Then rise when you’re ready from your soul’s hard floor

illustration of a bee on a windowsill
Art by Kristina Closs


by Tracy K. Smith (1972-)

Submits to its own weight, 
the bulb of itself too full, 

too weak or too wise
to lift and go. 

And something blunt in me
remembers the old charade 

about putting a thing out 
of its misery. For it? For me? 

Sleep, Bee, deep and easy. 
Hive, heave, give, grieve. 

Then rise when you’re ready
from your soul’s hard floor

to sweet work 
or some war.


we are each other’s magnitude and bond

The incredible Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-200) on Paul Robeson (1989-1976), an acclaimed singer, actor and political activist whose life you should definitely take a few minutes to read about.

Robeson leading Moore Shipyard workers in song. Oakland, California. September 1942. 

“Paul Robeson”

That time
we all heard it,
cool and clear,
cutting across the hot grit of the day.
The major Voice.
The adult Voice
forgoing Rolling River,
forgoing tearful tale of bale and barge
and other symptoms of an old despond.
Warning, in music-words
devout and large,
that we are each other’s
we are each other’s
we are each other’s
magnitude and bond.

from Family Pictures

and every stone on the road precious to me

Hello again, readers. Sorry it’s been awhile. This first post of June also happens to be my 200th post on this humble poetry blog. So in honor of that nicely rounded, seemingly significant number, I thought I’d re-post the Stanley Kunitz (1905-2006) poem that inspired the name of this blog in the first place.

I like to dig up this piece during turning points and find that each reading offers something new, a different layer if you will. Tonight, the poem’s nimbus-clouded voice reminds me of the difficulty, and the necessity, of living deeply–of moving forward while remaining anchored, of collecting each obstacle as a precious stone of experience, of loving people who are also perpetually changing…

The Layers

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written,
I am not done with my changes.