Posts Tagged ‘conversation’

This, too, is Christmas, the quiet
walk on the quiet road in the quiet air.
The only carol here—
unending verses of river.
The only gifts we brought—
our attention, our trust.
This feast is for the heart.
There is a generosity to the sunshine
no candle could equal.
It’s a deep sweetness
to be wrapped in blue sky,
a deep sweetness
to share heartache, exhaustion—
something I would never wish for anyone,
and yet, this Christmas day,
the sharing of it,
such a beautiful present.

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It is possible to be with someone who is gone.
—Linda Gregg, “The Presence in Absence”

I have no phone receiver to connect me to the other side,
but every day I speak to my beloveds through candle flame.
Every night, I speak to them through the dark before sleep.
I speak to them in the car when I am alone.
I speak to them when I walk beneath stars,
when I walk in the woods, when I walk in the rain.
It is possible to be with someone who is gone.
It is possible to feel what cannot be seen,
to sense what cannot be heard,
to be held by what cannot be touched.
It is possible for love to grow after death.
If there is a secret, it is, perhaps, openness.
The way air lets light move through.
The way a window invites in the scent of grass.
The way sand receives the ocean,
then, rearranged, lets it pass.

This poem was published in ONE ART: A Journal of Poetry on 9/11/22

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Night Walk

            for Lara and the Dark

Some conversations prefer the dark,
so, long after sundown we walk
in the nearby field
where a wide path’s been cut
through tall grass gone to seed
and there’s just enough starlight
to make out the twin dirt ruts
where we can walk side by side.
I love conversing this way,
when the dark is less a setting
and more a partner in conversation—
as if nothing we say
could ever make it stop holding us,
as if it will listen for as long as we speak,
as if it will fill in any gaps
with its own simple syntax
of infinite ink. And so we walk,
you, me, and the gentle dark.
When we finally return to the light-warm home,
a little midnight comes in with us
and joins us for sleepytime tea.
It seems to know not even a whisper is needed,
just the certainty that we are being heard,
truly heard, the way
only an old best friend can listen,
and there’s nothing we can’t say.

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inspired by Pietà by Vincent van Gogh and a piano composition by the same name by Kayleen Asbo

When Chopin wrote his prelude in E minor,
its melody descending like sundown in a field,
he could never have guessed how
Eugène Delacroix would listen to the song relentlessly
when he painted his Pietà, how the haunting notes
would infuse themselves into the twilight
of the Virgin Mary’s blue dress,
into her outstretched hands and her oddly angled neck
as she held the dead body of her son.

And Delacroix could not have known
how, two years later, Anna van Gogh
would give birth to Vincent Willem,
his heart unbeating, his lungs unbreathing—
how Anna would long to mourn like the Virgin
and hold her own dead child, but her husband
would forbid her to even speak of the loss,
calling her grief a sin.

And Anna could not have known
how a year to the day when her first son died
she would deliver another boy
and name him Vincent Willem van Gogh,
and he would grow up seeing his own name
and birthday carved into a gravestone.

No surprise then, perhaps, that when Vincent
painted his own version of Delacroix’s Pietà,
he painted the dead son in the likeness of himself—
his own slender shoulders, his own red beard.
In Virgin Mary’s eyes, he painted dusk.

And van Gogh could not have known
how over a hundred years later
a woman named Kayleen, inspired
by Chopin and the agony in Vincent’s painting,
would write a song for piano, a song infused
with heartache and beauty, eventide and gloaming.

And Kayleen could not have known how,
months later, another woman would hear
in the slow rolling bass of the minor key
a mirror for her brokenness,
the spilling of her own golds and blues,
how she would seek out Vincent’s Pietà
and see in the painting
her own empty hands, her own dead son.
She would understand in an instant
she was not alone
in meeting the darkling swell of unbearable loss
and the light of bearing it anyway—


Today (Monday, July 12) at 11 a.m. mountain time, I hope you can join me and composer/pianist/historian Kayleen Asbo for an hour of conversation about the “unfolding delight of collaborating on a multimedia project for Vincent van Gogh. No charge, but if you want to donate in support of our work, we will accept gratefully! Above all, we want to share the joy we have discovered in weaving poetry and music in response to van Gogh and each other. 

To register. cut and paste this link: 

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Beside the purple lupine
she says, “The thing I most
don’t want to talk about—”
and then, with a sigh,
she talks about it,
and the path and the wild iris
and the bear bell and I
all listen as she meets
what she most wishes not
to meet. There are moments
when we step right up
to the line that delineates
the world that is and the world
as we wish it would be,
and no matter how much it hurts,
there is such relief in meeting the truth
that I swear as she spoke
the world was even more itself—
the lupine more purple,
the sky more blue,
and my heart more a heart
because of her courage
to take off her mask
and says this, this is what’s real.

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How are you?
she asks walking by
as I sit on my bumper
and unlace my ski boots.
And I say, The track is amazing today,
and it’s true, the snow is hard and fast
and my lungs are still burning
from pushing myself
in the cold winter air.
What I mean is, I miss
my son every minute,
and my heart feels like
a skinned rabbit still alive.
She says, What length are your skis?
I know what she means is,
Oh friend, I have felt that way, too.
And I tell her one ninety,
and we talk about how much
has changed over the years—
like ski lengths, like skins versus scales.
What I mean:
Like the way a person is here
and then they are not.
Like the way I once
could hold him.
Like the way he could once hold me.

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in the silence
the small talk
a whole life
is lived—
a life
in which
you are
only more so,
a self without
name, a self
of no
where, a
self unselved,
is to say
that sometimes
in the silence
of a minute
you find
some vision
so vast
so true
that you weep
before saying,
And how are you?

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walking in chill air
beside the frozen creek
warm words

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In every conversation

there is a table made of listening.

Sometimes the tables are beautiful,

solid, clean—the kind

that can support anything

you put on them.

Sometimes, they’re like

the tv dinner trays

of my childhood—

a little rickety, but they’ll do

if what’s put on them is light.

Sometimes they’re so cluttered

that whatever’s placed on their surface

is almost immediately lost.

Let tonight’s table have a small vase of flowers

and a candle perhaps, nothing else.

May it be small enough we might

see each other’s eyes, might notice

every nuance of breath. Whomever

I am most nervous to invite,

may I invite them. And though

the tea is just a metaphor,

may I offer. May they accept.

Find this poem published in the amazing ONE ART POETRY

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I’m so grateful to Braided Way for sharing this poem today …


In a time of national crisis, what our country really needs is a good poem.
—Herbert Hoover

This is the time when we must say to the stranger,
the other, sit here. Notice how difficult it can be
to even come to the same table, how hard
to look the other in the eye. Something in us screams,
“Right, I am right.” And it is hard to hear the voice
beneath that scream, a whisper of a gospel that says
nothing at all.

This is the time when we must say to ourselves,
I am also the stranger, when we must look
in the mirror and not know who it is we see—
someone capable of being more courageous,
more compassionate, more devoted, more
astonishingly vulnerable and connected
than we ever knew ourselves to be. Who
is that stranger in the mirror, we must ask,
and vow to never let her down.

This is the time when we must write the poems
our country needs, the poem that builds the bridge
from truth to truth and never touches the river
of lies. The poem that allows our country
to fall in love with itself again, the poem
with enough places set at its table
that everyone knows they have a place to sit
and the rest of us know when that person is missing
because their chair is empty.

This is the time for the beauty that passes
all understanding, a testament of goodness
that cannot be contained, a congress of delight.
This is the time to pick up your pen
and with your most tender, most beautiful,
most ferocious self,

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