on how I want to be famous

I was listening to the audio book version of a book that promised it was about mercy. The first word I heard was ‘famous.’  I was not happy. I don’t give a flying fig newton about being famous. Especially now that I am retired.  But I was walking on the treadmill, so I kept on listening. Finally I heard these lines:

I want to be famous to shuffling men who smile while crossing streets, sticky children in grocery lines, famous as the one who smiled back.  I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous, or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular, but because it never forgot what it could do.

Now that kind of famous I could aspire to. And then I heard, that the lines were from the poem ‘Famous’ by Naomi Shihab Nye. She is still one of my most favoritest poets. Her words still take my breath away and open my heart to the wonders of our world.  Here’s the poem  . . .

 

 

Famous

Naomi Shihab Nye, 1952

The river is famous to the fish.

 

The loud voice is famous to silence,

which knew it would inherit the earth

before anybody said so.

 

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds

watching him from the birdhouse.

 

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

 

The idea you carry close to your bosom

is famous to your bosom.

 

The boot is famous to the earth,

more famous than the dress shoe,

which is famous only to floors.

 

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it

and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

 

I want to be famous to shuffling men

who smile while crossing streets,

sticky children in grocery lines,

famous as the one who smiled back.

 

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,

or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,

but because it never forgot what it could do.

 

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On Life

 

 

From Rilke’s Book of Hours, Translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

I live my life in widening circles

that reach out across the world.

I may not complete this last one

but I give myself to it.

 

I circle around God, around the primordial tower.

I’ve been circling for thousands of years

And I still don’t know: am I a falcon,

A storm, or a great song?


I love this poem. It just opens my heart and makes me want to fly.

On Pauli Murray’s Dark Testament

I’ve been reading Patricia Bell-Scott’s “The Firebrand and the First Lady” which is about the friendship between Pauli Murray and Eleanor Roosevelt, Murray being the Firebrand, Roosevelt being the First Lady. Throughout the book Murray’s poem, “Dark Testament” is mentioned several times. Of course I had to go find it. And yes, as I read it I found myself struggling to catch my breath.  Have a look see for yourself.

DARK TESTAMENT: VERSE 8

Hope is a crushed stalk

Between clenched fingers

Hope is a bird’s wing

Broken by a stone.

Hope is a word in a tuneless ditty —

A word whispered with the wind,

A dream of forty acres and a mule,

A cabin of one’s own and a moment to rest,

A name and place for one’s children

And children’s children at last . . .

Hope is a song in a weary throat.

Give me a song of hope

And a world where I can sing it.

Give me a song of faith

And a people to believe in it.

Give me a song of kindliness

And a country where I can live it.

Give me a song of hope and love

And a brown girl’s heart to hear it.

 

Love, yes!

I haven’t shared any poetry here for a little while, and the other day I was reading BrainPickings, and came across this poem by e e Cummings. I found myself re-reading it, and just thinking … hmmm, yes. Yes. Love move and yes life. All places, all words. Love, yes. Yes! Love. So, I thought I would share the poem with you . . . what do you find yourself thinking?

love is a place by e e Cummings

love is a place
& through this place of
love move
(with brightness of peace)
all places

yes is a world
& in this world of
yes live
(skillfully curled)
all worlds.

For very woman who has wanted to be strong/er

Who among us has not spend a moment or two feeling tired, over wrought, overwhelmed, inadequate to the demands of the situation, feeling just not enough, feeling weak? Well, for those of us who have, I offer up this most wonderful of poems by Marge Piercy.  May it touch your heart with a gentle hand, even as it binds up your wounds and strengthens your soul!

For strong women by Marge Piercy

 

A strong woman is a woman who is straining.

A strong woman is a woman standing

on tip toe and lifting a barbell

while trying to sing Boris Godunov.

A strong woman is a woman at work

cleaning out the cesspool of the ages,

and while she shovels, she talks about

how she doesn’t mind crying, it opens

the ducts of her eyes, and throwing up

develops the stomach muscles, and

she goes on shoveling with tears in her nose.

 

A strong woman is a woman in whose head

a voice is repeating, I told you so,

ugly, bad girl, bitch, nag, shrill, witch,

ballbuster, nobody will ever love you back,

why aren’t you feminine, why aren’t

you soft, why aren’t you quiet, why

aren’t you dead?

