Thursday, December 20, 2012

Poem 30 - Christmas party at the South Danbury Church

This week, we’ll do a Christmas poem—a little early. In the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a poem about children at Christmastime seems a good remedy for broken hearts.

I remember those church programs. We’d work for weeks on the rehearsal. The program was the same every year, and you’d move up from misc. angel (or. misc. shepherd or wise man) to Mary (or Joseph) to narrator as you moved through the grades. After hearing the gospel story of Jesus’s birth read so many times, I now have it memorized: In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled….

But only after reading this poem do I remember, too, the years that Alvin Quarne dressed up in a Santa suit to hand out brown paper lunch sacks filled with peanuts in the shell, hard candy, and oranges. I remember, now, thinking as a kid, Santa really shouldn’t be in church. Not yet knowing the word “secular,” I certainly understood the idea.

Christmas party at the South Danbury Church
Donald Hall

December twenty-first
we gather at the white Church festooned
  red and green, the tree flashing
green-red lights beside the altar.
 After the children of Sunday School
recite Scripture, sing songs,
  and scrape out solos,
they retire to dress for the finale,
 to perform the pageant
again: Mary and Joseph kneeling
   cradleside, Three Kings,
shepherds and shepherdesses.  Their garments
   are bathrobes with mothholes,
cut down from the Church’s ancestors.
   Standing short and long,
they stare in all directions for mothers,
   sisters and brothers,
giggling and waving in recognition,
   and at the South Danbury
Church, a moment before Santa
   arrives with her ho-hos
and bags of popcorn, in the half-dark
   of whole silence, God
enters the world as a newborn again.

from The New Criterion (Jan. 1995)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Poem 29 - A. M. Report & Mutual

We had our first big snowfall here in Wisconsin. We received at least a foot of the stuff, so I went in search of a nice snow poem. Here are two very similar poems about snow and birds.

A. M. Report
Bob Arnold

Snow overnight—
Every bird at the feeder
Looks a hobo

from Blink
Volume 3, Number 3, November-December 2003

Jean L. Connor

After the snow, in plunging
cold, goldfinches flock
to my feeder and I,
at the window, feed
and feast on the sight—
the world up-righted again
by so slight a thing
as thistle seed and favor.

from Passager
Issue 34, 2001

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Poem 28 - Lending Out Books

Here’s a charming little poem about a better way to meet people—with an obvious metaphor/lesson: take from those who are ready to give.

Lending Out Books
Hal Sirowitz

You’re always giving, my therapist said.
You have to learn how to take. Whenever
you meet a woman, the first thing you do
is lend her your books. You think she’ll
have to see you again in order to return them.
But what happens is, she doesn’t have the time
to read them, & she’s afraid if she sees you again
you’ll expect her to talk about them, & will
want to lend her even more. So she
cancels the date. You end up losing
a lot of books. You should borrow hers.

from My Therapist Said, 1998

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Poem 27 - Wrist-wrestling father

I’ve been digging up some fabulous poems lately. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

We host Thanksgiving every year, and this was our second in our new house. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s about the food, not the house. And if there’s one room to clean, it’s my study. Sure, we clean the bathroom, wipe down the kitchen, mop the floors, vacuum, but the room that gets the best treatment is my study. Why? Because that’s where my mother wants to go after the dishes are done and before the desserts come out.

I grew up on a big old farmhouse. There were plenty of rooms—even a room or two we never used—but Mom (like most moms) never felt that she had her own space. When my parents left the farm for their new house in town, she had the luxuries we’d only dreamed of on the farm—a laundry room! a fireplace! a garage! a spare room! But alas, my brother moved back in and between him and his boys who visited every other weekend, the “spare” space was eaten up again.

When I ran upon this poem again last night, it made me think of my mother asking if we could go to “your room.” I still can’t believe I have something my mother doesn’t and that she’s envious of it. It’s like the son in this poem. No matter how grown and accomplished a child is, the moment that means the most to them is the moment they “win” over their parents.  

Wrist-wrestling father
Orval Lund

for my father

On the maple wood we placed our elbows
and gripped hands, the object to bend
the other’s arm to the kitchen table.
We flexed our arms and waited for the sign.

