“For One Who Is Exhausted, a Blessing” by John O’Donohue

When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight.

The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.

Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.

The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.

You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken in the race of days.

At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.

You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.

Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.

Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.


From To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings by John O’Donohue, published in the U.K. as Benedictus.

 was a poet, theologian, and philosopher. He authored several books, including Anam ĊaraBeauty, and To Bless the Space Between Us, a collection of blessings published posthumously. His newest book, Walking in Wonder: Eternal Wisdom for a Modern World, was published in November 2018. He died on January 4, 2008.

Poem and Bio Source: On Being

“Bluebird” by Charles Bukowski (repost) and “Bluebird” by Miranda Lambert

bluebird
by Charles Bukowski

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I’m not going
to let anybody see
you.

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
he’s
in there.

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
works?
you want to blow my book sales in
Europe?

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody’s asleep.
I say, I know that you’re there,
so don’t be sad.

then I put him back,
but he’s still singing a little
in there, I haven’t quite let him
die
and we sleep together like
that
with our
secret pact
and it’s nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don’t
weep, do
you?

“Bluebird” by Charles Bukowski, The Last Night of the Earth Poems

***

“I felt like crying but nothing came out. it was just a sort of sad sickness, sick sad, when you can’t feel any worse. I think you know it. I think everybody knows it now and then. but I think I have known it pretty often, too often.”
― Charles Bukowski, Tales of Ordinary Madness

***

originally posted 3/8/14


I think Miranda may have channeled Bukowski … do you?

“Bluebird” by Miranda Lambert

“Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude” by Ross Gay (repost)

Originally posted 2/25/18, but much needed today. I encourage you to watch the spoken piece; it’s phenomenal.

I’ll be sharing a few reposts as I prepare new material for you (including a new guest book/community sharing page -so start thinking of a favorite poem or how you stumbled upon Words here or what drew you to poetry or a favorite cookie recipe…. plus a surprise host returns from the past to help share and comment with you. I’m excited about both, and I hope you are too! Details soon.

Love and health to you and yours, and thank you, every day, Christy)


Recently, some of us discussed via comments whether or not the poet is always the best spoken “performer” of their poems. The bottom line seemed to be “it depends” … (doesn’t it always?).

Friends, this is one of those poems that simply could not be delivered by any other than the poet–Ross Gay. It’s one of those poems that is even better performed. I admit, I’d read the poem, and yes I liked it, but having the book, I found myself flipping the pages in search of something with more “instant gratification.” (Ironically, this poem is all about gratification … gratitude. For life, for death, for all the sweet and short and momentous and mundane in between.) Ross’s reading? LOVED IT. I was an emotional hot mess by the end of the poem. Yes, I know it’s long. Yes, I know you’re busy. But trust me on this one.

Take a moment. Turn off the television news. Watch Ross, instead. Drink in his words and let them soothe you like a cup of honeyed tea. Words we so desperately need. Words I am so tearfully grateful for. He wrote them for you. And I share them for you. With gratitude. And thank you. Every day. 

(And with gratitude to Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database for graciously allowing the sharing of Gay’s performance.)

*If you are reading the poem’s text while listening, you’ll note Ross adds a little extra something “off-script/apart from the published text” into the poem, and it is absolutely divine. (FYI- That’s about where I began bawling.)


Ross Gay performs the poem “Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude” at the 2016 Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation and Witness which took place from April 14-17, 2016 in Washington D. C.

Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude
BY ROSS GAY

Friends, will you bear with me today,
for I have awakened
from a dream in which a robin
made with its shabby wings a kind of veil
behind which it shimmied and stomped something from the south
of Spain, its breast aflare,
looking me dead in the eye
from the branch that grew into my window,
coochie-cooing my chin,
the bird shuffling its little talons left, then right,
while the leaves bristled
against the plaster wall, two of them drifting
onto my blanket while the bird
opened and closed its wings like a matador
giving up on murder,
jutting its beak, turning a circle,
and flashing, again,
the ruddy bombast of its breast
by which I knew upon waking
it was telling me
in no uncertain terms
to bellow forth the tubas and sousaphones,
the whole rusty brass band of gratitude
not quite dormant in my belly—
it said so in a human voice,
“Bellow forth”—
and who among us could ignore such odd
and precise counsel?

