OPW, poetry

OPW: “The Summer Day”

This poem by Mary Oliver has a few lines I quite like:

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

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OPW, poetry

OPW: Assignment #1

Today’s Other People’s Words was selected mostly because I’m a sucker for clever titles. It’s not that I don’t like Philip Burnham’s poem, it’s that I wouldn’t have payed attention if not for that title.

Assignment #1: Write a poem about Baseball and God

And on the ninth day, God
In His infinite playfulness
Grass green grass, sky blue sky,
Separated the infield from the outfield,
Formed a skin of clay,
Assigned bases of safety
On cardinal points of the compass
Circling the mountain of deliverance,
Fashioned a wandering moon
From a horse, a string and a gum tree,
Tempered weapons of ash,
Made gloves from the golden skin of sacrificial bulls,
Set stars alight in the Milky Way,
Divided the descendants of Cain and Abel into contenders,
Declared time out, time in,        stepped back,
And thundered over all of creation:
                                       “Play ball!”

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OPW, poetry

OPW: “Snow, Aldo”

Since it’s been warm outside recently (at least where I live), what better time is there for a poem about snow? This fun little poem, “Snow, Aldo,” is by Kate DeCamillo.

Once, I was in New York,
in Central Park, and I saw
an old man in a black overcoat walking
a black dog. This was springtime
and the trees were still
bare and the sky was
gray and low and it began, suddenly,
to snow:
big fat flakes
that twirled and landed on the
black of the man’s overcoat and
the black dog’s fur. The dog
lifted his face and stared
up at the sky. The man looked
up, too. “Snow, Aldo,” he said to the dog,
“snow.” And he laughed.
The dog looked
at him and wagged his tail.

If I was in charge of making
snow globes, this is what I would put inside:
the old man in the black overcoat,
the black dog,
two friends with their faces turned up to the sky
as if they were receiving a blessing,
as if they were being blessed together
by something
as simple as snow
in March.

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OPW, poetry

OPW: “The Aliens”

A slightly different poem than usual. “The Aliens” is from the famously tortured Charles Bukowski, and it wears that fact on it’s sleeve. I suppose that even though I don’t really empathize with the poem, it seemed an apt follow-on to the dissatisfied commentary I presented yesterday.

you may not believe it
but there are people
who go through life with
very little
friction or
distress.
they dress well, eat
well, sleep well.
they are contented with
their family
life.
they have moments of
grief
but all in all
they are undisturbed
and often feel
very good.
and when they die
it is an easy
death, usually in their
sleep.

you may not believe
it
but such people do
exist.

but I am not one of
them.
oh no, I am not one
of them,
I am not even near
to being
one of
them

but they are
there

and I am
here.

If you’re interested in a different style of presentation, try out this rather good animation of the poem.

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OPW, poetry

OPW: What the Uneducated Woman Told Me

Today’s Other People’s Words is a nice–if a little bleak–little poem by Christopher Reid.

That she was glad to sit down.
That her legs hurt in spite of the medicine.
That times were bad.
That her husband had died nearly thirty years before.
That the war had changed things.
That the new priest looked like a schoolboy and you could barely
        hear him in church.
That pigs were better company, generally speaking, than goats.

That no one could fool her.
That both her sons had married stupid women.
That her son-in-law drove a truck.
That he had once delivered something to the President’s palace.
That his flat was on the seventh floor and that it made her dizzy to
        think of it.
That he brought her presents from the black market.
That an alarm clock was of no use to her.
That she could no longer walk to town and back.

That all her friends were dead.
That I should be careful about mushrooms.
That ghosts never came to a house where a sprig of rosemary had
        been hung.
That the cinema was a ridiculous invention.
That the modern dances were no good.
That her husband had a beautiful singing voice, until drink
        ruined it.
That the war had changed things.

That she had seen on a map where the war had been fought.
That Hitler was definitely in Hell right now.
That children were cheekier than ever.
That it was going to be a cold winter, you could tell from the height
        of the birds’ nests.
That even salt was expensive these days.
That she had had a long life and was not afraid of dying.
That times were very bad.

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OPW, poetry

OPW: “Riveted”

Today’s Other People Words, like much this week, reminded me of “Be Your Own Protagonist.” The poem‘s “Riveted” by Robyn Sarah.

It is possible that things will not get better
than they are now, or have been known to be.
It is possible that we are past the middle now.
It is possible that we have crossed the great water
without knowing it, and stand now on the other side.
Yes: I think that we have crossed it. Now
we are being given tickets, and they are not
tickets to the show we had been thinking of,
but to a different show, clearly inferior.

