“The Best Thing I Did” by Ron Padgett

The best thing I did
for my mother
was to outlive her

for which I deserve
no credit

though it makes me glad
that she didn’t have
to see me die

Like most people
(I suppose)
I feel I should
have done more
for her

Like what?
I wasn’t such a bad son

I would have wanted
to have loved her as much
as she loved me
but I couldn’t
I had a life a son of my own

a wife and my youth that kept going on
maybe too long

And now I love her more
and more

so that perhaps
when I die
our love will be the same

though I seriously doubt
my heart can ever be
as big as hers

 

“The Best Thing I Did” by Ron Padgett from Collected Poems. © Coffee House Press, 2013.


“Mama You Sweet” by Lucinda Williams

“Guest of Honor” by Philip Dacey

Marc Chagall, “La Mariée” 1950.

Every day, I drive by the grave
of my fiancee’s father.
She lost him when she was one.
He’s our intimate stranger,
our guardian angel,
floating a la Chagall
just above our heads.
I go to him for love-lessons.
He touches my hand
with that tenderness
the dead have for the living.
When I touch her hand so,
she knows where I’ve been.
At the wedding,
he’ll give her away to me.
And the glass he’ll raise to toast us
will be a chalice brimful of sun,
his words heard all the more clearly
for their absence, as stone
is cut away to form dates.

“Guest of Honor,” by Philip Dacey

 

“Sitting in the Cell Phone Waiting Lot at the San Francisco Airport, Awaiting My Father’s Arrival, I Write a Poem on the Day of Prince’s Death” by Dean Rader

Every streetlight is a slightly different hue
of white the squares like the blank faces of robots

offer the Hondas and Toyotas idling in the lot something
like hope and yet I am thinking of all of the people on the planes

landing and taking off the twin miracles of arrival and departure
each of them singing “Take Me With You” whether they know

the song or not they are all singing: the pilots the flight attendants
the air traffic controllers the baggage handlers the men and women

with those colored sticks that look like little light sabers
guiding the planes out to the runway where everyone on board leaves

everyone behind and lifts once more into darkness
which is to say that the dead are tired of all the dying and yet it seems

never to stop the most recent plane crash was only seven
days ago when a Sunbird Aviation plane slammed

into the ground just before landing killing all passengers
when I fly I often think about what people do or say

seconds before impact no doubt believing they will somehow
survive that this can’t possibly be the end not me not now not like this

but not my father who is I believe asleep on the plane as the complex physics
of lift keep his steel machine of 75 tons buoyant in the blackness below

God’s feet and even though my father has never heard a song by
Prince Rogers Nelson he finds himself mouthing I don’t care pretty baby

as the jet is slapped by turbulence and he begins to fear for the first
time on this journey but mostly because he starts to believe that flight

is a metaphor for life and that just like dancing or loving or even
riding in an elevator we never know what determines if we fall


Dean Rader’s Works & Days won the 2010 T.S. Eliot Prize. The Barnes & Noble Review named Landscape Portrait Figure Form a Best Poetry Book of the Year. Suture with Simone Muench (Black Lawrence Press) and Self-Portrait as Wikipedia Entry (Copper Canyon) are forthcoming in 2017.

poem and bio via The Awl though I did add the links to Dean’s site and his books at Amazon.


“Take Me With U” performed by Prince Rogers Nelson (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016)

“At the River Clarion” by Mary Oliver

1.

I don’t know who God is exactly.
But I’ll tell you this.
I was sitting in the river named Clarion, on a water splashed stone
and all afternoon I listened to the voices of the river talking.
Whenever the water struck a stone it had something to say,
and the water itself, and even the mosses trailing under the water.
And slowly, very slowly, it became clear to me what they were saying.
Said the river I am part of holiness.
And I too, said the stone. And I too, whispered the moss beneath the water.

I’d been to the river before, a few times.
Don’t blame the river that nothing happened quickly.
You don’t hear such voices in an hour or a day.
You don’t hear them at all if selfhood has stuffed your ears.
And it’s difficult to hear anything anyway, through all the traffic, the ambition.

2.

If God exists he isn’t just butter and good luck.
He’s also the tick that killed my wonderful dog Luke.
Said the river: imagine everything you can imagine, then keep on going.

Imagine how the lily (who may also be a part of God) would sing to you if it could sing,
if you would pause to hear it.
And how are you so certain anyway that it doesn’t sing?

If God exists he isn’t just churches and mathematics.
He’s the forest, He’s the desert.
He’s the ice caps, that are dying.
He’s the ghetto and the Museum of Fine Arts.

He’s van Gogh and Allen Ginsberg and Robert Motherwell.
He’s the many desperate hands, cleaning and preparing their weapons.
He’s every one of us, potentially.
The leaf of grass, the genius, the politician, the poet.
And if this is true, isn’t it something very important?

Yes, it could be that I am a tiny piece of God, and each of you too, or at least
of his intention and his hope.
Which is a delight beyond measure.
I don’t know how you get to suspect such an idea.
I only know that the river kept singing.
It wasn’t a persuasion, it was all the river’s own constant joy
which was better by far than a lecture, which was comfortable, exciting, unforgettable.

3.

Of course for each of us, there is the daily life.
Let us live it, gesture by gesture.
When we cut the ripe melon, should we not give it thanks?
And should we not thank the knife also?
We do not live in a simple world.

4.

There was someone I loved who grew old and ill
One by one I watched the fires go out.
There was nothing I could do

except to remember
that we receive
then we give back.

5.

My dog Luke lies in a grave in the forest, she is given back.
But the river Clarion still flows from wherever it comes from
to where it has been told to go.
I pray for the desperate earth.
I pray for the desperate world.
I do the little each person can do, it isn’t much.
Sometimes the river murmurs, sometimes it raves.

6.

Along its shores were, may I say, very intense cardinal flowers.
And trees, and birds that have wings to uphold them, for heaven’s sakes–
the lucky ones: they have such deep natures,
they are so happily obedient.
While I sit here in a house filled with books,
ideas, doubts, hesitations.

7.

And still, pressed deep into my mind, the river
keeps coming, touching me, passing by on its
long journey, its pale, infallible voice
singing.

 

 

“At the River Clarion” by Mary Oliver, from Evidence: Poems, Beacon Press.

 

“I pray for the desperate earth. I pray for the desperate world.”


“River” by Leon Bridges

“The visible and the in-” by Marge Piercy

Some people move through your life
like the perfume of peonies, heavy
and sensual and lingering.

Some people move through your life
like the sweet musky scent of cosmos
so delicate if you sniff twice, it’s gone.

Some people occupy your life
like moving men who cart off
couches, pianos and break dishes.

Some people touch you so lightly you
are not sure it happened. Others leave
you flat with footprints on your chest.

Some are like those fall warblers
you can’t tell from each other even
though you search Petersen’s.

Some come down hard on you like
a striking falcon and the scars remain
and you are forever wary of the sky.

We all are waiting rooms at bus
stations where hundreds have passed
through unnoticed and others

have almost burned us down
and others have left us clean and new
and others have just moved in.

“The visible and the in-” by Marge Piercy from Made in Detroit. © Knopf, 2015.


“In the Waiting Line” by Zero 7