Red Onion, Cherries, Boiling Potatoes, Milk-
by Jane Hirshfield
Here is a soul, accepting nothing.
Obstinate as a small child
refusing tapioca, peaches, toast.
The cheeks are streaked, but dry.
The mouth is firmly closed in both directions.
Ask, if you like,
if it is merely sulking, or holding out for better.
The soup grows cold in the question.
The ice cream pools in its dish.
Not this, is all it knows. Not this.
As certain cut flowers refuse to drink in the vase.
And the heart, from its great distance, watches, helpless.
(photograph Rose Cook)
MCMXIV, by Phillip Larkin
Those long uneven lines
Standing as patiently
As if they were stretched outside
The Oval or Villa Park,
The crowns of hats, the sun
On moustached archaic faces
Grinning as if it were all
An August Bank Holiday lark;
And the shut shops, the bleached
Established names on the sunblinds,
The farthings and sovereigns,
And dark-clothed children at play
Called after kings and queens,
The tin advertisements
For cocoa and twist, and the pubs
Wide open all day;
And the countryside not caring:
The place-names all hazed over
With flowering grasses, and fields
Shadowing Domesday lines
Under wheat’s restless silence;
The differently-dressed servants
With tiny rooms in huge houses,
The dust behind limousines;
Never such innocence,
Never before or since,
As changed itself to past
Without a word – the men
Leaving the gardens tidy,
The thousands of marriages,
Lasting a little while longer:
Never such innocence again.
Be with those who help your being.
Don’t sit with indifferent people, whose breath
comes cold out of their mouths.
Not these visible forms, your work is deeper.
A chunk of dirt thrown in the air breaks to pieces.
If you don’t try to fly,
and so break yourself apart,
you will be broken open by death,
when it’s too late for all you could become.
Leaves get yellow. The tree puts out fresh roots
and makes them green.
Why are you so content with a love that turns you yellow?
translation Coleman Barks
photo Rose Cook
Spring Poem For the Sake of Breathing
by James Masao Mitsui
The sky wants the water to turn grey,
but if I notice how waves
play with the clumps of yellow flags,
or the way turtles share logs,
or even try to understand a friend’s decision
to walk onto a glacier
and end her life—I will be ready
for any poems that have been waiting.
The horizon opens as I walk,
escorted by swans and Canada geese.
I need to stop backpedaling into the present.
In my old life people would straighten
the truth, but the river
flows in curves.
The names of my father and my mother
rest next to each other in Greenwood Cemetery.
The distance between me and the mountains
measures an uneven thought: I feel like an orphan.
An early moon is just a piece of change
in the softening sky.
Light is such an actress. Time to seek
Hopper’s wish to simply paint sunlight
on the wooden wall of a house. I am growing
older. Maru in Japanese means
will make it back home.
photo Rose Cook
Why I Wake Early
by Mary Oliver
Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety–
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.
photo Rose Cook