Hear ye! hear ye! I am here
to holler that I have hauled tons—by which I don’t mean lots,
I mean tons — of cowshit
and stood ankle deep in swales of maggots
swirling the spent beer grains
the brewery man was good enough to dump off
holding his nose, for they smell very bad,
but make the compost writhe giddy and lick its lips,
twirling dung with my pitchfork
again and again
with hundreds and hundreds of other people,
we dreamt an orchard this way,
furrowing our brows,
and hauling our wheelbarrows,
and sweating through our shirts,
and two years later there was a party
at which trees were sunk into the well-fed earth,
one of which, a liberty apple, after being watered in
was tamped by a baby barefoot
with a bow hanging in her hair
biting her lip in her joyous work
and friends this is the realest place I know,
it makes me squirm like a worm I am so grateful,
you could ride your bike there
or roller skate or catch the bus
there is a fence and a gate twisted by hand,
there is a fig tree taller than you in Indiana,
it will make you gasp.
It might make you want to stay alive even, thank you;

and thank you
for not taking my pal when the engine
of his mind dragged him
to swig fistfuls of Xanax and a bottle or two of booze,
and thank you for taking my father
a few years after his own father went down thank you
mercy, mercy, thank you
for not smoking meth with your mother
oh thank you thank you
for leaving and for coming back,
and thank you for what inside my friends’
love bursts like a throng of roadside goldenrod
gleaming into the world,
likely hauling a shovel with her
like one named Aralee ought,
with hands big as a horse’s,
and who, like one named Aralee ought,
will laugh time to time til the juice
runs from her nose; oh
thank you
for the way a small thing’s wail makes
the milk or what once was milk
in us gather into horses
huckle-buckling across a field;

and thank you, friends, when last spring
the hyacinth bells rang
and the crocuses flaunted
their upturned skirts, and a quiet roved
the beehive which when I entered
were snugged two or three dead
fist-sized clutches of bees between the frames,
almost clinging to one another,
this one’s tiny head pushed
into another’s tiny wing,
one’s forelegs resting on another’s face,
the translucent paper of their wings fluttering
beneath my breath and when
a few dropped to the frames beneath:
honey; and after falling down to cry,
everything’s glacial shine.

And thank you, too. And thanks
for the corduroy couch I have put you on.
Put your feet up. Here’s a light blanket,
a pillow, dear one,
for I can feel this is going to be long.
I can’t stop
my gratitude, which includes, dear reader,
you, for staying here with me,
for moving your lips just so as I speak.
Here is a cup of tea. I have spooned honey into it.

And thank you the tiny bee’s shadow
perusing these words as I write them.
And the way my love talks quietly
when in the hive,
so quietly, in fact, you cannot hear her
but only notice barely her lips moving
in conversation. Thank you what does not scare her
in me, but makes her reach my way. Thank you the love
she is which hurts sometimes. And the time
she misremembered elephants
in one of my poems which, oh, here
they come, garlanded with morning glory and wisteria
blooms, trombones all the way down to the river.
Thank you the quiet
in which the river bends around the elephant’s
solemn trunk, polishing stones, floating
on its gentle back
the flock of geese flying overhead.

And to the quick and gentle flocking
of men to the old lady falling down
on the corner of Fairmount and 18th, holding patiently
with the softest parts of their hands
her cane and purple hat,
gathering for her the contents of her purse
and touching her shoulder and elbow;
thank you the cockeyed court
on which in a half-court 3 vs. 3 we oldheads
made of some runny-nosed kids
a shambles, and the 61-year-old
after flipping a reverse lay-up off a back door cut
from my no-look pass to seal the game
ripped off his shirt and threw punches at the gods
and hollered at the kids to admire the pacemaker’s scar
grinning across his chest; thank you
the glad accordion’s wheeze
in the chest; thank you the bagpipes.