I once shot a wild goose.
I once stood not twenty feet from a buck deer unnoticed.
I’ve seen a woods full of pink lady slippers.
I once caught a 19-inch trout on a tiny fly.
I’ve seen the Pacific, I’ve seen the Atlantic,
I’ve watched whales in each.

I once heard Lenny Bruce tell jokes.
I’ve seen Sandy Koufax pitch a baseball.
I’ve heard Paul Desmond play the saxophone.
I’ve been to London to see the Queen.
I’ve had dinner with a Nobel Prize poet.

I wrote a poem once with every word but one just right.
I’ve fathered two fine sons
and loved the same woman for twenty-five years.

But I’ve never been more amazed
than when I snapped my father’s arm down to the table.

from Casting Lines

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Poem 26 - Thanksgiving

I’m off to check the turkey, peel the potatoes, boil the eggs for my son’s deviled eggs, bring up the card table, set out the serving pieces, and do some last-minute cleaning before my second-favorite day of the year (my favorite is the day after then the Christmas tree goes up!). Here’s a sweet old Thanksgiving poem. Enjoy!

Edgar Albert Guest, 1881-1959

Gettin’ together to smile an’ rejoice,
An’ eatin’ an’ laughin’ with folks of your choice;
An’ kissin’ the girls an’ declarin’ that they
Are growin more beautiful day after day;
Chattin’ an’ braggin’ a bit with the men,
Buildin’ the old family circle again;
Livin’ the wholesome an’ old-fashioned cheer,
Just for awhile at the end of the year.

Greetings fly fast as we crowd through the door
And under the old roof we gather once more
Just as we did when the youngsters were small;
Mother’s a little bit grayer, that’s all.
Father’s a little bit older, but still
Ready to romp an’ to laugh with a will.
Here we are back at the table again
Tellin’ our stories as women an men.

Bowed are our heads for a moment in prayer;
Oh, but we’re grateful an’ glad to be there.
Home from the east land an’ home from the west,
Home with the folks that are dearest an’ best.
Out of the sham of the cities afar
We’ve come for a time to be just what we are.
Here we can talk of ourselves an’ be frank,
Forgettin’ position an’ station an’ rank.

Give me the end of the year an’ its fun
When most of the plannin’ an’ toilin’ is done;
Bring all the wanderers home to the nest,
Let me sit down with the ones I love best,
Hear the old voices still ringin’ with song,
See the old faces unblemished by wrong,
See the old table with all of its chairs
An I’ll put soul in my Thanksgivin’ prayers.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Poem 25 - And This Just In

For those, like me, who enjoy looking into the seemingly insignificant, who ask why and how come, who pause more often on the tiny spaces between small things, this poem is for you.

And This Just In
David Tucker

Those footfalls on the stairs when the night shift went home,
the sunlight fanning through the dinosaur’s rib cage,
the janitor’s sneeze—we’re asking questions,
we’d like to know more.

The moth in the clock tower at City Hall,
the 200th generation to sleep there, we may banner the story
across page one. And in Metro, we’re leading
with the yawn that traveled city council chambers
this morning then slipped into the streets
and wound through the city. The editorial page
will decry the unaccountable boredom
that overtook everyone around three in the afternoon.
In Features we catch up with the young priest
as he climbs the long steps to his church,
his arms full of groceries.

A watchman humming in the parking lot
at Broad and Market—we have that story—
with a sidebar on the bronze glass
of a whiskey bottle cracking into cheap jewels
under his boots. A boy walking across the ball field
an hour after the game—we’re covering that silence.
We have reporters working hard, we’re getting
to the bottom of all of it.

from The Missouri Review
Volume XXIV, Number 1, 2001

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Poem 24 - Afternoons

Here is a somber little poem about the disillusionment of young married women. I believe it was written in the late 1950s, before the sexual revolution, women’s lib, and personal fulfillment through outside employment. In this regard, it’s quite an insightful poem—ahead of its time.

Philip Larkin

Summer is fading:
The leaves fall in ones and twos
From trees bordering
The new recreation ground.
In the hollows of afternoons
Young mothers assemble
At swing and sandpit
Setting free their children.

Behind them, at intervals,
Stand husbands in skilled trades,
An estateful of washing,
And the albums, lettered
Our Wedding, lying
Near the television:
Before them, the wind
Is ruining their courting-places

That are still courting-places
(But the lovers are all in school),
And their children, so intent on
Finding more unripe acorns,
Expect to be taken home.
Their beauty has thickened.
Something is pushing them
To the side of their own lives.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Poem 23 - Air Hostess

This is a poem that turns from flirtatious and light to dark and foreboding. It’s a testament to how we sometimes wear our pasts on our faces.

