• lenten journal: poetry month

    by  • April 1, 2014 • lenten journal, poetry • 0 Comments

    It may be April Fools’ Day, but it is also the beginning of National Poetry Month. Tonight, I want to help kick it off with three of my favorites.

    How To Be a Poet
    by Wendell Berry

    (to remind myself)
    i

    Make a place to sit down.
    Sit down. Be quiet.
    You must depend upon
    affection, reading, knowledge,
    skill—more of each
    than you have—inspiration,
    work, growing older, patience,
    for patience joins time
    to eternity. Any readers
    who like your poems,
    doubt their judgment.

    ii

    Breathe with unconditional breath
    the unconditioned air.
    Shun electric wire.
    Communicate slowly. Live
    a three-dimensioned life;
    stay away from screens.
    Stay away from anything
    that obscures the place it is in.
    There are no unsacred places;
    there are only sacred places
    and desecrated places.

    iii

    Accept what comes from silence.
    Make the best you can of it.
    Of the little words that come
    out of the silence, like prayers
    prayed back to the one who prays,
    make a poem that does not disturb
    the silence from which it came.

    There Is No Word
    by Tony Hoagland

    There isn’t a word for walking out of the grocery store
    with a gallon jug of milk in a plastic sack
    that should have been bagged in double layers

    —so that before you are even out the door
    you feel the weight of the jug dragging
    the bag down, stretching the thin

    plastic handles longer and longer
    and you know it’s only a matter of time until
    bottom suddenly splits.

    There is no single, unimpeachable word
    for that vague sensation of something
    moving away from you

    as it exceeds its elastic capacity
    —which is too bad, because that is the word
    I would like to use to describe standing on the street

    chatting with an old friend
    as the awareness grows in me that he is
    no longer a friend, but only an acquaintance,

    a person with whom I never made the effort—
    until this moment, when as we say goodbye
    I think we share a feeling of relief,

    a recognition that we have reached
    the end of a pretense,
    though to tell the truth

    what I already am thinking about
    is my gratitude for language—
    how it will stretch just so much and no farther;

    how there are some holes it will not cover up;
    how it will move, if not inside, then
    around the circumference of almost anything—

    how, over the years, it has given me
    back all the hours and days, all the
    plodding love and faith, all the

    misunderstandings and secrets
    I have willingly poured into it.

    I Am Offering this Poem
    by Jimmy Santiago Baca

    I am offering this poem to you,
    since I have nothing else to give.
    Keep it like a warm coat
    when winter comes to cover you,
    or like a pair of thick socks
    the cold cannot bite through,

    I love you,

    I have nothing else to give you,
    so it is a pot full of yellow corn
    to warm your belly in winter,
    it is a scarf for your head, to wear
    over your hair, to tie up around your face,

    I love you,

    Keep it, treasure this as you would
    if you were lost, needing direction,
    in the wilderness life becomes when mature;
    and in the corner of your drawer,
    tucked away like a cabin or hogan
    in dense trees, come knocking,
    and I will answer, give you directions,
    and let you warm yourself by this fire,
    rest by this fire, and make you feel safe

    I love you,

    It’s all I have to give,
    and all anyone needs to live,
    and to go on living inside,
    when the world outside
    no longer cares if you live or die;
    remember,

    I love you.

    Amen.

    Peace,
    Milton

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