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Archive for November, 2015

If I had any sense I’d be in the kitchen right now, chopping and endlessly washing mixing bowls and spatulas. Instead I’m sitting at the computer. I’ll pay for it tomorrow with panic and exhaustion, but meantime, here’s a few poems for Thanksgiving.

 

At the grocery store I left Czeslaw Milosz’s”Encounter” in an empty aisle  where I would encounter no one, next to one of Paul Newman’s products.

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O my love, where are they, where are they going–  sounds like a lovelier version of what my husband and I say to each other after the too-quickly-grown-up kids leave home after the weekend.

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(The words that got cut off in the picture are “at dawn.” Sorry for that.)

 

Outside another grocery store (because one grocery store is never enough for Thanksgiving preparations), I left e.e. cummings’ poem in an abandoned grocery cart. Maybe it was mine. (Poem is to the right of the “Ayar” ad, on the seat of the grocery cart.)

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i thank You God for most this amazing/day could be the start of dinner time grace. Little kids might like the twisty-ness of the lines.

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Still at the grocery store, I put Emily Dickinson’s “I’ll Tell You How the Sun Rose” by a credit card machine at the check-out.

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I’ve long had a few lines of this poem committed to memory

I’ll tell you how the sun rose,–

A Ribbon at a time–

 

and this, one of my favorite images from any poem, ever

The Hills untied their Bonnets–

 

The beauty of that, when I see it and when I read it here, fills me with gratitude for the world as it is and the world as only a poet can see it.

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Finally, I left Wislawa Szymborska’s “Vietnam” at Starbucks. Where I was sitting for over an hour, once again not cooking.

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What does the agony in “Vietnam” have to do with Thanksgiving? It’s a reminder. As we gather with family and friends to enjoy a bounty of food and the comfort of safe shelter, let’s remember those who have none of those things. Let’s give our thanks for what we have and leave space in our hearts for victims of war, for refugees losing hope–

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And in the last few minutes before I give myself over to cooking, let me thank all you dear readers and commentators. I am so grateful for your readership and support.

 

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

 

 

 

 

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Image 7I came to Starbucks to write a post about a few sweet gifts I’ve gotten from a few sweet people. As I stood in line I was debating how to write about my good fortune, given the horror in Paris, without sounding oblivious and tone-deaf. Maybe I shouldn’t write about it at all, I thought.

 

Waiting for my turn, I noticed the skin on the young woman in front of me. Flawless, luminous, and so was her smile when she turned around, for no reason, to look at me. After she got her coffee she smiled at me again and I decided she was confusing me with someone else.

 

Then the barista told me that my tea was covered “by your new friend over there.”

 

I was confused at first. I thought maybe she felt sorry for me, that maybe, given how smartly dressed she was and how slovenly I was, she thought I needed help. “Why are you doing this?” I asked her, laughing.

 

She just smiled and left.

 

Then I thought, Paris. She’s doing this for Paris, her small kindness a stand of solidarity with those across the ocean who are suffering so much.

 

I sat down with my tea and let the tears fall. This is the face of goodness, I thought. I am sitting in the presence of goodness.

You may think I was making a mountain out of a $2.39 cup of tea, but I saw, in that simple gesture, a mountain of goodness. I was overcome with emotion because she made manifest something I believe to my very core–that whatever evil there is in the world, there will always be more goodness.

 

So thank you, anonymous, beautiful young woman at Starbucks. Your little gesture breaks my heart and fills it up at the same time.

 

On with other points of gratitude.

 

From my daughter Lizzie, a spoon rest, something I’ve always wanted. What makes this such a great gift is that I never realized how much I wanted a Poem Elf spoon rest.

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Two new elves for my elf collection (I’m sure there are other people in the world who collect elves), from a dear friend:

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The one on the right is my Linda Blair elf.

Here’s the full collection, all of them gifts:

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Finally, another dear and very observant friend gave me a new Poem Elf file folder and journal–

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–because she’s seen the ratty old folders I use to organize my poem collection.

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Thanks to all these sweet folks!

 

And now, thanks to Young Woman with Beautiful Skin, I realize all these gifts are a commission. Time to get to work.

 

 

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Here’s the thing about my small folder of poems about death. Having more than one poem about death is like  getting a bag of zucchini from your neighbor—you don’t know what to do with an overload. (I’m just realizing this very second that owning, not to mention labeling,  a small folder of poems about death is not entirely sane.)

 

Lucky for me, today is the Mexican holiday Dia de Muertos, a day to honor the deadand the Catholic holiday of All Souls Day, a day to pray for the dead, and my Poem Elf day to de-clutter my files and clutter up my favorite cemetery.

 

I left Thom Gunn’s (1929-2004) “The Reassurance” by the grave of someone named Emily Greer.

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There is probably no one left who remembers Miss Emily. I hope this is an accurate assessment of her character:

How like you to be kind

Seeking to reassure

It would be a fine epitaph for anyone.

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At a grander grave I left another poem that speaks of the workings of grief, “Mourners” by Ted Kooser (1939–)

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Death brings a heightened tenderness to survivors that Kooser captures beautifully:

peering into each other’s faces,

slow to let go of each other’s hands

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Most of the graves in this cemetery are too old to be visited by any living person, but I did find one with two recently dead mums decorating it. Near it I left Natasha Trethewey’s “After Your Death.”

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How beautifully she captures the sad work of clearing out a parent’s home after death

another space emptied by loss 

Tomorrow the bowl I have yet to fill.

 

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No Day of the Dead poem-elf post would be complete with my old favorite, Jane Kenyon (1947-1995), who died young and wrote often about death. I left her “Notes from the Other Side” on the tomb of a member of the Sly family, long gone.

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Kenyon’s vision of heaven is wry —

no bad books, no plastic,

no insurance premiums 

–but surely intended to comfort those she would leave behind–

Our calm hearts strike only the hour,

and God, as promised, proves

to be mercy clothed in light.

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I needed to talk to my sister,” by Grace Paley (1922-2007), another one of my favorites, graced this stone angel:

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Paley has a wondrous way of burying pain under humor, thank goodness, because this scenario is too painful for me to contemplate.

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One more picture because I like the look of yearning on the angel holding the poem:

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A tombstone engraved “Love” needed a poem, so there I left “On the Death of Friends in Childhood” by Donald Justice (1925-2004).

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I can’t read this without thinking of the survivors of Sandy Hook, years and years from their loss:

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Now that I’ve emptied my folder, I’ve flooded my day with thoughts of those I’ve lost and of those who have lost so many more than I.

 

 

 

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