SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: ABRIANA JETTÉ


abeheadshotphtocredchrisjette


LIES OUR MOTHER TOLD US
By Abriana Jetté


I do not believe in the story of the virgin
but in the value of the human: the body —

because no matter what you were told
that soul is not yours. But the body,

the body is yours. The slight round
of the breast like the sun or the depth of your

toes to your crown: these are the ways
we measure ourselves. I do not want to

believe she was a vehicle. Tell me
there was pleasure; there were moans.

Tell me when she was fully grown
she remembered a wave a release an ecstasy

that entered her, that she could feel it in her
teeth. Motherhood means you are no longer

maiden but Queen. Tell me the story of the one
who smiled at the rustling of her sheets.



Today’s poem was published in the The Journal for Compressed Creative Arts, Spring 2015, and appears here today with permission from the poet.


Abriana Jetté: Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York Abriana Jetté is an internationally published poet and essayist and educator. Her anthology 50 Whispers: Poems by Extraordinary Women debuted as a #1 best seller on Amazon, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Seneca Review, River Teeth, Barrelhouse, The Moth, and many other places. She teaches for St. John’s University, for the College of Staten Island, and for the nonprofit organization Sponsors for Educational Opportunity.

Editor’s Note: And then there was the poet who reimagined the Virgin Mary. Not as virgin, but as human, as woman, capable of “a wave a release an ecstasy // that entered her, that she could feel it in her / teeth.” Advocating for agency, the poet insisted, “I do not want to // believe she was a vehicle.” Reverent of the woman’s transformation, she taught us that “Motherhood means you are no longer // maiden but Queen.” And we saw her as the poet saw her. And it was good.

Want to see more from Abriana Jetté?
Hermeneutic Chaos Journal
Truthdig
Abriana Jetté’s Official Website
Stay Thirsty Publishing
Barrelhouse Mag

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: TWO SUMMER POEMS

"England - English Summer Woods" courtesy of Jacopo Werther via Creative Commons: http://bit.ly/1qRZ81t
“England – English Summer Woods” courtesy of Jacopo Werther via Creative Commons: http://bit.ly/1qRZ81t


LILY-BELL AND THISTLEDOWN SONG
By Louisa May Alcott

Awake! Awake! for the earliest gleam 

Of golden sunlight shines 

On the rippling waves, that brightly flow 

Beneath the flowering vines. 

Awake! Awake! for the low, sweet chant 

Of the wild-birds’ morning hymn
Comes floating by on the fragrant air, 

Through the forest cool and dim; 

Then spread each wing, 

And work, and sing, 

Through the long, bright sunny hours; 

O’er the pleasant earth 

We journey forth, 

For a day among the flowers.

Awake! Awake! for the summer wind 

Hath bidden the blossoms unclose, 

Hath opened the violet’s soft blue eye, 

And awakened the sleeping rose. 

And lightly they wave on their slender stems 

Fragrant, and fresh, and fair, 

Waiting for us, as we singing come 

To gather our honey-dew there. 

Then spread each wing, 

And work, and sing, 

Through the long, bright sunny hours; 

O’er the pleasant earth 

We journey forth, 

For a day among the flowers.


SUMMER RAIN
By Fannie Isabel Sherrick

Oh, what is so pure as the glad summer rain,
That falls on the grass where the sunlight has lain?
And what is so fair as the flowers that lie
All bathed in the tears of the soft summer sky?

The blue of the heavens is dimmed by the rain
That wears away sorrow and washes out pain;
But we know that the flowers we cherish would die
Were it not for the tears of the cloud-laden sky.

The rose is the sweeter when kissed by the rain,
And hearts are the dearer where sorrow has lain;
The sky is the fairer that rain-clouds have swept,
And no eyes are so bright as the eyes that have wept.

Oh, they are so happy, these flowers that die,
They laugh in the sunshine, oh, why cannot I?
They droop in the shadow, they smile in the sun,
Yet they die in the winter when summer is done.

The lily is lovely, and fragrant her breath,
But the beauty she wears is the emblem of death;
The rain is so fair as it falls on the flowers,
But the clouds are the shadows of sunnier hours.

