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Archive for the ‘Poems’ Category

I received an email from a sweet family friend C, who excitedly told me that she had found the perfect photo frame wherein she wanted to display photos of my family. She had already fitted in the photo-card we sent out for Chinese New Year this year, and she wanted to use the one from 2009 as well. There are two more slots. And she requested a photo of our entire family, “with mom and dad included,” and finally, she would love to have one of Ferdinand.

I almost wept. In my heart I just repeated Thank you thank you thank you! Thank you for remembering little Ferdinand!

But at the same time a seed of dread was beginning to sprout in my heart. And rapidly its tendrils grew and entwined and gripped and strangled.

I descended into our digital photo archives and scrolled to the dreaded year, then the awful month, and then the most unforgettable, horrible day(s) of our lives. Life spun backwards, screeching at high speed while I clicked and scrolled, my eyes darting here and there, trying not to see the pain and agony, futilely fending off the sad memories, balling up and trying to roll away from the hurt and shock. But I not only saw those images again. I felt them viscerally. It was like digging into my own raw flesh with nails encrusted with raw, diamond-edged salt.

I found the picture, the touched up one. I sent it off.

But not the memories, not the pain, not the grief. Those stayed. And I sobbed.

Bitterly.

How funny that I recently again came across W.H. Auden’s poem, “Funeral Blues.” I could never write like that, but I know I wished like that after Ferdinand died. I wanted the world to crumble, for the sky to fall and for laughter to be wiped out forever. Eternal darkness, and floods of tears to never subside.

Some days life feels like the crisp, clear, cheery morning after an evening of raging storm. Raindrops quiver on leaves, birds tweet and butterflies flit.

People like to keep pointing to the rainbow that manifests after a storm. I like to remind them that it came after an ugly, formidable storm. I appreciate and cherish the rainbow, I just never forgot the storm.

::

“Funeral Blues” (Song IX/ from “Two Songs for Hedli Anderson)

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public
doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

~ Wystan Hugh Auden (1907-1973)

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I’ve tried my hands at poetry. Tried hard; missed sorely. so I am deeply thankful of poets who produce words that speak our hearts, and our guts. I found this poem by Maya Stein on Patti Digh’s blog. Maybe it’ll take your breath away too. Maybe you’ll also think, I think she wrote it for me.

let the world spin as it spins

Eat the last cookies in the box.

Wear the same pair of jeans two

weeks in a row. See the orchid die, leaf

by leaf. Wipe the countertop carelessly,

so it’s sticky as spit the next time

you lean on your elbows wondering

what’s for dinner. Watch hours

of television. Call for pizza, for Chinese,

for the cable company to give you even

more channels. Drive by the gym

without skipping a beat. Wash your hair only

when it starts to wilt, when the mirror

produces someone who doesn’t look like she wants

to get laid. Think about sex constantly.

Order cocktails. Play pool. Spend your money

on a massage, on t-shirts from the warehouse sale,

on inflation-priced bagels from the café down the street.

Ignore the obvious fact that the sheets

need changing. Occupy your bed gratuitously.

When you’re done reading for the night,

flop the pages open, straining the jacket.

Allow the avocados to ripen beyond repair.

Stain the kitchen sink with grape stems,

mango peels, olive pits with the meat

still clinging. Use vast quantities of paper towels

for a simple spill of water.

Lavish attention on the minute landscape

between your eyebrows.

Lose time. Ditch the mail into the bulging

plastic bag near your desk. Almost mistake it

for trash. Abandon the task of fixing

the dresser drawer. Turn your car

into a wastebasket.

And when it comes, fall with extravagant

ugliness. Grieve noisily into the balls of your fists.

Push your heels against the carpet, your chest squirming.

Feel the walls of the house vibrate with your pain.

Make pockmarks of your heart.

Collapse if you have to. It is like this.

The world spins as it spins.

No one knows,

even though we all know

this is between

you and you alone.

So yield. Commit your entire body.

Recognize your own astonishing anguish.

Tear it from your skin like a wolf

eviscerates her trapped leg. Shriek like

the downed bird you are.

Invest wholly in your damage.

Lap up each tumescent despair. Swallow

the pinbones of your loss. Caress

every razor edge of not enough. Gift yourself

long, bruising hours of hopelessness.

The world spins as it spins.

Your life is on that same axis,

half shadow, half radiance

and turning, always turning.

-Maya Stein

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further defiance

Call it funny but after that “first poem” I had inspiration for a second. I wrote this second one pretty fast, a day after we took a hike. During the hike as we took a break to take in the views I could feel the aches in my old bones, and felt very alive indeed. Yet, though I had all parts of me with me, I knew I was no longer me. I submitted the poem to Angie, and she told me it would be published February 20, but I forgot, until just now. I am so glad that Angie started Still Life 365 and maintains it, with lots of opportunities for community participation. She truly is amazing, and I have been blown away by these expressions of grief, all different but ultimately beautiful because all are heartfelt.

