Monthly Archives: February 2016

What is a Poem?

A poem is the shadow of a plane fleeing over the ground like a cross escaping a church.

–Lawrence Ferlinghetti

This quote, and many other marvelous thoughts on the nature of poetry, is from Ferlinghetti’s book “Poetry as Insurgent Art.” His book was the inspiration for me to try to learn what it means to be a poet and to believe that each of us is a poet when we are still enough to listen and brave enough to record. This journal is dedicated to him and to all the great teachers of this art form.

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The Astonishing Light

”I wish I could show you, when you are lonely
or in darkness, the astonishing light
of your own being.”

–Hafez (Persian poet, 1325–1389)

The Medicines of a Thousand Breezes

In the painting the man
with the backpack is walking
his dachshund slowly up the hill.

Vivid Mexican colors flourish in the sky,
the park benches, the trees. The man counts
the crows he passes as they turn–one by one,
into chrysanthemums.

The medicines of a thousand breezes
swirl in their assigned duties.
The long lost cities of the Amazon
wait outside the frame of the painting
for the chrysanthemum crows to fly over.

True Love on St. Valentine’s Day

“The course of true love never did run smooth.”

–William Shakespeare, Midsummer Night’s Dream

Time Enough

The butterfly counts not months but moments, yet has time enough. 

-Rabindranath Tagore

Ask Me – by William Stafford

In 1992, shortly before his death,  William Stafford was commissioned by the State of Washington to provide seven poems to be installed on plaques alongside the Methow river, one of the most beautiful rivers in all of the Pacific Northwest. Ask Me was installed along the river in the town of Winthrop. I can go only so long in my life without reading it. It is one of my anchor and lifeline poems and it belongs along that river the same way Tibetan Buddhist paintings belong on the stone canyon walls of Nepal. 

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

William Stafford