Air Hostess
Yehuda Amachai

The air hostess said put out all smoking
materials but she didn’t specify cigarettes, cigars, or pipes.

I said to her in my heart, you have beautiful love
material and I didn’t specify either.

She told me to fasten and tie myself to the seat
and I said I want all the buckets in my life
to be shaped like your mouth.

She said she would like coffee now or later or never
and she passed by tall as the sky.

The small scar high on her arm showed that she
will never have small pox and her eyes showed
that she would never again fall in love.

She belonged to the conservative party
of souls who have only one great love in their life.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Poem 22 - To a Sad Daughter

To me, this poem is all about one line: “If you break[,] break going out not in.” I love advice poems, especially advice poems for one’s children. But this line is the best parent-to-child advice I’ve come across. If you break, break while you’ve giving. If you break, break while you’re in the world, not in yourself.

Michael Ondaatje is the author of The English Patient and other works of fiction.

To a Sad Daughter
Michael Ondaatje

All night long the hockey pictures
gaze down at you
sleeping in your tracksuit.
Belligerent goalies are your ideal.
Threats of being traded
cuts and wounds
—all this pleases you.
O my god! you say at breakfast
reading the sports page over the Alpen
as another player breaks his ankle
or assaults the coach.
When I thought of daughters
I wasn’t expecting this
but I like this more.
I like all your faults
even your purple moods
when you retreat from everyone
to sit in bed under a quilt.
And when I say ‘like’
I mean of course ‘love’
but that embarrasses you.
You who feel superior to black and white movies
(coaxed for hours to see Casablanca)
though you were moved
by Creature from the Black Lagoon.
One day I’ll come swimming
beside your ship or someone will
and if you hear the siren
listen to it. For if you close your ears
only nothing happens. You will never change.
I don’t care if you risk
your life to angry goalies
creatures with webbed feet.
You can enter their caves and castles
their glass laboratories. Just
don’t be fooled by anyone but yourself.
This is the first lecture I’ve given you.
You’re ‘sweet sixteen’ you said.
I’d rather be your closest friend
than your father. I’m not good at advice
you know that, but ride
the ceremonies
until they grow dark.
Sometimes you are so busy
discovering your friends
I ache with a loss
—but that is greed.
And sometimes I’ve gone
into my purple world
and lost you.
One afternoon I stepped
into your room. You were sitting
at the desk where I now write this.
Forsythia outside the window
and sun spilled over you
like a thick yellow miracle
as if another planet
was coaxing you out of the house
—all those possible worlds!—
and you, meanwhile, busy with mathematics.
I cannot look at forsythia now
without loss, or joy of you.
You step delicately
into the wild world
and your real prize will be
the frantic search.
Want everything. If you break
break going out not in.
How you live your life I don’t care
but I’ll sell my arm for you,
hold your secrets for ever.
If I speak of death
which you fear now, greatly,
it is without answers
except that each
one we know is
in our blood.
Don’t recall graves.
Memory is permanent.
Remember the afternoon’s
yellow suburban annunciation.
Your goalie
in his frightening mask
dreams perhaps
of gentleness.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Poem 21 - In a U-Haul North of Damascus

Here’s a poem about pain and the possibility of redemption. On the road to Damascus, of course, is where the persecutor of Christians, Saul, was blinded, given a faith in Christ, and rose redeemed as Paul, the pillar of the first church. Damascus, here, refers to Damascus, Georgia, population 254, the place where our poet (or his character) ponders the chance of a new beginning.

In a U-Haul North of Damascus
David Bottoms


Lord, what are the sins
I have tried to leave behind me? The bad checks,
the workless days, the scotch bottles thrown across the
and into the woods, the cruelty of silence,
the cruelty of lies, the jealousy,
the indifference?

What are those on the scale of sin
or failure
that they should follow me through the streets of
the moon-streaked fields between Benevolence
and Cuthbert where dwarfed cotton sparkles like pearls
on the shoulders of the road. What are these
that they should find me half-lost,
sick and sleepless
behind the wheel of this U-Haul truck parked in a field
                on Georgia 45
a few miles north of Damascus,
some makeshift rest stop for eighteen wheelers
where the long white arms of oaks slap across the trailers
and headlights glare all night through a wall of pines?

