It isn’t ever delicate to live.

Dear readers,

I shared this Kay Ryan (1945-) poem in a missive to friends (some of you who are reading this again) earlier this month and wanted to post it here on the last day of 2022. As I wrote in that correspondence, it isn’t ever delicate to live, but it feels especially less-delicate these days, like we keep spinning our intricate webs as forces around us try to pull them down.

For me the only way forward is to think of what helps my inner arachnid build and rebuild, of what keeps the ropes strong, of what posts I can hang onto, of what inspires me to keep spinning the threads despite it all. There is, of course, labor involved, but this is the work that makes the heavy work lighter to bear.

Sharing poems with all of you is definitely one of those buoying, bolstering forces. Thank you for reading what I shared during National Poetry Month this year. I hope the threads of your life are holding up okay, and that in 2023 you find–and create–support and joy in this delicate web we’re all spinning together.

Art by Kristina Closs

Spiderweb 

From other
angles the
fibers look
fragile, but
not from the
spider’s, always
hauling coarse
ropes, hitching
lines to the
best posts
possible. It’s
heavy work
everyplace,
fighting sag,
winching up
give. It
isn’t ever
delicate
to live.

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I long for my mother’s bread

Although I grew up in a home that celebrates mothers daily, I want to take this national day of reflection on motherhood to share both a scene from life with my mother, and one of her favorite poems. This weekend I published an essay in Serious Eats about how my mother’s baking ritual taught me how to love what we create–and when to let go. Amidst all the heartbreaking realities of today’s world, I remain ever grateful for the power of food, and for those who nourish us. I hope you enjoy this bit of prose that snuck into my poetry blog, and some insight into the person posting if you are one of the lovely readers I don’t know!

a photograph of my mother making fatayer, her hands spreading out the dough on the kitchen counter. rows of dough on the counter beside her along with olive oil and spinach in a bowl
My mother making fatayer. Image Credit Natalie Jabbar

As for the poem, here are the incredible words of one of the most beloved voices of Palestine, Mahmoud Darwish (1942-2008). He wrote this poem while in prison for his political activism, poetry, and travels without a permit.

My Mother

I long for my mother’s bread
My mother’s coffee
Her touch
Childhood memories grow up in me
Day after day
I must be worth my life
At the hour of my death
Worth the tears of my mother.

And if I come back one day
Take me as a veil to your eyelashes
Cover my bones with the grass
Blessed by your footsteps
Bind us together
With a lock of your hair
With a thread that trails from the back of your dress
I might become immortal
Become a God
If I touch the depths of your heart.

If I come back
Use me as wood to feed your fire
As the clothesline on the roof of your house
Without your blessing
I am too weak to stand.

I am old
Give me back the star maps of childhood
So that I
Along with the swallows
Can chart the path
Back to your waiting nest.

I am asking you to touch me.

Dear readers, friends,

We find ourselves at the end of National Poetry Month once again. Thank you for joining me and taking a peek into the voices and words that have brought beauty, meaning, and reflection into my life–I hope a few of the poems gifted the same to you.

Special thanks again to one of my dearest friends and kindred spirits, Kristina Closs, who brought a whole other layer to the poems with her striking illustrations–and always helped me think about the poems in new ways. If you enjoyed her work, please visit her website, where you can purchase prints (including the ones inspired by this month’s poetry!)–or contact her for custom commissions, which she will gladly work on with you.

Let’s wrap up this month with one of my longtime favorite poets, Ada Limón and a poem from her upcoming collection, The Hurting Kind.

an illustration of a heart comprised of all the images of National Poetry Month from this blog's posting, with arms wrapped around it
Art by Kristina Closs

The End of Poetry

by Ada Limón

Enough of osseous and chickadee and sunflower
and snowshoes, maple and seeds, samara and shoot,
enough chiaroscuro, enough of thus and prophecy
and the stoic farmer and faith and our father and tis
of thee, enough of bosom and bud, skin and god
not forgetting and star bodies and frozen birds,
enough of the will to go on and not go on or how
a certain light does a certain thing, enough
of the kneeling and the rising and the looking
inward and the looking up, enough of the gun,
the drama, and the acquaintance’s suicide, the long-lost
letter on the dresser, enough of the longing and
the ego and the obliteration of ego, enough
of the mother and the child and the father and the child
and enough of the pointing to the world, weary
and desperate, enough of the brutal and the border,
enough of can you see me, can you hear me, enough
I am human, enough I am alone and I am desperate,
enough of the animal saving me, enough of the high
water, enough sorrow, enough of the air and its ease,
I am asking you to touch me.

forthcoming from The Hurting Kind