by Joy Harjo
Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star's stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun's birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother's, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people are you.
Remember you are this universe and this universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.
Wait by Galway Kinnell
Wait, for now.
Distrust everything if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become interesting.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again;
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. And the desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.
Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a little and listen:
music of hair,
music of pain,
music of looms weaving all our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear
the flute of your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.
At twilight we rest,
in the cool air.
Gazing up watching
the crows arrive from the east,
drawn to the western sky
by some invisible thread -
to night perches in far off trees.
then the next,
then a cluster of twenty perhaps more.
Repeating this over and over,
they fly as the evening falls.
Then there are the ones who are behind,
the single ones,
their wings flapping madly to catch up with the others,
the faster, the ones who didn't linger.
We cheer them on,
hoping they too can make it home
before the dark descends,
these stragglers are our heroes tonight.
Who knows why they fly this way.
Temperature and light
signaling the time to come home.
Signals imperceptible to us.
The way to find home
is to follow the waning light,
the cooler breeze,
to trust the setting sun.
Autumnal by Rosemary Wahtola Trommer after a line from William Stafford
When the leaves are about to yellow and fall
ask me then how I tried to hold on to what was green, how I thought perhaps I was different,
how everything I thought I knew about gold
turned brittle and brown.
Ask me what it was like to fall then. Sometimes the world’s workings feel transparent and we know ourselves as the world.
Sometimes the only words that can find our lips are thank you, though the gifts look nothing like anything we ever thought we wanted.
Sometimes, gratitude arrives in us, not because we are willing, but because it insists on itself, like a weed, like a wind, like change.
The Room of Ancient Keys (Midwives of the Soul)
by Elena Mikhalkova
My grandmother once gave me a tip:
In difficult times, you move forward in small steps.
Do what you have to do, but little by little.
Don’t think about the future, or what may happen tomorrow.
Wash the dishes.
Remove the dust.
Write a letter.
Make a soup.
You are advancing step by step.
Take a step and stop.
Rest a little.
Take another step.
You won’t notice, but your steps will grow more and more.
And the time will come when you can think about the future without crying.
Blue cold dark
clear diamond glitter
Bare trees stand
Moon and Water
I wake and spend
the last hours
with no one
but the moon.
to my complaints
like the good
companion she is
and comforts me surely
with her light.
But she, like everyone,
has her own life.
So finally I understand
that she has turned away,
is no longer listening.
She wants me
to refold myself
into my own life.
And, bending close,
as we all dream of doing,
she rows with her white arms
through the dark water
which she adores.
by Mary Oliver
October was when
you celebrated your love
with chili and red wine
under the moon,
watching the elk and deer in their fall rut,
together another year.
More than sixty years you shared this ritual,
with the mountains as your witness
the stars as your guide.
Cold wind and early snow
signaling that it was time
to head down valley,
car packed to the brim.
You, like the deer and elk
migrating to warmer grounds for winter.
The Little Girl by the Fence at School - William Stafford
Grass that was moving found all shades of brown,
moved them along, flowed autumn away
galloping southward where summer had gone.
And that was the morning someone’s heart stopped
and became still. A girl said, “Forever?”
And the grass. “Yes,. forever.” While the sky -
The sky - the sky - the sky.
When Giving is All We Have by Alberto Rios
One river gives
Its journey to the next.
We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.
We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.
We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—
Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.
Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:
Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.
You gave me blue and I gave you yellow. Together we are simple green. You gave me
What you did not have, and I gave you What I had to give—together, we made
Something greater from the difference.
Essential Gratitude by Andrea Potos
Sometimes it just stuns you
like an arrow flung from some angel’s wing.
Sometimes it hastily scribbles
a list in the air: black coffee,
thick new books,
your pillow’s cool underside,
the quirky family you married into.
It is content with so little really;
even the ink of your pen along
the watery lines of your dimestore notebook
could be a swiftly moving prayer.
The kitchen is sweet with the smell of apples,
big yellow pie apples, light in the hand,
their skins freckled, the stems knobby
and thick with bark, as if the tree
could not bear to let the apple go.
Baskets of apples circle the back door,
fill the porch, cover the kitchen table.
My mother and my grandmother are
running the apple brigade. My mother,
always better with machines, is standing
at the apple peeler; my grandmother,
more at home with a paring knife,
faces her across the breadboard.
My mother takes an apple in her hand,
She pushes it neatly onto the sharp
prong and turns the handle that turns
the apple that swivels the blade pressed
tight against the apple's side and peels
the skin away in long curling strips that
twist and fall to a bucket on the floor.
The apples, coming off the peeler,
Are winding staircases, little accordions,
slinky toys, jack-in-the-box fruit, until
my grandmother's paring knife goes slicing
through the rings and they become apple
pies, apple cakes, apple crisp. Soon
they will be married to butter and live with
cinnamon and sugar, happily ever after.
- Joyce Sutphen