Why laugh in the sunshine, why smile in the rain?
The world is a shadow and life is a pain;
Why live in the summer, why dream in the sun,
To die in the winter, when summer is done?

Oh, there is the truth that each life underlies,
That baffles the poets and sages so wise;
Ah! there is the bitter that lies in the sweet
As we gather the roses that bloom at our feet.

Oh, flowers forgive me, I’m willful to-day,
Oh, take back the lesson you gave me I pray;
For I slept in the sunshine, I woke in the rain
And it banished forever my sorrow and pain.


(Today’s poems are in the public domain, belong to the masses, and appear here today accordingly.)


Louisa May Alcott: (1832-1888) was an American novelist and poet best known as the author of the novel Little Women (1868). Raised by her transcendentalist parents, Abigail May and Amos Bronson Alcott in New England, she grew up among many of the well-known intellectuals of her day. (Annotated biography of Louisa May Alcott courtesy of Wikipedia, with edits.)

Fannie Isabel Sherrick: (Lived circa mid-to-late 19th c.) was a native of St. Louis. Much of her early life was spent in California and Colorado, where many of her best productions in verse were written. Her collected poems were published in 1888, in a volume entitled Star Dust. Poor health caused her–at least temporarily–to give up literary endeavors. (Annotated biography of Fannie Isabel Sherrick courtesy of Evenings with Colorado Poets: an Anthology of Colorado Verse, with edits.)

Editor’s Note: Technically summer is not for another month yet, but here in New York the sun is shining, and Memorial Day weekend is the official start of our summer season, so “O’er the pleasant earth 
/ We journey forth, 
/ For a day among the flowers.” And, while summer rain was not a common occurrence in California–from whence I came–here in New York the sky opens up to quench the grasses, the flowers, the rivers and streams, all summer long: “Oh, what is so pure as the glad summer rain, / That falls on the grass where the sunlight has lain? / And what is so fair as the flowers that lie / All bathed in the tears of the soft summer sky?”

Want to read more summer poetry?
The Poetry Foundation

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: A WINTER POEM BY ALFRED AUSTIN

"Mit Reif vom Nebel belegte Rose." Photographer: Armin Kübelbeck, CC-BY-SA, Wikimedia Commons
“Mit Reif vom Nebel belegte Rose.” Photographer: Armin Kübelbeck, CC-BY-SA, Wikimedia Commons

MY WINTER ROSE
By Alfred Austin

Why did you come when the trees were bare?
Why did you come with the wintry air?
When the faint note dies in the robin’s throat,
And the gables drip and the white flakes float?

What a strange, strange season to choose to come,
When the heavens are blind and the earth is dumb:
When nought is left living to dirge the dead,
And even the snowdrop keeps its bed!

Could you not come when woods are green?
Could you not come when lambs are seen?
When the primrose laughs from its childlike sleep,
And the violets hide and the bluebells peep?

When the air as your breath is sweet, and skies
Have all but the soul of your limpid eyes,
And the year, growing confident day by day,
Weans lusty June from the breast of May?

Yet had you come then, the lark had lent
In vain his music, the thorn its scent,
In vain the woodbine budded, in vain
The rippling smile of the April rain.

Your voice would have silenced merle and thrush,
And the rose outbloomed would have blushed to blush,
And Summer, seeing you, paused, and known
That the glow of your beauty outshone its own.

So, timely you came, and well you chose,
You came when most needed, my winter rose.
From the snow I pluck you, and fondly press
Your leaves ‘twixt the leaves of my leaflessness.


Today poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here accordingly.


Alfred Austin (1835 – 1913) was an English poet and journalist who succeeded Alfred, Lord Tennyson, as poet laureate. His acerbic criticism and jingoistic verse in the 1870s led Robert Browning to dismiss him as a “Banjo-Byron,” and his appointment to the laureateship in 1896 was much mocked. He also published a series of stiff verse dramas, some novels, and a good deal of lyrical but very minor nature poetry. A patriotic poet of the most confident phase of the British Empire, his work lacked the resonance of Rudyard Kipling’s. (Annotated biography courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica, with edits.)


