Saturday, March 28, 2015

Poetry about Losing One's Self In Nature: Playlist for March 27, 2015



By  Ivor Gurney    


                           (To F. W. Harvey)


Out of the smoke and dust of the little room


With tea-talk loud and laughter of happy boys,


I passed into the dusk. Suddenly the noise


Ceased with a shock, left me alone in the gloom,


To wonder at the miracle hanging high


Tangled in twigs, the silver crescent clear.


Time passed from mind. Time died; and then we were


Once more at home together, you and I.




The elms with arms of love wrapped us in shade


Who watched the ecstatic west with one desire,


One soul uprapt; and still another fire


Consumed us, and our joy yet greater made:


That Bach should sing for us, mix us in one


The joy of firelight and the sunken sun.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Sonata in C for Flute by J.S. Bach


An Old-Fashioned Song

By  John Hollander  



(Nous n'irons plus au bois)


No more walks in the wood:


The trees have all been cut


Down, and where once they stood


Not even a wagon rut


Appears along the path


Low brush is taking over.



No more walks in the wood;


This is the aftermath


Of afternoons in the clover


Fields where we once made love


Then wandered home together


Where the trees arched above,


Where we made our own weather


When branches were the sky.


Now they are gone for good,


And you, for ill, and I


Am only a passer-by.



We and the trees and the way


Back from the fields of play


Lasted as long as we could.


No more walks in the wood.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Silence of the Woods by Edvard Grieg




Mahayana in Vermont 

By  Sydney Lea  



My objectives this morning were vague.


As always I'd hike these hills—


a way to keep going


against the odds age deals,


a way to keep body and soul


together, and not so much thinking


as letting things steal into mind—


but I started counting



from the very first step I took.


I wore rank old boots, ill-laced,


and patchwork pants.


Around my neck hung the frayed


lanyard of a whistle I use


to summon our trio of dogs,


who capered and yelped their pleasure


at one of our walks,



and more miraculous still,


at having me for a master.


It's true in a sense


that I always count as I wander,


though it's usually the beats of a tune


(Thelonious's "Blue Monk"


a favorite) that mark my time.


These counts felt odder,



better. We scattered a brood


of grouse at step 91.


The deerflies strafed us.


At 500 a late trillium


glowed by a ledge like a lotus.


Right along the rain kept pounding.


I was mindful of all these things


but I never stopped counting.



Life was good, and more.


It was worthy of better response.


At 1000 I thought,


Enough—and counted on.


Nothing was coming to mind.


Nothing is coming again


from my hike half the day ago


with three dogs through rain



but a mystic sense of well-being


in quietly chanted numbers.


Whatever this trance,


I treasured it as a wonder


not to be wrenched into meaning,


as in Every second counts,


as in You should count your blessings,


though of those there seems no doubt.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Quintet in C by Franz Schubert



Don’t Tell Anyone 

By  Tony Hoagland  



We had been married for six or seven years


when my wife, standing in the kitchen one afternoon, told me


that she screams underwater when she swims—



that, in fact, she has been screaming for years


into the blue chlorinated water of the community pool


where she does laps every other day. 



Buttering her toast, not as if she had been


concealing anything,


not as if I should consider myself



personally the cause of her screaming,


nor as if we should perform an act of therapy 


right that minute on the kitchen table,



—casually, she told me,


and I could see her turn her square face up


to take a gulp of oxygen,



then down again into the cold wet mask of the unconscious.


For all I know, maybe everyone is screaming


as they go through life, silently,



politely keeping the big secret


that it is not all fun


to be ripped by the crooked beak



of something called psychology,


to be dipped down


again and again into time;



that the truest, most intimate


pleasure you can sometimes find


is the wet kiss



of your own pain.


There goes Kath, at one pm, to swim her twenty-two laps


back and forth in the community pool;



—what discipline she has!


Twenty-two laps like twenty-two pages,


that will never be read by anyone.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Troubled Water by Margaret Bonds




Friday, March 20, 2015

Poems about Spring: Playlist for March 20, 2015



By  Amy Lowell  


False blue,



Color of lilac,

Your great puffs of flowers

Are everywhere in this my New England.  

Among your heart-shaped leaves

Orange orioles hop like music-box birds and sing  

Their little weak soft songs;

In the crooks of your branches

The bright eyes of song sparrows sitting on spotted eggs  

Peer restlessly through the light and shadow  

Of all Springs.

Lilacs in dooryards

Holding quiet conversations with an early moon;  

Lilacs watching a deserted house

Settling sideways into the grass of an old road;

Lilacs, wind-beaten, staggering under a lopsided shock of bloom

Above a cellar dug into a hill.

You are everywhere.

You were everywhere.

You tapped the window when the preacher preached his sermon,

And ran along the road beside the boy going to school.

You stood by the pasture-bars to give the cows good milking,  

You persuaded the housewife that her dishpan was of silver.  

And her husband an image of pure gold.  

You flaunted the fragrance of your blossoms  

Through the wide doors of Custom Houses—

You, and sandal-wood, and tea,

Charging the noses of quill-driving clerks  

When a ship was in from China.

You called to them: “Goose-quill men, goose-quill men,  

May is a month for flitting.”

Until they writhed on their high stools

And wrote poetry on their letter-sheets behind the propped-up ledgers.

Paradoxical New England clerks,

Writing inventories in ledgers, reading the “Song of Solomon” at night,

So many verses before bed-time,

Because it was the Bible.

The dead fed you

Amid the slant stones of graveyards.

Pale ghosts who planted you

Came in the nighttime

And let their thin hair blow through your clustered stems.  

You are of the green sea,

And of the stone hills which reach a long distance.

You are of elm-shaded streets with little shops where they sell kites and marbles,

You are of great parks where every one walks and nobody is at home.

