Photo via hurricane-facts.com
Sitting out on the porch this morning, the sky looks ominous. I'm not sure if I think it's ominous because I know that Irene
is on the way, or if it would look ominous either way, but it feels like we're all just playing a waiting game. It's amazing how impending weather and natural disasters can do that to you! So, in honor of Irene I'm sharing a poem about hurricanes today. Written by Victor Hernández Cruz
, "Problems with Hurricanes" is a lighter poem about the subject matter, bringing just a bit of humor into an otherwise destructive and serious subject. Please know that I'm not making light of the danger of hurricanes or of those who are truly hurt or affected by them, but I think that sometimes it's nice to inject a smile or two into an otherwise stressful event. So take a moment to pull away from the Irene waiting game and read Cruz's straightforward poem about hurricanes...
Problems with Hurricanes
A campesino looked at the air
And told me:
With hurricanes it's not the wind
or the noise or the water.
I'll tell you he said:
it's the mangoes, avocados
Green plantains and bananas
flying into town like projectiles.
How would your family
feel if they had to tell
The generations that you
got killed by a flying
Death by drowning has honor
If the wind picked you up
and slammed you
Against a mountain boulder
This would not carry shame
to suffer a mango smashing
or a plantain hitting your
Temple at 70 miles per hour
is the ultimate disgrace.
The campesino takes off his hat--
As a sign of respect
toward the fury of the wind
Don't worry about the noise
Don't worry about the water
Don't worry about the wind--
If you are going out
beware of mangoes
And all such beautiful
Now doesn't that at least make you smile? Stay safe out there today--and beware of flying fruit!
Painting by J.R. Nelson, 30 x 24." Photo via jrnelsonart.com
This weekend is my first weekend of Advanced Teacher Training, which goes on for one weekend per month for an entire year (!). Last night was our first session, and we worked a lot with mindfulness meditation. The meditation exercises left me feeling extremely connected and open in a number of ways, but they also left me with a strong sense of the preciousness of each and every moment of lives.
So, I now turn to the ever-inspiring and eternally-wise Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hahn
, to convey this feeling in a simple, straightforward way. I've included his poetic version, or expression, of this feeling below...Drink Your Tea
Drink your tea slowly and reverently,
as if it is the axis
on which the world earth revolves
- slowly, evenly, without
rushing toward the future;
Live the actual moment.
Only this moment is life.I know. That's seriously Zen, right? Now off to another full day of training. So excited to be back in such a nurturing environment!Namaste,Mary Catherine
"Chicago Bean" by Daniel Godsel, 11"H x 14"W, image via godsel.com
Since I'm in Chicago for the weekend (having an ABSOLUTE BLAST already, but more on that later...), I must share a very famous poem about Chicago by Carl Sandburg
. This poem, "Chicago," is from from his book Chicago Poems
, and it is a *quite* powerful poem. The Chicago Sandburg describes in this poem is strong, powerful, forceful, dirty. Although this is not the Chicago that I've been experiencing on my trip thus far (I've experienced a much tamer, much more feminine city than Sandburg describes...), I still think it's too great of a poem not to share. And I'm sure that for some, this poem still represents the true heart of this city (and maybe I'll stumble across this version of Chicago at some point on my visit?)...Press pause and enjoy!
Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:
They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I
have seen your painted women under the gas lamps
luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it
is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the
faces of women and children I have seen the marks
of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who
sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer
and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing
so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on
job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the
little soft cities;
Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning
as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has
never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse.
and under his ribs the heart of the people,
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of
Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog
Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with
Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.
Do you feel the power? Now I'm off to experience my first full day in this laughing, hulk of a city...
Watercolor painting by Allen Song, via allensong.blogspot.com
After hearing this poem read aloud multiple times--and loving it every single time--I figured it was finally time to include it in a PPFP post :) I most recently heard this poem on the last day of TT1
(read by Kimberly Wilson
, of course, who shares it often!) and was once again moved by it's words. It was written by Marianne Williamson
, but somehow Nelson Mandela is often given credit for it (inaccurately), so you may have heard it attributed to either. My favorite line of the entire poem?
"Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not
to be?"Love it...so true! Read the entire poem below:Our Deepest Fear
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us. We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not
You are a child of God.
Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us;
It's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we're liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.So let your light shine today
(but not *too* brightly for those of you out there--ahem, Ben--who are at an all-day bachelor party...;) and remember...Who are you not to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous??"Namaste!Mary Catherine
My brother and I at his high school graduation :)
Since my "little" brother (he's 20) has been visiting this weekend--which is why I'm doing my usual Saturday post on Sunday--I thought it only fitting to share a poem about him. My dad
(and favorite poet!) wrote this poem about my little brother when he was 8 years old. I think it's an absolutely beautiful poem that perfectly captures what I imagine to be the feelings of awe, love, and pure amazement that parents feel when watching their children grow. Knock Me Out
Knock me out
sometimes you do.