Editor’s Note: I love the use of metaphor in today’s poem, and the playful way language is paired with it. Moments like “And the year, growing confident day by day, / Weans lusty June from the breast of May.” I am taken, as well, by the allusion to the beloved, depicted as a winter rose arriving at what appears to be an inopportune time. But the poet eventually realizes that love–as it inevitably does–arrived exactly when it was most needed, occupying a space that had been waiting for just such an arrival: “You came when most needed, my winter rose. / From the snow I pluck you, and fondly press / Your leaves ‘twixt the leaves of my leaflessness.”


Want to read more winter poetry?
The Academy of American Poets
The Poetry Foundation

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: ALAN TOLTZIS

pic 003

FORTY-TWO PLACES
By Alan Toltzis

As time passed,
they didn’t need to study love,
pray for it,
or even speak its name.

Instead,
they lived their love
silently.
Secrets remained secret

as love sank into unbending bones,
fused with supple corpuscles,
and seeped through soft skin
beneath their fingernails.

Only by looking back
and naming each
of the 42 places (in order)
they had journeyed

did they realize they had grown
into an old couple
who survived a long-forgotten stopover
of bickering and concession

and the should-
and should-not-have-saids
they should never
have crossed

leaving only unspoken love
perpetuated by the comfort and intimacy
of taking each other
for granted.


Today’s poem is from the collection The Last Commandment, published by Poetica Publishing, copyright © 2015 by Alan Toltzis, and appears here today with permission from the poet.


Alan Toltzis is the author of the book of poems, The Last Commandment (Poetica Publishing, 2015). His work appears in print and online publications including The Provo Canyon Review, Poetica Magazine, Burningword Literary Journal, Soul-Lit, and Red Wolf Journal. Alan is working on his second book of poems and is developing The Psalm Project, to teach poetry to middle- and high-school students.

Editor’s Note: There is something of a prayer in today’s poem. A thanksgiving. Something quiet, humble, and honest. Something lived, understood, known. What it is to journey throughout a lifetime of relationship. What it is to look back and reflect upon “the should- / and should-not-have-saids … leaving only unspoken love / perpetuated by the comfort and intimacy / of taking each other / for granted.”

Want to read more from Alan Toltzis?
Alan Toltzis’ Official Website
“Miles Away” in the Red Wolf Journal
The Provo Canyon Review
“Noah” in the Red Wolf Journal
“Elegy for 107696” via Poetica Publishing

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: FALL POEMS

By Someone35 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Someone35 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons


AFTER APPLE-PICKING
By Robert Frost

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.


AUTUMN: A DIRGE
By Percy Bysshe Shelley

The warm sun is falling, the bleak wind is wailing,
The bare boughs are sighing, the pale flowers are dying,
And the Year
On the earth is her death-bed, in a shroud of leaves dead,
Is lying.
Come, Months, come away,
From November to May,
In your saddest array;
Follow the bier
Of the dead cold Year,
And like dim shadows watch by her sepulchre.

The chill rain is falling, the nipped worm is crawling,
The rivers are swelling, the thunder is knelling
For the Year;
The blithe swallows are flown, and the lizards each gone
To his dwelling.
Come, Months, come away;
Put on white, black and gray;
Let your light sisters play–
Ye, follow the bier
Of the dead cold Year,
And make her grave green with tear on tear.


AUTUMN LEAVES
By Juliana Horatia Ewing

The Spring’s bright tints no more are seen,
And Summer’s ample robe of green
Is russet-gold and brown;
When flowers fall to every breeze
And, shed reluctant from the trees,
The leaves drop down.

A sadness steals about the heart,
–And is it thus from youth we part,
And life’s redundant prime?
Must friends like flowers fade away,
And life like Nature know decay,
And bow to time?

And yet such sadness meets rebuke,
From every copse in every nook
Where Autumn’s colours glow;
How bright the sky! How full the sheaves!
What mellow glories gild the leaves
Before they go.

