Archive for the ‘poem of the day’ Category

The rose was
not looking for the morning:
on its branch, almost immortal,
it looked for something other.

The rose was
not looking for wisdom, or for shadow:
the edge of flesh and dreaming,
it looked for something other.

The rose was
not looking for the rose, was
unmoving in the heavens:
it looked for something other.

-Federico García Lorca

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Haven’t posted since June. My apologies. I’ve been busy helping clients write, publish, and self-publish, and growing a teen literary journal called Canvas. But I love a good poem in November, so here goes: a breath-taking piece by the incomparable Mary Oliver.


In Blackwater Woods

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

-Mary Oliver

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You’re learning how to hold the note, I say to an aspiring novelist

All the parts of yourself, the black and the pink

Combine in an unholy alliance

And become green topiaries

Because we never see what it is. Only what we make

Because there must be love in this land

Because to be is not to be all

Because the ineffable can be named in metaphor

If there was ever anything that came out of you that was real…


To what?

To make It.

What is It?

You’ve come too far into the intermediate realm, she says, anger in her voice.


-Nina Alvarez

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Sweet and low, sweet and low,
Wind of the western sea,
Low, low, breathe and blow,
Wind of the western sea!
Over the rolling waters go,
Come from the dying moon, and blow,
Blow him again to me;
While my little one, while my pretty one, sleeps.

Sleep and rest, sleep and rest,
Father will come to thee soon;
Rest, rest, on mother’s breast,
Father will come to thee soon;
Father will come to his babe in the nest,
Silver sails all out of the west
Under the silver moon:
Sleep, my little one, sleep, my pretty one, sleep.


-Lord Alfred Tennyson

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A cloud moved close. The bulk of the wind shifted.
A tree swayed over water.
A voice said:
Stay. Stay by the slip-ooze. Stay.

Dearest tree, I said, may I rest here?
A ripple made a soft reply.
I waited, alert as a dog.
The leech clinging to a stone waited;
And the crab, the quiet breather.


Slow, slow as a fish she came,
Slow as a fish coming forward,
Swaying in a long wave;
Her skirts not touching a leaf,
Her white arms reaching towards me.

She came without sound,
Without brushing the wet stones,
In the soft dark of early evening,
She came,
The wind in her hair,
The moon beginning.


I woke in the first of morning.
Staring at a tree, I felt the pulse of a stone.

Where’s she now, I kept saying.
Where’s she now, the mountain’s downy girl?

But the bright day had no answer.
A wind stirred in a web of appleworms;
The tree, the close willow, swayed.

-Theodore Roethke

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Happy 6th Birthday to this little poetry site. I want to thank it and thank its readers for being such a source of pleasure to me. I have done little to facilitate it: sharing my favorite poems, posting once in a while, but it seems to thrive nonetheless.

In honor of this – as well as nearing 200,000 hits – here is one of my favorite poems by Rilke. I first posted it in 2009, but only part. Here is the whole thing:


For the Sake of a Single Poem


…Ah, poems amount to so little when you write them to early in your life. You ought to wait and gather sense and sweetness for a whole lifetime, and a long one if possible, and then, at the very end, you might perhaps be able to write ten good lines.

For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough) – they are experiences. For the sake of a single poem, you must see many cities, many people and Things, you must understand animals, must feel how birds fly, and knows the gesture which small flowers make when they open in the morning. You must be able to think back to streets in unknown neighborhoods, to unexpected encounters, and to partings you had long seen coming; to days of childhood whose mystery is still unexplained, to parents whom you had to hurt when they brought in a joy and you didn’t pick it up (it was a joy meant for somebody else-); to childhood illnesses that began so strangely with so many profound and difficult transformations, to days in quiet, restrained rooms and to mornings by the sea, to the sea itself, to seas, to nights of travel that rushed along high overhead and went flying with all the star’s, – and it is still not enough to be able to think of all that. You must have memories of many nights of love, each one different from all the others, memories of women screaming in labor, and of light, pale, sleeping girls who have just given birth and are closing again. But you must also have been beside the dying, must have sat beside the dead in the room with the open window and scattered noises. And it is not yet enough to have memories. You must be able to forget them when they are many, and you must have the immense patience to wait until they return. For the memories themselves are not important. Only when they have changed into our very blood, into glance and gesture, and are nameless, no longer to be distinguished from ourselves – only then can it happen that in some very rare hour the first word of a poem arises in their midst and goes forth from them.”

-Rainer Maria Rilke

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You know there is no money in poetry; you know that there isn’t.
And still you write your poems.
You know there is no money in publishing; you know that there isn’t.
And still you write your books.
People ask me: How do I make a living as a writer?
I say if you are trying to make a living, you are doing it wrong.
Come to this place bestowed on you with reverence. Let there be no moneylenders in your temple. Come often enough with all that you have, asking nothing but to be there at that one particular altar. Then, maybe after a long time, you will go home and find your coffers full of just enough money to eat and sleep comfortably, then return the next day to the temple with an offering of gold. That is how you make a living as a writer.

-Nina Alvarez

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A heavy heart, Beloved, have I borne
From year to year until I saw thy face,
And sorrow after sorrow took the place
Of all those natural joys as lightly worn
As the stringed pearls, each lifted in its turn
By a beating heart at dance-time. Hopes apace
Were changed to long despairs, till God’s own grace
Could scarcely lift above the world forlorn
My heavy heart. Then thou didst bid me bring
And let it drop adown thy calmly great
Deep being! Fast it sinketh, as a thing
Which its own nature does precipitate,
While thine doth close above it, mediating
Betwixt the stars and the unaccomplished fate.


-Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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1. I Walked a Mile with Pleasure

2. Ithaca

3. The Lost Son

4. Love Me Like You Never Loved Before

5. Ithaca (video poem)

6. from Last Poems

7. Deathless Aphrodite of the Spangled Mind

8. What You Should Know to be a Poet

9. The Serpent

10. The Unicorn

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Out through the fields and the woods
And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world, and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it is ended.

The leaves are all dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
When others are sleeping.

And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
The flowers of the witch hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question ‘Whither?’

Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?

-Robert Frost

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