To a Milkweed

Poem for a Thursday — “To a Milkweed” by Deborah Digges

Teach me to love what I’ve made and judgment

in that love.

Teach me your arrogance.

With each five-petaled horned flower teach me

how much blossoming matters

along roadsides, dry-

beds, these fields no longer cleared.

Teach me such patience at each turning, how

to live on nothing but will, its milky

juices, poison

to the others, though when its stem is broken,

bleeds. Teach me to

need the future,

and the past, that Indian summer.

Let me be tricked into believing

that by what moves in me I might be saved,

and hold to this. Hold

onto this until there’s wind enough.

in Cries of the Spirit, ed. Marilyn Sewell. Boston: Beacon Press, 1991, p. 159.


Deborah Digges grew up in Jefferson City, Missouri, the sixth of ten children. Her poetry explores themes of family, nature, gender roles, and the complexities of being human. She taught for a number of years at Tuft’s University outside Boston. Digges authored four acclaimed volumes of poetry, including Vesper Sparrows (1986), which won the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Prize for a best first book of poetry. Her death by suicide in 2009 at the age of 59 deprived the world of a gifted voice. John Michaud of The New Yorker wrote, “She was the kind of writer whose work went deep into the lives of her readers.”


Image source https://www.britannica.com/plant/common-milkweed

Before Dark

Poem for a Tuesday — “Before Dark” by Wendell Berry

“From the porch at dusk I watched

a kingfisher wild in flight

he could only have made for joy.

He came down the river, splashing

against the water’s dimming face

like a skipped rock, passing

on down out of sight. And still

I could hear the splashes

farther and farther away

as it grew darker. He came back

the same way, dusky as his shadow,

sudden beyond the willows.

The splashes went on out of hearing.

It was dark then. Somewhere

the night had accommodated him

—at the place he was headed for

or where, led by his delight,

he came.”

In Collected Poems: 1957-1982. San Francisco: North Point Press, 1984. P. 63.


Wendell Berry is a farmer, author, and poet. For more than forty years, he has sustainably worked the land in eastern Kentucky that his ancestors first settled in the early 19th century. His writing embodies a deep reverence for the land and its wild creatures. He believes that we must learn to live in harmony with the natural rhythms of the earth or perish. Berry was awarded a National Humanities Medal in 2010 and a Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Books Critics Circle in 2016.


Photo by Monique Laats on Pexels.com

To the Dust of the Road

Poem for a Tuesday — W.S. Merwin

“And in the morning you are up again
with the way leading through you for a while
longer if the wind is motionless when
the cars reach where the asphalt ends a mile
or so below the main road and the wave
you rise into is different every time
and you are one with it until you have
made your way up to the top of your climb
and brightened in that moment of that day
and then you turn as when you rose before
in fire or wind from the ends of the earth
to pause here and you seem to drift away
on into nothing to lie down once more
until another breath brings you to birth”

in 180 More Extraordinary Poems for Every Day, ed. Billy Collins. New York: Random House, 2005. P. 8.


W.S. Merwin

William Stanley Merwin was the son of a Presbyterian Minister. His first foray into poetry came as a boy: writing and illustrating hymns for his father, almost as soon as he could hold a pencil. Strongly rooted in classical studies, his translation of Dante’s Purgatorio and the Middle English epic Sir Gawain and the Green Knight were heralded for their “graceful, accessible language,” and his Selected Translations won the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award. Merwin was a staunch pacifist and proponent of deep ecology. In 1976, he moved to Hawaii to study Zen Buddhism and remained there for the rest of his life, buying an old pineapple plantation and carefully restoring the native habitat. One of the most highly decorated poets in American literature, Merwin was the recipient of two Pulitzer Prizes and served twice as the U.S. Poet Laureate from 1999-2000 and 2010-2011.


Photo by Ivy Son on Pexels.com

Perhaps the World Ends Here

Poem for a Tuesday — “Perhaps the World Ends Here” by Joy Harjo

“The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.”

— from the wonderful, gorgeously creative, and insightful book Reinventing the Enemy’s Language, ed. Joy Harjo and Gloria Bird. New York: W.W. Norton, 1997. p. 556.


