These days, it’s not hard to imagine the end the world. Wars, pandemic, floods, famine and earthquakes dominate the news cycle, breaking your heart over and over again. It’s easy, in the midst of this collective misery, to lose hope and abandon the world. However, it’s the smallest of things – a tree, a cloud, a hug – that help you hold on. This volume is about those moments that warm a cold heart and why we must always write poems in a burning world.
I Am Learning to Abandon the World – Linda Pastan
I am learning to abandon the world
before it can abandon me.
Already I have given up the moon
and snow, closing my shades
against the claims of white.
And the world has taken
my father, my friends.
I have given up melodic lines of hills,
moving to a flat, tuneless landscape.
And every night I give my body up
limb by limb, working upwards
across bone, towards the heart.
But morning comes with small
reprieves of coffee and birdsong.
A tree outside the window
which was simply shadow moments ago
takes back its branches twig
by leafy twig.
And as I take my body back
the sun lays its warm muzzle on my lap
as if to make amends.
The End of the World – Dunya Mikhail
For Lori, who says “everything is happening now”
Everything is telling me
it’s the end of the world:
the deadly new viruses,
the ozone layer,
the ant cavorting with the grasshopper,
and his message, cold and curt.
But other things change my mind:
the clouds that always know their way,
the seashell that hasn’t quite disclosed all,
the wishes tossed with coins in the fountain,
and the flower, waiting to happen.
Sometimes – Sheenagh Pugh
Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.
A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.
Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss, sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you
Heartwarming – James Crews
I don’t know how the heart goes
cold as an unpicked apple clinging
to the branch, encased in layers
of ice. Yet even the slightest gesture
can warm it, as if some hand were
reaching out to hold the hard skin,
melt off the months of bitterness.
Maybe a friend hugs you longer
than she needs to, just a few more
seconds of pressing you closer until
you want to live inside that gesture,
inhaling her perfume for the rest
of your life. Or a lover makes you
a turkey sandwich one day for lunch
with buttercrunch lettuce, pickles
and extra mayo, and eating it at work
later, relishing every bite, you feel
that stirring in your chest, like a small
animal coming out of a long sleep,
blinking its tender eyes awake.
Why Write Love Poetry in a Burning World – Katie Farris
To train myself to find, in the midst of hell
what isn’t hell.
The body, bald, cancerous, but still
beautiful enough to
imagine living the body
washing the body
replacing a loose front
porch step the body chewing
what it takes to keep a body
This scene has a tune
a language I can read a door
I cannot close I stand
within its wedge
Why write love poetry in a burning world?
To train myself, in the midst of a burning world
to offer poems of love to a burning world
Ps: Linda Pastan, who passed away this year, has an amazing body of work you must check out.