I couldn't eat food if I really saw it — distinct, separate
from me in a bowl or on a plate.
Ok. The first was that I could never get to the end of the list.
The second was that the laundry was never finally done.
The third was that no one knew me, although they thought they did.
And that if people thought of me as little as I thought of them then what was
The fourth was I didn't belong to anyone. I wouldn't allow myself to belong
to anyone.
The fifth was that I knew none of us could ever know what we didn't know.
The sixth was that I projected onto others what I myself was feeling.
The seventh was the way my mother looked when she was dying—her mouth wrenched into an O so as to take in as much air…The sound she made — the gurgling sound — so loud we had to speak louder to hear each other over it.
And that I couldn't stop hearing it—years later—
grocery shopping, crossing the street —
No, not the sound — it was her body's hunger
finally evident.
—what our mother had hidden all her life.
For months I dreamt of knucklebones and roots,
the slabs of sidewalk pushed up like crooked teeth by what grew underneath.
The underneath —that was the first devil.
It was always with me.
And that I didn't think you — if I told you — would understand any of this —
Copyright © 2008 by Marie Howe. 

You can hear Krista Tippet interview this poet on this podcast site. I found it fascinating.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Feeding the Fire

if what you do and how you live does not feed the fire
in your heart and blossom into poems,
leave, quit, do not turn back,

I have been thinking about this, not just for my life, but for those who surround me, who, like me, are running out of time. Those like me, who keep waiting for the right time to get assertive and make choices to improve their life. Today is the day, now is the time. Baca tells us this with a great deal of passion. A long poem, but well worth the time to take it in.  A link at the bottome takes you to a page introducing you to this incredible Native American writer.Enjoy.


Jimmy Santiago Baca

If it does not feed the fire
of your creativity, then leave it.
If people and things do not
inspire your heart to dream,
then leave them.
If you are not crazily in love
and making a stupid fool of yourself,
then step closer to the edge
of your heart and climb
where you've been forbidden to go.
Debts, accusations, assaults by enemies
mean nothing,
go where the fire feeds you.
Turn your attention to the magic of whores,
grief, addicts and drunks, until you stumble upon
that shining halo surrounding your heart
that will allow you to violate every fear happily,
be where you're not supposed to be,
the love of an angel who's caught your blood on fire
again, who's gulped all of you in one breath
to mix in her soul, to explode your brooding
and again, your words rush from the stones
like a river coursing down
from some motherly mountain source,
and if your life doesn't spill forth
unabashedly, recklessly, randomly
rushing in wonder at life,
then change, leave, quit, silence the idle chatter
and do away with useless acquaintances
who have forgotten how to dream,
bitch rudely in your dark mood at the mediocrity
of scholars who meddle in whimsy for academic trifles—
let you be their object of scorn,
let you be their object of mockery,
let you be their chilling symbol
of what they never had the courage to do, to complete, to follow,
let you be the flaming faith that makes them shield their eyes
as you burn from all sides,
taking a harmless topic and making of it a burning galaxy
or shooting stars in the dark of their souls,
illuminating your sadness, your aching joy for life,
your famished insistence for God and all that is creative
to attend you as a witness to your struggle,
let the useless banter and quick pleasures
belong to others, the merchants, computer analysts
and government workers;
        you haven't been afraid
        of rapture among thieves,
        bloody duels in drunken brawls,
        denying yourself
        the essence of your soul work
        as poems rusted while you scratched
        at your heart to see if it was a diamond
        and not cheap pane glass,
now, then, after returning from one more poet's journey
in the heart of the bear, the teeth of the wolf,
the legs of the wild horse,
sense what your experience tells you,
your ears ringing with deception and lies and foul tastes,
now that your memory is riddled with blank loss,
tyrants who wielded their boastful threats
to the sleeping dogs and old trees in the yards,
now that you've returned from men and women
who've abandoned their dreams and sit around
like corpses in the grave moldering with regret,
steady your heart now, my friend, with fortitude
long-lasting enduring hope, and hail the early dawn
like a ship off coast that's come for you,
spent and ragged and beggared,
if what you do and how you live does not feed the fire
in your heart and blossom into poems,
leave, quit, do not turn back,
move fast away from that which would mold your gift,
break it, disrespect it, kill it.
Guard it, nurture it, take your full-flung honorable
heart and plunge it into the fire
into the stars, into the trees, into the hearts of others
sorrow and love and restore the dream
by writing of its again-discovered wild beauty.

from Healing Earthquakes, Book V, "Rebirth"
for more poems by Baca:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Mary Bragg, whose poems I have had the pleasure of posting in the past, responded to the poetry on silence with one of her own. She had written it before she read my post, which is all the more serendipitous. (Hope that is a real word). In any case, I like Mary's best. She captures the multiplicidous (now that word I did make up, which is rather fun)  meaning of silence in her poem in a way even Billy Collins did not. Thanks for sharing Mary! (Make up your own word of the day!)


Silence has multiple personality disorder

stony-faced, opaque, aloof, unyielding

weapon forged from resentment and anger

serene, calm, transparent, still

comfort zone between friends

ear alert to the cosmic beat

timeless mystery concealed in music

meditative dwelling

--Mary Carvell Bragg, rev. 8/14

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Thoughts on Silence

I like to listen to slam poetry on occasion and I thought this one was particularly good. 

Smith portrays silence as a very negative thing. Of course it can be beautiful and necessary too. Billy Collins reminds us of many silences we may never consider. I like the end when silence piles up like snow. 


