More Joy Harjo

I love Joy Harjo’s work so much. Yesterday’s piece prompted me to read some more of her poems, and they are just exquisite. I decided to post this one today, but I heartily recommend you go look up more of her work on your own. Her work is clear-eyed and forthright and beautiful. Enjoy.

When the World As We Knew It Ended
by Joy Harjo

We were dreaming on an occupied island at the farthest edge
of a trembling nation when it went down

Two towers rose up from the east island of commerce and touched
the sky. Men walked on the moon. Oil was sucked dry
by two brothers. Then it went down. Swallowed
by a fire dragon, by oil and fear.
Eaten whole.

It was coming.

We had been watching since the eve of the missionaries in their
long and solemn clothes, to see what would happen.

We saw it
from the kitchen window over the sink
as we made coffee, cooked rice and
potatoes, enough for an army.

We saw it all, as we changed diapers and fed
the babies. We saw it,
through the branches
of the knowledgeable tree
through the snags of stars, through
the sun and storms from our knees
as we bathed and washed
the floors.

The conference of the birds warned us, as they flew over
destroyers in the harbor, parked there since the first takeover.
It was by their song and talk we knew when to rise
when to look out the window
to the commotion going on–
the magnetic field thrown off by grief.

We heard it.
The racket in every corner of the world. As
the hunger for war rose up in those who would steal to be president
to be king or emperor, to own the trees, stones, and everything
else that moved about the earth, inside the earth
and above it.

We knew it was coming, tasted the winds who gathered intelligence
from each leaf and flower, from every mountain, sea
and desert, from every prayer and song all over this tiny universe
floating in the skies of infinite
being.

And then it was over, this world we had grown to love
for its sweet grasses, for the many-colored horses
and fishes, for the shimmering possibilities
while dreaming.

But then there were the seeds to plant and the babies
who needed milk and comforting, and someone
picked up a guitar or ukulele from the rubble

and began to sing about the light flutter
the kick beneath the skin of the earth
we felt there, beneath us

a warm animal
a song being born between the legs of her,
a poem.

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Morning Song

My favorite pre-Easter poem is “What the Thunder Said” from TS Eliot’s The Waste Land. The search for water in a barren place resonates with my understanding of the Savior and His impact in my life. Not everyone reads it that way, of course, but I do. Unfortunately, it’s far too long a piece for me to post here (though that it hasn’t stopped me before), so here is a post about something entirely different, not related to Easter at all.

Morning Song
by Joy Harjo

The red dawn now is rearranging the earth
Thought by thought
Beauty by beauty
Each sunrise a link in the ladder
The ladder the backbone
Of shimmering deity
Child stirring in the web of your mother
Do no be afraid
Old man turning to walk through the door
Do not be afraid

 

 

 

Long ago I heard footsteps

I really want to say things about this poem, but I think if I say things, I will give away “the turn.” So here is a poem. Meet me in the comments and we’ll talk.

Long ago I heard footsteps
by Miriam Bird Greenberg

Long ago I heard footsteps
come to the door, and a man

knocking. We’ve had an accident

up on the road, can you help
he pled at the unanswered door,

and kept knocking.

He might have been a thief
but soon enough a woman’s howl

lit up the night, and I put a knife
in my belt. Around dawn

I figured their fortunes
might be worth change.

 

Little Father

Here is a piece by Li-Young Lee. I have only recently begun exploring his work, but it is phenomenal. If you enjoy this piece, or are moved by this piece, or intrigued, inspired, etc.– want more of this piece, check out more of his work from your local library, or online here. Also, if reading all this poetry encourages you to try your hand at it, pop over to my friend Stephanie’s blog. She’s teaching how to write a different poem every day this month, so you’ll have lots of chances to try different things.

Little Father
by Li-Young Lee

I buried my father
in the sky.
Since then, the birds
clean and comb him every morning
and pull the blanket up to his chin
every night.

I buried my father underground.
Since then, my ladders
only climb down,
and all the earth has become a house
whose rooms are the hours, whose doors
stand open at evening, receiving
guest after guest.
Sometimes I see past them
to the tables spread for a wedding feast.

I buried my father in my heart.
Now he grows in me, my strange son,
my little root who won’t drink milk,
little pale foot sunk in unheard-of night,
little clock spring newly wet
in the fire, little grape, parent to the future
wine, a son the fruit of his own son,
little father I ransom with my life.

Happy birthday, Shakespeare!

451 years ago this month, William Shakespeare was christened in Stratford-upon-Avon, so here is a poem to commemorate his birth.

I love this sonnet. The gist is, “Words can’t describe how beautiful you are, or how much you mean to me.” It reminds me of Darcy’s reply to Elizabeth’s accusation, that “A man who felt less might [say more].” As someone married to a relatively silent man, I know firsthand that a person can feel deeply but say little. In fact, I’ve grown so used to watching what my husband does that I almost distrust what people say. A man with a glib tongue and a quick compliment arouses my suspicion, not my approval. And although Shakespeare is known for his ability to turn a clever phrase, in the face of love, we are all tongue-tied. Anyway, enjoy.

Sonnet 83

I never saw that you did painting need,
And therefore to your fair no painting set.
I found, or thought I found, you did exceed
The barren tender of a poet’s debt.

And therefore have I slept in your report,
That you yourself, being extant, well might show
How far a modern quill doth come too short
Speaking of worth, what worth in you doth grow.

This silence for my sin you did impute,
Which shall be most my glory, being dumb.
For I impair not beauty, being mute,
When others would give life and bring a tomb.

There lives more life in one of your fair eyes
Than both your poets can in praise devise.

The Moment Eternal

I love, love, love this poem by Robert Browning. Happy Weekend!

Now
by Robert Browning

Out of your whole life give but a moment!
All of your life that has gone before,
All to come after it, –so you ignore,
So you make perfect the present,–condense,
In a rapture of rage, for perfection’s endowment,
Thought and feeling and soul and sense–
Merged in a moment which gives me at last
You around me for once, you beneath me, above me–
Me– sure that despite of time future, time past,–
This tick of our life-time’s one moment you love me!
How long such suspension may linger? Ah, Sweet–
The moment eternal–just that and no more–
When ecstasy’s utmost we clutch at the core
While cheeks burn, arms open, eyes shut and lips meet!

Absence

I encountered this poem by Billy Collins today. I love the closing image of the poem, the chess piece moving in all the same familiar ways, even without the chessboard or the other pieces. I think that’s what it’s like, living with loss. You keep moving the same way, but something is missing. And maybe somewhere, your chessboard notices the loss of you as well. Anyway, read the poem and tell if what I’m saying makes sense.

Absence

This morning as low clouds
skidded over the spires of the city

I found next to a bench
in a park an ivory chess piece–

the white knight as it turned out–
and in the pigeon-ruffling wind

I wondered where all the others were,
lined up somewhere

on their red and black squares,
many of them feeling uneasy

about the salt shaker
that was taking his place,

and all of them secretly longing
for the moment

when the white horse
would reappear out of nowhere

and advance toward the board
with his distinctive motion,

stepping forward, then sideways
before advancing again,

the same moves I was making him do
over and over in the sunny field of my palm.