What was I thinking, Lord?
That for once I’d be in the driver’s seat, a firm grip on

So the jon boat muscled up the ramp,
the Johnson outboard, the bent frame of the wrecked
chained for so long to the back fence,
the scarred desk, the bookcases and books,
the mattress and box springs,
a broken turntable, a Pioneer amp, a pair
of three-way speakers, everything mine
I intended to keep. Everything else abandon.
But on the road from one state
to another, what is left behind nags back through
a last word rising to a scream, a salad bowl
shattering against a kitchen cabinet, china barbs
spiking my heal, blood trailed across the cream linoleum
like the bedsheet that morning long ago
just before I watched the future miscarried.

Jesus, could the irony be
that suffering forms a stronger bond than love?

Now the sun
streaks the windshield with yellow and orange, heavy
of light drawing highways in the dew-cover.
I roll down the window and breathe the pine-air,
the after-scent of rain, and the far-off smell
of asphalt and diesel fumes.

But mostly pine and rain
as though the world really could be clean again.

Somewhere behind me,
miles behind me on a two-lane that streaks across
west Georgia, light is falling
through the windows of my half-empty house.
Lord, why am I thinking about this? And why should I
so long after everything has fallen
to pain that the woman sleeping there should be sleeping
Could I be just another sinner who needs to be blinded
before I can see? Lord, is it possible to fall
toward grace? Could I be moved
to believe in new beginnings? Could I be moved?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Poem 20 - Do Not Expect...

Here’s a pessimistic little autumn poem about the way we do and don’t get our answers in life. If you’re having a bad day, shuffling through ankle-deep leaves in your backyard, feeling winter settle into you bones, trying to let go of summer gracefully, trying to be truthful and thankful, and trying to feel whole until you are whole, then this is your poem.

Do Not Expect...
Dana Gioia

Do not expect that if your book falls open
to a certain page, that any phrase
you read will make a difference today,
or that the voices you might overhear
when the wind moves through the yellow-green
and golden tent of autumn, speak to you.

Things ripen or go dry. Light plays on the
dark surface of the lake. Each afternoon
your shadow walks beside you on the wall,
and the days stay long and heavy underneath
the distant rumor of the harvest. One
more summer gone,
and one way or another you survive,
dull or regretful, never learning that
nothing is hidden in the obvious
changes of the world, that even the dim
reflection of the sun on tall, dry grass
is more than you will ever understand.

And only briefly then
you touch, you see, you press against
the surface of impenetrable things.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Poem 19 - Eating Alone

This is a nice transition-to-fall poem by one of the best poets of the day. It’s the perfect poem for this time of year, the cooler days, the crisp fallen leaves, the hunkering-down feelings as we turn the bend toward winter. I love how this poem celebrates the careful loneliness of eating the last of the summer’s bounty alone.

Eating Alone
Li-Young Lee

I’ve pulled the last of the year’s young onions.
The garden is bare now. The ground is cold,
brown and old. What is left of the day flames
in the maples at the corner of my
eye. I turn, a cardinal vanishes.
By the cellar door, I wash the onions,
then drink from the icy metal spigot.

Once, years back, I walked beside my father
among the windfall pears. I can’t recall
our words. We may have strolled in silence. But
I still see him bend that way—left hand braced
on knee, creaky—to lift and hold to my
eye a rotten pear. In it, a hornet
spun crazily, glazed in slow, glistening juice.

It was my father I saw this morning
waving to me from the trees. I almost
called to him, until I came close enough
to see the shovel, leaning where I had
left it, in the flickering, deep green shade.

White rice steaming, almost done. Sweet green peas
fried in onions. Shrimp braised in sesame
oil and garlic. And my own loneliness.
What more could I, a young man, want.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Poem 18 - Barn's burnt down

Here’s a 17th century Japanese example of (a.) the glass being half full, (b.) simplicity is better, (c.) silver linings to every cloud, and/or (d.) knowing what’s important in life.

Oh, if I could only live every moment of my life happy that the barn burned down. 

Barn’s burnt down

Barn’s burnt down—
I can see the moon.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Poem 17 - Temporary Job

This is a wonderful poem about how a temporary situation can become such a part of you that you grieve it when you have to move on.

