Sunday, April 22, 2012

Edna St. Vincent Millay

I wonder how many times my mother has uttered this prayer for me. Do all mothers of daughters whisper this prayer? What a strange and beautiful world we live in.  

Prayer to Persephone 
Be to her, Persephone,
All the things I might not be:
Take her head upon your knee.
She that was so proud and wild,
Flippant, arrogant and free,
She that had no need of me,
Is a little lonely child
Lost in Hell,—Persephone,
Take her head upon your knee:
Say to her, "My dear, my dear,
It is not so dreadful here." 

I remember the moment this poem struck me when I was but a tender-hearted college freshman. Strange how the words connote the same wistfulness but have a different meaning now; how bittersweet all the years that both connect and estrange me from that dreary winter morning have been. 

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why (Sonnet XLIII)
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why, 
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain 
Under my head till morning; but the rain 
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh 
Upon the glass and listen for reply, 
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain 
For unremembered lads that not again 
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry. 
Thus in winter stands the lonely tree, 
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one, 
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before: 
I cannot say what loves have come and gone, 
I only know that summer sang in me 
A little while, that in me sings no more.

Right from Wikipedia to my blog! Yehaw: 

Edna St. Vincent Millay (February 22, 1892 – October 19, 1950) was an American lyrical poet, playwright and feminist.[1] She received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry,[2] and was known for her activism and her many love affairs. She used the pseudonymNancy Boyd for her prose work. The poet Richard Wilbur asserted, "She wrote some of the best sonnets of the century."[3]

Saturday, April 21, 2012

dusk again

the bees, too, prefer the drunken aroma of springtime citrus
orange, lemon, grapefruit
they, too, get drunk on the delicate white kisses,
blooms unfolding in the evening air

please, God, You know where my heart is 
reveal my heart to me

I have been Tipsy 
waltzing with my Father 
hoping the current will pull me out a little farther

God gave them autopilot for evenings like this
(slow setting sun lush and almost shiftless)
their wings beat mechanical as the scent intoxicates
(belle notte)
they browse halflight drowsy

but, God, You know where my heart is and
something's buzzing below my collar bone 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Robert Frost, "Birches"

This poem is a favorite of mine. 

Situations in my life are unfolding in such a way that I believe this poem is uniquely applicable. My apologies for the cryptic nature of that last sentence. Suffice to say: sometimes both the wistful dreamer and the exhausted doer within must be reminded Earth's the right place for love. 


When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay.
Ice-storms do that. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust--
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
(Now am I free to be poetical?)
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows--
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.

It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.

I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Dusk and the Bougainvillea

Bees serenading the citrus blossoms
                                                        and me.

I lean against the house, feet cool on the adobe tiles

in the long hallway,
the wind traipsing bougainvillea blossoms magenta across my lilac toes.

I wait silently
listening for footsteps or voices or cooing doves,
listening for my own heartbeat to grow soft.

When I am satisfied that I am


I say it into the heavy dusk:

I love you.

And then again:

I love you.
I love you, I love you.

I taste the salty caramel of it on my tongue,

velvet words hovering hummingbird-
winged eternal.

Letting the words dance up my esophagus, I hope,
might unravel the tempest of my soul's haute sting.

I wait for a phantom to appear so I may know at what feet
to lay my quivering love.

But no phantom appears.
No phantom ever appears. No face ever illuminates the night.

There is just only the moon chiding my childishness;
just the bougainvillea rustling, gentle kissing wind-caressed.

Just the doves' sleepy tittering, "It's never so easy. You
already know it wouldn't be so easy as that, not for humans."

Just bees serenading the citrus blossoms
                                                                  and me.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Brian Doyle, "The child as verb"

My heart yearned for this today. Talk about soul food.

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Home » January - February 2006 > The child as verb