Then let us sing the jocund praise,
In this bright air, of these bright days,
When years our friendships crown;
The love that’s loveliest when ’tis old–
When tender tints have turned to gold
And leaves drop down.


Today’s poems are in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here accordingly.


Editor’s Note: Today we celebrate another change in seasons. As the leaves turn red, yellow, orange and gold, as they fall from the trees and blanket the ground, as Mother Earth sheds her summer splendor and Persephone prepares to go underground, may we bid farewell through poetry. And may we meet again in spring when life blooms anew.


Want to read more fall poetry?
Academy of American Poets
The Poetry Foundation

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: KAREN PAUL HOLMES

Karen Paul Holmes with dog

By Karen Paul Holmes:


VISITOR

A bare branch lounges
in my Adirondack chair
under the Japanese maple–
gray, elegant:
Comforting to me,
now without a husband,
a good omen
in my walled garden
cocooned by snow.


LIFE, ACT 3

Time knows its lines
has spoken them
across our foreheads.
In this stage of living
we censor the critic,
applaud the comedy,
watch the script unfold.
Gravity plays upon
these bodies, while
souls move inward,
heavenward.
The star in me
celebrates the star in you.



“Visitor” first appeared in Town Creek Poetry. Today’s poems are from the collection Untying the Knot (Aldrich Press 2014) and appear here today with permission from the poet.



Karen Paul Holmes is the author of the poetry collection, Untying the Knot (Aldrich Press, 2014), which tells a story of loss and healing with a voice that “pushes readers forward into the unknown with confidence, precision, and empathy,” according to Poet Dorianne Laux. Karen received an Elizabeth George Foundation emerging writer grant in 2012 and was nominated for Best New Poets 2014. Publishing credits include Poetry East, Atlanta Review, Caesura, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Every Day Poems, The Southern Poetry Anthology Vol 5: Georgia, and Stone, River, Sky: An Anthology of Georgia Poems.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poems are full of dichotomies: simple and complex, small and epic. They contain all at once the quiet contemplation of nature, of meditation, of breath, yet their gentile reflectiveness is balanced precisely by the weight of a life lived. This is a life–and a poetry–as simple as a bare branch under a Japanese maple, yet as complex as the comfort of being “now without a husband,” and that being “a good omen.” This is a human experience as small as the lines time “has spoken… across our foreheads,” and as epic as the idea that “The star in me / celebrates the star in you.”

Want more from Karen Paul Holmes?
Blue Fifth Review
Verse-Virtual
Extract(s)
Amarillo Bay
See inside Untying the Knot

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: ALL DAY, TALKING

allday_1024x1024


From ALL DAY, TALKING
By Sarah A. Chavez:



DEAR CAROLE, I FINALLY DID IT

I cut it all off into a trendy bob
that fades up the back. You told me
not to, said you loved my hair long.
Well, you’re not here anymore.



DEAR CAROLE, TODAY I’M WEARING THAT RING

you stole for me at the art fair
on the green at Fresno State.
God, was I such a baby!
Poor me, I don’t have any money
to buy things.
I kept whining.
I never get to have anything nice.
And most of what we’d seen
iron sculptures, clay dishes fired
for ornament, I was only just
discovering, but still, I thought
I deserved them.
That’s another thing age teaches you –
you ain’t owed shit. There is nothing
on this flying water rock that anyone deserves.
You should’ve smacked me, echoed
my father and told me to suck it up.
But you didn’t.

It was the third time we’d circled
back to that booth. Everything
about it was pretty: the rainbow
canopy, the sunlight glinting off
the semi-precious gems and hued
glass, the hot hippie without a bra
telling every passer-by about Gaia.
I fingered a large red and black
swirled ring, slipped it over
the callouses on my middle finger,
and spread my hand flat to admire it,
its heft impressive for something so lovely.
The hippie told me, the ring
wants to be a ring. I never take
from the Earth without her permission.
I spoke to the stone, told her what
she’d be
and she gave me her blessing.

The hippie looked so sincere
when she spoke, looked into my eyes
with her large cobalt irises, the pupil a pinprick
in the blue with the sun glaring
behind me. I’m sure I said something
stupid. I always get so nervous
around people like that, who walk
through life like an open wound, their blood
and tissue exposed to the elements,
their insides shining on the outside.