Temporary Job
Minnie Bruce Pratt

Leaving again. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t be
grieving. The particulars of place lodged in me,
like this room I lived in for eleven days,
how I learned the way the sun laid its palm
over the side window in the morning, heavy
light, how I’ll never be held in that hand again.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Poem 16 - Writing

I guess you could say this poem is about legacies—what parents leave behind and what children don’t even know about until it’s too late. It’s a simple poem, played out in the lives of so many men and women, keeping intimate things intimate for fear of ridicule or judgment. It’s a sad poem because the connection should have been made in life, not in the grieving that follows.

Judson Mitcham

But prayer was not enough, after all, for my father.
His last two brothers died five weeks apart.
He couldn’t get to sleep, had no appetite, sat
staring. Though he prayed,
he could find no peace until he tried
to write about his brothers, tell a story
for each one: Perry’s long travail
with the steamfitters’ union, which he worked for;
and Harvey—here the handwriting changes,
he bears down—Harvey loved his children.

I discovered those few sheets of paper
as I looked through my father’s old Bible
on the morning of his funeral. The others
in the family had seen them long ago;
they had all known the story,
and they told me I had not, most probably, because
I am a writer,
and my father was embarrassed by his effort. Yet
who has seen him as I can: risen

in the middle of the night, bending over
the paper, working close
to the heart of all greatness, he is so lost.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


My husband is a jealous man. It’s hard to admit that. It seems shameful. The admission wants to cast a guilty shadow on my life, because what kind of wife, after all, would allow there to be any doubt in a husband’s mind? But if there’s one thing I know about jealousy, it’s that jealousy is the most irrational emotion we are capable of throwing about. It’s the feeling that we can’t have enough, someone else is getting more, and worse, is getting what should be OURS!

I dated a guy once (twice, actually) who seemed to have a crush on another girl the entire time we dated. He was insecure, and his heart was all over the map. He didn’t want to settle for me if she—any she—might be better. And I was stupid. I let it happen. The day he asked me to start dating the second time, he admitted that he’d sent flowers to another girl. She’d said no, and I, stupidly, said yes. I was willing to take the chance on him. I loved him.

Of course it didn’t work out for us, because I was always looking over my shoulder because he was always looking over his. Things ended with a whimper, and we’re both married now, and hopefully we’ve learned our lesson: he needs to keep his heart to home, and I need to respect myself or my mate will have no reason to.

But my husband, he was in my shoes too, but on a grander scale. His first wife ran around, took the kids and left him, came back to him, left, came back, left. It was awful. It’s awful even now, twenty years later. How could a woman do that to a man?

So I guess we’ve both brought these experiences forward.  And if ever there’s a situation that touches our hearts just a teeny tiny bit like those old hurts did, we throw up our wall, and the dark clouds come in, and our partner is stranded on the other side saying, “No, it’s not what you think. You misunderstand. I only love you. I only ever could.”

But like I said, jealousy is irrational. It’s also stubborn and illogical and suspicious. It’s a wild-eyed, quick-footed bully clothed in justification.

A banner at our wedding read “Perfect love casteth out fear.” Love, I know, does not blame the husband, does not blame the ex-wife, does not blame the jealousy.  Even though my love wants to be defensive, and impatient, and unkind, I set about making my love perfect. Making it kinder, and purer, and holier. Because love, perfect love, casteth. Then I set about casting and casting and casting and casting out this fear of his with my perfect love. But no matter how hard I cast, it didn’t do any good. It’s like baling out a boat with a hole bigger than your bucket.

And then I realize, it’s not my love that needs to be perfect. What the situation needs is to welcome in perfect Love. Love with a capital L. God’s perfect love, not mine. Only God’s love is perfect. So we invite perfect Love in, and we hold each other tight, and repeat the best three words we know, and we pray the boat doesn’t sink before the fear is cast out.

And it never does.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Poem 15 - A Blessing

Nothing like a good horse-in-pasture poem about simple blessings. May we all “break into blossom” today!

A Blessing
James Wright

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom

from Above The Water: Complete Poems

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Poem 14 - Under One Small Star

This is another poem that I’ve loved for an awful long time. I love poems like this, poems written out for the universe—and for whoever else is listening. Poems about limitations and finding your small place in the largeness of things.

