December 31: “Advice to Myself”

Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don’t patch the cup.
Don’t patch anything. Don’t mend. Buy safety pins.
Don’t even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don’t keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll’s tiny shoes in pairs, don’t worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic-decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don’t even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don’t sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we’re all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don’t answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in though the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don’t read it, don’t read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.

— Louise Erdrich

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November 12: “When the Year Grows Old”

I cannot but remember
When the year grows old—
October—November—
How she disliked the cold!

She used to watch the swallows
Go down across the sky,
And turn from the window
With a little sharp sigh.

And often when the brown leaves
Were brittle on the ground,
And the wind in the chimney
Made a melancholy sound,

She had a look about her
That I wish I could forget—
The look of a scared thing
Sitting in a net!

Oh, beautiful at nightfall
The soft spitting snow!
And beautiful the bare boughs
Rubbing to and fro!

But the roaring of the fire,
And the warmth of fur,
And the boiling of the kettle
Were beautiful to her!

I cannot but remember
When the year grows old—
October—November—
How she disliked the cold!

— Edna St. Vincent Millay

October 17: “At the Window”

The pine-trees bend to listen to the autumn wind as it mutters
Something which sets the black poplars ashake with hysterical laughter;
While slowly the house of day is closing its eastern shutters.

Further down the valley the clustered tombstones recede,
Winding about their dimness the mist’s grey cerements, after
The street lamps in the darkness have suddenly started to bleed.

The leaves fly over the window and utter a word as they pass
To the face that leans from the darkness, intent, with two dark-filled eyes
That watch for ever earnestly from behind the window glass.

— D. H. Lawrence

October 12: “Temper”

Some things are damned to erupt like wildfire,

windblown, like wild lupine, like wings, one after

another leaving the stone-hole in the greenhouse glass.

Peak bloom, a brood of blue before firebrand.

And though it is late in the season, the bathers, also,

obey. One after another, they breathe in and butterfly

the surface: mimic white, harvester, spot-celled sister,

fed by the spring, the water beneath is cold.

— Beth Bachmann

October 6: “Passing Through Albuquerque”

At dusk, by the irrigation ditch
gurgling past backyards near the highway,
locusts raise a maze of calls in cottonwoods.

A Spanish girl in a white party dress
strolls the levee by the muddy water
where her small sister plunks in stones.

Beyond a low adobe wall and a wrecked car
men are pitching horseshoes in a dusty lot.
Someone shouts as he clangs in a ringer.

Big winds buffet in ahead of a storm,
rocking the immense trees and whipping up
clouds of dust, wild leaves, and cottonwool.

In the moment when the locusts pause and the girl
presses her up-fluttering dress to her bony knees
you can hear a banjo, guitar, and fiddle

playing “The Mississippi Sawyer” inside a shack.
Moments like that, you can love this country.

— John Balaban

October 2: “Faithful Forest”

1.

I will wait, said wood, and it did.
Ten years, a hundred, a thousand, a million—

It did not matter.  Time was not its measure,
Not its keeper, nor its master.

Wood was trees in those first days.
And when wood sang, it was leaves,

Which took flight and became birds.
2.

It is still forest here, the forest of used-to-be.
Its trees are the trees of memory.

Their branches—so many tongues, so many hands—
They still speak a story to those who will listen.

By only looking without listening, you will not hear the trees.
You will see only hard stone and flattened landscape,

But if you’re quiet, you will hear it.
3.

The leaves liked the wind, and went with it.
The trees grew more leaves, but wind took them all.

And then the bare trees were branches, which in their frenzy
Made people think of so many ideas—

Branches were lines on the paper of sky,
Drawing shapes on the shifting clouds

Until everyone agreed that they saw horses.
4.

Wood was also the keeper of fires.
So many people lived from what wood gave them.

The cousins of wood went so many places
Until almost nobody was left—that is the way

Of so many families.  But wood was steadfast
Even though it was hard from loneliness.  Still,

I will wait, said wood, and it did.

— Alberto Rios

September 21: “Wind”

it’s true sometimes I cannot
stop myself from spilling
the recycling

unpetalling apple blossoms raiding
a picnic
making off with napkins I’m nothing
until I happen
flipping an umbrella outside-in
throwing its owner
into a fumble
pelting the avenue with sleet or dust

at times downtown
riding over galleries of air
so full of high excitement howling
I borrow an old woman’s hat
and fling it into the road

arriving with news of the larkspur
and the bumblebee
at times embracing you so lightly
in ways you don’t even register
as touch

— James Arthur