“Freedom” by William Stafford (repost)

Freedom is not following a river.
Freedom is following a river
though, if you want to.

It is deciding now by what happens now.
It is knowing that luck makes a difference.

No leader is free; no follower is free–
the rest of us can often be free.
Most of the world are living by
creeds too odd, chancy, and habit-forming
to be worth arguing about by reason.

If you are oppressed, wake up about
four in the morning; most places
you can usually be free some of the time
if you wake up before other people.

from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems
Copyright 1998 by Graywolf Press

***

Originally posted May 26, 2016; Brian Dean Powers included this piece during “Words With Brian” (his week of “hosting” Words for the Year). See his other selections here.

 

“There Will Be Things You Do” by Kim Dower

you won’t know why.
Maybe waiting to tie
your shoelaces

until everything else
is in place.
Could be you’ll slide

your egg yolks aside
eat every bit of bacon,
toast, whites while the forsaken

yellow orbs stare at you
from the side pocket
of your empty plate.

People will ask
why do you save
your yolks for last

and you won’t know—
won’t recall
the cousin from the south

came to visit one summer
ate his eggs so odd
your family said

stuck with you
like the way
you love to be kissed

on the back of your neck
can vaguely recollect
your mother’s kisses

after your bath
too gentle for memory.
There will be things you do

you won’t know why
like the way you look
up at the sky

when anxious or blue
it’s what your father
used to do

every family trip
when nothing else
was right

except those clouds
moving north by northwest
through the night

he showed you
what pilots knew:
factors for safe flying

are visibility
and how low
and mean the clouds are.

“There Will Be Things You Do” by Kim Dower from Last Train to the Missing Planet. © Red Hen Press, 2016.

* Thank you, Michelle T., for the recommendation. ❤


 

“To the Poets” by Howard Nemerov

Song sparrow’s limited creativity,
Three eighth-notes and a trill all summer long,
The falling second of the chickadee–
It’s a pretty humble business, singing song.

 
 
* Special thanks to reader Robert E. who offered this as one of his favorite poems. I appreciate the suggestion, and look forward to sharing more reader recommended pieces in the coming year.

Feel free to submit your own favorite via my contact page. ~Christy

“Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down” by Chris Bursk

If I’m going to be ashes in a decade or so,
why stay up past midnight staring at the television
as if it might have a change of heart
and put a third-party candidate in office for once
or end the war, and, while it was at it, clear up my grandson’s acne?
Maybe I should just enjoy the dog’s howling next door.
All night it’s been tugging at its chain
as if the links might finally get bored with being metal and snap.

If I’m going to be incinerated — burnt to a crisp —
in roughly 3,650 days, why am I sulking
because this morning of all mornings my car tired of doing
the same thing it had done the morning before,
and because half my class chose not to show up for a lecture that
I, their professor, a year from retirement, had hoped
would change their entire outlook
on comma splices? Once I’m ashes drifting away on the water,

what will it matter that years ago I threw up on my senior-prom date,
or last week forgot my wife’s sixty-first birthday,
or this morning embarrassed my grandson in front of his friends?
How do any of us prepare for the future
when we’re so busy making a mess
of the present? Perhaps this is time’s truest revenge:
to make us aware of its passing, every minute
of every day. Approximately 5,256,000 minutes

from now — give or take a month or year or two —
my son is going to stand on a bridge
with his children and do something he never thought
he’d have to do: let his quirky,
annoying, yet lovable (I’d hoped!) father slip through his fingers.
That’s my only comfort: I will be ashes
so fine they won’t even question the rocks
they fall on, the creek that sweeps them away.

For once I’ll not embarrass anyone.
For once I’ll not have to worry
about whether I’m doing something right.
I’ll perform the one miracle of my life.

by CHRIS BURSK, via The Sun Magazine. (Read more of Chris’s work; and Learn more about Chris.)

***

* Many thanks to Ruby Pipes who recommended this poem for us. ❤

“Praising Manners” by Robert Bly

We should ask God
To help us toward manners. Inner gifts
Do not find their way
To creatures without just respect.

If a man or woman flails about, he not only
Smashes his house,
He burns the whole world down.

Your depression is connected to your insolence
And your refusal to praise. If a man or woman is
On the path, and refuses to praise — that man or woman
Steals from others every day — in fact is a shoplifter!

The sun became full of light when it got hold of itself.
Angels began shining when they achieved discipline.
The sun goes out whenever the cloud of not-praising comes near.
The moment that foolish angel felt insolent, he heard the door close.

“Praising Manners” by Robert Bly, from The Winged Energy of Delight. © Harper Collins Publishers

* Many thanks to Ellen H. who recommended this poem for us. She and I both agreed that this piece is so appropriate for our times. “We need a little more civility in our national discourse,” Ellen said. Amen to that, Ellen, amen to that. Thank you again for sharing, Christy