You cover the blind sides of greenhouses

And lean over the top to say a hurry-word through the glass  

To your friends, the grapes, inside.


False blue,



Color of lilac,

You have forgotten your Eastern origin,  

The veiled women with eyes like panthers,

The swollen, aggressive turbans of jeweled pashas.

Now you are a very decent flower,  

A reticent flower,

A curiously clear-cut, candid flower,  

Standing beside clean doorways,

Friendly to a house-cat and a pair of spectacles,  

Making poetry out of a bit of moonlight  

And a hundred or two sharp blossoms.

Maine knows you,

Has for years and years;

New Hampshire knows you,

And Massachusetts

And Vermont.

Cape Cod starts you along the beaches to Rhode Island;  

Connecticut takes you from a river to the sea.  

You are brighter than apples,

Sweeter than tulips,

You are the great flood of our souls

Bursting above the leaf-shapes of our hearts,  

You are the smell of all Summers,

The love of wives and children,

The recollection of gardens of little children,  

You are State Houses and Charters

And the familiar treading of the foot to and fro on a road it knows.

May is lilac here in New England,

May is a thrush singing “Sun up!” on a tip-top ash tree,  

May is white clouds behind pine-trees  

Puffed out and marching upon a blue sky.  

May is a green as no other,

May is much sun through small leaves,  

May is soft earth,

And apple-blossoms,

And windows open to a South Wind.  

May is full light wind of lilac

From Canada to Narragansett Bay.


False blue,



Color of lilac.

Heart-leaves of lilac all over New England,  

Roots of lilac under all the soil of New England,  

Lilac in me because I am New England,

Because my roots are in it,

Because my leaves are of it,

Because my flowers are for it,  

Because it is my country

And I speak to it of itself

And sing of it with my own voice  

Since certainly it is mine.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Lilacs by Sergei Rachmaninov


By  Billy Collins  

If ever there were a spring day so perfect,

so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw

open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary's cage,

indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths

and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight

that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight

on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants

from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,

holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,

well, today is just that kind of day.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Octet (Presto) by Felix Mendelssohn

After the Winter

By  Claude McKay  

Some day, when trees have shed their leaves

     And against the morning’s white

The shivering birds beneath the eaves

     Have sheltered for the night,

We’ll turn our faces southward, love,

     Toward the summer isle

Where bamboos spire the shafted grove

     And wide-mouthed orchids smile.

And we will seek the quiet hill

     Where towers the cotton tree,

And leaps the laughing crystal rill,

     And works the droning bee.

And we will build a cottage there

     Beside an open glade,

With black-ribbed blue-bells blowing near,

     And ferns that never fade.

 REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Nimrod Variation from Enigma Variations by Edward Elgar

Easter in Pittsburgh

By  James Laughlin  

Even on Easter Sunday  

when the church was a

jungle of lilies and  

ferns fat Uncle Paul

who loved his liquor  

so would pound away

with both fists on the  

stone pulpit shouting

sin sin sin and the  

fiery fires of hell

and I cried all after-

noon the first time I

heard what they did to  

Jesus it was something

the children shouldn’t  

know about till they

were older but the new  

maid told me and both

of us cried a lot and so  

mother got another one

right away & she sent  

away Miss Richardson

who came all the way  

from England because

she kept telling how  

her fiancé Mr. Bowles-

Lyon died suddenly of  

a heart attack he just

said one day at lunch  

I’m afraid I’m not well

and the next thing they  

knew he was sliding un-

der the table. Easter  

was nice the eggs were

silly but the big lilies  

were wonderful & when

Uncle Paul got so fat  

from drinking that he

couldn’t squeeze into  

the pulpit anymore &

had to preach from the  

floor there was an el-

ders’ meeting and they  

said they would have

the pulpit rebuilt but  

Uncle Paul said no it

was the Lord’s manifest  

will and he would pass

his remaining years in  

sacred studies I liked

Thanksgiving better be-

cause that was the day

father took us down to  

the mills but Easter I

liked next best and the  

rabbits died because we

fed them beet tops and  

the lamb pulled up the

grass by the roots and  

was sold to Mr. Page the

butcher I asked Uncle  

Robert what were sacred

studies he said he was  

not really sure but he

guessed they came in a  

bottle and mother sent

me away from the table  

when I wouldn’t eat my

lamb chops that was  

ridiculous she said it

wasn’t the lamb of God  

it was just Caesar An-

dromache Nibbles but I  

couldn’t I just couldn’t

& the year of the strike  

we didn’t go to Church

at all on Easter because  

they said it wasn’t safe

down town so instead we  

had prayers in the library

and then right in the mid-

dle the telephone rang it

was Mr. Shupstead at the  

mill they had had to use

tear gas father made a  

special prayer right a-

way for God’s protection  

& mercy and then he sent

us out to the farm with  

mother we stayed a week

and missed school but it  

rained a lot and I broke

the bathroom mirror and  

had to learn a long psalm.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: String Quartet No. 1 by Charles Ives

In Perpetual Spring

By  Amy Gerstler   

Gardens are also good places

to sulk. You pass beds of

spiky voodoo lilies  

and trip over the roots  

of a sweet gum tree,  

in search of medieval  

plants whose leaves,  

when they drop off  

turn into birds

if they fall on land,

and colored carp if they  

plop into water.

Suddenly the archetypal  

human desire for peace  

with every other species  

wells up in you. The lion  

and the lamb cuddling up.

The snake and the snail, kissing.

Even the prick of the thistle,  

queen of the weeds, revives  

your secret belief

in perpetual spring,

your faith that for every hurt  

there is a leaf to cure it.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC:  Spring is Here by Richard Rodgers