POETRY

poetry upclose

“I read and walked for miles at night along the beach, writing bad blank verse and searching endlessly for someone wonderful who would step out of the darkness and change my life. It never crossed my mind that that person could be me.” – Anna Quindlen

Poetry has power: Whether it blazes out for a moment like a shooting star, or sneaks up as quietly as a thief in the dark, it can leave your emotional landscape forever changed after the reading. It can also make you laugh, or cry, or both at once. A poem can be really satisfying, like a delicious meal, or not very palatable, like a bad one: Good or bad, you usually remember it.

As an art form, it might seem a bit old-fashioned at first. But in this modern age of texts and tweets, it’s actually quite in its element. You can say a whole lot, without saying very much. For me, it’s an emotional outlet. Just like photography, it’s a quick, succinct method of saying something meaningful about a moment or experience without going on about it for hours on end (unless you’re Milton or Chaucer, of course). Sometimes the shortest way is the best way to express an idea, the truest way. And that’s the freedom poetry allows us.


COLLECTED POEMS I

Made My Bed

Every morning I make up the bed,
Press down the rumpled pleats,
Fluff my pillows in their cases
And tidy up the tangled sheets.

I wish it were such simple a task
To straighten up my life –
Tuck in heartbreak, pull up sadness,
Cover over pain and strife.

Some choices lay like linen sheets
Whose creases will never come out,
No matter how much I tug or iron,
Or try to smooth them down.

Nagging small reminders,
They are marks I would rather forget;
But there is no avoiding struggle
Once the wrinkles are set.

So I learn to live with consequences,
Make peace with all the mess,

Resolving to try with each new day
To leave one wrinkle less.


The Keep

For years I only wanted quiet,
To utter not a word,
For a wall of silence
To surround me
And protect me from the world.

It kept me safe, this fortress,
Built with my own two hands;
The walls were thick,
Its gate shut tight;
No enemy roamed the lands.

Now it’s walls are crumbling,
Stoney silence breaking down,
Giving way to words,
Giving up the fight
Against the voice I’ve found.


Inside Out

Don’t look now,
But your insides
Are showing up
Out here.

Your soft, sweet heart
Is on display
For all the world
To share.

Your gentle soul
Overflows;
Your skin
Cannot contain it.

Out it comes
To meet the sun,
And blind us all
With love.


Picking Up Sticks

Leaves long raked and gathered,
Now spring comes and the trees
Shed their winter bounty;
Making my way beneath their bows,
Sky blue, clouds shifting above,
I pick up sticks –
Last of winter’s bones.

An endless sea of dry brown fingers,
Some long and unbroken,
Others crushed near to nothingness;
Some fat, some thin,
Both forked and straight –
Tiny souls unique as snowflakes,
Fallen to the forest floor.

For each one plucked
Another presents itself –
Walking all day, I could not possibly
Gather them all up;
There will always be more,
For the trees stand long and tall,
And their burden is now mine.

Should I stop, give up my task?
Admit defeat, and let nature
Take it’s own course?
Or should I persist in trying,
With each one collected,
To make some small difference
In the whole, unending mess?

Staring ahead at my futile fate,
Maybe the point, I come to see,
Is not to get them all
Or to simply leave them be,
But to enjoy the day –
Sun and sky and billowy breeze,
And this chance to walk among the trees.

Contented then, I gather the sticks,
And put them all in place –
A pile for kindling winter’s woodstove;
Some to spark fall campfires,
And edge the summer garden;
Some left for spring’s small birds
To build their tidy nests.

No need to hurry or worry for lack,
There’s always another branch
On it’s way down
To meet the grass,
Kiss the cold dirt,
And lay patiently,
Waiting to be discovered.


Bits and Pieces

I carried the shifting weight
Up the stairs,
Down the hall,
To the attic door;
I set it down,
Looked all around
For some secret space
On the floor.

Other loads lay all around me,
Gathering dust,
Holding secrets
Packed away long ago;
No spot left bare,
No room to spare –
For this new burden,
No place to go.

What now? I asked the darkness,
Take it back?
Open it up,
Scatter the contents around?
Throw some here,
Toss more there,
Leave bits and pieces
On the ground?

Silence only greeted me –
No voice said ‘yes,’
Or cried out ‘no,’
I stood without reply;
So I took my box,
And turned the lock,
Resolved, with no place
Left to hide.


Dirt, and Bits of Stars

Lowliest grain
To highest heaven,
We journey out
To find ourselves;
Seeing all,
Yet knowing nothing,
We stumble often
Along the way.

Fragile creatures.
We are promise,
Filled with hope
And such despair;
Climbing high,
Then quickly falling,
Losing ground
While gaining speed.

We miss so much
Yet always linger,
Finding it hard
To turn away;
Bound to glory
And to fault,
Strength and weakness
Struggle on.

Light and dark,
They meet within us,
Creating the spark
Of life itself;
Brains to bones,
All we are, is dirt
And bits of stars,
Shining darkly.


Two Lives Now

I found a fallen sparrow,
Among the green grass,
The unfortunate victim
Of a mirage in some glass;
Still and so small,
He lay in a tumble
Of soft brown feathers,
His plumage quite humble;
He seemed not to suffer,
I hoped and I prayed,
And promised to find him
A suitable grave.

Then a snake I encountered,
Lame and so stricken;
Seeing him writhe,
My stomach grew sickened;
Crushed near to death,
Still unkindly alive,
Biting into his own flesh
Through some primitive drive;
So I found a stone,
And took careful aim;
Bringing it down,
I ended his pain.

Retrieving my sparrow,
I brought them together,
Smooth scales and light feathers,
To mingle forever;
Two lives now to bury,
Weighed on my heart –
Once separate, now equal,
Both fragile and short;
One lived high in the trees,
The other along the ground;
No more sunning or sliding,
No more sweet, cheerful sounds.

So I laid them to rest
Beneath a young maple tree,
At peace side by side;
Now silent and free.


COLLECTED POEMS II

COLLECTED POEMS III