 

A strong woman is a woman determined

to do something others are determined

not to be done. She is pushing up on the bottom

of a lead coffin lid. She is trying to raise

a manhole cover with her head, she is trying

to butt her way though a steel wall.

Her head hurts. People waiting for the hole

to be made say, hurry, you’re so strong.

 

A strong woman is a woman bleeding

inside. A strong woman is a woman making

herself strong every morning while her teeth

loosen and her back throbs. Every baby,

a tooth, midwives used to say, and now

every battle a scar. A strong woman

is a mass of scar tissue that aches

when it rains and wounds that bleed

when you bump them and memories that get up

in the night and pace in boots to and fro.

 

A strong woman is a woman who craves love

like oxygen or she turns blue choking.

A strong woman is a woman who loves

strongly and weeps strongly and is strongly

terrified and has strong needs. A strong woman is strong

in words, in action, in connection, in feeling;

she is not strong as a stone but as a wolf

sucking her young. Strength is not in her, but she

enacts it as the wind fills a sail.

 

What comforts her is other’s loving

her equally for the strength and for the weakness

from which it issues, lightning from a cloud.

Lightning stuns. In rain, the clouds disperse.

Only water of connection remains,

flowing through us. Strong is what we make together,

a strong woman is a woman strongly afraid.

Winter, Whitman and Awe

It is March in New Jersey. I want to say that everything is STILL blanketed in snow. But the truth is it more feels like everything is smothered in too much snow! And it has been, and is, and it will be brutally cold – it will be for the extent of the forecastable future. I feel like we are being stalked and haunted by winter! And of course, I am certain that all of this has befallen us because the ground hog bit the ear of the mayor! Oh, those ground hogs! Or maybe it is because last year a different mayor dropped the ground hog in Paxatawny, Pa. and that ground hog eventually died of the injuries! It is all the ground hog’s fault this hyper winterness.

And in that context, I just felt like I needed some warmth and some awe in my life. So, while there are more references to God in this poem than I typically include here today this piece from Whitman just seemed to resonate with me. I hope you enjoy it.

 

From Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (1855)

I have said that the soul is not more than the body,
And I have said that the body is not more than the soul,
And nothing, not God, is greater to one than one’s-self is,
And whoever walks a furlong without sympathy walks to his own funeral, dressed in his shroud,
And I or you pocketless of a dime may purchase the pick of the earth,
And to glance with an eye or show a bean in its pod confounds the learning of all times,
And there is no trade or employment but the young man following it may become a hero,
And there is no object so soft but it makes a hub for the wheeled universe,
And any man or woman shall stand cool and supercilious before a million universes.
And I call to mankind, Be not curious about God,
For I who am curious about each am not curious about God,
No array of terms can say how much I am at peace about God and about death.

I hear and behold God in every object, yet I understand God not in the least,
Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself.

Why should I which to see God better than this day?
I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then,
In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass;
I find letters from God dropped in the street, and everyone is signed by God’s name,
And I leave them where they are, for I know that others will punctually come forever and ever.

 

Red Brocade by Naomi Shihab Nye

Red Brocade

Naomi Shihab Nye

The Arabs used to say,
When a stranger appears at your door,
feed him for three days
before asking who he is,
where he’s come from,
where he’s headed.
That way, he’ll have strength
enough to answer.
Or, by then you’ll be
such good friends
you don’t care.

 Let’s go back to that.
Rice? Pine Nuts?
Here, take the red brocade pillow.
My child will serve water
to your horse.

 No, I was not busy when you came!
I was not preparing to be busy.
That’s the armor everyone put on
to pretend they had a purpose
in the world.

 I refuse to be claimed.
Your plate is waiting.
We will snip fresh mint
into your tea. 

© 2002 by Naomi Shihab Nye, from 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East.

 

Naomi Shihab Nye was born on March 12, 1952, in St. Louis, Missouri. Naomi Shihab Nye was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1952. Her father was a Palestinian refugee and her mother an American of German and Swiss descent Her father was a Palestinian refugee and her mother a Swiss-German-American . She spent her adolsecnece in Ramallah, Palestine; the Old City in Jerusalem; and San Antonio, Texas. Her experiences of cultural difference weaves throughout her writings. She is known for bringing a fresh perspective to the ordinary within her writing.

She earned her BA from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas where she continues to live and work.

