Poem on the last day of the year, 2018

I resolve to stop wanting what I don’t have
or work towards getting it
but not doing the first without the second
(because that hasn’t gotten me anywhere).

I will be ambitious and believe
that I deserve to be paid well
and ask for a price for my work
that will allow me to support my family
and still have time to take care of my child.

When I start worrying
about why certain people
don’t seem to like me
(or at least don’t invite me to their parties)
I will instead focus on the people
who I know do like me
who in fact love me
and whom I love.

I will get rid of the things
that I keep in my life
out of a sense of duty
instead of a sense of joy.

It’s okay to look tired.

I vow to value moving my body
as highly as I value
cleaning the house
getting work done for clients
grocery shopping.

I am a spigot
and like a spigot
I can be shut off
and when I am off
that is called conserving water
and when I am on
all the poems will come flowing out.

Do I call my friends enough?
Do I call my family members enough?
I try to write letters, send texts,
send emails, stay in touch.
But I could do more.

Cobwebs appear out of nowhere.
No. False.
Cobwebs are the abandoned homes
of spiders.
If I ignore them, they will go away.
False again.
Resolution: I will clear out the cobwebs.

If a poet sings a poem
to the woods, are the trees
strengthened by her words?
Of course they are.
Just as the poet is strengthened
by the soundless stature of trees.

I clench my jaw and I furrow my brow
but there are ways to help myself unclench
and I will focus on them next year
especially before falling asleep.

Revelation of 2018:
lattes
are overpriced coffees
made with shitty milk.

I am now more prepared
to have a goat one day
since having a baby
because he bleats for his breakfast
and so will she.
(And because I too
have produced milk
& so will never take hers
for granted.)

Making the bed takes two seconds
and makes me feel better about my day.

Instead of anxiously haranguing people
in my head
regarding their purchases of
bottled water
body wash with blue micro scrubbers
out-of-season raspberries
since all of these things are killing the earth
in their own special and hideous ways
I will instead work to make my own life more sustainable
and brainstorm ways to speak
calmly
about my climate change fears
to the people I love.

I will stop caring
about whether people judge me
for what I buy at the grocery store.

I will do the hard thing first
(the thing I least want to do)
because then the rest will be gravy.

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“cutting greens” by lucille clifton

Made some sauerkraut today with green cabbages, beets, carrots, scallions, and cumin. It’s getting acquainted with itself in 2 crocks on the bookshelf.

& then I remembered this poem. (& then I also found out that lucille clifton has written many books for children (!) and put the first one on my “birthday presents for baby” list.)


cutting greens

curling them around
i hold their bodies in obscene embrace
thinking of everything but kinship.
collards and kale
strain against each strange other
away from my kissmaking hand and
the iron bedpot.
the pot is black,
the cutting board is black,
my hand,
and just for a minute
the greens roll black under the knife,
and the kitchen twists dark on its spine
and I taste in my natural appetite
the bond of live things everywhere.

— Lucille Clifton

Poem: “During the Middle Ages” by Camille Guthrie

Went to a Literary North event w/ a friend on Saturday featuring the poet Camille Guthrie and the short fiction writer Peter Orner, both of whom are smart lovely people who shared memorable sentences with us (a small audience/thirsty for their thoughts and works/ready with our questions).

As usual I almost enjoyed the talk about the writing as much as the writing itself. And then on the way home I read this poem out loud to my friend as she drove and we LAUGHED and we SNORTED and we LAUGHED and cried “Genius!” and LAUGHED.


