And if we can’t save the world,
and who says we can’t, then
let us try anyway. Perhaps
we have no superhuman powers—
can’t see through buildings,
can’t fly, can’t bend the bars of cages—
but we have human powers—
can listen, can stand up to,
can stand up for, can cradle.
And if we can’t imagine
a world of peace, and who
says we can’t, then let us
try anyway. Perhaps we start
tonight—on a Wednesday.
Thursday works, too. Or Friday.
Doesn’t much matter the day.
All that matters is the choice
to meet this moment exactly
as it is, with no dream of being
anyone else but our flawed
and fabulous very self—
and then, wholly present,
bringing this self to the world,
touching again and again what is true.
— Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer (excerpted from MANIFESTO)
And if we can’t save the world,
There’s nothing spectacular about this photo, save for the memories it represents. I was meandering down the boardwalk, shrouded in ocean mist. My thoughts wandered, too, as is their wont on my morning walks. Suddenly this Torch Aloe appeared, cutting through the fog and setting ablaze a patch of lavender. The wonder of it all…high drama, whispered poetry.
I hope these unexpected encounters will always spark joy, and forever pique my curiosity. As Mary Oliver famously wrote,“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement.”
More than these greens tossed with toasted pecans,
I want to serve you the hymn I sang into the wooden bowl
as I blended the oil and white vinegar.
More than honey ice cream
beside the warm pie, I want to serve you the bliss in the apples’ flesh,
how it gathered the sun and carried its luminousness to this table.
More than the popovers, the risen ecstasy of wheat, milk and eggs,
I want to serve you the warmth that urged the tranformation to bread.
Blessings, I want to serve you full choruses of hallelujah, oh so wholly
here in this moment. Oh so holy here in this world.
This beautiful poem, Thanksgiving, was penned by Rosemerry Wahtola Trimmer. All photographs courtesy of my dear friend, Donna Sullivan.
I’m forever grateful for this opportunity to sing at Sunday Brunch with the Harlem Gospel Choir. I’m not a culinary expert by any means, nor am I a professional singer. But I do rattle around in the kitchen some, and I’m all about making a joyful noise!
I suspect that’s why this poem really resonates with me. It speaks to the savory-sweet truths about Thanksgiving. A tasty meal doesn’t require perfect recipes and the just-right serving dishes. It’s all about serving others–meeting your beloveds’ needs with compassion and grace. Abundance is sometimes equated with heaping plates and that uncomfortable, overstuffed feeling that follows. But in fact, a bountiful life is more accurately measured by our generosity of spirit. And here’s the essence of the poem, as I read it: When we prepare food with a song in our hearts, it nourishes everyone who gathers around our tables. And when we are “wholly here in the moment,” we give and receive a gracious plenty.
GHAZAL: AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL
by Alicia Ostriker
Do you remember our earnestness our sincerity
In first grade when we learned to sing America
The Beautiful along with the Star-Spangled Banner
And say the Pledge of Allegiance to America
We put our hands over our first-grade hearts
We felt proud to be part of America
I said One Nation Invisible until corrected
Maybe I was right about America
School days school days dear old Golden Rule days
When we learned how to behave in America
What to wear how to smoke how to despise our parents
Who didn’t understand us or America
Only later understanding the Banner and the Beautiful
Lived on opposite sides of the street in America
Only later discovering this land is two lands
One triumphant bully one hopeful America
Sometimes I still put my hand tenderly on my heart
Somehow or other still carried away by America
Independence Day is a raucous celebration of American history, and the cherished ideals on which our nation was founded. We throw big parties, our hearts swelled with pride. Fireworks and campfires…hot dogs and hand-churned ice cream…and oh my stars and stripes, the patriotic songs we all know and love!
But from where I sit, this 4th of July seems a bit more subdued. Aside from the televised performances, that is. I’m wondering if it’s because some of us are a bit conflicted about what it actually means to be citizens of a country that’s increasingly divided, and isolated. We are a nation born of immigrants, forged in the crucible of diversity, but in this gloriously Imperfect Union, it’s become a real challenge to find common ground.