Naomi told Contemporary Authors: “ I have always loved the gaps, the spaces between things, as much as the things. I love staring, pondering, mulling, puttering. I love the times when someone or something is late – there’s that rich possibility of noticing more in the meantime . . . poetry calls us to pause. There is so much we overlook, while the abundance around us continues to shimmer, on its own.”

I hope you enjoy Naomi’s poem and that you go out and explore more of her writings. I hope we all take a breath and pause to notice the shimmer of abundance that surrounds us. . . . Let us pause and feed each other, nurture each other until we are such good friends that we don’t care about the past or the details, that we simply cherish the humanity and dignity of each other. Let us take the time to brew a cup of fairness and justice for each other even as we snip fresh mint for that tea.

Rumi’s Seven Advices

One of my favorite poet/sages is the Sufi scholar I know as Rumi (1207-1273). His full name is Mevlânâ Celâleddin Mehed Rumi. Recently I came across a bit of writing by him knows as the ‘Seven Advices’ and I thought I would share it with you all here:

  1.  In generosity and helping others: be like the river
  2. In compassion and grace: be like the sun.
  3. In concealing others’ faults: be like the night.
  4. In anger and fury: be like the dead.
  5. In modesty and humility: be like the soil.
  6. In tolerance: be like the ocean.
  7. Either appear as you are, or: be as you appear.

Rumi wrote in the thirteenth century, and yet, these bits of advise are well taken today. Imagine a world where generosity and help flowed as freely and as powerfully as a river. Imagine a world where compassion and graciousness shone in all of our lives as brilliantly as the sun on a perfect summer day. Imagine a world where we were eager to hide others faults the way the darkness of a cloudy, starless night hides just about everything. Imagine a world where we put no energy or life into our anger or frustrations. Imagine a world where our modesty and humility were as rich and fertile as the soil of a river delta. Imagine a world where we were all as tolerant and accepting as the ocean is deep. Imagine a world were appearances were not deceiving, but what you saw was what you got, where authenticity reigned.

Imagine!

You may say I’m a dreamer.

But love and joy increase.

I hope someday you’ll join in,

and the world will be in peace.

Advice to Myself by Louise Erdrich

I love poetry.  It is a great reminder to me to just pause a moment, take a deep breath, and appreciate who I am and where I am and what might be.  So, here’s a wonderful poem by Louise Erdrich ….

“Advice to Myself” by Louise Erdrich, from Original Fire: Selected and New Poems. © Harper Collins Publishers, 2003.

Advice to Myself

Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don’t patch the cup.
Don’t patch anything. Don’t mend. Buy safety pins.
Don’t even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don’t keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll’s tiny shoes in pairs, don’t worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic-decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don’t even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don’t sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we’re all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don’t answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in though the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don’t read it, don’t read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.

You can find this online at the Writers Almanac at http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2007/05/29

It is also reprinted in Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues.

Hope it nurtures your soul the way is does mine.

Choices by Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni has been one of my most favoritest poets ever since I discovered books of poetry. When I started to read her poems, I took great heart that a nice Italian girl could write poetry like that. It gave me hope that maybe this Polish girl might could give it a try too. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that that nice Italian girl describes herself as “a Black American, a daughter, a mother, a professor of English.”  Ah well,  so much for my silly assumption based on how a name appears to me. Naming is powerful. Words are powerful. When we learn to use words, we are learning to develop our power, we are building choices for ourselves. So, check it out … Choices by Nikki Giovanni …

 

Choices

if i can’t do
what i want to do
then my job is to not
do what i don’t want
to do

it’s not the same thing
but it’s the best i can
do

if i can’t have
what i want    then
my job is to want
what i’ve got
and be satisfied
that at least there
is something more
to want

since i can’t go
where i need
to go    then i must    go
where the signs point
though always understanding
parallel movement
isn’t lateral

when i can’t express
what i really feel
i practice feeling
what i can express
and none of it is equal
i know
but that’s why mankind
alone among the animals
learns to cry
—Nikki Giovanni

If you like this, check out these links to learn more and read more by Nikki Giovanni http://www.afropoets.net/nikkigiovanni.html
http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Choices-by-Nikki-Giovanni#ixzz2uSROXMDb

We all have to make choices in our lives. For sure not all of the choices are what we might have most wanted. Sometimes we find ourselves between a rock and a hard place. Sometimes we must discern between the lesser of two evils. But, choose we must. Let us always find a way to choose the path with heart. We can always find a way to imbue the path with heart, to love the one you’re with!