I probably said, Cool and behind me,
you probably rolled your eyes.
I put the ring back on the organic
hemp cushion with the other
metamorphisized rocks, then spun
the color-tinted glass of the wind chimes
hanging from the canopy’s aluminum
frame to hear their tingle-tangle
and submerged my hand into the basket
of oddly-shaped beads, feeling what I
imagined the quiet core within a fossilized
stone felt like. As we walked away,
you said Thanks, which was weird, but
I thought maybe it got to you too –
so much unattainable beauty,
the reminder of all the things
we didn’t have and all the things
we couldn’t yet know we wanted.

Walking to 711 for cigarettes,
we stopped at the crosswalk light.
You took my hand and pressed
the weight of the ring into my palm.
I looked up at you, squinting in surprise,
but you just shrugged, said The stone told me
to take it. It said it wanted you to wear it.



DEAR CAROLE, FOR HOURS, IT’S BEEN BURNING

a hole in my gut, the shame
of never saying thank you
twelve years ago for that fucking pizza
you bought with SSI back pay.
It tasted so good: the grease,
the sweet of the tomato sauce,
the salt from the olives prickling
my tongue – I could actually taste it.
They don’t say on those Cymbalta commercials
depression takes away taste.
Sleep, yeah, sex drive, focus, but not taste.
I never told you
how for those months, alone
in my one-bedroom apartment I tried
to eat just about anything,
but it was all so thick and waxen . . .
one night, ravenous and wretched
I tried to eat an entire loaf of bread.
Cross-legged on the kitchen floor
the light from the street lamp cast ghastly
shadows against the apartment blinds
while I took slice after slice
of Wonder Bread from the Hostess overstock
warehouse on Weldon Street and bit
into each one wanting desperately
for the next to taste
like summer,
like 1998,
like the smell of patchouli
in your room, like rain water,
like mud-stained carpet, like midnights
on the front porch,
like lying to our mothers and never getting caught.
Slice after slice – mutilated, the impression
of my teeth embossed on each one’s cottony
flesh – lay scattered
on the linoleum. I couldn’t bring myself
to swallow even the smallest
bite. Just kept spitting
slobbery hunks onto my naked lap,
into my tangled hair, until
I laid down, the floor clammy and smooth
like the palms of your hands.


Today’s poems are from All Day, Talking, published by Dancing Girl Press, copyright © 2014 by Sarah A. Chavez, and appear here today with permission from the poet.



All Day, Talking: “A stunning, gritty, and beautifully irreverent collection of poems, All Day, Talking repeatedly and necessarily corrupts the conventional elegy. Chavez mourns Carole, yes, but she also mourns herself—and all of us, the tragedy of how we see (or don’t see) one another in our contradictory identities and bodies. If you want to know the honest truth about what it means to grieve and to survive, keep these poems close and listen to this ‘all day, talking,’ which is both deeply personal and profoundly political.” — Stacey Waite, author of Butch Geography


Sarah A. Chavez, a mestiza born and raised in the California Central Valley, is the author of the chapbook, All Day, Talking (Dancing Girl Press, 2014), which was featured on Sundress Publications’ book spotlight, The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed. She holds a PhD in English with a focus in poetry and Ethnic Studies from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in North Dakota Quarterly, Stirring: A Literary Collective, Spoon River Poetry Review, Luna Luna Magazine, among others. Her manuscript, This, Like So Much, was an Honorable Mention for the 2013 Quercus Review Press Poetry Book Contest. A selection from her chapbook manuscript All Day, Talking won the Susan Atefat Peckham Fellowship in 2013. She is a proud member of the Macondo Writers Workshop.


Editor’s Note: There is a refreshing honesty to the poems in All Day, Talking that is, in equal measures, surprising, laugh-out-loud funny, and deeply touching. In this collection grief is portrayed–and love remembered–through a lens of realism that mirrors the very real and very unstable experience of loss. Memory is the vehicle through which a life lost is a life recalled, and the speaker addresses the absence with a candor and wit that seems to honor the relationship that gave rise to it when Carole was still living. Amidst a text thick with engaging and humorous stories, within the world of deeply confessional admissions and recollections, there exists the heartbeat of the lyric, “the reminder of all the things / we didn’t have and all the things / we couldn’t yet know we wanted.”