This, too, shall pass. We are a resourceful people, strong and resilient. I’m a realist, but I truly believe we can rise above our current circumstances and become, once again, that shining City Upon a Hill. It won’t be easy, but we’ve survived dark times before and can do it again.
To that end, I was really glad when my friend Jama Rattigan introduced me to Alicia Striker’s poem, earlier this morning. It reads, for me, like a lamentation and a psalm. Perfect for today, because while it holds up a mirror to some very hard truths, it also celebrates everything that’s great and good about this country of ours. We’re still America the Beautiful, even if we’re somewhat harder to recognize of late.
Above the hills, along the blue,
Round the bright air with footing true,
To please the child, to paint the rose,
The gardener of the World, he goes.
–Excerpted from “Summer Sun,” by Robert Lewis Stevenson
Happy Summer Solstice! ‘Tis the season for flip-flops and sandy beaches, iced tea and sun-soaked memories. And light, too–we could use more of that. Hope you’ll savor every sweet, juicy moment, and that you’ll share a slice of summer with me, here!
The sea can do craziness,
it can do smooth,
it can lie down like silk breathing
or toss havoc shoreward;
it can give gifts or withhold all;
it can rise, ebb,
froth like an incoming frenzy of fountains,
or it can sweet-talk entirely.
As I can too, and so, no doubt, can you, and you.
–Mary Oliver, A Thousand Mornings (featuring Freckles the Harbor Seal)
“In the darkest nights of winter,” my Nana always told me, “watch the skies and listen for the robins.”
I mentioned that very thing, in my blog post last week.
She was right, of course. Again. Because, oh hey, look who’s splashing in my birdbath!
Rarely have I ever seen robins in this area, and only once before in my own garden. He perched on my
soul fence for a single afternoon, and then vanished.
Such cheerful birds, these harbingers of spring. I’m glad for their company, however long they choose to stay.
Seems Edward Jenner was equally enthralled by their visits. Here, his love letter to these red-chested beauties:
Address to a Robin
Come, sweetest of the feathered throng,
And soothe me with thy plaintive song;
Come to my cot, devoid of fear,
No danger shall await thee here…
Hop o’er my cheering hearth, and be
One of my peaceful family
Then soothe me with thy plaintive song,
Thou sweetest of the feathered throng.
–Edward Jenner (physician, musician, balloonist, and inventor of modern-day vaccinations, 1749-1823)
My friend Jeannine Atkins surprised me with a beautiful book just recently: The Poet’s Guide to the Birds.
We share an affinity for winged creatures, Jeannine and I. We swoon over beautiful writing.
Jeannine pens gorgeous stories-in-verse. Borrowed Names, for instance, is at once accessible and relatable. But truth be told, I’m as flinchy about most poetic forms as this hooded oriole is camera shy.
He allows me to take his picture through the sliding glass door. And I approach poetry sideways. I pore over the words, one at a time, search line breaks and punctuation marks for the keys to understanding.
It’s a subtle nudge, this book, in that the subject matter keeps bringing me back to the page. I’m learning to find my song within even the most obscure lyrics, to feel the pulse of this poetry in a way that resonates most with me.
Just yesterday, this hooded oriole posed for a long while on our backyard feeder. I watched it intently. Such a standout, with that glossy beak and sunshine-y feathers! You’d never guess its shyness, given those bold, bright colors.
Coincidentally, I’d just finished reading Patricia Kirkpatrick’s “Orioles,” a short poem about an ancient garden from which an orange and black tulip yearns to escape its rooted existence. As you might’ve surmised, the tulip takes wing and returns as an oriole.
The color orange suggests a Baltimore oriole, but I understood this creation story anyway. And as synchronicity would have it, the poem forged an even deeper connection to my friend Jeannine, for whom tulips are a favorite flower.
Roots and wings. Gardens and floral arrangements. This is how I’m grounding myself in poetry these days.