March brought some unexpected heat and setbacks. Both the poles set record temperatures, the education of young Muslim girls in the subcontinent continues to suffer amid political and judicial malice, there’s economic ruin somewhere while foundations are being laid for an apartheid state elsewhere. There’s not much good news, which is why this month’s poetry roundup reminds you to hang in there. Ada Limón has instructions on not giving up, Moya Cannon and Ellen Bass remind you to love life again, Veronica Shoffstall talks of self love and Jane Baskwill asks you to pass on the poems.
The Thing Is – Ellen Bass
to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you down like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.
Instructions on Not Giving Up – Ada Limón
More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.
Attention – Moya Cannon
Sometimes there is nothing
to be done but watch
and let the clock which breaks our days
let go its grasp
until the mind is able
to trust the storm
to bear up our weight of flesh and bone
to take on the time of breath
the rhythm of blood
a rhythm held
between two breaths
a bright cry
a last rasp.
After A While – Veronica Shoffstall
After a while you learn the subtle difference
between holding a hand and chaining a soul
And you learn love doesn’t mean leaning
and company doesn’t always mean security
And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
and presents aren’t always promises
And you begin to accept your defeats
with your head up and and your eyes ahead
with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child.
And you learn to build all your roads on today
because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans
and futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
After a while you learn that even sunshine burns
if you get too much.
So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul
instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers
And you learn that you really can endure,
that you really are strong
and you really do have worth
And you learn and you learn
with every good-bye you learn…
Pass The Poems, Please – Jane Baskwill
Pass the poem please
Pile them on my plate
Put them right in front of me
For I can hardly wait
To take each tangy word
To try each tasty rhyme
And when I’ve tried them once or twice
I’ll try them one more time:
So pass the poems please
They just won’t leave my head
I have to have more poems
Before I go to bed.