Knock me off of my routine feet.
And I love it.
Your brother and sister do it too--
but now, this moment, it’s you.
I’ll just see you sometimes--
maybe I’m boiling the pasta for dinner
or telling you to pick up your backpack
or put your dirty underwear in the basket--
but your vigor,
the pure verve
in your face
stings me, pinches me awake,
a gun to stun me alert,
some needed volts
to vault me over the bar
of “do this, do that”
that blocks my truly seeing you.
I hear your raspy voice,
I see your one dimple,
or your new big front teeth
gapped like my father’s
and I come home.
I come home--
and although I feel
buckets of grief
for missing any of my minutes
on earth with you,
I let those buckets fall--
too heavy—and instead
hold you, behold you, son,
alive, 8 years old,
going on 8 years old
and a day. Read a few more of my wonderful dad's poems on his website, throwerstarr.com
. Now off to say goodbye to my brother and his girlfriend...SUCH a fun weekend :)Namaste!Mary Catherine
Automat by Edward Hopper, Oil, 1927
As often happens with poems that I share here, the following poem landed in my inbox a few weeks ago in an email from my favorite poetry project, American Life in Poetry. I was immediately struck by the poem's tone and overall mood--I find it to be made up of part sadness and loneliness, part fantasy, and part
searching--for a sense of connectedness and belonging in the world. I've had times in my life when I've wished that I had a sister--especially when I've seen others' relationships with their sisters--so I do understand, just a little bit, what she's wishing for in this poem. Karin Gottshall
is a poetry writing instructor at Middlebury College in Vermont, and has written two books. You can read more of her poems on her website, here.
Sometimes I say I’m going to meet my sister at the café--
even though I have no sister—just because it’s such
a beautiful thing to say. I’ve always thought so, ever since
I read a novel in which two sisters were constantly meeting
in cafés. Today, for example, I walked alone
on the wet sidewalk, wearing my rain boots, expecting
someone might ask where I was headed. I bought
a steno pad and a watch battery, the store windows
fogged up. Rain in April is a kind of promise, and it costs
nothing. I carried a bag of books to the café and ordered
tea. I like a place that’s lit by lamps. I like a place
where you can hear people talk about small things,
like the difference between azure and cerulean,
and the price of tulips. It’s going down. I watched
someone who could be my sister walk in, shaking the rain
from her hair. I thought, even now florists are filling
their coolers with tulips, five dollars a bundle. All over
the city there are sisters. Any one of them could be mine.
Another poem where the poet conveys so much feeling with so few words. So take some time to pause today, to notice people talking about the "small things" and to enjoy the little things in life. Happy Saturday!
Photo via followbarbsbliss.blogspot.com
Sometimes a simple reminder is all that we need to bring us back to a daily practice of whatever it is that we love--our yoga or meditation practice, our creative endeavors, our passions--which is why I love the following poem by Rumi. I don't think he needs an introduction, but if you have questions about who Rumi was or what he wrote, click here
for a plethora of information. Below is one of my favorite poems by Rumi...press pause and allow it to soak in...Submit to a daily practice.Your loyalty to thatis a ring on the door.Keep knocking, and the joy insidewill eventually open a windowand look out to see who's there.Simple, straightforward, and beautiful--a wonderful reminder for a gorgeous Saturday! I hope you're able to open a window and get a glimpse of whatever is joyful, real and true for you today...Namaste!Mary Catherine
It's here! Moving day has finally come. Well, technically, the movers don't come until tomorrow so today isn't the grand finale, but we start today. We sign the lease, start bringing over loose items, and get our keys. Pretty exciting! So, in honor of moving weekend, I thought it would only be appropriate to celebrate with a poem by Elizabeth Jennings
called "Moving House." She wrote this in 1955, but surprisingly, it doesn't feel outdated or old fashioned at all. Just ignore the fact that she's talking about a house, and imagine our silly little apartment in Van Ness, instead :)So press pause and take a moment to enjoy the way that a poet like Jennings can string a few words together so beautifully...
Soon the house will be filled again,
Our boxes have been carried off,
The walls are bare, we only leave
White patches where our pictures hung.
Dust settles widely now among
The places where we used to move.
And though we are most glad to go
We want to leave some hint behind,
Nothing so powerful as a ghost
But some part of us to remind
New tenants whom we do not know
That the old house is not resigned
To wind and dust and spaces cut
Clean where our furniture was put.
