Tag Archives: poetry

Seize the Day(light)

Bed in Summer

Summer is officially a full month away, but on a university campus that recently put its final graduation ceremony to bed, it now feels like summer. Parking is suddenly fantastic. Campers will arrive soon. Neighbors are flung all over the world. And excepting the nuisance of May Gray and June Gloom, there are more hours of daylight to enjoy.

I love this time of year when the sun shows up early and goes home late. Life just seems full, and opportunities abound. Early morning runs are much easier when the sun beats you out of bed, and coming home from work is simply happier when the world is still bright. It makes me feel a little like a child again.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem, “Bed in Summer,” shares the perspective of a poor kid who isn’t very fond of winter but loves summer so much that having to obey parents at bedtime is torture!

In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer, quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.

I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree,
Or hear the grown-up people’s feet
Still going past me in the street.

And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?

 
I get it, kiddo. You know, today is Monday, and it is going to be Monday all day long. But it feels like a summer kind of Monday to me. And since I am officially a grown-up trying to hold on to a childlike heart, I can soak up the day for as long as I want and go to bed when I want to!

Advertisements

The Fan

IMG_0521

THE FAN (a free verse poem by Al Sturgeon)

The memory arrived unprompted as a tender gift.

I had been sunburned yet again.

It was night as I lay in bed, miserable,

motionless, and cursing myself

for an apparent inability to learn a lesson.

 

I was a teenager, alone in that tiny bedroom,

alone with my restless imagination, naked

as a modest kid in a modest family could get

to ease the pain, limbs sprayed like a

hopeless summer attempt at a snow angel.

 

My mother had tried her best to provide

some lotion as a remedy but to no avail.

I would simply be miserable until I wasn’t;

there was nothing more to do but listen to

the silent sound of time passing.

 

But squeezed into the corner was an oscillating fan.

It stood watch through the night, keeping me company,

marking time with its fluttering whir, rhythmically sending

a breeze both soothing and not across my blistered skin—

a welcomed sensation in solitary confinement.

 

The rhythm led to a mindless world of nothingness.

No thought of the terrible fate of dressing in the morning.

No self-loathing. Just staring into dark eyelids with

my sweet parents next door; at peace, listening, awaiting

the consistent and predictable relief from the oscillating fan.

 

The memory arrived out of nowhere.

For a brief moment I was a kid again

with a mom and a dad who would answer

if I simply called their names. It was so real

that I could hear the whirring fan and feel the gentle breeze.

 

 

 

Don’t Keep Score

My friend, Andrew, gave me a gift titled, appropriately, The Gift, a book of poetry from Hafiz, the Great Sufi Master.  Reportedly, the poems may be more Daniel Ladinsky (the author/translator) than Hafiz, but either way the poetry is great fun.  I try to read a few each morning, and although I am not ready to call it yet, an early favorite has emerged.  Other than a meager attempt at a title for this blog entry, I leave this short poem to your individual interpretations.

THE SUN NEVER SAYS

Even
After
All this time
The sun never says to the earth,

“You owe
Me.”

Look
What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the
Whole
Sky.

Step Back In

I doubt many tune into my blog to read a cool poem and reflect on its deep meaning, but just in case anyone else in this station wagon has ever messed up, reflected on an irretrievable life, and decided that the opportunity to carry on is too precious to stay away, this Raymond Carver poem is worth it.

Locking Yourself Out,
Then Trying to Get Back In

By Raymond Carver

You simply go out and shut the door
without thinking. And when you look back
at what you’ve done
it’s too late. If this sounds
like the story of a life, okay.

It was raining. The neighbors who had
a key were away. I tried and tried
the lower windows. Stared
inside the sofa, plants, the table
and chairs, the stereo set-up.
My coffee cup and ashtrays waited for me
on the glass-topped table, and my heart
went out to them. I said, Hello, friends,
or something like that. After all,
this wasn’t so bad.
Worse things had happened. This
was even a little funny. I found the ladder.
Took that and leaned it against the house.
Then climbed in the rain to the deck,
swung myself over the railing
and tried the door. Which was locked,
of course. But I looked in just the same
at my desk, some papers, and my chair.
This was the window on the other side
of the desk where I’d raise my eyes
and stare out when I sat at that desk.
This is not like downstairs, I thought.
This is something else.

And it was something to look in like that, unseen,
from the deck. To be there, inside, and not be there.
I don’t even think I can talk about it.
I brought my face close to the glass
and imagined myself inside,
sitting at the desk. Looking up
from my work now and again.
Thinking about some other place
and some other time.
The people I had loved then.

I stood there for a minute in the rain.
Considering myself to be the luckiest of men.
Even though a wave of grief passed through me.
Even though I felt violently ashamed
of the injury I’d done back then.
I bashed that beautiful window.
And stepped back in.

“Locking Yourself Out, Then Trying to Get Back In,” by Raymond Carver, from Where Water Comes Together With Other Water (Vintage Books).

One More Day to Discover

Today, I share my favorite poem of all time, “At Least” by Raymond Carver. It is a poem filled with life, thankfulness, and anticipation.

At Least – by Raymond Carver
I want to get up early one more morning,
before sunrise. Before the birds, even.
I want to throw cold water on my face
and be at my work table
when the sky lightens and smoke
begins to rise from the chimneys
of the other houses.
I want to see the waves break
on this rocky beach, not just hear them
break as I did all night in my sleep.
I want to see again the ships
that pass through the Straits from every
seafaring country in the world –
old, dirty freighters just barely moving along,
and the swift new cargo vessels
painted every color under the sun
that cut the water as they pass.
I want to keep an eye out for them.
And for the little boat that plies
the water between the ships
and the pilot station near the lighthouse.
I want to see them take a man off the ship
and put another up on board.
I want to spend the day watching this happen
and reach my own conclusions.
I hate to seem greedy – I have so much
to be thankful for already.
But I want to get up early one more morning, at least.
And go to my place with some coffee and wait.
Just wait, to see what’s going to happen.

Choose Sanity

My high school buddies and I had great fun with the imagist poetry phase of William Carlos Williams. Wow, that makes us sound so intelligent. Instead, we were clueless teenage boys with no appreciation for anything resembling culture who simply made fun of the poem in our literature book about a wheelbarrow and chickens.

Now, in my mid-forties, well, not much has changed.

But in my advanced years I do at least make an effort. Each morning when I arrive at the office I read a poem from Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems, and a few weeks ago I stumbled across another popular poem from Williams’s imagist phase:

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

I still think Williams was smoking something.

Regardless, the next poem Keillor shared was a reply to Williams from Erica-Lynn Gambino:

This Is Just To Say
(for William Carlos Williams)

I have just
asked you to
get out of my
apartment

even though
you never
thought
I would

Forgive me
you were
driving
me insane.

Gambino is my kind of poet.

Other than abstaining from your roommate’s frozen plums, please know that this is not an attempt at relationship advice. Instead, I’m aiming at a little life metaphor here when I ask: Are you willing to remove from your life the things that are driving you insane?

I’m not sure about you, but my life is filled to the brim with countless responsibilities, information overload, and myriad relationships, just to name a few major categories. It is more than possible that life can be so full that it explodes like a balloon, leaving an awful mess to clean up—unless, of course, we cull a few crazy-makers along the way.

My guess is that none of us are super hot at giving up the things that drive us nuts—as crazy as that alone is to admit. Author Bob Goff famously quits something every Thursday. I think he is on to something.

If you want things to start looking up, lighten the load by getting rid of some stuff that drains the life right out of you. Even if it isn’t Thursday.

(And, regardless, be careful around plums.)