Want to see more from Sarah A. Chavez?
Sarah A. Chavez’s Official blog/website
Buy All Day, Talking directly from the poet
Buy All Day, Talking from the publisher
Rogue Agent
Broadside of “The Day the Alligators Feasted on Time” from Stirring: A Literary Collection
The Poetry Foundation: Irene Lara Silva in conversation with Sarah A. Chavez

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: HEMISPHERE

hemisphere


From HEMISPHERE
By Ellen Hagan:


RIVER. WOMAN.

I.
Downriver is always long
& always flailing, finding

where our lives begin,
intersect?  You, your bones

the humped slope of nose
browned skin of home.

You, sand. You, ocean.
You, bending & me.

How many nights we sleep
alone, our bodies rising—

what it means to miss you.
What it means to expand.
What it means to be birthed.
What it means to be sacred.
What it means to go home.

Place of birth, birthing
ground. Ground that is sacred.
You that is sacred.

Bones that hold together.  Bind.
Bound to you.  My mother.

II.
Me
I am bound to you.  My mother.
You stitch me from inside.  Hollowed.
your split sheath of self, your letters
the slow cursive of your language,
can’t I hear your voice, always?

Her
Lock the doors.  Latch the locks.
Shut the windows.  Close the blinds.
Cover up.  Clean your room.  Do
the dishes.  Wash the clothes.  Behind
your ears, yourself.  Clean the floor.  
Scrub.  Mop the remains every day
is one that you can use to erase all
the mistakes.  Blemish free.
Shine the doorknobs, pine, every
crease of space.  Cabinets.  Don’t leave
food out.  Food brings mice.  Mice
bring disease.  You will die.  You could 
die.  Don’t die.  Don’t ever die.  You 
stitch me from inside.  I am bound
to you.  Can’t you always hear
my voice?



LESSONS ON SPELLING

Bring the snakes in their skins, sly
& surrender. Simple bodies of grass
& clover, their slithering and sleuth-ness.
& the earth & the dusty fisherman
in from their boats, bobbing. Bring
piano, bring pain. That yellow skirt
pocked w/ fuchsia & the halter
of your mother’s pixie 60’s ways.
Let out the hems from your dresses,
the vertebrae in your back, body
forget skeleton—be loose, let it be dirty.
Get there. Call the black cat promenade,
lazy through the streets. Let your hair
down. Let it crawl, crowd the length
of your back. Bring soca & fiddle,
that record player your father bought
your mother in 1974. Bring all the days
from 1974 & on because time is a revolver.
A bag of limes on your back porch
squeezed & bitter & neon & orbiting
over you. Is your neighbor calling.
Is satsumas bursting on your tongue.
Bring your shiny shoes & arched soles
for the flapping pageant of second line
parade, the 100 parades from now until.
Autumnal. Hymns. Prayers.
Ways to say yes. Bring with you
your rope of hide, your many rings
of muscle & the washcloth
for your stomach, your feet
for the laying nape of your neck.
Bring danger & ways to hold your lips,
your lips, bring them too.
Spanning the whole of you.
You become.



WATER SIGN

Already a lullaby inside.
Your palms to belly, breath
on hip.  You are changing,
beginning. Too.  And you,
baby girl, or boy. Or two.
Are just gills. Still. Heart in
mouth. Red burst of newness.
Fins.  Fish or fowl. Shrimp
are larger than you.

Still, you are breaking me
apart. Him too. Our hearts
and lungs, and gills. Bursting 
You are stretching all,
all of us. Open.


Today’s poems are from Hemisphere, published by TriQuarterly Press/Northwestern University Press, copyright © 2015 by Ellen Hagan, and appear here today with permission from the poet.


