Poem Is Banquet, Poem is Feast
My students want to know
What makes good poetry?
I think, bread and potatoes, plenty of food in the cupboard.
A full stomach. Then vivid dreams. Attention.
Beginners mind, I say.
Don’t cross out. Take risks. Ask questions.
“How can one day be so many things?” one young mother wrote.
A Zen koan I’m beginning to unravel.
Make desire statements.
This is the place I stop
To censure the thought (I’m losing my Buddha mind).
No ideas but in things.
The thing is that truth set down on the page looks nothing
like the mind of illusion.
The magician’s trick. Sleight of the hand.
But I want them to know, fully.
The way sky shines
After July rain.
I want them to know.
Each word a jumping off place
To ecstasy or sorrow
Nothing in between.
A poem is a morsel to feed the hungry
A grain of kindness.
Water that permeates
Where Sorrow Lives
Sorrow lives in my mother’s kitchen
Scrubbed with the force of a woman
Who is wounded and fighting
With all her might
Between the glistening pots and pans
And the freshly pressed linens
Let me lie down with this sorrow
Sorrow lives in the basement
Where my father labored
Among the skill saw, hammer and nails
The time he lopped off a finger
But usually she hummed gently in the background
Through the leaves of autumn swaying
Radiating like the ping pinging of the sideboard heater
Sorrow lives in the ancient apple trees in the yard
Where even the blood red
Of the gladiolas my father planted
Could not spirit it away
Or obscure the history of the man in the barn
Who hanged himself finally
While the horses stood
And at the last moment
Ready to warm him
Fresh with the hay he had just offered them.
Sorrow lives in the church
We visited on Sundays
At the altar
With the statue of Jesus
In the rusty nails straight through the hands and feet
And the cold tears shed
At the crucifixion
When he felt abandoned by his own Father
Sorrow lives quietly
For three days
in the tomb
And rises again
Spreading like wildfire
Smoke and ashes and dust
in our mouths
Soundless and wordless
In what we cannot say
And she’s in my sisters
behind their eyes and the crook of my neck
and underneath our fingernails
In the most intimate of places.
How can we turn our backs on sorrow’s seduction?
So we succumb
To her lamentations
She is shrouded
In a veil
She is vain
She is sometimes sleeping
In my sister’s
days in bed
There she is
Day after day
She flirts with sorrow
Until she cannot get breath — almost loses consciousness
Becomes ecstatic with sorrow
Sorrow and my own anger
Twin flames in a frosty glass
A porch light dim on a starless night.