March 28, 2009

"Cook", by Jane Hirshfield

Poetry Radio Project: Jane Hirshfield

Poet Jane Hirshfield read this poem for us on our March 28, 2009 Splendid Table show. Find more poems by Jane Hirshfield online at the Poetry Foundation.



Each night you come home with five continents on your hands:
garlic, olive oil, saffron, anise, coriander, tea,
your fingernails blackened with marjoram and thyme.
Sometimes the zucchini's flesh seems like a fish-steak,
cut into neat filets, or the salt-rubbed eggplant
yields not bitter water, but dark mystery.
You cut everything to bits.
No core, no kernel, no seed is sacred: you cut
onions for hours and do not cry,
cut them to thin transparencies, the red ones
spreading before you like fallen flowers;
you cut scallions from white to green, you cut
radishes, apples, broccoli, you cut oranges, watercress,
romaine, you cut your fingers, you cut and cut
beyond the heart of things, where
nothing remains, and you cut that too, scoring coup
on the butcherblock, leaving your mark,
when you go
your feet are as pounded as brioche dough.

Copyright 1988 by Jane Hirshfield. Reprinted from Of Gravity & Angels with permission from Wesleyan University Press.

February 20, 2009

Rest in your own being

Rest in your own being 2/20/09

Rest in your own being
there’s no where to go
nothing to do

Let yourself rest in your own being
no struggles
no puzzles

Just rest in your own being
nothing to solve
nothing to fix

Rest in your own enoughness
nowhere to go
nothing to do

Radical acceptance
nothing to ask
nothing is required

Rest in your goodenoughness
nothing to solve
nothing to fix

Rest in the cradle of your own being
nothing to need
nothing to long for

Rest in the cradle of your own enoughness
nowhere to go
nothing to do

Rest in the cradle
no struggles

December 15, 2008

Going Inside

by Jerry McClelland

(moderator's note - This entry first appeared in the comments section....)

When I was a child I was wild-haired, barefoot, and joyous during the summers. Only for church on Sunday mornings would I have to wear a dress and shoes, have my hair curled and in place, and mind my manners. On the other days, I pulled on faded, un-ironed hand-me-down shorts and shirts and after breakfast, my work on the farm and play with my older sisters took me outside. That would be O-U-T-S-I-D-E. I climbed fences, ladders, trees, and buildings; I walked and ran through the dust of droughts, rain, manure, (slow) quick sand, corn rows, pastures, streams, and snow; I touched the earth where it is hard, wet, slimy, sharp, stinky, hot, cold and where the wild, purple violets grew; and when I bathed at night my mother would look at my bruises and say, “Child, your legs look like a battlefield.? Aside from bathing, brushing teeth, and combing my hair once a day, the main rule for summer was: do not get behind a moving piece of farm equipment. Everything else was wide open.

At 19, I left home for the University of Missouri, and I seldom went outside again for 35 years. In early adulthood, I turned indoors because that was where I found the activities of learning in college, pastimes, learning my teaching craft, and city living. The routine in my 30s, 40s and early 50s was to go from house to car, car to office, office to stores. Professing was indoors: preparing to teach, teaching, advising, writing, wrangling over budgets and permission to interview subjects, interviewing, analyzing text, presenting papers—all indoors. I went outdoors for my son, taking him on walks and bike rides, and there were also a few short forays outside for my own enjoyment. I once camped in northern Minnesota with a friend, fished a few times with my parents in Canada, and I hiked a short, ancient trail on the Mediterranean coast. Usually, I did not linger when I went outdoors, always driven by the need to get right back to my responsibilities for work and my son and husband. After some years, I more or less forgot the outdoors was there.

December 8, 2008

Poem - When I Was the Muse, by Kate Daniels

When I Was the Muse
- Kate Daniels

When the painter said, OK, you guys,
take off your clothes! I startled at the plural,
assuming I'd been engaged to model by myself.
But then the dark-skinned god I knew as Aaron
from my Econ class unzipped his jeans,
and dropped them, grinning, on the floor.
So I did, too, and clambered up beside him
on the plywood box that elevated us above
the clutch of paint-stained easels. Thoughtfully,
the students posed our naked bodies. Someone fluffed
the crispy hair between my legs into a dark brown
bristling fan. And someone pinched the sides
of Aaron's face to pinken up his cheeks.
Privately, I installed myself inside that mental space
where I had hidden as a child when the world
could be aborted no other way . . .

It was part of my plan to walk unclothed
among the portraits my unclad body
had provoked. So when we broke
for lunch, the students lunging in a herd
out back to smoke, I did. If you had asked me
then why I modeled, I'd have said,
to overcome my bourgeois insecurities,
to combat my fear of what might happen
if I showed myself completely naked
to someone else. But if you asked me now?
I'd describe the privilege of walking among
a museum of strangers' images devoted to oneself,
and tell you what a privilege it was to see myself
the varied ways that others did.

Some silly fellow had painted nipples on me the size
and shape of frying eggs. Another jokester
had shrunk them down as small as M&Ms.
But someone serious and sad had shared a vision
of my head as a clotted orb of hair and mouth,
and brushed in underneath, a body headless
as the horseman in the myth. Then I seemed
to walk into the darkroom of my mind's own eye
and saw the self I'd always felt inside but never known:
a complicated, unsmiling creature with a fear-tinged face.
Around her the aura of something golden was fighting
with whip-like straps of something black. She was staring
straight into the future, trying to get out, trying
to conceal her fear, completely unaware
of how it glistened and glowed, and of how
irresistible it was for the artist to spread it
across the canvas so that everyone could see.

Poem - The Fall by George Bilgere

The Fall
- George Bilgere

Although there were no witnesses
In the hallway outside the women's room
Of the Hotel Coronado,
When my aunt stumbled
And fell to her knees on the ancient marble

It must have been like the swordsman
Falling in The Seven Samurai,
A whole dynasty collapsing,
Falling out of its bones

Into the mud. I was reading
The sports section in the lobby
When a boy, probably sixteen or so,
Ran in and called my name.
An old woman has fallen, he said,
Frightened that something
So enormous could happen, that fate
Should cast him as an emissary
Announcing dynastic collapse
Instead of just a high school kid,

And I stood up and ran to her
Although I'm fifty-six now, and breaking
Into a spontaneous run feels like
Trying out a language you'd lost
As a kid who'd swapped countries.

And there she sat, lean and elegant,
Like an athlete who'd collapsed
From sheer exhaustion, her legs
Drawn up to her chin as she fought
To lift the whole city again,

The crumbling Coronado,
Where Miles Davis used to jam,
And the Continental, where the Gershwins
Hung out at the Tack Room,
And the abandoned Fox Theater
Where she saw Olivier's Hamlet

And even the boarded up
Forest Park Boat house, where her father
Used to take her for ice cream
In the sweltering St. Louis summers.

An old woman has fallen.