Hemisphere: The poems in Hemisphere explore what it means to be a daughter and what it means to bear new life. Ellen Hagan investigates the world historical hemispheres of a family legacy from around the globe and moves down to the most intimate hemisphere of impending motherhood. Her poems reclaim the female body from the violence, both literal and literary, done to it over the years. Hagan acknowledges the changing body of a mother from the strains of birth from the growing body of a child, to the scars left most visibly by a C-section €”as well as the changes wrought by age and, too often, abuse. The existence of a hemisphere implies a part seeking a whole, and as a collection, Hemisphere is a coherent and cogent journey toward reclamation and wholeness. —TriQuarterly Press/Northwestern University Press


Ellen Hagan is a writer, performer, and educator. Her latest collection of poetry, Hemisphere, was released by Northwestern University Press in Spring 2015. Ellen’s poems and essays can be found in the pages of Creative Nonfiction, Underwired Magazine, She Walks in Beauty (edited by Caroline Kennedy), Huizache, Small Batch, and Southern Sin. Her first collection of poetry, Crowned, was published by Sawyer House Press in 2010. Ellen’s performance work has been showcased at The New York International Fringe and Los Angeles Women’s Theater Festival. She is the recipient of the 2013 NoMAA Creative Arts Grant and received grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women and the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts. National arts residencies include The Hopscotch House and Louisiana Arts Works. Ellen recently joined the po­etry faculty at West Virginia Wesleyan in their low-residency MFA program. She teaches Memoir, Poetry & Nature, and co-leads the Alice Hoffman Young Writer’s Retreat at Adelphi University. She is Poetry Chair of the DreamYard Project and a regular guest artist at the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts.


Editor’s Note: I fell in love with the poems in Ellen Hagan’s Hemisphere for their language: earthy, sensual, gritty. Unafraid of blood and birth, of mud and heat, of nature, of relationship, of what is real and lush and vivid, of what is primal and complex. I am reminded of the swamp, of the first creatures that dragged themselves forth from the murky depths, crawling forward, always, evolving for the sake of life. I am reminded, also, of witchcraft, of alchemy, of drawing down the moon. Of things my mother taught me, of that which has been handed down from woman to woman through the ages.

Today’s poems were meant to be, here, today. Because they are about the twin experience of birth—both as child and mother. Because much of this book is about the relationship between mother and daughter, the circle of life as only mother and daughter experience it: “where our lives begin, / intersect;” “what it means to miss you. / What it means to expand. / What it means to be birthed. / What it means to be sacred. / What it means to go home.”

In honor of Mother’s Day, and of the magic that grows from the rich soil of today’s poems, today’s feature is dedicated to my mother, the water sign, from your daughter, the water sign. “You that is sacred… I am bound to you. My mother.”


Want to see more from Ellen Hagan?
Ellen Hagan’s Official Website
Ellen Hagan’s Blog
Duende
Drunken Boat
Buy Hemisphere from Indie Bound

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: EARTH VOICES FOR SPRING

Public Domain image.
Public Domain image.


EARTH VOICES
By Bliss Carman

I

I heard the spring wind whisper
Above the brushwood fire,
“The world is made forever
Of transport and desire.

“I am the breath of being,
The primal urge of things;
I am the whirl of star dust,
I am the lift of wings.

“I am the splendid impulse
That comes before the thought,
The joy and exaltation
Wherein the life is caught.

“Across the sleeping furrows
I call the buried seed,
And blade and bud and blossom
Awaken at my need.

“Within the dying ashes
I blow the sacred spark,
And make the hearts of lovers
To leap against the dark.”

II

I heard the spring light whisper
Above the dancing stream,
“The world is made forever
In likeness of a dream.

“I am the law of planets,
I am the guide of man;
The evening and the morning
Are fashioned to my plan.

“I tint the dawn with crimson,
I tinge the sea with blue;
My track is in the desert,
My trail is in the dew.

“I paint the hills with color,
And in my magic dome
I light the star of evening
To steer the traveller home.

“Within the house of being,
I feed the lamp of truth
With tales of ancient wisdom
And prophecies of youth.”

III

I heard the spring rain murmur
Above the roadside flower,
“The world is made forever
In melody and power.

