“Shoulders” by Naomi Shihab Nye

A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.

No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.

This man carries the world’s most sensitive cargo
but he’s not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,
HANDLE WITH CARE.

His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy’s dream
deep inside him.

We’re not going to be able
to live in this world
if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing
with one another.

The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.

The above poem Shoulders. is from Red Suitcase.  (1994) It is published here with permission from The Permissions Company Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions Ltd. Thanks to Frederick T. Courtright for his prompt reply to my request to do so.

I came across this poem when I was writing my last blog in which I included a few lines from Naomi’s poem “Kindness.”

You can read about Naomi and her poetry here

There are so many ways to say what kindness is but its meaning has grown, swelled indeed, especially lately when now more than ever it is what we all need.  To me, this simple poem encapsulates the real meaning of kindness and I thank Naomi for that.

Be safe and well. Helen

Thank You Mother Earth

for reminding us

that we are based

on vibrant living matter.

For causing us

to leap and dance

and also dancing with us.

Often we have curled

into your body

sucking on your milk

pinching you with fingers nails and toes.

And when the blanket shifted

as you stretched

we perched upon your knees

or grabbed your hair.

But then when your stiff limbs

cracked

we slithered in your tears

and lost hold.

Thank you Mother Earth

for teaching us resilience

and fragility.

Did you feel the pain of it?

We do.

Christchurch 22.O2.2011

Today seemed a good day to come back after a long break. I have been off the page for a while all sorts of things and then an accident which gave me an enforced break. All on the mend now thanks to all the wonderful care and help I received. Felt very sad reliving this event today…sad for the people who were lost most of all and their loved ones; sad for the problems people have had since getting houses repaired etc. We are so vulnerable living here on Mother Earth, Papatūānuku, as we call her in Aotearoa New Zealand. We are all so dependent on nature and nature is all powerful. We tend to forget that. I personally am in awe of the power of nature, and also grateful to be a survivor of such an unforgettable event,which is why I wrote the above as a thank you poem, because mostly the natural world puts up with a great deal from us humans.  And meanwhile although I no longer live in Christchurch this beautiful city and its people are in my heart and thoughts today.

 

 

 

 

 

Enlightenment is like the moon – Dogen

Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water.
The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken.
Although its light is wide and great,
The moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide.
The whole moon and the entire sky
Are reflected in one dewdrop on the grass.

– Dogen 1200-1253

Dogen was a Japanese Zen master. You can read more about him here

Greetings to you all. There is a world of meaning in this short verse.

I hope those of you around the world in lockdown can either go outside, or look out of your window and see the moon. And  for all of you, I wish that you stay well, be safe, and be happy. Arohanui from Aotearoa New Zealand. May we not become complacent.

Afro American jazz poetry: The Weary Blues

It’s seven years since I first posted this poem in relation to a discussion on rhythm. Today I am reposting it as a thank you and a tribute to the African Americans for the wonderful heritage they have given us all. It feels like an appropriate time to do this.

So many names come to my mind ….from singers such as Paul Robeson (watch this live clip of Old Man River here) and  Billy Holiday, to poets such as Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes.  There are so many!

If you want to get with the feel of the blues try listening to this you tube clip first or as you read the poem below.

The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes

Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,
Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,
I heard a Negro play.
Down on Lenox Avenue the other night
By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light
He did a lazy sway…
He did a lazy sway…
To the tune o’ those Weary Blues.
With his ebony hands on each ivory key
He made that poor piano moan with melody.
O Blues!
Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool
He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool.
Sweet Blues!
Coming from a black man’s soul.
O Blues!
In a deep song voice with a melancholy tone
I heard that Negro sing, that old piano moan—
“Ain’t got nobody in all this world,
Ain’t got nobody but ma self.
I’s gwine to quit ma frownin’
And put ma troubles on the shelf.”

Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor.
He played a few chords then he sang some more—
“I got the Weary Blues
And I can’t be satisfied.
Got the Weary Blues
And can’t be satisfied—
I ain’t happy no mo’
And I wish that I had died.”
And far into the night he crooned that tune.
The stars went out and so did the moon.
The singer stopped playing and went to bed
While the Weary Blues echoed through his head.
He slept like a rock or a man that’s dead.

1936 photo by Carl van VechtenJames Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was an African/American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form jazz poetry.  For a much extended biography see here.  The Weary Blues is one of only a small number of Langston Hugh’s poems available in the public domain.To hear Langston himself reading The Weary Blues click here.

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Tuesday Poem-Lake Isle of Innisfree-WB Yeats

Was checking back to see what I posted eight years ago in August 2012 and found this poem with its wonderfully peaceful images. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

To hear the author himself click on the video below. I left it until last as it is  not  good quality and I wanted you to get a better idea of the words before you hear it but it is marvellous to hear Yeat’s own  lilting Irish voice.

The following note on this poem is courtesy of Wikipedia.

“When Yeats was a child, his father had read to him from Walden by Henry David Thoreau, and Yeats described his inspiration for the poem by saying that while he was a teenager, he wished to imitate Thoreau by living on Innisfree, an uninhabited island in Lough Gill.He suggests that when he was living in London, he would walk down Fleet Street and long for the seclusion of a pastoral setting such as the isle. The sound of water coming from a fountain in a shop window reminded Yeats of the lake that he had previously seen, and it is this inspiration that Yeats credits for the creation of the poem.”

For more information about WB Yeats click here.