let love be at the end

illustration of flowers against a city backdrop with the sun in the horizon
Art by Kristina Closs

“let there be new flowering”

by Lucille Clifton (1936-2010)

let there be new flowering
in the fields let the fields
turn mellow for the men
let the men keep tender
through the time let the time
be wrested from the war
let the war be won
let love be
at the end

from good woman: poems and a memoir 1969-1980 

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I once found myself in a peaceful country

For this last day of National Poetry Month, here’s a poem by one of my favorite poets, Ilya Kaminsky (1977-), from one of my favorite new collections of the year. Seek out a copy of this devastatingly piercing and tender masterpiece–you will not be disappointed.

9781555978310

“In a Time of Peace”

Inhabitant of earth for fortysomething years
I once found myself in a peaceful country. I watch neighbors open

their phones to watch
a cop demanding a man’s driver’s license. When a man reaches for his wallet, the cop
shoots. Into the car window. Shoots.

It is a peaceful country.

We pocket our phones and go.
To the dentist,
to pick up the kids from school,
to buy shampoo
and basil.

Ours is a country in which a boy shot by police lies on the pavement
for hours.

We see in his open mouth
the nakedness
of the whole nation.

We watch. Watch
others watch.

The body of a boy lies on the pavement exactly like the body of a boy–

It is a peaceful country.

And it clips our citizens’ bodies
effortlessly, the way the President’s wife trims her toenails.

All of us
still have to do the hard work of dentist appointments,
of remembering to make
a summer salad: basil, tomatoes, it is a joy, tomatoes, add a little salt.

This is a time of peace.

I do not hear gunshots,
but watch birds splash over the backyards of the suburbs. How bright is the sky
as the avenue spins on its axis.
How bright is the sky (forgive me) how bright.

Let it be like wild flowers

Tonight, three from Yehuda Amichai, (1924-2000) who is considered one of the finest modern Israeli poets.

“For My Mother”

I

Like an old windmill,
Two hands always raised to scream up to the sky
And two descending to make sandwiches.

Her eyes clean and polished
As on the eve of Passover.

At night, she puts all the letters
And the photographs next to each other,

To measure with them
The length of God’s finger.

2

I want to walk in the deep
Wadis between her sobs.

I want to stand in the hot wind
Of her silence.

I want to learn
On the rough trunks of her pain.

3.

She puts me,
As Hagar put Ishmael,
Under one of the bushes.

So she won’t see me die in the war,
Under one of the bushes
In one of the wars.
_____________________________________

“Wild Peace”

Not the one of an armistice,
Not even the one of the vision of wolf and lamb,
But,
As in your heart after an excitement:
To talk only of a great weariness.
I know that I know how to kill,
I am grown up.
And my son plays with a toy gun that knows
How to open and close its eyes and say “Mama.”
Peace
Without the commotion of turning swords into plowshares, without
words, without
The sound of heavy seals; let it be light
On top, like lazy white foam.
Rest for the wounds,
Not even healing.
(And the scream of orphans is passed on from one generation
To another, as in a relay race: the baton won’t fall.)

Let it be
Like wild flowers,
Suddenly, an imperative of the field:
Wild peace.
_______________________________________

“Again, A Love is Finished”

Again a love is finished, like a successful citrus season,
Or a digging season ofarr archaeologists, bringing up from the depths
Exciting things that wanted to be forgotten.

Again a love is finished. As after the demolition
Of a big house, and the cleaning of the debris, you’re standing
In the square empty lot, saying: How small
The space where the house stood
With all its stories and people.

And from the distant valley, you hear
A lonely tractor working,
And from the distant past, the clatter
Of a fork on a porcelain plate, mixing
And whipping up yoke with sugar for the child,
Clatter, clatter.