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January is a month to reflect. Poetry opens the ion trail, the tracks. With thanks to Arthur Sze.

Comet Hyakutake
by Arthur Sze

Comet Hyakutake’s tail stretches for 360 million miles—

in 1996, we saw Hyakutake through binoculars—

the ion tail contains the time we saw bats emerge out of a cavern at dusk—

in the cavern, we first heard stalactites dripping—

first silence, then reverberating sound—

our touch reverberates and makes a blossoming track—

a comet’s nucleus emits X-rays and leaves tracks—

two thousand miles away, you box up books and, in two days, will step through the
invisible rays of an airport scanner—

we write on invisible pages in an invisible book with invisible ink—

in nature’s infinite book, we read a few pages—

in the sky, we read the ion tracks from the orchard—

the apple orchard where blossoms unfold, where we unfold—

budding, the child who writes, “the puzzle comes to life”—

elated, puzzled, shocked, dismayed, confident, loving: minutes to an hour—

a minute, a pinhole lens through which light passes—

Comet Hyakutake will not pass earth for another 100,000 years—

no matter, ardor is here—

and to the writer of fragments, each fragment is a whole—


It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.

It could, you know. That’s why we wake
and look out — no guarantees
in this life.

But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
like evening.

~ William Stafford ~

(The Way It Is)

We, in the northern hemisphere, are turning toward fall, shorter days, longer nights, craving foods that are orange, rich with vitamin A, to nourish our eyes.

A bird just chirped outside my window with a message given and received. Time. Tier time.

My son and his wife are moving to England for a year, and I am aware of stretching the moments of this next 28 days, of building a scaffold of support.

I think now of the neck of the giraffe. The giraffe has seven vertebrae, as do we, and yet, each one of theirs can be over ten inches long. The giraffe’s heart is 2 feet long and weighs about 25 pounds. Its lungs can hold 12 gallons of air. In this moment, I’m envisioning myself as a giraffe with a long, flexible neck, a huge heart, and lungs moist with care. I find myself in tears these days, tears liquid with love.

My son is making a film and, through it, I feel myself in the workings of his mind, as he once was in me. I am touched, punctured perhaps, as with the song of the little bird this morning. And so this poem comes, brought from a bird, reminding me to trust and continuously build and replenish an inner nest.

Inner Nest

Bird drops notes outside my window,
ear cups thimble
air woven in tiers

I am savoring an article by Tony Hoagland in the American Poetry Review where he discusses the poetry of Marie Howe, Jane Hirshfield, and Linda Gregg.

As we’ve discussed here, writing poetry can put one in touch with the stirrings within and can stir a deeper resonance with what connects perception to the view outside.

Hoagland writes:

“A spiritual poet is one seeking alignment with the laws of creation; with that which is above and beyond the human. In our era, even to remember such parameters exist is difficult when the priority and scale of the manmade proclaims itself from every TV and cell phone conversation.”

Today I am the dance of spring.

Plants reach to stroke the notes left by birds.

I am invited by Jane Hirshfield to be porous.

The Supple Deer

The quiet opening
between fence strands
perhaps eighteen inches.

Antlers to hind hooves,
four feet off the ground,
the deer poured through.

No tuft of the coarse white belly hair left behind.

I don’t know how a stag turns
into a stream, an arc of water.
I have never felt such accurate envy.

Not of the deer:

To be that porous, to have such largeness pass through me.

– Jane Hirshfield

Here is Mary Oliver with just one of her many poems on the importance of mindfulness and appreciation for this world we share.


Every day
I see or hear
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for –
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world –
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant –
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these –
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

~ Mary Oliver ~

(Why I Wake Early)

The October 2010 Ode Magazine has an excellent article on “Reading, Writing, and Revelation.”

“The Tumor Biology Center in Freiberg, Germany carried out a three-year study in which cancer sufferers recovering from chemotherapy or surgery took part in poetry therapy. Their assignment: Write about the emotions triggered by their disease. The researchers concluded that patients’ well-being improved after they wrote about their feelings.”

Judi Goldberg received treatment for a brain tumor ten years ago.  She, too, used poetry to help her through and also to look back to process what occurred.   I benefit from reading her poetry as well as writing and reading my own.  We learn together, whether we are the one in or the one through with treatment, or the one in support.  Writing is a tool to understand.  Here is one of Judi’s poems.


looking back I guess to look forward
to remind and remember the capturing of a mind
and the tendering of a heart

to the having of endless moments
otherwise taken up with sickness
that is still life not a still life
thing is thing was being sick
was only the half of it

I am not the same
I was never the same
or I was always the same
am the same like the river
or the axe with a new handle
and then a new head

I gulp or sigh
I breath deeply and exhale from the deep
I make noise

I knew I didn’t want to die
more importantly I wanted to live
I did live am living
am not at all the same
or am even more of the same
and the mind which I minded
the life that I mind which I mind
which takes minding
it was about redecorating the interiors

it was life, my life
it took a toll I charged a toll
I am rich now

and now I am still that person
and of course not that person at all
my vision has changed, no really

– Judi Goldberg

Anne Carson in her book, If Not, Winter, presents fragments of the poetry of Sappho, who lived on the island of Lesbos about 630 B.C.  Fragments of her writing have been found preserved on papyrus.  As I read these words, I think of how we attempt to write in a connected form.  What is conveyed when our words are separated from each other? Is that how it is when we move in and out of friendship, adjustment that may lead to something new?

I am enamored with the following.  The brackets show there is something lost before and after and yet what we are left with is perfect.  My head clears with the image of  “barefoot thought,” my interpretation of what is left preserved.




] thought

] barefoot





David Abram in Spell of the Sensuous wrote, “Only if words are felt, bodily presences, like echoes or waterfalls, can we understand the power of spoken language to influence, alter and transform the perceptual world.”

Jane and I spoke to each other in the morning over the phone, and then, we each wrote, and then, we again spoke to each other to read to the other what we had written. I believe that allowed us to feel our words as “bodily presences, like echoes or waterfalls.”

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Cathy and Jane started writing together during Cathy's illness, and that writing became a blog, which then became a book!

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