Gratitude Day 30: Poetry

Poetry, eh?  Inspiring and inspired, reflective of our generation and sometimes creepily prophetic.  It’s the rawest form of the written word, and I always found something so satisfying about explicating it!  These days I don’t read much poetry.

(Although I’m an eternal fan of Ginsberg’s Howl.  If you’re a teacher, this is a great lesson plan for how to use the legendary poem in your classroom.

Speaking of brilliant poetry for the classroom, more ideas for teachers who want to use a ‘lil bit of Shel Silverstein right here!)

I don’t write much poetry either, but . . .

A friend of mine read me a few poems she wrote as we lazed about in Spa Castle last week.  The unexpected lyricism tickled parts of my imagination I hadn’t visited in a while.  So here’s one of the poems she read, and one of Hafiz’s gems, one of my go-to poems these days . . .

On Spring in Fall (Madeline Corbin Beal)

I will try to start anew

I will choose my words carefully

so you will know, without my telling you, that I am writing this on yellow paper

even though I am sure you are reading it on white or are hearing it in hollow air

The storm did not blow the leaves off the trees.

But it shocked them so.

24 hours after the storm had passed

the leaves fell off

all at once

in the middle of the night

leaving black wet limbs (branches, boughs)

and a stream bed turned yellow with fresh layers of poplar leaves

A footprint on the moon,

like the last kiss you left on my lips,

forever fades into loneliness

I cannot even remember the precise moment of that last kiss

So perhaps the fading began sooner/began even with the first kiss

the one so easily remembered:

an early evening mist

damp grass on flip flopped feet

damp cold that reaches in from all corners and edges

as it does only in San Francisco

in a dark foggy evening in a tiny city back yard

until the sudden instant of the reality of the coming kiss–

such sudden warmth

shivering still, your hand knocked my sunglasses, perched on my head from the sunny afternoon, to the ground

Spring is when things will begin to get easier

I know it will happen in spring

This fall air, the cold sheet of trees facing the highway

what does it mean to plagiarize a heart, to plagiarize in love?

even the fog disintegrates at dawn

even the fog leaves at dawn

fading out from the center

so imperceptible that you only notice when you see sunlight and you can’t remember the last moment you felt the dewy mist on your arms

Am I am being too obvious here?

I am sorry, but some things are obvious though they go unsaid.

Sometimes the words must lead.

Sometimes the honor of the uniform outranks the polyester reality of its indiscriminate blue,

the bizarreness of the little folded cap draping out of a back pocket

These words help to give your life, my life, something bigger. Some bigger, intimate, intricate secret.

In the end, I realize that it was only bigger because it was disparate

(it started expanding with the kiss)

When condensed back down

when all the particles are nearly touching

it can fit easily into your pocket

like a lucky pebble rubbed between your fingers while walking along the pier

(on the way to our first real date)

The tree clearly wants to be surrounded by other trees

it does not want to face the cold highway

and the many cars, minivans, semis, and contractor trucks

the tree wants this so badly that it believes it will happen.

It believes that nature is more powerful than man,

that one day the forest will rise from the highway

the roots will plow through the cars

and the leaves will shine out against the rays of sunlight.

But the tree is wrong

because man would sacrifice himself for something

that fits into the palm of his own hand.

The tree has forgotten that indeed man is nature.

This innocence is not surprising

Rising from the mist,

on the edge of the highway,

the trees are spectacular colors.

Yellow, flame orange, red, bright red

but only if you don’t look directly at them.

When you focus in, the color fades out from the center into drabness, uniform drabness.

So unlike that new green of spring

that intensifies the more you examine it,

until as you roll back a new leaf it almost becomes ridiculously green.

So green you exhale inadvertently, you exhale audibly.

So green it almost appears to be lit from within with neon

Especially poplar leaves

This is what i want now

(and what I have lost)

neon green leaves glowing from the core.

The Hafiz poem I recited to Sivananda Ashramites, Kerala, India, May 2010.

All the Hemispheres

Leave the familiar for a while.

Let your senses and bodies stretch out

Like a welcomed season

Onto the meadows and shores and hills.

Open up to the Roof.

Make a new watermark on your excitement

And love.

Like a blooming night flower,

Bestow your vital fragrance of happiness

And giving

Upon our intimate assembly.

Change rooms in your mind for a day.

All the hemispheres in existence

Lie beside an equator

In your heart.

Greet Yourself

In your thousand other forms

As you mount the hidden tide and travel

Back home.

All the hemispheres in heaven

Are sitting around a fire


While stitching themselves together

Into the Great Circle inside of


Hafiz is considered one of the greatest lyrical poets of all time.  He never actually wrote down his poetry, but only spoke it out loud or sang it when in the mood.  Some of the most respected Hafiz scholars feel that the first complete manuscript of his poems wasn’t even compiled until many years ofter his passing.

Persian poets of Hafiz’s era would often address themselves in their poems as if carrying on a conversation – giving the poems feelings of intimacy and playfulness.  Sometimes Hafiz speaks from the point of view of a seeker, sometimes from the point of view of a realized Master and guide.  His experience on the path from student to enlightened teacher is reflected in these beautiful poems … (text courtesy Daniel Ladinsky, translator of Hafiz’s “The Subject Tonight is Love” – slightly modified)

“A poet is someone who can pour light into a cup, then raise it to nourish your beautiful parched, holy mouth.”   Funny, Hafiz’s definition of a poet so closely resembles my definition of a friend.


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