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Posts Tagged ‘hope’

How It Goes with Hope

Eventually a burning hope
becomes ember, becomes glow,
becomes gone.
Whatever fuel it found
is spent, is done, is ash.
Not that you blame hope
for losing its brilliance.
More that you become
increasingly intimate with what is.
What is is an absence. What is
doesn’t sit in your lap. What is
doesn’t come to the door.
What is is very quiet.
But there is, if not hope,
a tenderness that lingers,
a tenderness that has a glow
of its own, a tenderness
that you carry with you
until it becomes you,
a warmth, a golden light
there when you fall asleep,
still there when you rise.
*
(note: sweet friends, thank you for all the emails and even the lovely letter about the loss of our cat, Otter. I didn’t mean to leave you hanging. She has not returned, and I am quite sure she met a predator. But my dear friend Jack gave me the sweetest advice: Please, when you are ready, begin to—maybe for only a minute—carry Otter in your body. That invitation a couple weeks ago was the basis for the feeling that evolved into this poem. And here it is, evidence of the small ways that we help each other as we carry grief. Thank you all. Thank you.)

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Missing

 

 

Hope is, perhaps, a quantum thing,

a paradox, like Schrödinger’s cat,

simultaneously alive and dead.

 

Today, I wandered the snowy field

and the icy banks and the shadowed wood,

calling the name of my sweet gray cat.

 

If I could find her now, I’d see

she’s either alive or dead.

But in this moment of uncertainty,

 

she’s both alive and dead to me.

I’m tugged by both possibilities as I wade

through tall dry grass. Oh damn that hope,

 

and bless it, too, how just a candle-measure

opposes a whole tower of unfounded certainty,

sends me out into the blizzard

 

calling her name, listening.

 

 

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Perhaps a Chance

 

 

It’s not that way with all things. Some that go are gone.

            —A.R. Ammons, “Eyesight”

 

 

And so it is that

even after the candle flame

is gone, yes, after

the flame is gone,

the carbon and unburned

wax vapor in the smoke

will still combust when touched

by a match, will travel down

the smoke and reignite

the wick. It sounds

like magic—looks like it,

too, a small ball of flame

dropping bright through the air.

So tonight when

my friend sends me

a video of just such

a marvel, I play it

again and again.

And all the burned out

wicks in me stand up

just a little bit straighter

and I stare at them

to notice if there is

still any smoke, and

my god, if I don’t just

run to the drawer

and find me

a box of matches,

their sticks brittle,

their tips as red

as hope.

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Slowly Learning

 

 

 

Most days I wake with hope,

which is to say a willingness

to keep trying. Just tonight

I read the study about rats

where they put them in glass jars

full of water. Most of them quickly

stopped swimming and drowned,

even the wild rats renowned

for being good swimmers.

But with the next round of rats,

the researcher from time to time

would put his hand in the jar

and lift the rats out. Just knowing

such a lift were possible was enough

to make the rats continue to swim

and they survived. And I wonder,

then, whose hand is lifting me these days,

reaching just often enough into my jar?

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There are no barriers for a person with talent and love towards work.

            —Ludwig van Beethoven

 

 

Everyone knows Beethoven

went deaf, could hardly hear

by the time he composed

the Moonlight Sonata.

I think of him sometimes

when I want to believe

in impossible things.

Like great harmony

born out of dead silence.

Like love in full bloom

despite drought.

Like finding a pocket in time.

Like hope, growing like mint.

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From eggs

the size

of small

jelly beans

come these

two beaks

that peak

beyond the

edge—today

they save

me, these

two tiny

wingless things.

Even this

bruised heart

remembers how

to marvel.

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The hope that is left after all your hopes are gone—that is pure hope, rooted in the heart.

            —Brother David Steindl-Rast

 

 

And so tonight when my daughter says to me,

Mom, are you Santa Claus? I ask her if it

would make a difference, and she says, Yes.

 

I don’t want him to just be a hoax for making

kids be good. And I say, I’ve never thought of Santa

that way. I think of him as generous. And magic.

 

And she says, But magic’s not real, and I say,

Some magic is. And she says, Well, it would

make sense. You always know what we want

 

because you’re the mom. And I tell her,

It is my great privilege to work for Santa,

and she says, What do you mean? And I say,

 

Well, you know, buying presents. And she says,

Why do you think he didn’t bring us a big present

this year, like he did last year? And I hear

 

in her voice, against all fact, hope,

the hope that lingers when hope is gone,

a pure hope, the hope that goodness is real,

 

that there is generosity beyond comprehension,

that some magic is real. She rolls over in the dark.

I keep hope rooted in my heart.

 

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It appears still, the crescent moon,

but it’s moving at 2,288 miles per hour,

its light reaching us in less than two seconds.

 

This morning, we marvel at it, as if

we’d never seen moon before, its light

somehow touching us newly.

 

And though we are dashing down

the highway at fifty-eight miles per hour,

watching the moon, I feel something

 

in me quiet and still. Years ago, a friend told me

it was time to stop writing moon poems.

How to stop when each time

 

we see the moon, something new in us rises

to meet it? May we always write moon poems,

whether or not anyone reads them.

 

May we always marvel at the light

and shadow so far past our reach

and yet travelling with us

 

every day, every night. May it always feel

important, like hope, impossible to touch

and so real, so true.

 

 

 

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It’s not so much that you want the snow

back in the drive, it’s just that your back

felt so much better before the shoveling,

 

and so, using your sideways logic, you think

to yourself that if the snow were unshoveled

your back might unhurt. And while

 

you’re at it, you think you might unthink

those thoughts you thought the night before

shoveling the drive. Though they didn’t

 

amount to any action, now that you’ve

thought them they’ve become a frame

that’s changed everything. So you start

 

with the snow, because revising that seems easier

than anything else, but to shovel it back

in the drive would seem to exacerbate

 

the problem with the back, so

you consider ways the snow might unfall,

all of them fanciful. At least for a while,

 

it amuses you, the idea of ten million

million snowflakes rising, but then

the reality of drought returns and you

 

feel guilty for unwishing the snow. No,

better to put your hope in perseverance,

better to put your hope in healing.

 

It happens. And you walk up the drive,

so snowless and clear you can safely look up

at the sky and see all those stars. The snow

 

gathers whatever light there is. It can’t

unshine. You thrill a bit in the chill. Some

of the shine reaches into you. Some of it stays.

 

 

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On a Difficult Day

 

 

Because I don’t know how to pray,

I do what I know to do,

which is to sit very quietly

and let myself feel. To hold you

without holding you.

To imagine your fear

and breathe into it.

To feel my own fear

and walk the edges of its cliffs.

To lean on hope with its flimsy

net and feel how little it takes

to catch us, to save us.

 

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