Billy Collins

There is the sudden silence of the crowd
above a player not moving on the field,
and the silence of the orchid.

The silence of the falling vase
before it strikes the floor,
the silence of the belt when it is not striking the child.

The stillness of the cup and the water in it,
the silence of the moon
and the quiet of the day far from the roar of the sun.

The silence when I hold you to my chest,
the silence of the window above us,
and the silence when you rise and turn away.

And there is the silence of this morning
which I have broken with my pen,
a silence that had piled up all night

like snow falling in the darkness of the house—
the silence before I wrote a word
and the poorer silence now.

Source: Poetry (April 2005).

Monday, August 11, 2014

One Art

Lisa read Still Life with a Balloon,  the post from Sunday,  and was reminded of this poem by Elizabeth Bishop. I believe I posted it earlier, but it is certainly worth revisiting. Perhaps you too will make connections between the two poems.

One Art

Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art” from The Complete Poems 1926-1979.
Copyright © 1979, 1983

Who Can Say?

My cousin Brenda was reading this blog and was reminded of this song by Enya. It is a beautiful song and here is a link to a nice You Tube version with photos. Thanks for sending the lyrics Brenda. It has been years since I heard it.

Who Can Say? link


"Only Time"

Who can say where the road goes
Where the day flows, only time
And who can say if your love grows
As your heart chose, only time

Who can say why your heart sighs
As your love flies, only time
And who can say why your heart cries
When your love lies, only time

Who can say when the roads meet
That love might be in your heart
And who can say when the day sleeps
If the night keeps all your heart
Night keeps all your heart

Who can say if your love grows
As your heart chose
- Only time
And who can say where the road goes
Where the day flows, only time

Who knows? Only time

Sunday, August 10, 2014


Still Life with a Balloon
Wislawa Szymborska

Returning memories?
No, at the time of death
I’d like to see lost objects
return instead.

Avalanches of gloves,
coats, suitcases, umbrellas
come, and I’ll say at last:
what good’s all this?

Safety pins, two odd combs,
a paper rose, a knife,
some string — come, and I’ll say
at last: I haven’t missed you.

Please turn up, key, come out,
wherever you’ve been hiding,
in time for me to say
You’ve gotten rusty, friend!
Downpours of affidavits,
permits and questionnaires,
rain down and I will say:
I see the sun behind you.

My watch, dropped in a river,
bob up and let me seize you —
then, face to face, I’ll say:
Your so-called time is up.

And lastly, toy balloon
once kidnapped by the wind—
come home, and I will say:
there are no children here.

Fly out the open window
and into the wide world;
let someone else shout “Look!”
and I will cry.

We adjust to loss and learn to move on without that which we imagined we could not live without. But once we come to that realization, there is a certain satisfaction in confronting that reality and acknowleding our triumph over loss.  And yet there is a sadness that still remains. That's my take on this poem.

Sunday, August 3, 2014


 I was looking through earlier posts, something I have not done in years. I ran across these two poems I had posted together in April 2011. It is ironic to read these now, having made the decision to end my marriage of 37 years. At that point, I would not have guessed I'd have the courage to make that change. This is why poetry is so valuable to me. The same poem, read years later from a whole new place takes on different meaning. I considered the poems powerful and relevant then, but now these speak volumes to me. If you remember reading them before, do these poems have new meaning for you too?

For a New Beginning

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life's desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

~ John O'Donohue ~

(To Bless the Space Between Us)

The Journey
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.
Mary Oliver

(Dream Work & New and Selected Poems Vol. 1)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

How To Love

How to Love
January Gill O’Neil

After stepping into the world again,
there is that question of how to love,
how to bundle yourself against the frosted morning—
the crunch of icy grass underfoot, the scrape
of cold wipers along the windshield—
and convert time into distance.

What song to sing down an empty road
as you begin your morning commute?
And is there enough in you to see, really see,
the three wild turkeys crossing the street
with their featherless heads and stilt-like legs
in search of a morning meal? Nothing to do
but hunker down, wait for them to safely cross.

As they amble away, you wonder if they want
to be startled back into this world. Maybe you do, too,
waiting for all this to give way to love itself,
to look into the eyes of another and feel something—
the pleasure of a new lover in the unbroken night,
your wings folded around him, on the other side
of this ragged January, as if a long sleep has ended

January Gill O’Neil is the author of Underlife (CavanKerry Press, 2009). She is executive director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival and teaches at Salem State University in Salem, Massachusetts.


I have been away from my blog for nearly a year but I would like to start posting special poems again. Loretta sent this one today that she ran across and it seems appropriate for me to share. My divorce is now final and is no longer a distraction, pulling me away from my love of poetry and this blog. I have been reconnecting with music and have spent several weekends at festivals and with friends playing my dulcimers, guitar and a new ukulele. My spirit is being fed and is pleading for more poetry.  If you have run across some poems you've enjoyed, please send them my way and I will put them up for others to see.

This poem speaks to me in several ways. Aside from the obvious "rebooting" I am experiencing as I leave a marriage of 37 years, there is the irony that I have been seeing wild turkey hens repeatedly the last few weeks, with a few poults scampering to keep up. Have I been "really seeing them?" I don't know, but I do enjoy glimpses of wildlife because it reminds me there is so more to this world than the problems and challenges that consume my days. It helps put things into perspective.

I am not waiting for anything to "give way to love." At least not in a romantic sense. I wouldn't mind learning to love more about life and to love in a deeper way. But for now, I am just enjoying the new found freedom and sense of renewal I am experiencing. Hope the poem is meaningful to you.