Check again: it is our own name on the envelope.
The tickets are to that other show.

It is possible that we will walk out of the darkened hall
without waiting for the last act: people do.
Some people do. But it is probable
that we will stay seated in our narrow seats
all through the tedious dénouement
to the unsurprising end — riveted, as it were;
spellbound by our own imperfect lives
because they are lives,
and because they are ours.

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OPW, poetry

OPW: “All That is Glorius Around Us”

Today’s “Other People Words” is a poem by Barbara Crooker which celebrate the oft-forgotten glories of life.

All That Is Glorious Around Us
(title of an exhibit on The Hudson River School)

is not, for me, these grand vistas, sublime peaks, mist-filled
overlooks, towering clouds, but doing errands on a day
of driving rain, staying dry inside the silver skin of the car,
160,000 miles, still running just fine. Or later,
sitting in a café warmed by the steam
from white chicken chili, two cups of dark coffee,
watching the red and gold leaves race down the street,
confetti from autumn’s bright parade. And I think
of how my mother struggles to breathe, how few good days
she has now, how we never think about the glories
of breath, oxygen cascading down our throats to the lungs,
simple as the journey of water over a rock. It is the nature
of stone / to be satisfied / writes Mary Oliver, It is the nature
of water / to want to be somewhere else, rushing down
a rocky tor or high escarpment, the panoramic landscape
boundless behind it. But everything glorious is around
us already: black and blue graffiti shining in the rain’s
bright glaze, the small rainbows of oil on the pavement,
where the last car to park has left its mark on the glistening
street, this radiant world.

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OPW, poetry

OPW: “The Future”

Today on Other People’s Words, a beautiful poem by Wesley McNair called “The Future.”

On the afternoon talk shows of America
the guests have suffered life’s sorrows
long enough. All they require now
is the opportunity for closure,
to put the whole thing behind them
and get on with their lives. That their lives,
in fact, are getting on with them even
as they announce their requirement
is written on the faces of the younger ones
wrinkling their brows, and the skin
of their elders collecting just under their
set chins. It’s not easy to escape the past,
but who wouldn’t want to live in a future
where the worst has already happened
and Americans can finally relax after daring
to demand a different way? For the rest of us,
the future, barring variations, turns out
to be not so different from the present
where we have always lived—the same
struggle of wishes and losses, and hope,
that old lieutenant, picking us up
every so often to dust us off and adjust
our helmets. Adjustment, for that matter,
may be the one lesson hope has to give,
serving us best when we begin to find
what we didn’t know we wanted in what
the future brings. Nobody would have asked
for the ice storm that takes down trees
and knocks the power out, leaving nothing
but two buckets of snow melting
on the wood stove and candlelight so weak,
the old man sitting at the kitchen table
can hardly see to play cards. Yet how else
but by the old woman’s laughter
when he mistakes a jack for a queen
would he look at her face in the half-light as if
for the first time while the kitchen around them
and the very cards he holds in his hands
disappear? In the deep moment of his looking
and her looking back, there is no future,
only right now, all, anyway, each one of us
has ever had, and all the two of them,
sitting together in the dark among the cracked
notes of the snow thawing beside them
on the stove, right now will ever need.

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OPW, poetry

OPW: I’ll Wave Good-bye When Butter Flies

Today’s Other People’s Words, is a fun little poem from Jack Prelutsky, “I’ll Wave Good-bye When Butter Flies.”

I wave good-bye when butter flies
and cheer a boxing match,
I’ve often watched my pillow fight,
I’ve sewn a cabbage patch,
I like to dance at basket balls
or lead a rubber band,
I’ve marvelled at a spelling bee,
I’ve helped a peanut stand.

It’s possible a pencil points,
but does a lemon drop?
Does coffee break or chocolate kiss,
and will a soda pop?
I share my milk with drinking straws,
my meals with chewing gum,
and should I see my pocket change,
I’ll hear my kettle drum.

It makes me sad when lettuce leaves,
I laugh when dinner rolls,
I wonder if the kitchen sinks
and if a salad bowls,
I’ve listened to a diamond ring,
I’ve waved a football fan,
and if a chimney sweeps the floor,
I’m sure the garbage can.

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OPW, poetry

OPW: Max Ehrmann’s “Desiderata”

There’s a large soft spot in my heart for broad and sweeping pieces of advice about how to live you life. Even if I don’t agree with everything such poems, columns, commencement speeches, or songs say, I still like them. And even if they seem to be off on a few points, they say things that are probably worth listening to. Such is the case with today’s “Other People’s Words,” Max Ehrmann’s poem “Desiderata.”

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

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