Poetry

 
 

The Breathing Place

It must be built
by following your instinct,
as a seal finds its breathing hole in ice:
by letting yourself go into
moments that pull
like a magnet to North.
You listen quietly
until you know
the moment,
its song,
why it pulls a place in you
and like the seal
you may find an Eskimo spear
poised to strike
as you listen.

Then,
you visit your breathing place
where some moments
come, are lived quickly, and go;
others visit for years
and are still not over.

You must visit daily
so the path remains visible
as the doubts of others
try to entice you
to be their breathing place
try to make you forget
the place
you have struggled to find.

- Robert Smyth

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The Way It Is

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

- William Stafford


The Dacca Gauzes

. . . for a whole year he sought
to accumulate the most exquisite
Dacca gauzes.
–Oscar Wilde /The Picture of Dorian Gray

Those transparent Dacca gauzes
know as woven air, running
water, evening dew:

a dead art now, dead over
a hundred years. "No one
now knows," my grandmother says,

"what it was to wear
or touch that cloth." She wore
it once, an heirloom sari from

her mother's dowry, proved
genuine when it was pulled, all
six yards, through a ring.

Years later when it tore,
many handkerchiefs embroidered
with gold-thread paisleys

were distributed among
the nieces and daughters-in-law.
Those too now lost.

In history we learned: the hands
of weavers were amputated,
the looms of Bengal silenced,

and the cotton shipped raw
by the British to England.
History of little use to her,

my grandmother just says
how the muslins of today
seem so coarse and that only

in autumn, should one wake up
at dawn to pray, can one
feel that same texture again.

One morning, she says, the air
was dew-starched: she pulled
it absently through her ring.

- Agha Shahid Ali

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Mending

Here are old things:
Fraying edges,
Raveling threads;
And here are scraps of new goods,
Needles and thread,
An expectant thimble,
A pair of silver-toothed scissors.
Thimble on a finger,
New thread through an eye;
Needle, do not linger,
Hurry as you ply.
If you ever would be through
Hurry, scurry, fly!
Here are patches,
Felled edges,
Darned threads,
Strengthening old utility,
Pending the coming of the new.
Yes, I have been mending …
But also,
I have been enacting
A little travesty on life.Here are old things:
Fraying edges,
Raveling threads;
And here are scraps of new goods,
Needles and thread,
An expectant thimble,
A pair of silver-toothed scissors.
Thimble on a finger,
New thread through an eye;
Needle, do not linger,
Hurry as you ply.
If you ever would be through
Hurry, scurry, fly!
Here are patches,
Felled edges,
Darned threads,
Strengthening old utility,
Pending the coming of the new.
Yes, I have been mending …
But also,
I have been enacting
A little travesty on life.

- Hazel Hall

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I will keep broken things

I will keep broken
things:
the big clay pot
with raised iguanas
chasing their
tails; two
of their wise
heads sheared off;
I will keep broken things:
the old slave market basket brought to my door by Mississippi a jagged
hole gouged
in it's sturdy dark
oak side.

I will keep broken things:
The memory of
those long delicious night swims with you;

I will keep broken things:

In my house
there remains an honored shelf
on which I will keep broken things.

Their beauty is
they need not ever be "fixed."

I will keep your wild
free laughter though it is now missing its
reassuring and
graceful hinge.
I will keep broken things:

Thank you
So much!

I will keep broken things.
I will keep you:
pilgrim of sorrow.
I will keep myself.

- Alice Walker

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