let us never be rescued from this mess

This poem by Aimee Nezhukumatathil reminds me of all the time spent in the kitchen, across my life and especially this past year when it became even more centered as a daily space for energy and deliciousness and escape from everything else.

Illustration below by one of my dearest friends since we were in middle school, Kristina Closs, a talented artist who has graciously agreed to illustrate some of my posts this month! You can see more of her beautiful work at @kristinapaints on Instagram or at WoodPigeon, her Etsy store.

“Baked Goods”

Flour on the floor makes my sandals 
slip and I tumble into your arms. 

Too hot to bake this morning but
blueberries begged me to fold them

into moist muffins. Sticks of rhubarb 
plotted a whole pie. The windows

are blown open and a thickfruit tang
sneaks through the wire screen

and into the home of the scowly lady
who lives next door. Yesterday, a man 

in the city was rescued from his apartment
which was filled with a thousand rats. 

Something about being angry because
his pet python refused to eat. He let the bloom 

of fur rise, rise over the little gnarly blue rug, 
over the coffee table, the kitchen countertops

and pip through each cabinet, snip
at the stumpy bags of sugar,

the cylinders of salt. Our kitchen is a riot
of pots, wooden spoons, melted butter. 

So be it. Maybe all this baking will quiet
the angry voices next door, if only

for a brief whiff. I want our summers

to always be like this—a kitchen wrecked
with love, a table overflowing with baked goods
warming the already warm air. After all the pots

are stacked, the goodies cooled, and all the counters
wiped clean—let us never be rescued from this mess. 

_

From Lucky Fish

the road is still before us

Dear readers, friends,

It feels like both a lifetime ago and just yesterday that I was writing my last April poetry post in the spring of 2020. I hope wherever this finds you, you are holding up okay and still finding some joy in your life despite the hardships of this past year that have etched into our beings in so many different ways.

As many of you know, it has been my tradition since 2009 (!) to share a poem every day of April in honor of National Poetry Month. Confession: I have not read much poetry this past year…perhaps in part because of no daily access to the library, shattered focus from hours of staring at Zoom, and that general pandemic ennui that made it so much easier for us to just watch something streaming after absorbing Too Much News every day. I was very tempted to take a hiatus from the blog this year to spare myself more screen time, but I feel a deep tug, a sense of obligation, not only to you, but to myself, to continue.

And so I find myself back here, humbly trying to reconnect to verse and in turn, to share poetry that I love with all of you. I can’t promise that I will be able to do this daily, but I will try my very best.

The first poem of April is by the great Polish writer and translator Adam Zagajewski (1945-2021), who passed away just last week.

illustration of a bird looking at an anatomical heart by Kristina Closs
Painting by my dear friend Kristina Closs (WoodPigeon on Etsy)

“Wake Up”

Wake up, my soul.
I don’t know where you are,
where you’re hiding,
but wake up, please,
we’re still together,
the road is still before us,
a bright strip of dawn
will be our star.

From Asymmetry by Adam Zagajewski (translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh)

Imagination is better than a sharp instrument.

Thank you, Mary Oliver (1935-2019), for your poetry that has accompanied me and countless others (and will continue to) throughout so much of life. I have read your words aloud at dinner tables and hospital beds, under my covers and on long meandering hikes, during moments of extreme joy and aching grief. Thank you for your imagination and your light and for reminding us to always pay attention during these wild and precious lives.

Readers, here are some of the Mary Oliver poems I’ve posted over the years, though I recommend you explore the vast collection of her incredible work. I’ll leave you this morning with one of the first poems of hers I ever loved and shared on this blog a decade ago.

2008-2-8-mary-oliver-hi-res

“Yes! No!”

How necessary it is to have opinions! I think the spotted trout
lilies are satisfied, standing a few inches above the earth. I
think serenity is not something you just find in the world,
like a plum tree, holding up its white petals.

The violets, along the river, are opening their blue faces, like
small dark lanterns.

The green mosses, being so many, are as good as brawny.

How important it is to walk along, not in haste but slowly,
looking at everything and calling out

Yes! No! The

swan, for all his pomp, his robes of grass and petals, wants
only to be allowed to live on the nameless pond. The catbrier
is without fault. The water thrushes, down among the sloppy
rocks, are going crazy with happiness. Imagination is better
than a sharp instrument. To pay attention, this is our endless
and proper work.