Poetry

POETRY: The Glorious Mysteries—The Descent Of The Holy Spirit by John O’Donohue

August 13, 2018

Somewhere in our clay remembers the speed of cold, Overtaking the surge of colors with grey breath, And the shudder of fields, as they smother beneath The white infinity of ice paralyzing the world. How swiftly fear touches this relic—cold in the bone. After his second going, they hide from the crowd. Then, like manna from a red wind, a tongue of flame swirls Into each mind huddled there in the fear-filled room. The language caul they lived in falls, leaves them wordless, Then, a kindling, words they never knew they had come Alive out of nowhere sprung with awakening That will not cease until winter sets the heart free. Out in the open now, voices of new belonging, Needing no courage beyond the fire of their [...]

POETRY: A Blessing by James Wright

August 10, 2018

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota, Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass. And the eyes of those two Indian ponies Darken with kindness. They have come gladly out of the willows To welcome my friend and me. We step over the barbed wire into the pasture Where they have been grazing all day, alone. They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness That we have come. They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other. There is no loneliness like theirs. At home once more, They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness. I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms, For she has walked over to me And nuzzled my left hand. She is black and white, Her mane falls wild on her forehead, And the light breeze [...]

POETRY: In Praise Of Coldness by Jane Hirshfield

August 8, 2018

“If you wish to move your reader,” Chekhov wrote, “you must write more coldly.” Herakleitos recommended, “A dry soul is best.” And so at the center of many great works is found a preserving dispassion, like the vanishing point of quattrocento perspective, or the tiny packets of desiccant enclosed in a box of new shoes or seeds. But still the vanishing point is not the painting, the silica is not the blossoming plant. Chekhov, dying, read the timetables of trains. To what more earthly thing could he have been faithful?— Scent of rocking distances, smoke of blue trees out the window, hampers of bread, picked cabbage, boiled meat. Scent of the knowable journey. Neither a person entirely broken nor one [...]

POETRY: Imagist At Coney Island by Maura Eichner

August 8, 2018

One decade into the 20th century, Pound, with his back to Brooklyn, pointed his beard to the Atlantic. Simply to receive the kingdom, Ezra linked arms with John Butler Yeats. Their shoes filled with sand. Pleasure rode the water, solid as Staten Island Ferry. At dusk, lights rose like a fever chart. Coney Island “marvelous against the night.” In the amusement park Yeats rode an elephant on the merry-go-round, “smiling Elijah in the beatific vision.” Pound leaned against a railing Pouring sand from each shoe, words ripening in him in August [...]

POETRY: The Glorious Mysteries—The Ascension by John O’Donohue

August 6, 2018

With waves the ocean soothes the dark stillness of the shore. With words the mind would calm the awful, inner quiet. Offerings to the nothingness on which we trespass. Our imprint no deeper than breath on a mirror. Though delighted by the wonder of your return, To glimpse you is already too much for their eyes. At your cadence of voice a bird stirs in the heart, Its wings spread such brightness nothing can hold its form. You are no longer from here, yet you still linger In the lightness, wed to the dance you awaken, As if in drudged-down lives, the song of your new hands Could raise the soul towards horizons of desire. You slip through a door of air. Memory comes home, Bright as a dead tree drawn to blossom by the [...]

POETRY: In A Kitchen Where Mushrooms Were Washed by Jane Hirshfield

August 1, 2018

In a kitchen where mushrooms were washed, the mushroom scent lingers. As the sea must keep for a long time the scent of the whale. As a person who’s once loved completely, a country once conquered, does not release that stunned knowledge. They must want to be found, those strange-shaped, rising morels, clownish puffballs. Lichens have served as a lamp wick. Clean-burning coconuts, olives. Dried salmon, sheep fat, a carcass of petrel set blazing: light that is fume and abradement. Unburnable mushrooms are other. They darken the air they come into. Theirs the scent of having been traveled, been [...]

