Tag Archives: poetry

Whatever is foreseen in joy

Whatever is foreseen in joy
Must be lived out from day to day.
Vision held open in the dark
By our ten thousand days of work.
Harvest will fill the barn; for that
The hand must ache, the face must sweat.

And yet no leaf or grain is filled
By work of ours; the field is tilled
And left to grace. That we may reap,
Great work is done while we’re asleep.

When we work well, a Sabbath mood
Rests on our day, and finds it good.

~ Wendell Berry, from A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997

I Love You The Brownest

Madeline, my (nearly) 10-year-old daughter, had to write a poem for a school assignment last week. She has kindly given permission to me to post it here.

I Love You The Brownest

I love you, Dad, the brownest.

Your beard is like a soft bear’s fur.
I love you like creamy chocolate.

I love you like a sweet gingerbread
cookie, like the chewy taste of caramel.

I love you like the smell of warm,
fresh baked chocolate cake. I love you like
the fuzziness of the cat-tail plant, like the
wheat field swaying in the breeze.

I love you like the oak tree’s rough
bark and I love you like a monkey’s fur
as it swings madly through the trees.

I love you like the rolling hiss and warm,
creamy hot cocoa after being out in the
cold winter.

I love you, Dad, the brownest.

~ Madeline Vandersluys (December 2012)

Some sabbath poems

Came across these during some morning “fun” (i.e. non-assignment) reading this morning.


I dream of a quiet man
who explains nothing and defends
nothing, but only knows
where the rarest wildflowers
are blooming, and who goes,
and finds that he is smiling
not by his own will.

* * *


What consolation it is, after
the explanations and the predictions
of further explanations still
to come, to return unpersuaded
to the woods, entering again
the presence of the blessed trees.
A tree forms itself in answer
to its place and to the light.
Explain it how you will, the only
thing explainable will be
your explanation. There is
in the woods on a summer’s
morning, birdsong all around
from guess where, nowhere
that rigid measure which predicts
only humankind’s demise.

(Both from “Sabbaths 1999” in Wendell Berry’s Given: Poems)

My work is loving the world


My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird–
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

— Mary Oliver (Thirst)

Another poem

From Keillor’s Good Poems for Hard Times. In the tradition of Ogden Nash.

Carnation Milk

Carnation Milk is the best in the land;
Here I sit with a can in my hand–
No tits to pull, no hay to pitch,
You just punch a hole in the son of a bitch.


I’d like to read more poetry. It’s not a resolution for the year, but simply something I’ve wanted to do for some time. The problem was I didn’t know where to start and my university education had inadvertently discouraged me from reading poetry. Studying quite a bit of modernist literature and criticism (such as T.S. Eliot) left me with the impression that unless I carried all of western literature under my belt, poetry was out of my reach. In fact, it nearly left me with the impression that literature in general is an impregnable fortress, entry into which should only be attempted by cranky, elitist types like the modernist writers themselves (as was my impression of them).

And so I’ve read The Great Gatsby a number of times, but with trembling hands. I am afraid of Virginia Woolf (hee hee), D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, and the whole gamut of modernist writers.  It also left me with a nagging concern about whether I’m “getting” what I’m reading or whether I missed something important.

But I digress.

One of my Christmas presents this year was Good Poems for Hard Times, compiled by Garrison Keillor. I will begin there. Keillor’s introduction urges the reader to forget or at least move past all the elitist stuff about poetry he or she may have picked up over the years and get on with the business of reading the poetry.  And so I shall.

They’ve been good so far.  This one stopped me, though:

At the Arraignment (Debra Spencer)

The courtroom walls are bare and the prisoner wears
a plastic bracelet, like in a hospital. Jesus stands beside him.
The bailiff hands the prisoner a clipboard and he puts his
thumbprint on the sheet of white paper. The judge asks,

What is your monthly income? A hundred dollars.
How do you support yourself? As a carpenter, odd jobs.
Where are you living? My friend’s garage.
What sort of vehicle do you drive? I take the bus.
How do you plead? Not guilty. The judge sets bail
and a date for the prisoner’s trial, calls for the interpreter
so he may speak to the next prisoners.
In a good month I eat, the third one tells him.
In a bad month I break the law.

The judge sighs. The prisoners
are led back to jail with a clink of chains.
Jesus goes with them. More prisoners
are brought before the judge.

Jesus returns and leans against the wall near us,
gazing around the courtroom. The interpreter reads a book.
The bailiff, weighed down by his gun, stands
with arms folded, alert and watchful.
We are only spectators, careful to speak
in low voices. We are so many. If we—make a sound,
the bailiff turns toward us, looking stern.

The judge sets bail and dates for other trials,
bringing his gavel down like a little axe.
Jesus turns to us. If you won’t help them, he says
then do this for me. Dress in silks and jewels,
and then go naked. Be stoic, and then be prodigal.
Lead exemplary lives, then go down into prison
and be bound in chains. Which of us has never broken a law?
I died for you-a desperate extravagance, even for me.
If you can’t be merciful, at least be bold.

The judge gets up to leave.

The stern bailiff cries, All rise. (Good Poems for Hard Times, pp. 28-9)

It’s not your classic poetic form, but still…

Of course, I’m still wondering if I “get” it, but that has led to pondering, which is a good thing.