Thank you to the woman barefoot in a gaudy dress
for stopping her car in the middle of the road
and the tractor trailer behind her, and the van behind it,
whisking a turtle off the road.
Thank you god of gaudy.
Thank you paisley panties.
Thank you the organ up my dress.
Thank you the sheer dress you wore kneeling in my dream
at the creek’s edge and the light
swimming through it. The koi kissing
halos into the glassy air.
The room in my mind with the blinds drawn
where we nearly injure each other
crawling into the shawl of the other’s body.
Thank you for saying it plain:
fuck each other dumb.

And you, again, you, for the true kindness
it has been for you to remain awake
with me like this, nodding time to time
and making that noise which I take to mean
yes, or, I understand, or, please go on
but not too long, or, why are you spitting
so much, or, easy Tiger
hands to yourself. I am excitable.
I am sorry. I am grateful.
I just want us to be friends now, forever.
Take this bowl of blackberries from the garden.
The sun has made them warm.
I picked them just for you. I promise
I will try to stay on my side of the couch.

And thank you the baggie of dreadlocks I found in a drawer
while washing and folding the clothes of our murdered friend;
the photo in which his arm slung
around the sign to “the trail of silences”; thank you
the way before he died he held
his hands open to us; for coming back
in a waft of incense or in the shape of a boy
in another city looking
from between his mother’s legs,
or disappearing into the stacks after brushing by;
for moseying back in dreams where,
seeing us lost and scared
he put his hand on our shoulders
and pointed us to the temple across town;

and thank you to the man all night long
hosing a mist on his early-bloomed
peach tree so that the hard frost
not waste the crop, the ice
in his beard and the ghosts
lifting from him when the warming sun
told him sleep now; thank you
the ancestor who loved you
before she knew you
by smuggling seeds into her braid for the long
journey, who loved you
before he knew you by putting
a walnut tree in the ground, who loved you
before she knew you by not slaughtering
the land; thank you
who did not bulldoze the ancient grove
of dates and olives,
who sailed his keys into the ocean
and walked softly home; who did not fire, who did not
plunge the head into the toilet, who said stop,
don’t do that; who lifted some broken
someone up; who volunteered
the way a plant birthed of the reseeding plant
is called a volunteer, like the plum tree
that marched beside the raised bed
in my garden, like the arugula that marched
itself between the blueberries,
nary a bayonet, nary an army, nary a nation,
which usage of the word volunteer
familiar to gardeners the wide world
made my pal shout “Oh!” and dance
and plunge his knuckles
into the lush soil before gobbling two strawberries
and digging a song from his guitar
made of wood from a tree someone planted, thank you;

[off-script … “and thank you who witnessed you necessary, who witnessed you beautiful … who witnessed you loved, who witnessed you loved, who witnessed you loved … who witnessed you, who witnessed you, who witnessed you … witnessed you necessary, witnessed you unmurderable … alive”]

thank you zinnia, and gooseberry, rudbeckia
and pawpaw, Ashmead’s kernel, cockscomb
and scarlet runner, feverfew and lemonbalm;
thank you knitbone and sweetgrass and sunchoke
and false indigo whose petals stammered apart
by bumblebees good lord please give me a minute…
and moonglow and catkin and crookneck
and painted tongue and seedpod and johnny jump-up;
thank you what in us rackets glad
what gladrackets us;

and thank you, too, this knuckleheaded heart, this pelican heart,
this gap-toothed heart flinging open its gaudy maw
to the sky, oh clumsy, oh bumblefucked,
oh giddy, oh dumbstruck,
oh rickshaw, oh goat twisting
its head at me from my peach tree’s highest branch,
balanced impossibly gobbling the last fruit,
its tongue working like an engine,
a lone sweet drop tumbling by some miracle
into my mouth like the smell of someone I’ve loved;
heart like an elephant screaming
at the bones of its dead;
heart like the lady on the bus
dressed head to toe in gold, the sun
shivering her shiny boots, singing
Erykah Badu to herself
leaning her head against the window;

and thank you the way my father one time came back in a dream
by plucking the two cables beneath my chin
like a bass fiddle’s strings
and played me until I woke singing,
no kidding, singing, smiling,
thank you, thank you,
stumbling into the garden where
the Juneberry’s flowers had burst open
like the bells of French horns, the lily
my mother and I planted oozed into the air,
the bazillion ants labored in their earthen workshops
below, the collard greens waved in the wind
like the sails of ships, and the wasps
swam in the mint bloom’s viscous swill;

