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I have read Ada Limón’s new collection Bright Dead Things twice now, cover to cover, and still can’t get enough of her beautiful wisdom, her way of making me reconsider the every day.

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“The Great Blue Heron of Dunbar Road”

That we might walk out into the woods together,
and afterwards make toast
in our sock feet, still damp from the fern’s
wet grasp, the spiky needles stuck to our
legs, that’s all I wanted, the dog in the mix,
jam sometimes, but not always. But somehow,
I’ve stopped praising you. How the valley
when you first see it—the small roads back
to your youth—is so painfully pretty at first,
then, after a month of black coffee, it’s just
another place your bullish brain exists, bothered
by itself and how hurtful human life can be.
Isn’t that how it is? You wake up some days
full of crow and shine, and then someone
has put engine coolant in the medicine
on another continent and not even crying
helps cure the idea of purposeful poison.
What kind of woman am I? What kind of man?
I’m thinking of the way my stepdad got sober,
how he never told us, just stopped drinking
and sat for a long time in the low folding chair
on the Bermuda grass reading and sometimes
soaking up the sun like he was the story’s only
subject. When he drove me to school, we decided
it would be a good day, if we saw the blue heron
in the algae-covered pond next to the road,
so that if we didn’t see it, I’d be upset. Then,
he began to lie. To tell me he’d seen it when
he hadn’t, or to suppose that it had just
taken off when we rounded the corner in
the gray car that somehow still ran, and I
would lie, too, for him. I’d say I saw it.
Heard the whoosh of wings over us.
That’s the real truth. What we told each other
to help us through the day: the great blue heron
was there, even when the pond dried up,
or froze over; it was there because it had to be.
Just now, I felt like I wanted to be alone
for a long time, in a folding chair on the lawn
with all my private agonies, but then I saw you
and the way you’re hunching over your work
like a puzzle, and I think even if I fail at everything,
I still want to point out the heron like I was taught,
still want to slow the car down to see the thing
that makes it all better, the invisible gift,
what we see when we stare long enough into nothing.

Started 2016 off with a towering stack of contemporary poetry, at the top of which is Boy with Thorn, a gorgeous and gut-wrenching collection by Rickey Laurentiis (1989-). I strongly recommend adding this book to your pile of reading material, too.

rickey-laurentiis

 

“A Southern Wind”

Quiet as a seed, and as guarded,
our walking took the shape of two people
uneasy together. I had the feeling
that on the anxious incline of that hill we gave the hill
a reason to be. What loneliness, what
privacy was in that? Hey, I said. Race me to the top?
Then is when I nearly tripped on the sly earth,
an earth shaping to itself again. A stone?
But, no, picking it up, bringing the wormed-through
black flesh of it to my height, I knew it for
an apple and gnashed and let the juices freak and down
my face. Don’t ask me why I did it. I know.
I know there are poisons like these we have
to feed each other, promises we try to hold–
though how can they be contained? I wanted to give you
what I could of me. To be personal, without
confession. I wanted to believe in the constancy of that hill.
Daylight was tiring. The air, secret, alone.
I won, you said. You did, I said. So we stood there.

“Poetry is a necessity of life… It is a function of poetry to locate those zones inside us that would be free, and declare them so.” –C.D. Wright

A startling farewell to the great C.D. Wright (1949-2016), who gave us so much to learn.

cd-wright-by-wt-pfefferle

“Everything Good Between Men and Women”

has been written in mud and butter
and barbecue sauce. The walls and
the floors used to be gorgeous.
The socks off-white and a near match.
The quince with fire blight
but we get two pints of jelly
in the end. Long walks strengthen
the back. You with a fever blister
and myself with a sty. Eyes
have we and we are forever prey
to each other’s teeth. The torrents
go over us. Thunder has not harmed
anyone we know. The river coursing
through us is dirty and deep. The left
hand protects the rhythm. Watch
your head. No fires should be
unattended. Especially when wind. Each
receives a free swiss army knife.
The first few tongues are clearly
preparatory. The impression
made by yours I carry to my grave. It is
just so sad so creepy so beautiful.
Bless it. We have so little time
to learn, so much… The river
courses dirty and deep. Cover the lettuce.
Call it a night. O soul. Flow on. Instead.

Today I turn to the prominent, prolific, and deeply profound Turkish poet Fazıl Hüsnü Dağlarca (1914-2008) as I try to come to terms with this past year, with this perpetually broken and beautiful world.

 

fazilh

 

“Earth Love”

We severed continents and divided countries:
Seeing the state we’re in, poplars were aghast.
Although the earth unfurled its golden feast
Where our hands were joined by bread and salt:
Brother, we failed to understand.

Nights made us all the same until dawn
As they drifted over our beds.
There we were, more foolish than frogs.
While leaves on the pond told the unity of time,
You lived apart and I lived apart.

What evil magic strangles our fate:
For ages our thoughts remain fast asleep?
What mystery is this, white and not white?
We love one another’s trinkets and beads,
And not one another’s land.

translated by Talât Sait Halman in Defense Against the Night

Thinking of–and aching for–others around the world as I read and re-read these words by the magnificent Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (1942-2008).

mahmouddarwish

“Think of Others”

As you prepare your breakfast, think of others
(do not forget the pigeon’s food).
As you wage your wars, think of others
(do not forget those who seek peace).
As you pay your water bill, think of others
(those who are nursed by clouds).
As you return home, to your home, think of others
(do not forget the people of the camps).
As you sleep and count the stars, think of others
(those who have nowhere to sleep).
As you express yourself in metaphor, think of others
(those who have lost the right to speak).
As you think of others far away, think of yourself
(say: If only I were a candle in the dark).

Farewell to the prolific and passionate C.K. Williams (1936-2015).
 111110ckwilliams-crop-article250-medium1
“Clay out of Silence”

chances are we will sink quietly back
into oblivion without a ripple
we will go back into the face
down through the mortars as though it hadn’t happened

earth: I’ll remember you
you were the mother you made pain
I’ll grind my thorax against you for the last time
and put my hand on you again to comfort you

sky: could we forget?
we were the same as you were
we couldn’t wait to get back sleeping
we’d have done anything to be sleeping

and trees angels for being thrust up here
and stones for cracking in my bare hands
because you foreknew
there was no vengeance for being here

when we were flesh we were eaten
when we were metal we were burned back
there was no death anywhere but now
when we were men when we became it

Farewell to another great poet, Franz Wright (1953-2015). I posted this one several years ago and it still haunts me. If you have an extra moment, here’s another of his affecting works that I put on this blog last year.

P.S.

I close my eyes and see

a seagull in the desert,
high, against unbearably blue sky.

There is hope in the past.

I am writing to you
all the time, I am writing

with both hands,
day and night.

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