My gray hair will darken and become the feathers of a black swan.

Dear readers,

Thank you for joining me for another April of poetry posts. Choosing and sharing verse with you has been a highlight during the very difficult times we’re living through right now. I hope to be able to post more (though not daily) this spring as we continue to navigate this pandemic, physically distanced and yet very much together. The final poem of the month, written by Ellen Bass (1947-), fills me with both heartache for this ever-broken world and hope for the small ways in which it can be pieced back together. Take good care, everyone. Thinking of you.

“When You Return”

Fallen leaves will climb back into trees.
Shards of the shattered vase will rise
and reassemble on the table.
Plastic raincoats will refold
into their flat envelopes. The egg,
bald yolk and its transparent halo,
slide back in the thin, calcium shell.
Curses will pour back into mouths,
letters un-write themselves, words
siphoned up into the pen. My gray hair
will darken and become the feathers
of a black swan. Bullets will snap
back into their chambers, the powder
tamped tight in brass casings. Borders
will disappear from maps. Rust
revert to oxygen and time. The fire
return to the log, the log to the tree,
the white root curled up
in the un-split seed. Birdsong will fly
into the lark’s lungs, answers
become questions again.
When you return, sweaters will unravel
and wool grow on the sheep.
Rock will go home to mountain, gold
to vein. Wine crushed into the grape,
oil pressed into the olive. Silk reeled in
to the spider’s belly. Night moths
tucked close into cocoons, ink drained
from the indigo tattoo. Diamonds
will be returned to coal, coal
to rotting ferns, rain to clouds, light
to stars sucked back and back
into one timeless point, the way it was
before the world was born,
that fresh, that whole, nothing
broken, nothing torn apart.

Our lives happen between the memorable.

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Watercolor by my dear friend Kristina Closs (WoodPigeon on Etsy)

“Highlights and Interstices”

by Jack Gilbert (1925-2012)

We think of lifetimes as mostly the exceptional
and sorrows. Marriage we remember as the children,
vacations, and emergencies. The uncommon parts.
But the best is often when nothing is happening.
The way a mother picks up the child almost without
noticing and carries her across Waller Street
while talking with the other woman. What if she
could keep all of that? Our lives happen between
the memorable. I have lost two thousand habitual
breakfasts with Michiko. What I miss most about
her is that commonplace I can no longer remember.

a return to the strange idea of continuous living despite the mess of us

Instructions for these days, and for all days. I could have filled this entire month with selections by one of my favorite contemporary poets, Ada Limón. If you have a moment after you read this one, I recommend you explore some of her other incredible poems I’ve posted over the years.

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Neighborhood walks, spring 2020. Photo by me.

“Instructions on Not Giving Up”

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.

from The Carrying