by Barbara Crooker
Some October, when the leaves turn gold, ask
me if I’ve done enough to deserve this life
I’ve been given. A pile of sorrows, yes, but joy
enough to unbalance the equation.
When the sky turns blue as the robes of heaven,
ask me if I’ve made a difference.
The road winds through the copper-colored woods;
no one sees around the bend.
Today, the wind poured out of Canada,
a river in flood, bringing down the brilliant leaves,
broken sticks and twigs, deserted nests.
Go where the current takes you.
Some twilight, when the clouds stream in from the west like the breath of God, ask me again.
My November Guest
by Robert Frost
My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.
Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She’s glad the birds are gone away,
She’s glad her simple worsted gray
Is silver now with clinging mist.
The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.
Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise.
For Those Who Have Far to Travel
A Blessing for Epiphany
If you could see
the journey whole
you might never
might never dare
the first step
that propels you
from the place
you have known
toward the place
you know not.
one of the mercies
of the road:
that we see it
only by stages
as it opens
as it comes into
There is nothing
but to go
and by our going
take the vows
the pilgrim takes:
to be faithful to
the next step;
to rely on more
than the map;
to heed the signposts
of intuition and dream;
to follow the star
that only you
to keep an open eye
for the wonders that
attend the path;
to press on
beyond what would
from the way.
There are vows
that only you
the secret promises
for your particular path
and the new ones
you will need to make
when the road
you could not
Keep them, break them,
make them again:
each promise becomes
part of the path;
each choice creates
that will take you
to the place
where at last
you will kneel
to offer the gift
the gift that only you
before turning to go
By David Whyte
When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone,
no part of the world can find
Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.
There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.
The dark will be your home
The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
For the Knitter of Shawls
Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
On the day
I most needed
how to pray,
a prayer shawl
arrived in the mail.
I wrapped myself in it
and felt in the trinity stitch
the singing of my name,
felt the colors tether me
to my own heart.
Sometimes when we
feel most alone,
the world conspires
through the goodness
of others to remind us
who we are,
remind us that now
is the right moment
to wrap ourselves
in the kind of beauty
no fear can extinguish,
now is the right moment
to feel how,
though we are alone,
around our shoulders
soft and so warm.
There is nothing more innocent
than the still-unformed creature I find beneath soil,
neither of us knowing what it will become
in the abundance of the planet.
It makes a living only by remaining still
in its niche.
One day it may struggle out of its tender
pearl of blind skin
with a wing or with vision
leaving behind the transparent.
I cover it again, keep laboring,
hands in earth, myself a singular body.
Watching things grow,
a cut blade of grass knows
how to turn sharp again at the end.
This same growing must be myself,
not aware yet of what I will become
in my own fullness
inside this simple flesh.
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