There Will Come Soft Rain
And there will come soft rain and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum-trees in tremulous white;
Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.
Steve Kowit, The Sun, January 2013
The workshop was just about to get started
when somebody noticed that Leah looked
glum & distracted & asked what was wrong, &
Leah told us her daughter had called from
Iraq that morning, hysterical, screaming &
weeping. Trained as an army clerk, she’d been
reassigned & was driving sniper patrols around
in a Humvee. The day before, they’d spied two
guys at the side of the road wiring an IED,
& behind them, sitting & playing, were two
little kids. Leah said her daughter kept
screaming on the phone that her guys fired
round after round after round till the four
were nothing but torn-open bodies & skulls
without faces in puddles of blood & her guys
just kept laughing and shooting & laughing
& shooting & “Mom, they were just little kids!
Oh my God,” she kept crying. “It’s not right!
It just isn’t right!” We sat there, all of us,
horrified, silent. Till finally Karen said,
“That’s awful, Leah!” & after a minute of two,
when no one said anything more, I started
taking attendance. Then we critiqued the
first poem: an honest if somewhat disorganized
story of failed love. But of course it was still
on everyone’s mind, & someone, I think it was
Teri, asked Leah how old her daughter was &
how long before she’d get to come home.
“It’s her second deploy,” Leah said quietly.
“She’ll be twenty in August. She’s got four
months & six days to go if her tour isn’t
extended like last time & if…” She stopped
midsentence. No one said anything further.
Like everyone else, I kept my mouth shut, &
we moved on to the next poem…
A Ritual to Read to Each Other
If you don’t know the kind of person
I am and I don’t know the kind of person
you are a pattern that others made may
prevail in the world and following the
wrong god home we may miss our star.
For there is many a small betrayal in the
mind, a shrug that lets the fragile sequence
break sending with shouts the horrible errors
of childhood storming out to play through
the broken dike.
And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s
tail, but if one wanders the circus won’t find
the park. I call it cruel and maybe the root
of all cruelty to know what occurs but not
recognize the fact.
And so I appeal to a voice, to something
shadowy, a remote important region in all
who talk: though we could fool each other,
we should consider – lest the parade of our
mutual life get lost in the dark.
For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to
sleep; the signals we give – yes or no, or
maybe – should be clear: the darkness around
us is deep..
Death Sets a Thing Significant
Death sets a thing significant
The eye had hurried by,
Except a perished creature
Entreat us tenderly
To ponder little workmanships
In crayon or in wool,
With “This was last her fingers did,”
The thimble weighed too heavy,
The stitches stopped themselves,
And then ‘t was put among the dust
Upon the closet shelves.
A book I have, a friend gave,
Whose pencil, here and there,
Had notched the place that pleased him,–
At rest his fingers are.
Now, when I read, I read not,
For interrupting tears
Obliterate the etchings
Too costly for repairs..
Stephen Levine from Breaking the Drought
We walk through half of our life
as if it were a fever dream
barely touching the ground
our eyes half open
our heart half closed.
Not half knowing who we are
we watch the ghost of us drift
from room to room
through friends and lovers
never quite as real as advertised.
Not saying half we mean
or meaning half we say
we dream ourselves
from birth to birth
seeking the true self.
Until the fever breaks
and the heart can not abide
a moment longer
as the rest of us awakens,
summoned from the dream,
not half caring for anything but love.
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.
A Poison Tree
I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe;
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
And I water’d it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with my smiles
And with soft deceitful wiles.
And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright;
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine,
And into my garden stole
When the night had veil’d the pole:
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretch’d beneath the tree
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
a joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Theresa Jarosz Alberti
I see the black and white
photos, me as a baby, then
toddler, and she is there holding
me, or hands out to guide me,
so young and unhappy
in her cat’s eye glasses, her frowning
serious mouth, her troubled eyes.
Where is the radiantly smiling bride
in the billowy white dress portrait?
Or the laughing tousled couple in
the honeymoon Polaroids, just 4
years before I was born?
I have heard the stories of what and
why, but to see it on her youthful
face is different. And then my own
sweet, eager baby innocence…was I
already striving desperately
to become something
that would make her happy?
Despairing yesterday, beaten down
by so many negative thoughts in my head.
The book would be titled “I Will Never
Be Good Enough: Look at All the
Ways I’m Still Fucking Up.”
in one moment I move from Lost to
Found, remembering the words of
wisdom I’ve been taught:
I don’t have to believe any of it.
Let America be America again
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!
I sit and look out upon all the sorrows
of the world, and upon all oppression and
shame; I hear secret convulsive sobs from
young men, at anguish with themselves,
remorseful after deeds done; I see, in low
life, the mother misused by her children,
dying, neglected, gaunt, desperate; I see
the wife misused by her husband–I see the
treacherous seducer of young women; I mark
the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited
love, attempted to be hid–I see these
sights on the earth; I see the workings of
battle, pestilence, tyranny–I see martyrs
and prisoners; I observe a famine at sea–I
observe the sailors casting lots who shall
be kill’d, to preserve the lives of the rest;
I observe the slights and degradations cast
by arrogant persons upon laborers, the poor,
and upon negroes, and the like; All these–All
the meanness and agony without end, I sitting,
look out upon, See, hear, and am silent.
Essay on Adam
There are five possibilities. One: Adam fell.
Two: he was pushed. Three: he jumped. Four:
he only looked over the edge, and one look silenced him.
Five: nothing worth mentioning happened to Adam.
The first, that he fell, is too simple. The fourth,
fear, we have tried and found useless. The fifth,
nothing happened, is dull. The choice is between:
he jumped or was pushed. And the difference between these
is only an issue of whether the demons
work from the inside out or from the outside
in: the one
Conversation with God
So, I said to God,
“What is your prayer within me?”
And God said
“I think you know what it is,”
And I said,
“I don’t remember,
Start it for me.”
And God said,
And I said,
And together we said,
“We are neither worthy nor worthless,
We are divine.”
© Anne Seltz
And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.