Why this?

The occasional poem of my own and a generous helping of work by others that I find inspiring. Site is named for a beloved book by one of my favorite writers, Italo Calvino, whose fanciful work lights--and delights--my soul.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Past

What we remember of it
is what we began to memorize 
as children, rehearsing 
the same scenes again and again
until we got them perfect,
the father, the mother, the sister
entering from left to right,
obeying the arrows and Xs
chalked onto the stage,
saying their lines precisely 
as we would have them said
until these dramas were fixed
in tableaux, enameled mannequins
nodding in storefronts,
raising their hands to comfort
or strike, while our shapes
in the shimmering glass
appear to be standing among them.
And if someone should call
one of our scenes into question,
we rush to its defense, 
afraid that the window will crack
and collapse with a crash
and we will have nowhere to turn
to see ourselves reflected 
in what we have so carefully
created and directed.

--Ted Kooser

A Mouse in a Trap

A tiny wood raft was afloat
on the cold gray sea
of the cellar floor, and to it
a dead mouse clung,
trailing its legs and tail, the ship
of the rest of its life
swallowed up without leaving
so much as a ripple.
I felt the firm deck of the day
tilt just a little, as if all of us
living, surviving, had rushed
to one side to look down.

--Ted Kooser

Changing Drivers

Their nondescript, late-model car 
is pulled off on the windy shoulder, 
its doors flung wide, and the driver 
gets out, gripping the roof with a hand 
and lifting himself just as the woman 
gets out of her side, both of them stiff, 
both kneading the small of their backs, 
rolling their heads on their necks, 
squinting into the midday sun. 
Then the driver starts out around 
the front bumper, swinging his legs 
as if they weren't his, his thin hair lifting, 
just as the woman straightens herself 
and sets out around the trunk, holding 
her permanent's white curls in place 
with both hands, both man and woman 
calling a few words back and forth 
across the axis of the car's hot roof 
as they stoop and fit themselves inside 
and the car's springs settle a little, 
and each of them reaches a long way out 
to pull the doors shut, her door first 
then his, and they rock and shift, 
fastening their belts, then both of them 
lean forward, almost simultaneously, 
and peer into their side-view mirrors 
to see whatever is bearing down 
from wherever they've been, and together 
they ease out over the crunching gravel 
onto the highway and move on.

--Ted Kooser

An Incident

On the sidewalk in front of the parking garage, a blind man who has fallen is attended by three firemen, a medic, and two policemen, all of whom squat on their heels and by so doing cover the fallen man with shadow. He sits among them with his legs splayed out, undoubtedly feeling their shadows putting cool hands on his face, and he reaches out a long way through darkness to rest his white fingers on the shoulder of his seeing-eye dog, a big, dull-looking black retriever, whose tongue is dripping, for this is a warm day in October, the afternoon sun tiny but fierce in the sky. The dog's plain face is bright with uneasy patience and the blind man's eyes are wide and white, as if a hand had risen up from the darkness inside him and taken his heart in its grip and pulled him down.

Two fire trucks and a squad car idle in the street. People are stopping nearby to see what has happened and what will happen next. Each of us is filled to the throat with some part of the same one fear, as if we had been gathered here to bear it away, and now a few of us turn from the fallen man and walk away or get back into our cars, each of us carrying part of the man's great fear, and it seems that perhaps because of this he now is feeling better, as he gets to his feet in the opening circle and shakes out his arms as if he were suddenly lighter. 

--Ted Kooser

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Little Creative Energy to Fly: A Tribute

"So we are fortunate that our memories give us a time machine to a past that seems immediate and not quaint, that is in color and not in black and white, and that those memories are often sharpened and deepened by the holidays. If we have a moment to pause and reflect (before or after shopping and eating) they might offer us a little creative energy to fly—or at least float in a dignified manner—all the way into the New Year."

--Deb Atherton, aka, One Shimmering Lady

Friday, December 12, 2014

Gate 4-A

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been detained four hours, I heard an announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate 4-A understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.”  Well – one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there. An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly. “Help,” said the Flight Service Person. “Talk to her. What is her problem?  We told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”  I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke to her haltingly. “Shu dow-a, Shu-bid-uck Habibti? Stani schway, Min fadlick, Shu-bit-se-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the next day. I said, “You’re fine, you’ll get there, who is picking you up? Let’s call him.” We called her son and I spoke with him in English. I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and would ride next to her – Southwest.

She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for fun. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends.  Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know and let them chat with her? This all took up about two hours. She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life, patting my knee, answering questions.  She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies – little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts – out of her bag – and was offering them to all the women at the gate.  To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the lovely woman from Laredo – we were all covered with the same powdered sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie. And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers and two little girls from our flight ran around serving us all apple juice and they were covered with powdered sugar too. And I noticed my new best friend – by now we were holding hands – had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere. And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought, this is the world I want to live in.  The shared world. Not a single person in this gate – once the crying of confusion stopped – seemed apprehensive about any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too. This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.

--Naomi Shihab Nye

Inexorable Deities

Deities!
Inexorable revealers,
Give me strength to endure
The gifts of the Muses,
Daughters of Memory.
When the sky is blue as Minerva’s eyes
Let me stand unshaken;
When the sea sings to the rising sun
Let me be unafraid;
When the meadow lark falls like a meteor
Through the light of afternoon,
An unloosened fountain of rapture,
Keep my heart from spilling
Its vital power;
When at the dawn
The dim souls of crocuses hear the calls
Of waking birds,
Give me to live but master the loveliness.
Keep my eyes unharmed from splendors
Unveiled by you,
And my ears at peace
Filled no less with the music
Of Passion and Pain, growth and change.
But O ye sacred and terrible powers,
Reckless of my mortality,
Strengthen me to behold a face,
To know the spirit of a beloved one
Yet to endure, yet to dare!

--Edgar Lee Masters

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Meeting After Many Years

Our words were a few colorful leaves
afloat on a very old silence,
the kind with a terrifying undertow,
and we stood right at its edge,
wrapping ourselves in our own arms
because of the chill, and with old voices
called back and forth acoss all those years
until we could bear it no longer,
and turned from each other,
and walked away into our countries.

--Ted Kooser