The child as verb


I was shuffling along the roaring shore of the misnamed Pacific Ocean, humming to myself, pondering this and that and t’other, when I saw a crippled kid hopping towards me. She was maybe four years old and her feet were bent so sideways that her toes faced each other so she scuttled rather than walked. I never saw a kid crippled quite like that before. I thought for a minute she was alone but then I noticed the rest of her clan, a big guy and two other small girls, probably the dad and sisters, walking way ahead.
The crippled kid was cheerful as a bird and she zoomed along awfully fast on those sideways feet. She was totally absorbed in the seawrack at the high-tide line—shards of crab and acres of sand fleas and shreds of seaweed and ropes of bullwhip kelp and fractions of jellyfish and here and there a deceased perch or auklet or cormorant or gull, and once a serious-sized former fish that looked like it might have been a salmon. In the way of all people for a million years along all shores she stared and poked and prodded and bent and pocketed and discarded, pawing through the loot and litter of the merciless musing sea.
She was so into checking out tide treasure that her dad and sisters got way out ahead of her and after a while the dad turned and whistled and the crippled kid looked up and laughed and took off hopping faster than you could ever imagine a kid that crippled could hop, and when she was a few feet away from the dad he crouched a little and extended his arm behind him with his hand out to receive her foot, and she shinnied up his arm as graceful and quick as anything you ever saw.
She slid into what must have been her usual seat on his neck and off they went, the sisters pissing and moaning about having to wait for the crippled kid and the dad tickling the bottoms of the kid’s feet, so that I heard the kid laughing fainter and fainter as they receded, until finally I couldn’t hear her laughing any more. But right about then I was weeping like a child at the intricate, astounding, unimaginable, inexplicable, complex thicket of love and pain and suffering and joy, at the way that kid rocketed up her daddy’s arm quick as a cat, at the way he crouched just so and opened his palm so his baby girl could come flying up the holy branch of his arm, at the way her hands knew where to wrap themselves around his grin, at the way the sisters were all pissy about the very same kid sister that if anyone else ever grumbled about her they would pound him silly.
And this is all not even to mention the glory of the sunlight that day, and the basso moan of mother sea, and the deft diving of the little black sea-ducks in the surf, and the seal popping up here and there looking eerily like my grandfather, and the eagle who flew over like a black tent heading north, and the extraordinary fact that the Coherent Mercy granted me my own kids, who were not crippled, and were at that exact moment
arguing shrilly about baseball at the other end of the beach.
I finally got a grip and set to shuffling again, but that kid stays with me. Something about her, the way she was a verb, the way she was happy even with the dark cards she was dealt, the way she loved openly and artlessly, the way even her sisters couldn’t stay pissy but had to smile when she shinnied up their daddy’s arm, seems utterly holy to me, a gift, a sign, a reminder, a letter from the Lord.
In my Father’s house are many mansions, said the thin confusing peripatetic rabbi long ago, a line I have always puzzled over, yet another of the man’s many Zen koans, but I think I finally have a handle on that one. What he meant, did Yesuah ben Joseph of the haunting life and message, is that we are given gifts beyond measure, beyond price, beyond understanding, and they mill and swirl by us all day and night, and we have but to see them clearly, for a second, to believe wholly in the bounty and generosity and mercy of I Am Who Am.
I am not stupid, at least not all the time, and I saw how crippled that kid was, and I can only imagine her life to date and to come, and the tensions and travails of her family, and the battles she will fight and the tears she will shed, and I see and hear the roar of pain and suffering in the world, the floods and rapes and starvings and bullets, and I am too old and too honest not to admit how murderous and greedy we can be.
But I have also seen too many kids who are verbs to not believe we swim in an ocean of holy. I have seen too many men and women and children of such grace and humour and mercy that I know I have seen the Christ ten times a day. I think maybe you know that too and we just don’t talk about it much because we are tired and scared and the light flits in and around so much darkness. But there was a crippled kid on the beach and the Christ in her came pouring out her eyes and I don’t forget it.
In my Father’s house are many mansions, said the Christos, confusingly, and then in his usual testy editorial way, If it were not so, I would have told you, and then, in a phrase I lean on when things go dark, I go to prepare a place for you.
But we are already in the doorway of the house, don’t you think?
Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, in Oregon. He is the author of six books, among them the essay collection Leaping (available in Australia through Garratt Publishing) and a musing on hearts called The Wet Engine (through Rainbow Books in Australia). You can email him at

Sunday, April 8, 2012

How easily I


trying to dream of you.

                                 I haven't yet


maybe I don't have to
                                  meet you
             on an imaginary plane
                                        to see you as you are

                                      (or as you will be).

For all the times I crouched by the kitchen sink (begging to be believed),
for all the times I believed, handing over everything to the Freddy Krueger of my waking life,
for all the times I couldn't stitch together my rag-doll heart without weepy British guitar telling my story,

I walk softly here.
                            I walk softly
                                                                    glides in on Christmas morning.

I walk slowly here.
                             I walk slowly
                                                    as a
                                                                                     tip-toes into the open meadow.

I walk silently here.
                               I walk silently
                                                     as an
                                                                                            wanders the contours of a human hand.

Even so,
how easily I find myself


trying to dream of you.