During the Middle Ages

O God I am so fat
I cry all the time
A kitten scrubbed with a toothbrush online makes me sob
I’m so heartless seven species of bees
Are now endangered and I didn’t do a thing
Didn’t even send any money
To anybody doing any good
And I can’t lose any weight I skipped yoga
I’m so hot all the time so broke
So pathetic no wise investments
Should’ve bought a 7-Eleven on a busy corner
When I was seven or eleven
Nobody wants to lick my neck
Nobody wants to hold my hand at the doctor’s office
Nobody to grow old with me I’m so crabby
To pluck my beard feed the cat I don’t have
And read me endless Russian novels at night
All the ones I still haven’t got to so greatly depressing
Where are you handsome? Are you
Driving in your car to come visit me
Bringing a bottle of wine & a present so gallant?
A new translation of Akhmatova? I love it!
No? Well, I guess it’s better than living
In the real Middle Ages when
Some shithead priest threatens you with hell
To pocket your last coin and there’s no Tylenol
So you have to suck on some skullcap seeds
And knights race around knocking you down
To take your maidenhood with pointy lances
And you have to work as a midwife with no birthing tub
Nobody washes their hands or votes
Nobody knows about DNA or PMS
There’s nothing to read even if you can read
Except boring doctrines or Spiritual Exercises
By Gertrude the Great, I’m not even kidding
Yes, there’s Dante Chaucer and some sagas
But it’s not like you’d get near those books
You’d be lucky to have some jerk recite the latest
By Wulfstan the Cantor by campfire
Before he beheads your uncles
And forces you to rub salve on his abs
You know you’d be sweating in a field at twenty-two
Dying from your tenth pregnancy by the bailiff
Courtly love? Not a lot of it I bet
Some doctor would drill a hole in my head
To let the demons out because I’d be full
Of black bile as I am today
It would be a very hard time
When the sun revolves around the earth
And kings are just unbelievably selfish
And it’ll be a really long time before Pop Art
And meerkat videos and cotton candy
And Kurosawa and fish tacos and girl bands
Everything’s just so bad and you have buboes
Hopefully I’d get shoved into a nunnery
To have some ecstatic experience with mystical Jesus
Or better I could be a hardcore samurai
Laying down justice on the heads of corrupt lords
But that was tough work, dirty work
You’re working for nobility who at any period
In history are the worst people in the world
And to be an unemployed ronin was lonely
Even if all the brothel ladies offer to scrub your back
Sometimes you just want a nice nap
And some Neosporin on your wounds
If only I could be like the divine Sei Shōnagon
Resplendent in silks with seven-layered sleeves
Writing in my room about politics and my lovers
I wish okay I could be her servant
Dusting the ink stone and fluffing her pillow
But even she found many hateful things
About living in the middle ages
Like crying babies messy guests and mansplainers
So irritating even way back then
You better shut up and take your medicine

— Camille Guthrie

Grace Paley (poem & photograph).

HERE

Here I am in the garden laughing
an old woman with heavy breasts
and a nicely mapped face

how did this happen
well that’s who I wanted to be

at last a woman
in the old style sitting
stout thighs apart under
a big skirt grandchild sliding
on off my lap a pleasant
summer perspiration

that’s my old man across the yard
he’s talking to the meter reader
he’s telling him the world’s sad story
how electricity is oil or uranium
and so forth I tell my grandson
run over to your grandpa ask him
to sit beside me for a minute I
am suddenly exhausted by my desire
to kiss his sweet explaining lips.

Grace Paley by Sylvia Plachy
Photo of Grace Paley in Vermont, taken by Sylvia Plachy

“To be of use” by Marge Piercy.

To be of use

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

“How To Be a Poet” by Wendell Berry.

How To Be A Poet

i
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.

ii
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

iii
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

— Wendell Berry

SPRINGPOEM

All of a sudden, the yellowing—

coltsfoot
dandelions
forsythia
daffodils

& the chickening—

the neighbor’s chalkboard sign reads
FREE ROOSTERS
the other neighbor’s pullets
test their babywings out front

& the neon-greening—

the leafing out
leaves like fingers spreading into hands
the hillsides like a fabric
of chlorophyll’s talents

& the perennials—

the miracle of having only
to plant something once
to receive its joys
each year

Taryn Day Daffodils in a Jar 2011
Daffodils in a Jar by Taryn Day