Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

By the Numbers




Two hundred ninety million.

That’s how many dollars Monsanto

was ordered to pay the dying man


when the company failed to warn him

about how the poison they made

to kill weeds would also kill him.


Two hundred ninety million.

That’s how many miles

the Voyager 2 moves away


from the earth every year. And though

it was made to do so—to travel

past our sun’s magnetic field—who


could blame it for moving away

from this dying planet at

thirty-four thousand one hundred ninety-one


miles per hour. If that number were dollars

today, it would be equivalent to eight thousand dollars

in 1977 when the Voyager 2 was launched.


And eight thousand, that’s how many sacred

elephants there were on the banks

of the Six Tusker Lake in the Himalaya,


elephants who flew in the air, and sages say

the Buddha himself was once born as son

to the chief of these eight thousand elephants.


Yes, sacred and magical things happen here

on the earth, despite the greed,

despite the poison. I was seven


when the Voyager 2 left, and since then

it’s travelled eighteen and a half billion miles.

If those miles were pounds,


that would equal more than a million

large African elephants, though in all of Africa,

there are only four hundred fifteen thousand


elephants left, down from five million

just a hundred years ago. What I am saying

is that as the Voyager 2 enters interstellar space


things are strange here on Earth, and we seem

hellbent on our own destruction, but I

am so grateful to be here, still. Even as


the Voyager 2 hurtles beyond the heliosphere,

I find myself still falling in love

with the twenty-seven thousand three hundred seventy-five


days I have to live,

and the earth’s twelve thousand

species of grass, and the five thousand stars


visible to the naked eye and the two hundred six

bones in the body, all of them working to help

us run toward beauty, yes, grateful


for two hands to hold one beloved face

and, amidst all this enormity, the absolute absence

of sufficient words to say how holy, how incalculable is love,


and how marvelous, really, to stare up

into the familiar night sky and imagine

all boundaries we’re just beginning to cross.




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bird in the cage

so intently singing

its sad, caged song

never noticing

the door long ago opened

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Forgive me. I do not mean

to be sharp, stark, sterile.

I’ve read of the salt mines


at Salzburg, how if you throw

a stick, leafless and dead,

into one of the abandoned workings,


then return months later and pull it out,

it will be covered in crystals,

“a galaxy of scintillating diamonds,”


writes Stendahl, “the original

branch no longer recognizable.”

I want to be like that stick.


Take my winter soul

and throw it into the mystery,

though it’s dark and cold


and easy to get lost.

What knows how to attract

the light will grow, will change me


until I barely recognize myself.

I do not mean to be short,

but I hear it in my words.


Stranger things have happened.

What is dead is sometimes

a chance to find new life,


to become a thing shining,

something the same, only fresh,

a thousand times more brilliant.




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all day the upright

grand piano dreams of hands

that play sonatas

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for Art


sparring with an old friend,

each round, loving

him more deeply

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Already the mind

has put on its tool belt

grabbed its manuals,

consulted its experts

and rolled up its sleeves,

but the heart just wants

to know itself,

pours a cup of Sumatra,

sets out another cup,

and waits to see

who will arrive.

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and we will go

to the haiku cottage

in the mountains

where there are no roads

and there are no pens

and there we let ourselves

be written, the seasons

will shape our syllables,

the moon shall be

our cutting word,

and every time we think

we know what line comes next

we will thrill at how new

the world can be, sliding,

escaping, unswirling,

and calling follow me,

bring only wonder,

follow me



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The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe.

            —Joanna Macy



Give me a heart that breaks—

ears willing to hear the difficult news

and legs that do not choose to run from it.


Yes, give me a heart big enough

to accommodate a wrestling match inside,

a mind that knows no one wins a war,


hands that move to help no matter

what the mind might say.

Give me a heart that opens


long after it thinks it’s already open,

and lips that know when to listen.

Give me a heart that knows itself


as other hearts. Give me feet

that will stand when someone must stand

for justice. And a spine flexible enough


to turn and see all sides. Snow falls

on all my thoughts. It sometimes

takes a long time to melt, a long time


before I remember again to pray

to be open, to pray for a heart that breaks,

to notice the stars shining from the inside.


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One Forever


still winging in the field

that snow angel that melted

years ago

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Almost to Solstice



There is a light and it never goes out

            —The Smiths, There Is a Light That Never Goes Out



And even in these darkest days

in the darkest rooms

with the darkest thoughts

and the darkest words

with the darkest songs

in the dark-full ears

and when the darkening dreams

weights the darkest fear

even then there’s a light

and it never goes out,

even then, when the eyes

know only doubt, even then,

even then, there’s a hand

eager to spill shine

into our cup and all

we need to do is drink,

then pour a bit of shine

for someone else.


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