POETRY: We Say Good-bye To Birth And Hello To Death (Four Poems)

We Say Good-bye To Birth And Hello To Death (Four Poems)

Prayer

Whatever happens. Whatever
what is is is what
I want. Only that. But that.

(Galway Kinnell)


All That Time

I saw two trees embracing.
One leaned on the other
as if to throw her down.
But she was the upright one.
Since their twin youth, maybe she
had been pulling him toward her
all that time,

and finally almost uprooted him.
He was the thin, dry, insecure one,
the most wind-warped, you could see.
And where their tops tangled
it looked like he was crying
on her shoulder.
On the other hand, maybe he

had been trying to weaken her,
break her, or at least
make her bend
over backwards for him
just a little bit.
And all that time
she was standing up to him

the best she could.
She was the most stubborn,
the straightest one, that’s a fact.
But he had been willing
to change himself—
even if it was for the worse—
all that time.

At the top they looked like one
tree, where they were embracing.
It was plain they’d be
always together.

Too late now to part.
When the wind blew, you could hear
them rubbing on each other.

(May Swenson)


The Poet’s Occasional Alternative

 

I was going to write a poem
I made a pie insteadit took
about the same amount of time
of course the pie was a final
drafta poem would have had some
distance to godays and weeks and
much crumpled paper

the pie already had a talking
tumbling audience among small
trucks and a fire engine on
the kitchen floor

everybody will like this pie
it will have apples and cranberries
dried apricots in itmany friends
will saywhy in the world did you
make only one

this does not happen with poems

because of unreportable
sadnesses I decided to
settle this morning for a re-
sponsive eatershipI do not
want to wait a weeka yeara
generation for the right
consumer to come along

(Grace Paley)


Hymn to God, my God, in my Sickness

Since I am coming to that holy room,
Where, with thy choir of saints for evermore,
I shall be made thy music; as I come
I tune the instrument here at the door,
And what I must do then, think here before

Whilst my physicians by their love are grown
Cosmographers, and I their map, who lie
Flat on this bed, that by them may be shown
That this is my south-west discovery
Per fretum febris, by these straits to die,

I joy, that in these straits, I see my west;
For, though their currents yield return to none,
What shall my west hurt me? As west and east
In all flat maps (and I am one) are one,
So death doth touch the resurrection.

Is the Pacific Sea my home? Or are
The eastern riches? Is Jerusalem?
Anyan, and Magellan, and Gibrraltar,
All straits, and none but straits, are ways to them,
Whether where Japhet dwelt, or Cham, or Shem.

We think that Paradise and Calvary,
Christ’s Cross and Adam’s tree, stood in one place,
Look Lord, and find both Adams met in me,
As the first Adam’s sweat surrounds my face,
May the last Adam’s blood my soul embrace.

So, in his purple wrapped receive me Lord,
By these his thorns give me his other crown,
And as to others’ souls I preached thy word,
Be this my text, my sermon to mine own,
Therefore that he may raise the Lord throws down.

(John Donne)

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