Joy Harjo is a member of the Muscogee Nation. A gifted poet, memoirist, essayist, and musician, Harjo draws deeply from indigenous traditions of storytelling and oral history. She has a unique gift for capturing the moment, in all its emotional complexity, amid varied landscapes, both natural and human. She is a longtime friend of U.S. Secretary of Interior Deb Haalund (Laguna Pueblo); both see Native American poetry as an act of reclaiming, celebrating, and advocating for public lands and ancestral homes. Harjo has said “…most of what is created is beyond us, is from that source of utter creation, the Creator, or God. We are technicians here on Earth, but also co-creators. I’m still amazed. And I still say, after writing poetry for all this time, and now music, that ultimately humans have a small hand in it. We serve it. We have to put ourselves in the way of it and get out of the way of ourselves” (Contemporary Authors). Her memoir Crazy Brave was honored with the American Book Award. She served as the 23rd U.S. Poet Laureate from 2019-2022.


Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

Blue Morning Glory

Poem for a Tuesday — “Blue Morning Glory” by Anne Pitkin

“Voracious, yes. But when you see it,
shy blue flowers blaring like trumpets in spite of themselves,
center star shaped and yellow; when it startles you,
early in the morning, all over a white picket fence, say,
in Massachusetts, you might think ‘triumphal,’ ‘prodigal,’
‘awake.’

Of course you don’t want it in your rose garden
among all the pruned, the decorous bushes. You don’t want it
in the vegetables, for it will romp through the tomatoes,
beans and peas, will leave no room on the ground, or even
in the air, for the leafy lettuces and cabbages soberly
queueing up in their furrows. It will hog all the sky it can get
knowing as it does what enormous thirst is satisfied by blue.

Father Michael says Follow the God of abundance
Says we hurry from the moment’s wealth
for fear it will be taken. Think of this:

the morning glory has been blossoming for so long
without permission that in some gardens it is no longer censored.
What does that tell you? See how it opens its tender throats
to a world that can sting it, how, without apology for its excess,
it blooms and blooms, though even yet
it seems surprised.”

in Cries of the Spirit Within, ed. Marilyn Sewell. Boston: Beacon Press, 1991, pp. 33-34.


Poet Anne Pitkin was born and raised in Clarksville, TN. Her poetry collections include Yellow and Winter Arguments. Her newest volume But Still, Music will be published by Pleasure Boat Studio in September. Pitkin’s work explores nature, family, and the tensions of growing up in the Jim Crow South. With regard to her craft, Pitkin has said, “I cannot say just when or why I started writing poetry. I read a lot of it during and after college, and I responded, I guess, by trying to write it, initially piqued by the tensions between words” (from Rattle #27, summer 2007).


Photo by Barbara Webb on Pexels.com

The Albatross

Poem for a Tuesday — “The Albatross” by Kate Bass

“When I know you are coming home
I put on this necklace:
glass beads on a silken thread,
a blue that used to match my eyes.
I like to think I am remembering you.
I like to think you don’t forget.

The necklace lies heavy on my skin,
it clatters when I reach down
to lift my screaming child.
I swing her, roll her in my arms until she forgets.
The beads glitter in the flicker of a TV set
as I sit her on my lap
and wish away the afternoon.

I wait until I hear a gate latch lift
the turn of key in lock.
I sit amongst toys and unwashed clothes,
I sit and she fingers the beads until you speak
in a voice that no longer seems familiar, only strange.
I turn as our child tugs at the string.
I hear a snap and a sound like falling rain.”

in 180 More Extraordinary Poems for Every Day, ed. Billy Collins. New York: Random House, 2005, p. 28.


Kate Bass is a British poet who works as an illustrator. Her critically acclaimed collection of poems The Pasta Maker was published in 2003. Grounded in family and detailed observations of the everyday, Bush’s work captures the emotional undertones of relationship – often felt, rarely spoken, deeply true. She lives with her family in Cambridge.


Photo by Nicolas Postiglioni on Pexels.com

Theophany

Poem for a Tuesday — “Theophany” by Joann White

“Theophany”

My eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts. — Isaiah 6:5c

You lay hidden all day, capped

by low-slung cloud and wrapped in

mist.  Standing stones, carved with cups

and rings, pointed your way, surrounded

by the worship of lesser gods,

piled high by pilgrims, gravity, and

druids. Near Uam Tom a Mhor-fir,

we looked for you in the

old ways, but no fae-folk

made merry for your pleasure, only

a chorus of snowmelt played the

melody of lengthening days. No whirlwind,

fire, or earthquake heralded your presence,

and so, with thoughts turned to

rest, we walked into the quotidian.