Wislawa Szymborska won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature. She passed on in February at age 88.

Under One Small Star
Wislawa Szymborska

My apologies to chance for calling it necessity.
My apologies to necessity if I’m mistaken, after all.
Please, don’t be angry, happiness, that I take you as my due.
May my dead be patient with the way my memories fade.
My apologies to time for all the world I overlook each second.
My apologies to past loves for thinking that the latest is the first.
Forgive me, distant wars, for bringing flowers home.
Forgive me, open wounds, for pricking my finger.
I apologize for my record of minuets to those who cry from the depths.
I apologize to those who wait in railway stations for being asleep today at five a.m.
Pardon me, hounded hope, for laughing from time to time.
Pardon me, deserts, that I don’t rush to you bearing a spoonful of water.
And you, falcon, unchanging year after year, always in the same cage,
your gaze always fixed on the same point in space,
forgive me, even if it turns out you were stuffed.
My apologies to the felled tree for the table’s four legs.
My apologies to great questions for small answers.
Truth, please don’t pay me much attention.
Dignity, please be magnanimous.
Bear with me, O mystery of existence, as I pluck the occasional thread from your train.
Soul, don’t take offense that I’ve only got you now and then.
My apologies to everything that I can’t be everywhere at once.
My apologies to everyone that I can’t be each woman and each man.
I know I won’t be justified as long as I live,
since I myself stand in my own way.
Don’t bear me ill will, speech, that I borrow weighty words,
then labor heavily so that they may seem light.

from Poems New and Collected 1957-1997
(Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Not still asleep, not quite awake, the dream played like a movie across the white screen of my consciousness: my husband wanted a divorce and I was powerless to stop him. I was awake enough a few minutes later to know that this powerlessness was something I’d always felt in my marriage and needed to address in my heart. My husband is a very strong individual. He speaks with certainty and authority. I, on the other hand, have always taken more time to be certain. He thinks I’m afraid of making decisions because I’m afraid of being wrong. I feel like he doesn’t hear me out. It’s a classic Mars-Venus thing, I’d bet, but when it shows up in your dreams, you know you have to work on it.

At any rate, I woke up just 13 minutes before me alarm, so I decided to wait for it to go off until I rolled over and asked him to hold me and tell me he loved me, so I was sure it was all a dream. When the alarm went off, I rolled over, and…he wasn’t there.

I dissolved into a sobbing mess.

Was the dream true or wasn’t it? Was I really alone? This is certainly exactly what it would feel like.

I have a couple friends who are in the before and after stages of divorce. Unable to fathom the heartbreak and pain and betrayal of dreams, I’ve always kind of kept my distance from thoughts of divorce. My husband (and his kids), after all, is all I have. Even thinking about losing him was just too much.

But when I woke up alone, I thought, “So this is what it’s like. This is the other side of losing someone you love.” I couldn’t stop crying. I padded into the living room to find my husband asleep on the couch. My voice stuck in my throat twice before I could give him my customary morning greeting, “Wakey-wakey.” I stood over him a crying snotting mess, and he didn’t notice for a long time. Then he smiled a sweet smile and asked, “What’s wrong?” He’s the only person I’ve ever met who can come out of a deep sleep and smile and say something kind. Every. Morning. Of. His. Life. It is reason enough to stay married to him.

I put my head on his chest, and he folded his arms around me. I choked out, “I had a nightmare. And then I woke up and you were gone.”

“Nightmares aren’t real,” he said. Whenever he says something true, he sounds like a father. A teacher. And then, “I love you, and I’ll always be here.”

After more holding and sobbing and snotting, I made me way to the bathroom to take a shower. My stomach was still heaving trying to catch my breath. He followed me, held me to him, looked into my eyes and said, “You are so beautiful.”

Only a man truly and deeply in love could say that to a woman with a fresh haircut, swollen eyes, and a river of mucus flowing down her face. Only my husband could say it and mean it.

“You never say that to me anymore,” I squeaked. It had nothing to do with the nightmare, but I’ve been meaning to complain about it for awhile now.

“Maybe I don’t say it as much as I used to, but I do say it,” he corrected. Father. Teacher.

And then, “It’s okay. You’ve been doing a lot of prayer work on drought lately. This is just like that. Know that nothing you need can be taken away from you.”

