Archive for the ‘Poetry comes up where it will’ Category

Almost April and the ‘livin is’ still not ‘easy’ in Wisconsin.  Our daily outings are still rushed by nippy winds and overcast skies.  Only the nightly honking from the Mississippi river tells me that the great migration has reached the water below our bluffs.  There is comfort in knowing that our annual visitors from the far south are winging their way back to their summer breeding grounds. 

A year ago, my friend Patti was still alive and I had posted a poem for her which had given her pleasure.  But today Patti is gone and I wonder if  this poem too would have given her joy:


About Angels and About Trees  by Mary Oliver

Where do angels

   fly in the firmament,

and how many can dance

   on the head of a pin?


Well, I don’t care

   about that pin dance,

what I know is that

   they rest, sometimes,

in the tops of trees


 and you can see them,

   or almost see them,

or, anyway, think:  what a

wonderful idea.


I have lost as you and

   others have possibly lost a

beloved on,

   and wonder, where are they now?


The trees, anyway, are

   miraculous, full of

angels (ideas); even

   empty they are a

good place to look, to put

   the heart at rest–all those

leaves breathing the air, so


peaceful and diligent, and certainly

   ready to be

the resting place of

   strange, winged creatures

that we, in this world, have loved.


Sam saying goodby to Patti on the day he arrived in Wisconsin.


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It seems that the US Government will find itself once again on the wrong side of history.  Even though the administration’s official position is in support of the pro-democracy movement in Egypt,  it is clear that no one is willing to turn off the 1.8 billion dollar spigot which helps maintain the oppressive regime of Hosnei Mubarak.  One point eight-billion dollars annually flow from the pockets of US citizens into the coffers of the Egyptian military and the Mubarak regime’s security apparatus that suppresses the Egyptian people. 

Instead of lending real support to the struggle for democracy in the middle east, our government supports a dictator who is ‘promising reform.’  My question is this: 

At what point can anything Mubarak promises be trusted? 

Is he not the man who declared emergency powers and has maintained them for more than thirty years? 

Is he not the one who has promised many times before that civil rights will be restored in Egypt? 

Is Mubarak not the one who assured the people before that elections would be open and fair, that he would relinquish his position as head of the official political party, the party that wields all the power in the land? 

Is he not the one whose family has accumulated over forty billion dollars in wealth during his years in power?   And how much of his wealth came from the pockets of the US taxpayer over the many years of  aid given to the Mubarak regime?

And furthermore, are we so entrenched in our way of giving lip service to freedom that we are willing to stand by the rapist who promises not to abuse his victim again?

Or are we finally willing to say to him:  Enough already!  You have to go!

Will we finally stand on the right side of history and trust the people of Egypt to build their own version of democracy?

As events unfold in the streets of Egypt I want to bring the powerful words of Suheir Hammad to your attention. 

Suheir Hammad is a poet who  “blends the stories and sounds of her Palestinian-American heritage” to bring us her “meditations on war and peace, on women and power.” 

May the world heed the truth she speaks  in the concluding line of her poem:  “Do not fear what has blown up.  If you must, fear the unexploded.”

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We are thoroughly snowed in and I witness my dogs’ unbridled joy as the garage door opens and they fly out well ahead of me.  We have three feet of the glorious white stuff and we are expecting more as the year ends.

I back the tricycle out and follow them along the plowed path, camera in hand.

Today we are in Wonderland.  Shrubs and trees are coated with diamonds and the sun shows a brilliant face.

In this very moment happiness is all around und three jubilant dogs show me the way.

They run and scoop the snow into their mouths – to toss into the air – and some of it to crunch between their teeth before they slide it down the hatch.  The moment is magic and joy ignites the air.

A poem comes to mind, a poem newly read, by a poet just discovered through my daughter’s gift which I received this Christmas:

Halleluiah (by Mary Oliver)


Everyone should be born into this world happy and loving everything.

But in truth it rarely works that way.

For myself, I have spent  my life clamering toward it.

Halleluiah, anyway I’m not where I started!


And have you too been trudging like that, sometimes almost forgetting

how wonderous the world is and how miraculously kind some people can be?

And have  you too decided that probably nothing important is ever easy?

Not, say, for the first sixty year.


Halleluiah, I’m sixty now, and even a little more,

and some days I feel I have wings. 


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I learned that my friend Patti had entered hospice care – and this morning I learned of her early death. 

This dreaded news fills me with a sadness so profound that tears are streaming from my eyes as I compose my thoughts at the death of this courageous woman.  I scarcely knew Patti, but it did not take long to learn of her generosity and the loving kindness she brought to life.

I met Patti about a year ago when she e-mailed me in response to my post on dying with dignity.  At that time she shared with me the struggle that had entered her life after cancer had invaded her spine.  She was determined to love life for the duration and to fight the spreading menace to her last breath.  So she braved the treatments and endured increasing pain.  It was difficult to witness her suffering as it became increasingly clear that Patti was loosing her battle with cancer.   

This picture was taken in June when Patti and her husband Greg met us to witness the arrival of our new BARC berner Sammy.  Sadly, this is the only time we were able to meet.  Had things gone differently we would be planning our road trip to the 2011 Berner Specialty in California in early Spring.   We were going to take an RV and one Berner each and travel through the land, visiting as many of the BARC families along the way as  would have us.

But alas, dear Patti, it was not to be!

Your courageous battle is over and amidst the sadness I am thankful that your suffering has ended.  So let me salute you one more time with a poem that you surely would have liked.