POETRY: Apple Fools by David Craig

August 1, 2018

Apple fools we are Ripe as cups of cider and the horse’s clodded wake let the wet mornings come ring out green beans beneath the leaves pumpkin piping on the vine Speckled corn aloft Indian feathered high on the door Squash squats on the rafters pot belly bent legged Buddha stove boots and coveralls Give us this grace and all this day the crowded table the pinions’ [...]

POETRY: The Glorious Mysteries—The Resurrection by John O’Donohue

July 30, 2018

Oh, the rush with which the forgotten mind awakens Under the day a well of dark where color dwells Until it learns the art of light and can reveal, In neglected things, the freshness thought darkens. With grey mastery distance starts to blur the horror. Already the days begin to set around the loss. The after-silence of his death become porous To the gossip of regret that follows failure. Through the cold, quiet nighttime of the grave underground, The earth concentrated on him with complete longing Until his sleep could recall the dark from beyond To enfold memory lost in the requiem of mind. The moon stirs a wave of brightening in the stone. He rises clothed in the young colors of [...]

POETRY: The Mocking-Bird by Frank Lebby Stanton

July 28, 2018

He didn’t know much music When first he come along; An’ all the birds went wonderin’ Why he didn’t sing a song. They primped their feathers in the sun, An’ sung their sweetest notes; An’ music jest come on the run From all their purty throats! But still that bird was silent In summer time an’ fall; He jest set still an’ listened, An’ he wouldn’t sing at all! But one night when them songsters Was tired out an’ still, An’ the wind sighed down the valley An’ went creepin’ up the hill; When the stars was all a-tremble In the dreamin’ fields o’ blue, An’ the daisy in the darkness Felt the fallin’ o’ the dew,— There come a sound o’ melody No mortal ever heard, An’ all the birds seemed singin’ From [...]

POETRY: Changes by Seamus Heaney

July 25, 2018

As you came with me in silence to the pump in the long grass I heard much that you could not hear: the bite of the spade that sank it, the slithering and grumble as the mason mixed his mortar, and women coming with white buckets like flashes on their ruffled wings. The cast-iron rims of the lid clinked as I uncovered it, something stirred in its mouth. I had a bird’s eye view of a bird, finch-green, speckled and white, nesting in dry leaves, flattened, still, suffering the light. So I roofed the citadel as gently as I could, and told you and you gently unroofed it but where was the bird now? There was the single egg, pebbly white, and from the rusted bend of the snout tail-feathers splayed and sat tight. So tender, I said, “Remember [...]

POETRY: Fire And St. Francis by Andrew Hudgins

July 25, 2018

1. As he sat eating by the fire one night a spark was lifted on a wisp of air and set on the folds of cloth that wrapped his groin. But when he felt the heat so near his flesh he wouldn’t raise his hands against the fire or let his worried friends extinguish it. You mustn’t harm the flames or spoil their play, he said to them. Don’t these bright creatures have as much a right as I to be happy? For seconds his disciples stared as the flames climbed up the cloth and nearer to his skin. And he, without a qualm, turned to his bowl. At last their knowledge of the world prevailed. As one, they leaped on him and held him down, smothering the fire with dirt and what was left of the soup that had been their evening meal. When he returned, [...]

POETRY: The Sorrowful Mysteries—The Crucifixion by John O’Donohue

July 23, 2018

When at last it comes, it comes in silence; With no thought for the one to whom it comes, Or how a heart grieves itself and loved ones With that last glimpse from its fading presence. Yet it is intimate, the act of death, To be so chosen, exposed and taken. Nowhere untouched. But death wants you broken. The soldiers must wait ages for your last breath. With all the bright words, you are found out too, In agony and terror in vaulted air, Your mind bleached white by a wind from nowhere That has waited years for one strike at you. A slanted rain cuts across the black day. It turns stones crimson where the cross is [...]