We want to flourish our old selves
And frighten the new owners, but
We quite forget they will be glad
To find some trace upon the shelves
Of our own past, that what they dread,
Like us, is space untenanted.
And with that, I'm off to pack (and then teach 2 classes and a newbie workshop this afternoon!). The next time I blog, I'll be a resident of Virginia. Wow, I never thought I'd say that...
There's not much that I can say about Stephen Dunn's
poem below, as it really speaks for itself. But I do have to comment on the title--doesn't the title "Poem For People That Are Understandably Too Busy To Read Poetry"--just make you want to read the poem? I think it's absolutely great. This poem is obviously written for the modern audience--people who have too much to do, too much stimulus--people who have become constant consumers and who are always looking for more, more, more. For Dunn's readers, a simple poem is not enough. They need action, romance, violence, music, fireworks! His approach, and the way that he interacts with these people in his poem, is simply genius.
Poem For People That Are Understandably Too Busy To Read Poetry
Relax. This won't last long.
Or if it does, or if the lines
make you sleepy or bored,
give in to sleep, turn on
the T.V., deal the cards.
This poem is built to withstand
such things. Its feelings
cannot be hurt. They exist
somewhere in the poet,
and I am far away.
Pick it up anytime. Start it
in the middle if you wish.
It is as approachable as melodrama,
and can offer you violence
if it is violence you like. Look,
there's a man on a sidewalk;
the way his leg is quivering
he'll never be the same again.
This is your poem
and I know you're busy at the office
or the kids are into your last nerve.
Maybe it's sex you've always wanted.
Well, they lie together
like the party's unbuttoned coats,
slumped on the bed
waiting for drunken arms to move them.
I don't think you want me to go on;
everyone has his expectations, but this
is a poem for the entire family.
Right now, Budweiser
is dripping from a waterfall,
deodorants are hissing into armpits
of people you resemble,
and the two lovers are dressing now,
I don't know what music this poem
can come up with, but clearly
it's needed. For it's apparent
they will never see each other again
and we need music for this
because there was never music when he or she
left you standing on the corner.
You see, I want this poem to be nicer
than life. I want you to look at it
when anxiety zigzags your stomach
and the last tranquilizer is gone
and you need someone to tell you
I'll be here when you want me
like the sound inside a shell.
The poem is saying that to you now.
But don't give anything for this poem.
It doesn't expect much. It will never say more
than listening can explain.
Just keep it in your attache case
or in your house. And if you're not asleep
by now, or bored beyond sense,
the poem wants you to laugh. Laugh at
yourself, laugh at this poem, at all poetry.
Good. Now here's what poetry can do.
Imagine yourself a caterpillar.
There's an awful shrug and, suddenly,
You're beautiful for as long as you live.
Now that, my friends, is a pretty wild poem. But isn't it true? Doesn't it speak to the modern audience who bores easily and needs constant stimulation?
Take some time to slow down and appreciate the little things today...without all the extra stimulation that we've grown to expect in our daily lives :)
www.two-hand.ru.com "Rail," 100 x 100 cm, acrylic on canvas
When this poem came through my inbox from American Life in Poetry
, I knew it was one I would have to share. One of my favorite things about the arts (of all kinds!) is the way in which artists can take something completely ordinary, an every day occurrence, and present it in a new light. In this poem, Barbara Schmitz
does this with her perception of the clothes we wear as "uniforms." (Of course I am also drawn to this poem because of all of the time that I have spent painting clothes
, as well.) It's very interesting to think about why we choose to wear what we wear, and what our clothing says about who we are, where we are in our life, where we've been, and where we're going. So press pause, and enjoy!
It is very hot—92 today—to be wearing
a stocking cap, but the adolescent swaggering
through the grocery store automatic door
doesn’t seem to mind; does not even appear
to be perspiring. The tugged-down hat
is part of his carefully orchestrated outfit:
bagging pants, screaming t-shirt, high-topped
shoes. The young woman who yells to her friends
from an open pickup window is attired
for summer season in strapless stretch
tube top, slipping down toward bountiful
cleavage valley. She tugs it up in front
as she races toward the two who have
just passed a cigarette between them
like a baton on a relay team. Her white
chest gleams like burnished treasure
as they giggle loudly there in the corner
and I glance down to see what costume
I have selected to present myself to
the world today. I smile; it’s my sky blue
shirt with large deliberately faded Peace sign,
smack dab in the middle, plus grey suede
Birkenstocks—a message that “I lived through
the sixties and am so proud.” None of the
young look my way. I round the corner and
walk into Evening descending.
What uniform are you wearing today? I'm wearing my yoga uniform in preparation for a day full of teaching and practicing yoga...