Sheep in woolen tutus balanced on

graceful black legs. Bò Ghàidhealach with

nose ring and rakish fringe marked

our passage. Then, as the spring

sun slanted low above Kinnloch Rannoch,

the veil lifted. Tugged by your

hand upon our heartstrings, we turned

to see Schiehallion’s bare granite slabs

gleaming with glory, the Lord God

seated on a high and lofty

throne, and so, like grounded seraphim,

we pulled out our cameras to

capture what cannot be caught and

sang the doxology of the wanderer,

Holy, holy, holy Lord! Would you

take a look at that!


This is the fourth and final poem in a series that I wrote in response to Kore-ada Hirokazu’s stunning film after life. It explores the memory that I might choose to live in for eternity, a day of rough hill walking through the heart of Scotland and over the shoulder of Schiehallion. This poem responds to the question, “When did you feel closest to God?”


Seasoned

Poem for a Tuesday — “Seasoned” by Joann White

Who is coming up from the wilderness, leaning on the one she loves? — Song of Songs 8:5

This old love is different,

not like the fire that

once brought us together. It

is in the shared delight

of bodies in motion, stiff

joints easing, legs finding the

right rhythm to fall in

step. It is in the

thrill of winter snow under

June boots and the soft

whomp of a well-aimed snowball.

I’ve learned it is in

the painstaking quest for the

perfect path, the testing of

rocks to ford a stream,

the map and compass ramble

to plot our course, the

patient return, this way you

say, certain and vulnerable, pointing

to contour lines threaded with

tenuous tracks. It is in

the trust to follow, despite

fear. It is in companionable

silence, sheltering from rain in

a shepherd’s bothy reeking of

coal fires spent and inked

with graffiti of hikers past.

Rising together to descend, hand

reaches for hand, palm against

palm, warm hearts slowly beat

the tempo that lasts.


This is the third poem in a series that I wrote in response to Kore-ada Hirokazu’s stunning film after life. It explores the memory that I might choose to live in for eternity, a day of rough hill walking through the heart of Scotland and over the shoulder of Schiehallion. This poem responds to the question, “When did you give or receive the most love?” I’ll share the last poem in the series next Tuesday.


The view from Hendrick’s Bothy.

A Wind from God

Poem for a Tuesday — “A Wind from God” by Joann White

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. — Genesis 1:1

There comes a point

in every climb when

the need for breath

and the ache of

legs push aside every

unneeded thought.  There is

no room for the

church I carry, the

mistakes I’ve made, the

lies I’ve told, the

truth I cannot speak,

the years of too

little love, the children

I never had, the

future I fear. Emptied,

I simply am rocks

beneath boots, snow reaching

down from Meall Liath,

lambs suckling with wagging

tails, the fairy mountain

hidden by mist, the

shielings of my ancestors,

red deer watching wary,

oily water oozing from

yards-deep peat. God breathes

in me and I

am recreated, a new

Eve, utterly insignificantly at

home in the web

that has been woven.


This is the second poem in a series that I wrote in response to Kore-ada Hirokazu’s stunning film after life. It explores the memory that I might choose to live in for eternity, a day of rough hill walking through the heart of Scotland and over the shoulder of Schiehallion. This poem responds to the question, “When did you best know your place amid creation?” I’ll share the subsequent poems on the next two Tuesdays.


Shieling remnant in the shadow of Schiehallion.

Full Scottish Breakfast

Poem for a Tuesday — “Full Scottish Breakfast” by Joann White

Lord, you are my portion and my cup of blessing; you hold my future. — Psalm 16:5

Below the thatched

roof in Fortingall

our eyes meet

above the table.

It’s too much.

Tattie scones dipped

in sunny yolks

milky black tea

crispy streaky bacon

black pudding more

than we want

or need and

who eats beans

for breakfast anyway?

We push our

food around the

plate, lace up

our boots, and

step out to

be fed by this glorious day.


This is the initial poem — a prelude — to a series that I wrote in response to Kore-ada Hirokazu’s stunning film after life. It explores the memory that I might choose to live in for eternity, a day of rough hill walking through the heart of Scotland and over the shoulder of Schiehallion. I’ll share the subsequent poems on the next three Tuesdays.


Image credit: https://scottishscran.com/what-is-a-full-scottish-breakfast/