From “What to Eat, What to Drink, and What to Leave for Poison” by Camille T. Dungy:
But now, in spring, the buds
flock our trees. Ten million exquisite buds,
tiny and loud, flaring their petalled wings,
bellowing from ashen branches vibrant
keys, the chords of spring’s triumph: fisted heart,
dogwood; grail, poplar; wine spray, crab apple.
The song is drink, is color. Come. Now. Taste.
Read the whole beautiful, messy thing here.
When I grieve, I feel it. Not feelings feel it, but I physically, literally, intensely feel it. This isn’t unusual, I know, but it never ceases to amaze me. When my emotions are too much for my head to handle, my body begins to ache. My chest hurts, a pain that feels heavy. Breathing becomes a burden. Tears do nothing to wash it away.
I’ve learned that there is no way to move beyond grief except by moving through it. By feeling it with my whole body. By letting my heart be a rock for a while. By letting my limbs be numb and heavy and my brain be clouded and fogged. I cry until my eyes hurt. I remind myself, “Drink water, sleep, take care of yourself.” I drink, I sleep. I eat strange meals of zucchini soggy with vinegar, bunches of parsley pulled from the fridge and balled up in my fist, pieces of dry, broken crackers that taste like ash in my mouth. I drink more water, and then it comes out in tears.
Healing will come eventually, but grief comes first.
For now, we have poetry (and water and parsley). Here are some good words:
The Peace of Wild Things
by Wendell Barry
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Illustration by Willian Santiago. See more here.
Reader unmov’d and Reader unshaken, Reader unseduc’d
and unterrified, through the long-loud and the sweet-still
I creep toward you. Toward you, I thistle and I climb.
I crawl, Reader, servile and cervine, through this blank
season, counting—I sleep and I sleep. I sleep,
Reader, toward you, loud as a cloud and deaf, Reader, deaf
as a leaf. Reader: Why don’t you turn
pale? and, Why don’t you tremble? Jaded, staid
Reader, You—who can read this and not even
Excerpt from the beautiful, strange poem “sweet reader, flanneled and tulled” by Olena Kalytiak Davis, found via an article on The Poetry Foundation, which suggests an alternative reading: swap “reader” for “lover” for a new perspective on this strange and seductive poem. And a word of advice: you really should read it aloud. It rolls around in your mouth, sometimes fluid and smooth, sometimes twisty and thorny, words running together and hard to get out. Reading poetry is the perfect activity for a rainy Sunday. Take a moment and savor it.
Image: Embroidery and drawing by Spanish artist Ana Teresa Barboza. I’ve featured her art on my blog before, but I couldn’t find a better image for this poem—the lion-girl just fits the scary seduction theme so well, I think.
Unburdened by memory of any kind,
they float easily over the facts.
What on earth could they bear witness to?
They scatter whenever something happens.
Compared to clouds,
life rests on solid ground,
practically permanent, almost eternal.
Next to clouds
even a stone seems like a brother,
someone you can trust,
while they’re just distant, flighty cousins.
From “Clouds” by Winslawa Szymborska, a Nobel Prize winning Polish poet who writes beautifully about the natural world and the human heart. Read the entire poem in English or in Polish here.
The clouds shown in the image above are mammatus clouds, also known as mammatocumulus. The name comes from the Latin word mamma meaning “mother” or “breast.” Beautiful breast clouds, swinging their udders in the sky.
Also, did you know that the World Meteorological Organization has a section called “Weather reports from the future?” I’m almost afraid to click on it, because I want it so badly to be something oddly magical or slightly silly. I assume it’s about climate change—an important topic! obviously!—but I wish it were stories from a future meteorologist, sending his weather reports back in time to us, boring dispatches about the sky from an unimaginable life form.
Photographer Darren Almond uses the full moon to light his landscapes, and the results are otherworldly, frothy and strange, with muted colors and streaks of brightness as stars move across the sky. “With long exposures, you can never see what you are shooting,” said in an interview with The Guardian. “But you are giving the landscape longer to express itself.”
Moonlight has always felt rather magical; I think it helps reveal things that are normally concealed. It shows the landscape at its softest, most vulnerable. Like people, who undress at night and slip under the covers, turning toward each other in quiet intimacy, the earth slowly disrobes as the moon rises, shedding layers of shadow and light until only the thing itself is left. You have to strain your eyes and open your apertures to see it. You have to wait. Steady, still. Continue reading
Found today: “Poets Without Clothes.” It’s a website of—you guessed it!—poets without clothing. Some are half-naked. Some are nude. Some are showing their bare toes. Some cover their breasts. But they’re all vulnerable and rather sweet. The Tumblr was inspired, naturally, by Walt Whitman, he who wrote:
Let us all, without missing one, be exposed in public, naked,
monthly, at the peril of our lives! let our bodies be freely
handled and examined by whoever chooses!
Let nothing but copies at second hand be permitted to exist
upon the earth!
I wonder, which feels more raw: stripping off your clothing for a photograph, or stripping bare your soul for a poem? Which tears at the fabric of your being more? Which induces more shame, which brings more joy? They’re similar acts, but not the same.
Here’s a good would-you-rather for your next party: Would you rather bare your body in public, warts and all, or publish your most jagged and painful personal thoughts? Personally, I’d rather take my top off.
Above: Patti Smith in the nude. More here.
1. In Tokyo, the “experience designers” at teamLab have created a beautiful, kinetic hanging garden made with a form of bonsai called Kokedama. Tied with string and bound with moss, the plants are able to grow mid-air, roots burrowing into little contained bundles of dirt. And because art and science are just natural bedfellows: This floating field is also mechanized to move with your body, parting the way for views to walk amongst the blossoms unhindered. What a lovely, happy thing to create. It reminds me of another untranslatable word I’ve been digging: Shinrin-yoku. Translated literally it means forest-bathing, but it’s often used to refer to a short, rejuvenating walk in the woods. Nice, right?
2. One of my all-time favorite poems is “Fern Hill” by Dylan Thomas. Just go read it to see why. This is one of those poems where all the parts are the best part, but here is a sample:
Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.
3. A perfect song for warmer weather!
Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.
How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity,
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.
– Mary Oliver
I am tired and sick, so nothing more to say today, except this: Mary Oliver is the most comforting and uplifting poet. Besides Yeats, who I adore, she might be my favorite.
Painting by Celeste Keller, who does lovely portraits.