He is my rain. He is my river, my irrigation when my heart is especially dry and my crops are failing and I feel like I’m going to lose the farm.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Girls' Night

Every other Wednesday I get a "girls' night." I'm not sure why it's plural, because I stay home alone, but it's a nice time to fill myself up, to renew. I watch recorded episodes of "19 Kids and Counting," "The United Bates of America," "The Little Couple," and "Sister Wives." I screen calls. I make BLTs and french fries. Or, I occasionally order in Chinese food (Chicken and Mixed Vegetables, Wonton Soup, and Crab Rangoons). I read, I sing, I make a mess if I want to. I wear something fun and don't leave the house. It's a day I look forward to for two weeks.
Here are some photos from last Wednesday's Girls' Night.

My fortune cookie. I was too full to do more than nibble it.

My current music of choice to sing along with. (Everyone sings better when no one is listening.)

After watching my shows and eating supper, I did a little book organizing in my study. I found these fun Jane Austen books recently at a garage sale.

And finally, the note I left for hubby when it was all over.

Monday, August 27, 2012

What I'm Praying About...

 Human footsteps

Until he has fully transcended the human form, man cannot ignore the material world and his material obligations. Still, I find I often focus so much on my spiritual identity that I totally ignore my human one. Lately, I’ve realized the need for taking human footsteps in setting limits in my life. I look to the Bible and Science and Health for spiritual advice, but applying that to the situation is up to me. The trouble is in knowing which—and sometimes, how many—human footsteps to take. I’m realizing more and more how thin the line between love and selfishness really is. Same with patience and inertia.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Poem 13 - Ode to Tomatoes

If you’re gardening this summer, you’re likely overrun with tomatoes at this point. Here’s an ode to tomatoes—one of my favorite foods—by Pablo Neruda, known for his poetic odes.

Ode To Tomatoes
Pablo Neruda

The street
filled with tomatoes,
light is
its juice
through the streets.
In December,
the tomato
the kitchen,
it enters at lunchtime,
its ease
on countertops,
among glasses,
butter dishes,
blue saltcellars.
It sheds
its own light,
benign majesty.
Unfortunately, we must
murder it:
the knife
into living flesh,
a cool
populates the salads
of Chile,
happily, it is wed
to the clear onion,
and to celebrate the union
child of the olive,
onto its halved hemispheres,
its fragrance,
salt, its magnetism;
it is the wedding
of the day,
its flag,
bubble vigorously,
the aroma
of the roast
at the door,
it’s time!
come on!
and, on
the table, at the midpoint
of summer,
the tomato,
star of earth, recurrent
and fertile
its convolutions,
its canals,
its remarkable amplitude
and abundance,
no pit,
no husk,
no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers
its gift
of fiery color
and cool completeness.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Poem 12 - Welcome

Here is a wonderful poem about growing, changing, and belonging. I’m feeling this poem right now. And Dunn should have won some kind of an award for the line “the clear goddamn of thunder.” Simply brilliant.

Stephen Dunn

if you believe nothing is always what’s left
after a while, as I did,
If you believe you have this collection
of ungiven gifts, as I do (right here
behind the silence and the averted eyes)
If you believe an afternoon can collapse
into strange privacies—
how in your backyard, for example,
the shyness of flowers can be suddenly
overwhelming, and in the distance
the clear goddamn of thunder
personal, like a voice,
If you believe there’s no correct response
to death, as I do; that even in grief
(where I’ve sat making plans)
there are small corners of joy
If your body sometimes is a light switch
in a house of insomniacs
If you can feel yourself straining
to be yourself every waking minute
If, as I am, you are almost smiling…

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Importance of Modeling to Children

If you want him to be happy, choose to be happy.
If you want him to appreciate, be thankful. 
If you want him to have good friends, examine your own.
If you want him to value time, don’t waste yours.
If you want him to stay out of debt, honor yours.
If you want him to be humble, teach him to apologize.
If you want him to be ethical, do the right thing—even when he’s not looking.
If you want him to be courageous, do hard things in front of him.
If you want him to be selfless, make sacrifices for him.
If you want him to be forgiving, don’t judge him.
If you want him to learn right from wrong, you can’t always say “yes.”
If you want him to be a good person, be a good parent.

Friends, please do not use or reproduce my words without my knowledge and consent.