Burning Bush by Alison Apotheker


I would like to belive that in the darkness

beneath the skin, the secret dark holds

the same volatile oil as these flowers

and will ignite the stricken

silence of this summer night.


And I would like to believe the soul’s

language resides there, and the unfinished phrases

of the dead ones, the ellipsis completed

in a crush of those dark green toothed

leaves and their scent of sliced lemon.


I would hope as well that the lightning

in its body finds rest beneath the soil

and knows, as sure as the capillaries

whisper of blood’s persistent passage,

that all will be remembered and spoken for. 


Rest in Peace my dear Patti and may Eternity cradle you.

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“Using animation, projections and her own moving shadow, Mirwa Matreyek performs a gorgeous, meditative piece about inner and outer discovery.  Take a quiet 10 minutes and dive in.   With music from Anna Oxygen, Mirah, Caroline Lufkin and Mileece.”  TED

Please click on the link below to see the video.


I would like to address this visual poem to my sister Elke in Upstate New York and my friend Patti in Wisconsin.  May this lovely performance bring you moments of joy.

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Gelb die Stoppelfelder

und der Herbst beginnt!


As Autumn arrives I remember the lovely poem my mother recites for the occasion. 

She is in her 90’s now.  In perfect health – her mind is clear – She tells me that life is good. 

She has lived much longer than she every dreamed and treats each day like a precious gift.  Her only sadness is that her children live too far away.  Of five, not one of them nearby! 

This morning, as I look out over the river, I see flood waters swell the Mississippi still.  

For two weeks now, the small river towns have braced themselves for the approaching mayhem.  Nearby, our towns were lucky this year, and other than a flooded basement here or there, they were spared. 

Early morning brings the sun rising from behind the woods, illuminating the river as it flows heavily to our South.  Even from high up on the bluffs I see the water murky with runoff and mud.  It is darker than its usual self and flows more heavily toward the sea.

On a day like this my heart is heavy with the burden of remembrance and poetry speaks to me.

I see the chain of women leading from the shrouded past to this house on its lofty perch, high on the bluffs.  The one I loved most, my mother’s mother, visits often… her shadow follows me through the quiet house.  The dogs are calm and settle softly at my feet.  They are no stranger to the spirit world and know when spirits are nearby.

My mother tells me:   “She too will come after her time has passed.”

I laugh and doubt it – for she loves life too much – and I know her too well.  

Here is a poem I’d like to share with you.  A poem that speaks of a mother’s love… of the unbroken chain leading back into the mist…  a celebration of times past…  a promise of moments yet to come:

My Mother’s Pears


Plump, green-gold, Worcester’s pride,

     transported through autumn skies,

          in a box marked HANDLE WITH CARE


sleep eighteen Bartlett pears,

     hand-picked and polished and packed

          for deposit at my door,


each in its crinkled nest

     with a stub of stem attached

          and a single bright leaf like a flag.


A smaller than usual crop,

     but still enough to share with me,

          as always at harvest time.


Those strangers are my friends

     whose kindness blesses the house

          my mother built at the edge of town


beyond the last trolley-stop

     when the century was young, and she

          proposed, for her children’s sake,


to marry again, not knowing how soon

     the windows would grow dark

          and the velvet drapes come down.


Rubble accumulates in the yard,

     workmen are hammering on the roof,

          I am standing knee-deep in dirt


with a shovel in my hand.

     Mother has wrapped a kerchief round her head,

          her glasses glint in the sun.


When my sisters appear on the scene,

     gangly and softly tittering,

          she waves them back into the house


to fetch us pails of water,

     and they skip from our sight

          in their matching middy blouses.


I summon up all my strength

     to set the pear tree in the ground,

          unwind the burlap shroud.


It is taller than I.  “Make room

     for the roots!”  my mother cries,

          “Dig the hole deeper.”

 by Stanley Kunitz

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The last of the migrating Hummingbirds has come and gone!  This little one arrived last week and spent only a few days at Sontheim.  I’ve watched it visit our two remaining feeders primarily at sunrise and sunset. 

It did not surprise me that it arrived with its weight well below flight readiness.  What intrigued me was the fact that it did not take full advantage of the fresh sugar-water provided here, and it worried me that it left before it had bulked up sufficiently for its long migration. 

I saw the little Hummer last after a very cold and stormy night, drinking deeply from the feeder in front of the kitchen window.   As far as I can tell, it has not returned since and I can only assume that it continued its journey along the Mississippi in an attempt to stay ahead of the encroaching cold.

I don’t know, which is more worrisome:  a tiny Hummer leaving before it is ready, or a fat little Hummer reluctant to leave its refuge as the temperature dips toward freezing every night.

Now that the last of the Hummingbirds has left for the South, I think about the long and dangerous journey they embark upon every year.  How many will be snared by the multifold dangers they encounter along the way?  How many will lose their lives by being trapped in the fog and residue of agricultural pesticides that are so liberally sprayed to produce cheap food.   And how many will arrive to find their winter habitat destroyed by an ever-expanding human population, by its insatiable appetite, its ignorance and greed?

Weather I worry or not, I have done my share to give these tiny birds a chance to survive.  The rest is out of my hands and so I send my prayers along for the journey.   Bon voyage my little ones, may you thrive along the way and return to Sontheim in the Spring.

Let me conclude with the words of Emily Dickinson and share with you this somber yet beautiful poem:

Death is a dialogue between

the spirit and the dust.

“Dissolve,” says Death.  The Spirit, “Sir

I have another trust.”

Death doubts it, argues from the ground. 

The Spirit turns away,

Just laying off,  for evidence. 

Another coat of Clay.

Emily Dickinson

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