POETRY: The Birch Grove by Seamus Heaney

July 19, 2018

At the back of a garden, in earshot of river water, In a corner walled off like the baths or bake-house Of an unroofed abbey or broken-floored Roman villa, They have planted their birch grove. Planted it recently only, But already each morning it puts forth in the sun Like their own long grown-up selves, the white of the bark As suffused and cool as the white of the satin nightdress She bends and straightens up in, pouring tea, Sitting across from where he dandles a sandal On his big time-keeping foot, as bare as an abbot’s. Red brick and slate, plum tree and apple retain Their credibility, a CD of Bach is making the rounds Of the common or garden air. Above them a jet trail Tapers and waves like a willow wand or a taper. “If [...]

POETRY: From A Woman’s Life by Maura Eichner

July 18, 2018

What Mary knew was just enough for the usual day; pull water, flint fire, bake bread, smile, pray the dark orations, sleep, wake wait. When pain hones a nerve, when birth or dying clotted an hour, she leaned to the curve of living, resilient to fear, laughter, suffering. Partings are a little death. Each one’s journey is a thing wholly without precedent. She looked at the sky for compass. None. She, too, created a road to travel [...]

POETRY: The Sorrowful Mysteries—The Carrying Of The Cross by John O’Donohue

July 16, 2018

A kiss on the back of the neck tingles, Almost sound, a breath of music in bone. It is here they laid the heavy crossbeam, Each step a thud inward like sick thunder. It invades his head. All silence leaves him. Stooped forward he watches his innocent feet Search each step for sure ground to take the weight. He falls face first on the broken pavement. Those he knows to see will not meet his eyes. They fear his gaze might unleash misfortune. Sweat down his back opens a line of wounds. A white towel absorbs a mirage of his face. Windows open in the crowd, his heart rends At the weeping of his mother and [...]

POETRY: The Turnip-Snedder by Seamus Heaney

July 11, 2018

For Hughie O’Donoghue In an age of bare hands and cast iron, the clamp-on meat-mincer, the double flywheeled water-pump, it dug its heels in among wooden tubs and troughs of slops, hotter than body heat in summertime, cold in winter as winter’s body armour, a barrel-chested breast-plate standing guard on four braced greaves. “this is the way that God sees life,” it said, “from seedling-braird to snedder,” as the handle turned and turnip-heads were let fall and fed to the juiced-up inner blades, “This is the turnip-cycle,” as it dropped its raw sliced mess, bucketful by glistering [...]

POETRY: Teresa by Richard Wilbur

July 11, 2018

After the sun’s eclipse, The brighter angel and the spear which drew A bridal outcry from her open lips, She could not prove it true, Nor think at first of any means to test By what she had been wedded or possessed. Not all cries were the same; there was an island in mythology Called by the very vowels of her name Where vagrants of the sea, Changed by a wand, were made to squeal and cry As heavy captives in a witch’s sty. The proof came soon and plain: Visions were true which quickened her to run God’s barefoot errands in the rocks of Spain Beneath its beating sun, And lock the O of ecstasy within The tempered consonant of [...]

POETRY: The Sorrowful Mysteries—The Crowning With Thorns by John O’Donohue

July 9, 2018

The thorns woven to your head are nothing Like the emptiness loosening your mind From the terse mountains where you served your time Seeking the hearth in the loneliness of things. Then that slow glimpse of three faces concresced In a circle of infinitely gentle gaze Trusting each thing out of air into form, Showed you belong to this first tenderness. You earth divine flame in a young man’s frame. Things rush your senses offering their essence. Now the earth clenches against you, cold and closed In a yard forsaken by every name. On crucifixion duty, bored with routine The soldiers start mocking and crown you [...]

