The Waking (A little morning Roethke)

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As I'm procrastinating going to work this morning, some of my old favorites are coming to mind.  This is one of the first poems that I remember remembering.  If that makes sense...

The Waking

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

-Theodore Roethke

The library, a reacquaintance

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A friend recently gave me a list of poets.  He didn't annotate or explain.  I guessed I should read them.
I then spent a happy hour getting reacquainted with the downtown KCMO library.  Some certain hours in the library are worth more than a whole day of whatever it is that I usually do.  Do you know what I mean?  It had been awhile, but now that my fine is again under the boundaries of good graces, the KCMO library and I are back on friendly terms. So I found several of the suggested poets, along with others, and some handy books about landscaping, etc. which also came home with me.

So.  Two poems.  One from Stephen Dunn (recommended by said friend; not sarcastic, not bitter, but pleasantly in the neighborhood-- seriously this guy is amazing)- this poem reminds me of the concept of Acedia and Kathleen Norris' "Acedia and Me."   And then one from Heather McHugh (happy accident find; her wordplay and rhythm are so satisfying!).

P.S. I'm not working this summer, so be warned -- I may be chatty in the weeks to come...

Zero Hour
It was the hour of simply nothing,
not a single desire in my western heart,
and no ancient system
of breathing and postures,
no big idea justifying what I felt.

There was even an absence of despair.

"Anything goes," I said to myself.
All the clocks were high.  Above them,
hundreds of stars flickering if, if, if.
Everywhere in the universe, it seemed,
some next thing was gathering itself.

I started to feel something,
but it was nothing more than a moment
passing into another, or was it less
eloquent than that, purely muscular,
some meaningless twitch?

I'd let someone else make it rhyme.
                                           -Stephen Dunn

Message at Sunset for Bishop Berkeley

How could nothing turn so gold?
You say my eyelid shuts the sky;
in solid dark I see stars
as perforations, loneliness
as blues, what isn't
as a heavy weight, what is
as nothing if it's not ephemeral.

But still the winter world
could turn your corneas to ice.
Let sense be made.  The summer sun
will drive its splinters straight
into your brain.  Let sense be made.
I'm saying vision isn't insight,
buried at last in the first
person's eye.  You

should see it:  the sky
is really something.

                                      -Heather McHugh

"Poems from the Japanese"

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A guy named Kenneth Rexroth translated a whole slew of short poems from Japanese in his cleverly titled book, "One Hundred Poems from the Japanese."

I love how much these writers crammed into a few words.   Lots of talk of memory, waiting, changing seasons, and of course, nature images.  Spring ties all these things together -- how do the trees remember what to do?  What would we do without the seasons to mark the time? 

Here are a few good ones:

In the eternal
Light of the spring day
The flowers fall away
Like the unquiet heart
 -Ki No Tomonori

You say, "I will come."
And you do not come.
Now you say, "I will not come."
So I shall expect you.
Have I learned to understand you?
-Lady Otomo no Sakanoe

When I see the first
New moon, faint in the twilight,
I think of the moth eyebrows
Of a girl I saw only once.

I have always known
That at last I would
Take this road, but yesterday
I did not know that it would be today.

Poems on Good Friday

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Poems for Lent and Good Friday-- one from me, one from Christina Rossetti.  Enjoy.  Or rather, dismay; it is Good Friday, after all.

The dash from ash to Easter light

Lord, God-thing,
conch shell ear of the earth,
needle eye of the sky,
it is winter--

Weaknesses and ashiness
are petrifying
nuggets of hard resentment
kidney stones of heavy lead
and we are yelling, we are waving our arms.

We the little people
sign of the cross
on our every organ
eucharist crumbs
stuck between our teeth

We carry things.
We hurl them at You
with great grunting.
They plunk into the separation sea.

We hope the ripples
reach you.

We carry winter with us
freezing with our arms full
but reluctant to release.

We will clench our teeth tight
We will carve our wills
We will keep raising our eyes.

Good Friday– by Christina G. Rossetti

Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy Blood’s slow loss,
And yet not weep?
Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;
Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky.
A horror of great darkness at broad noon –
I, only I.
Yet give not o’er
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.

Starting Clean

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It's start-over day! 

This blog is going through a transformation.  Same address, new plan.  From here on out, I'm going to use it to post (mostly) poems.  Usually other people's poems, maybe sometimes mine, maybe sometimes some other wordy things or facts or lists.  (For example, look for "Your favorite word that rhymes with ___________" posts.) 

The new title comes from an Annie Dillard essay.  I love Annie Dillard, and I think she is one of the most wide-awake-sounding authors I've ever read.  Her powers of observation sometimes make me feel like my eyes aren't even open.

This line comes from an essay called "Total Eclipse" in Teaching a Stone to Talk.  In it, she and her husband are going to great lengths to get a good view of an eclipse, including driving five hours through the mountains where an avalanche had just happened, and hiking up a hill on a very cold morning.  It was actually February 26, 1979, in the same month that I was born. 

After describing the eclipse in apocalyptic words and colors, she writes this:

We teach our children one thing only, as we were taught: to wake up.  We teach our children to look alive there, to join by words and activities the life of human culture on the planet's crust.  As adults we are almost all adept at waking up.  We have so mastered the transition we have forgotten we ever learned it.  yet it is a transition we make a hundred times a day, as, like so many will-less dolphins, we plunge and surface, lapse and emerge.  We live half our waking lives and all of our sleeping lives in some private, useless, and insensible waters we never mention or recall.  Useless, I say.  Valueless, I might add- until  someone hauls their wealth up to the surface and into the wide-awake city, in a form that people can use. 
Hope you like it.