and you, again you, for hanging tight, dear friend.
I know I can be long-winded sometimes.
I want so badly to rub the sponge of gratitude
over every last thing, including you, which, yes, awkward,
the suds in your ear and armpit, the little sparkling gems
slipping into your eye. Soon it will be over,

which is precisely what the child in my dream said,
holding my hand, pointing at the roiling sea and the sky
hurtling our way like so many buffalo,
who said it’s much worse than we think,
and sooner; to whom I said
no duh child in my dreams, what do you think
this singing and shuddering is,
what this screaming and reaching and dancing
and crying is, other than loving
what every second goes away?
Goodbye, I mean to say.
And thank you. Every day.

Text as published on Poetryfoundation.org. “Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude” is from Ross Gay’s book Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Ross Gay.

 

“If You Knew” by Ellen Bass (repost) and “Soul Makossa” by Manu Dibango

What if you knew you’d be the last
to touch someone?
If you were taking tickets, for example,
at the theater, tearing them,
giving back the ragged stubs,
you might take care to touch that palm,
brush your fingertips
along the life line’s crease.

When a man pulls his wheeled suitcase
too slowly through the airport, when
the car in front of me doesn’t signal,
when the clerk at the pharmacy
won’t say Thank you, I don’t remember
they’re going to die.

A friend told me she’d been with her aunt.
They’d just had lunch and the waiter,
a young gay man with plum black eyes,
joked as he served the coffee, kissed
her aunt’s powdered cheek when they left.
Then they walked half a block and her aunt
dropped dead on the sidewalk.

How close does the dragon’s spume
have to come? How wide does the crack
in heaven have to split?
What would people look like
if we could see them as they are,
soaked in honey, stung and swollen,
reckless, pinned against time?

“If You Knew” by Ellen Bass from The Human Line

originally posted: 4/18/14


“Soul Makossa” by Manu Dibango (12 December 1933 – 24 March 2020). Sadly Dibango died in Paris today from Covid-19, but he left a legacy of music to shine upon the world.

For a much needed smile, watch the above video of his song “Soul Makossa”; the dancing may inspire your own dance party, or at least bring you a moment of joy. Remember, as Bob Marley sang,  “Love would never leave us alone, A-yin the darkness there must come out to light.”

Look for the light my friends, -christy

“Why Bother” by Sean Thomas Dougherty

Because right now there is someone

Out there with

a wound in the exact shape

 of your words.

 

“Why Bother” by Sean Thomas Dougherty from The Second O of Sorrow (BOA Editions Ltd. 2018).


Lisel Mueller wrote:

Still, love is the impulse from which poetry springs. Even dark poems, Especially dark poems. To know the worst and write in spite of that, that must be love. To celebrate what’s on the other side of the darkness. Truly great poetry always sprung from love-in-spite-of, like love for a deeply flawed person.

And if it’s true as [William Carlos] Williams wrote, that people die from lack of what is found in poems, then poetry must not be trivial, peripheral, ivory-towerism as it is often accused of being; then we have a responsibility to speak to and for others. Certainly that means acknowledging suffering. But it also means to heal, to bring delight and hope; It implies consolation. How to console without being false, shallow or sentimental. I find that the hardest challenge.

Words for the Year is returning, at least for now … at least until we get to “the other side of the darkness.” Why bother? Because I cannot get Sean Thomas Dougherty’s words out of my mind. Because you or someone out there has “a wound in the exact shape / of (these) words.” Because right now it’s what I can do.

* Poets and publishers, I ask your lenience if in my haste to publish I may not immediately link to your websites and/or source material. Many of my posts will be from my phone where it is difficult to insert forwarding links; triage, if you will, in my rush to heal and console. I promise to edit posts in the near future to add book and/or bio links.

* Friends, I may be slow to reply to comments and emails. I’ll share more personal thoughts in the days ahead. But for now, please know how much I’ve missed you and how I desperately hope you are safe and healthy. Why bother? Because of you, gentle reader.


“If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.” ~ Barry Lopez, Crow and Weasel