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I’ve taken down the powerful, poignant poems but here’s the link to read about poet Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno and the poems she wrote in the aftermath of her daughter’s murder: the link

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powerful poem

Gal posted this on her blog. What a beautiful, gorgeous, powerful poem. Thank you, Gal, for sharing…

Kindness

by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

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poem

This was read at my Blessingway by my wonderful friend M. I read Tagore’s works in Chinese in my younger days, but have no memory of this poem. I suppose at that time, I did not know to appreciate it. But now, this poem, it makes me weep. It is truly beautiful, though.

**

The End

It is time for me to go, mother; I am going.

When in the paling darkness of the lonely dawn
you stretch out your arms for your baby in the bed,
I shall say, “Baby is not there!”–mother, I am going.

I shall become a delicate draught of air and caress you;
and I shall be ripples in the water when you bathe,
and kiss you and kiss you again.
In the gusty night when the rain patters on the leaves
you will hear my whisper in your bed,
and my laughter will flash with the lightning
through the open window into your room.

If you lie awake, thinking of your baby till late into the night,
I shall sing to you from the stars, “Sleep mother, sleep.”

On the straying moonbeams I shall steal over your bed,
and lie upon your bosom while you sleep.

I shall become a dream,
and through the little opening of your eyelids
I shall slip into the depths of your sleep;
and when you wake up and look round startled,
like a twinkling firefly I shall flit out into the darkness.

When, on the great festival of puja,
the neighbours’ children come and play about the house,
I shall melt into the music of the flute and throb in your heart all day.

Dear auntie will come with puja-presents and will ask,
“Where is our baby, sister?”
Mother, you will tell her softly,
“He is in the pupils of my eyes, he is in my body and in my soul.”

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poem

I came across this poem today, on a blog stark, dark and sparse; written by someone whom I have no idea about. His poems have no titles, his blog site offers no clues as to who he is, behind that poet facade. But this poem is written as if he knew:

slowly

with
great caution

in
halting
measured step

I creep
from
sanctuary
dark

to leave
solace
safety
and sorrow
behind

to
sidle
in uncertainty
into
the
chafing
cutting light

head bowed

eyes
swollen red

mind bruised

spirit crushed

heart
mercilessly
torn

I am
tensed
for flight

emerging

visible again

though
just barely

in snap
recoil
from movements
quick

from
any gesture
toward
my person

don’t reach

don’t
touch

do not
touch

do
not
touch
me

fragile
as a
newborn
bird

unsteady
as
a fawn

and
just
as frightened

just
as
unsure

this is
territory
long
untrod

movement
long
abandoned

sorrowfully
abandoned

forgotten
purpose
purposely
avoided

shunned
in anger

my wounded
animal
took
refuge
in aloneness

solitary
in the
horror

dug in
with
resolve
to
disappear

perhaps
to die

simple breathing
a
considered
labor

each
breath
weighed and
measured

its worth
evaluated

most times
found
of little
value

but still
I drew
them
hesitantly

counted
every
tear
that fell

struggled
with
the hand
of death

my hand

my
hand
of deliverance

debating
should
I bid
it end
this
misery

this agony

again and again
debating

pleading
in the
soothing
blackness

to barter
my mortality
for
yours

begging
the
bargain

holding it
in
the light
of
grief
to see
just
how
it might be done

over and over
day after day

night
upon
horrific
night

my empty
shell
beseeching
that
my
broken life

somehow
be
sacrifice
enough

to make
yours
whole
once more

the
catalyst
to spark
the
fire of life
into
your eyes

your
cold

dead

empty eyes

but I
found
no takers
for
my deal

only
painful
abject loneliness

soul-wrenching
regret

and so
I lay

shallow
breathing

unfed

unwashed

unsaved

resigned
to
simply
vanish

to pull
around me
the numb
of
sacred
death

but in
my
time
of forfeiture

a dim
but
growing light
fell upon
the faces
of
the others
who survive

the others
whom
I love

who look
to
me
to lead them
from this
dark
and chilling
pit

from
this
brutal plane
of
hopelessness

from despair

to be
strong

to find
the
reason
to go on

ever slowly
this
dim light
grows

and
the chill
to lift

my eyes
again
to see

my purpose
taking
gradual
form
as I
reluctantly
observe

so

slowly
I emerge

but
please

no quick
or sudden
expectations

I fear
I
may flee

never
to return

permit me
slow
and steady
emergence
from
my
chrysalis
of anguish

do not
attempt
to ease
my
return
with feigned
sympathy

or
hollow condolence

don’t assault me
with
declarations
of
your knowledge
of
my feelings

my state of
mind

do
not
insult me

for you
do not
know

you
do
not

so
please

be still

stand off

and
let me
find my way

back
into
this mortal world

this is
my return

not yours

offer only
patience

and
safe distance

original link here

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