“I keep the rhythmic measure
That marks the steps of time,
And all my toil is fashioned
To symmetry and rhyme.

“I plow the untilled upland,
I ripe the seeding grass,
And fill the leafy forest
With music as I pass.

“I hew the raw, rough granite
To loveliness of line,
And when my work is finished,
Behold, it is divine!

“I am the master-builder
In whom the ages trust.
I lift the lost perfection
To blossom from the dust.”

IV

Then Earth to them made answer,
As with a slow refrain
Born of the blended voices
Of wind and sun and rain,

“This is the law of being
That links the threefold chain:
The life we give to beauty
Returns to us again.”


(Today’s poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here today accordingly.)


Bliss Carman FRSC (1861–1929) was a Canadian poet who lived most of his life in the United States, where he achieved international fame, and was acclaimed as Canada’s poet laureate during his later years. (Annotated bio courtesy of Wikipedia, with edits.)

Editor’s Note: Each year around this time I become so excited by the fact that winter is finally over that I must celebrate the birth of spring through poetry. The sun is shining, the crocuses and tulips are rising, the spring blossoms are in bloom. The cold and darkness that are just behind us are quickly forgotten by the promise of all that is warm and beautiful and worthy of rejoicing. So it has been since the days of Demeter and Persephone, and so it shall be until humankind destroys the natural balance of the world with climate change.

Today’s poem calls upon the “Earth Voices”—the spring wind, the spring light, the spring rain, and the Earth herself—to tell a story of the rebuilding of the world at springtime. The voices of spring speak of the newness they create: “Across the sleeping furrows / I call the buried seed, / And blade and bud and blossom / Awaken at my need.” “I am the master-builder / In whom the ages trust. / I lift the lost perfection / To blossom from the dust.” And the voice of Earth answers, calling upon the ancient power of three, reminding us, as spring does, that what is buried beneath winter “Returns to us again.”

Want to read more Spring Poetry?
SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: SPRING! (2014)
SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: LIZZIE LAWSON ON SPRING
SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: SPRING! (2013)
The Poetry Foundation – Spring Poems

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: THE OPERATING SYSTEM FOR NATIONAL POETRY MONTH


national-poetry-month1


Editor’s Note: April is National Poetry Month. According to the Academy of American Poets, who founded the annual event in 1996, “National Poetry Month is the largest literary celebration in the world, with tens of millions of readers, students, K-12 teachers, librarians, booksellers, literary events curators, publishers, bloggers, and, of course, poets marking poetry’s important place in our culture and our lives.”

Today I want to highlight one of the countless organizations that has picked up the gauntlet the AAP has thrown down. This April the Operating System celebrates its 4th Annual 30-on-30-in-30 Poetry Month Celebration:

“Over the course of Poetry Month The OS brings you 30 poets (+ writers, musicians, and artists) writing on 30 (+ a few extra) poets for 30 days (every day in April). The intention is simple, but crucial: to explode the process of sharing our influences and joys beyond the random. To create a narrative archive around that moment where we excitedly pass on the work of someone who has made a difference in our lives. And so, too, this is an opportunity for The OS to introduce our audience to the work of the people writing — who are invited to share work of their own that demonstrates that influence. Really, its an exercise in appreciation.”

An exercise in appreciation. A labor of love. 30 days for 30 artists to share their 30 favorite poets with you. What more could you ask for? A little love from your fearless editor? You’ve got it! Keep up with the Operating System throughout the month of April and be on the lookout for yours truly sharing the love and inspiration that is Li-Young Lee.

What should you be doing RIGHT NOW? Go forth and fall in love, poetry style, with the Operating System’s 4th Annual 30-on-30-in-30 Poetry Month Celebration.

Want more National Poetry Month?
Spend each day in April with The Operating System.
Learn About National Poetry Month from the Academy of American Poets.
Read blog entries, online poetry sources, and get writing prompts from NaPoWriMo.
Celebrate NaPoMo with WordPress: Celebrating poetry, all month long.
30 ways to celebrate National Poetry Month, from the Academy of American Poets.