POETRY: A Herbal by Seamus Heaney

July 6, 2018

After Guillevic’s “Herbier de Bretagne” Everywhere plants Flourish among graves, Sinking their roots In all the dynasties Of the dead. * Was graveyard grass In our place Any different? Different from ordinary Field grass? Remember how you wanted The sound recordist To make a loop, Wildtrack of your feet Through the wet At the foot of a field? * Yet for all their lush Compliant dialect No way have plants here Arrived at a settlement. Not the mare’s tail, Not the broom or whins. It must have to do With the wind. * Not that the grass itself Ever rests in peace. It too takes issue, Now sets its face. To the wind, Now turns its back. * “See me?” it says. “The wind Has me well rehearsed In the ways of [...]

POETRY: Francis Meets A Leper by David Citino

July 5, 2018

He heard the bell toll, erratic in a palsied hand, and smelled the goatish scent before he saw the figure moving in mist on the road to Assisi, a traveler gloved and shod, as was the law, to hide the sores, a man’s inhumanity, missing fingers and toes, and tried to unmask the face, slack muscles showing nothing but astonishment, lower lids keeping eyes open always to our providential decay, flesh soft and thick as rotten wood. Francis saw in bleary eyes, near to him as his mother’s as she loved him, a brother, then someone dearer, wrapped as he’d seen others in his father’s cloth that first had profited English shepherds and the weavers of Ghent, a skin bleached white as bone, a flower blazing in snow, so close to [...]

POETRY: The Sorrowful Mysteries—The Scourging At The Pillar by John O’Donohue

July 2, 2018

When we love we love to touch the beloved. Our hands find joy in the surprise of skin. Here is where tenderness is uncovered. Few frontiers hold a world more wondrous in. Imagine the anger of their disturbance. They cannot bear the portals his words create. Helpless, turned inside out by his presence, Sheltering from themselves as a crowd irate. Made to face the pillar, the wrists bind him Under the shadow of the angel of pain, Who flogs, and waits, prefers a broken rhythm, Until his back becomes a red text of shame. His mind holds to the images of those he loves; While his frightened skin swells under the [...]

POETRY: A Brigid’s Girdle by Seamus Heaney

June 30, 2018

for Adele Last time I wrote I wrote from a rustic table Under magnolias in South Carolina As blossoms fell on me, and a white gable As clean-lined as the prow of a white liner Bisected sunlight in the sunlit yard. I was glad of the early heat and the first quiet I’d had for weeks. I heard the mocking bird And a delicious, articulate Flight of small plinkings from a dulcimer Like feminine rhymes migrating to the north Where you faced the music and the ache of summer And earth’s foreknowledge gathered in the earth. Now it’s St. Brigid’s Day and the first snowdrop In County Wicklow, and this a Brigid’s Girdle I’m plaiting for you, an airy fairy hoop (Like one of those old crinolines they’d trindle), [...]

POETRY: A Wonder Of Origins by Daniel Berrigan

June 27, 2018

flower points to a bird, bird cries like a closed eye I see your dreams. Things like my heart I never see, but see hearts bird-shaped, flower-shaped, the radiant weightless shadow my heart casts—upward, to ground; a rose, a wintering bird. They meet, they summer plummet and signet, in Hero’s [...]

POETRY: The Sorrowful Mysteries—The Agony In The Garden by John O’Donohue

June 25, 2018

Whatever veil of mercy shrouds the dark Wound that stops weeping in no one, cannot Stop the torrent of night when it buries thought And heart beneath the black tears of the earth. Through scragged bush the moon discovers his face, Dazed inside the sound of Gethsemane, Subsiding under the weight of silence That entombs the cry of his terrified prayer. What light could endure the dark he entered? The void that turns the mind into a ruin Haunted by the tattered screeching of birds Who nest deep in hunger that mocks all care. Still he somehow stands in that nothingness; Raising the chalice of kindness to [...]

POETRY: An Ulster Twilight by Seamus Heaney

June 23, 2018

The bare bulb, a scatter of nails, Shelved timber, glinting chisels: In a shed of corrugated iron Eric Dawson stoops to his plane At five o’clock on a Christmas Eve. Carpenter’s pencil next, the spoke-shave, Fretsaw, auger, rasp and awl, A rub with a rag of linseed oil. A mile away it was taking shape, The hulk of a toy battleship, As waterbuckets iced and frost Hardened the quiet on roof and post. Where is he now? There were fifteen years between us two That night I strained to hear the bells Of a sleigh of the mind and heard him pedal Into our lane, get off at the gable, Steady his Raleigh bicycle Against the whitewash, stand to make sure The house was quiet, knock at the door And hand his parcel to a peering woman: “I [...]

POETRY: Morphometry by Helen Macdonald

June 22, 2018

I have had live crows, hawks, owls, opossums, squirrels, snakes, and lizards so that my room has sometimes reminded me of Noah’s ark; but Noah had a wife in one corner of it, and in this particular our parallel does not altogether tally. (Alexander Wilson) I had an idea of this, is stacked with song & cool blood, bruised with salad herbs & oil Of petrae, callt oil of peter, salts, flats, larks. Wet feathers continue to rise in my breast Whereas your darker plumes operate a weak tacet broken in twain, se muer, to moult & speak for a hope For a moment or two for the pile of the land rocks back in a dubitable movement shiny as a climate sere As desert, it is all flush. Through a miracle of hatred an expansion of range will [...]

POETRY: The Misery Cord by Les Murray

June 20, 2018

In Memory of F. S. Murray  Misericord. The Misery Cord. It was lettered on a wall. I know that cord, how it’s tough to break however hard you haul. My cousin sharefarmed, and so got half: half dignity, half hope, half income, for his full work. To get a place of his own took his whole lifetime. Some pluck the misery chord from habit or for luck, however they feel, some to deceive, and some for the tune— but sometimes it’s real. Milking bails, flannel shirts, fried breakfasts, these were our element, and doubling on horses, and shouting Score! at a dog yelping on a hot scent— but an ambulance racing on our back road is bad news for us all: the house of community is about to lose a plank from its wall. Grief is nothing you can do, [...]

POETRY: The Joyful Mysteries—The Presentation In The Temple by John O’Donohue

June 18, 2018

The words of a secret have rivet eyes That cannot sleep to forget what they know. The restrained voice sharpens to an arrow That will reach its target through any disguise. Two old people wait in the temple shadows Where stone and air are hoarsened with prayer For some door to open in their hunger; Sometimes children laugh at her twitching nose. Worn to a thread the old man’s rope of days, Spent unravelling in this empty torment, Has wizened his silence to words of flint. When he glimpses the child, his lost voice flares. His words lodge in the young mother’s thought That a sword of sorrow will pierce her [...]

POETRY: A Dog Was Crying Tonight In Wicklow Also by Seamus Heaney

June 16, 2018

In memory of Donatus Nwoga When human beings found out about death They sent the dog to Chukwu with a message: They wanted to be let back to the house of life. They didn’t want to end up lost forever Like burnt wood disappearing into smoke Or ashes that get blown away to nothing. Instead they saw their souls in a flock at twilight Cawing and headed back to the same old roosts And the same bright airs and wing-stretchings each morning. Death would be like a night spent in the wood: At first light they’d be back in the house of life. (The dog was meant to tell all this to Chukwu.) But death and human beings took second place When he trotted off the path and started barking At another dog in broad daylight just barking Back at him from [...]

POETRY: Prayer by Carol Ann Duffy

June 15, 2018

Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer utters itself. So, a woman will lift her head from the sieve of her hands and stare at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift. Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth enters our hearts, that small familiar pain; then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth in the distant Latin chanting of a train. Pray for us now. Grade I piano scales console the lodger looking out across a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls a child’s name as though they named their loss. Darkness outside. Inside, the radio’s prayer— Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.*   *The poet is English, and these geographical markers are a well-known feature of the local shipping [...]