Brent Bill

THURSDAY

Jul. 3, 2014

The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor

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How the Trees on Summer Nights Turn into a Dark River

by Barbara Crooker

how you can never reach it, no matter how hard you try,
walking as fast as you can, but getting nowhere,
arms and legs pumping, sweat drizzling in rivulets;
each year, a little slower, more creaks and aches, less breath.
Ah, but these soft nights, air like a warm bath, the dusky wings
of bats careening crazily overhead, and you’d think the road
goes on forever. Apollinaire wrote, “What isn’t given to love
is so much wasted,” and I wonder what I haven’t given yet.
A thin comma moon rises orange, a skinny slice of melon,
so delicious I could drown in its sweetness. Or eat the whole
thing, down to the rind. Always, this hunger for more.

"How the Trees on Summer Nights Turn into a Dark River," by Barbara Crooker from More. © C & R Press, 2010. From the Writers Almanac (buy now)

Vernal Sentiment

by Theodore Roethke

Though the crocuses poke up their heads in the usual places,
The frog scum appear on the pond with the same froth of green,
And boys moon at girls with last year’s fatuous faces,
I never am bored, however familiar the scene.

When from under the barn the cat brings a similar litter,—
Two yellow and black, and one that looks in between,—
Though it all happened before, I cannot grow bitter:
I rejoice in the spring, as though no spring ever had been.

"Vernal Sentiment" by Theodore Roethke from The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke. © Anchor Books, 1974. (buy now)

If I say that He is within me, the universe is ashamed:
If I say that He is without me, it is falsehood.
He makes the inner and the outer worlds to be indivisibly one;
The conscious and the unconscious, both are His footstools.
He is neither manifest nor hidden, revealed nor unrevealed:
There are no words to tell that which He is.”

The Songs of Kabir, translated by Rabindranath Tagore and Evelyn Underhill:

In My Long Night

by Charles Simic

I have toiled like a spider at his web
In the dome of a church
Where only the upraised eyes of martyrs
In their torments could see me.

Where one cold spring day,
With rumors of war in the air,
My young parents brought me
To be baptized by the priest.

Where years after, my grandmother
Was to lie in an open coffin
Looking pleased to be done with
Having to bury other people.

Where I once saw a crow walk in,
Lured by the gold on the altar
And the light the candles cast,
While I dangled up there by a thread.

"In My Long Night" by Charles Simic from Master of Disguises. © Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010.  (buy now)

From “The Writer’s Almanac”

The House at Rest

On a dark night
Kindled in love with yearnings—
Oh, happy chance!—

I went forth unobserved,
My house being now at rest.
- St. John of the Cross

How does one hush one’s house,
each proud possessive wall, each sighing rafter,
the rooms made restless with
remembered laughter
or wounding echoes, the permissive doors,
the stairs that vacillate from up to down,
windows that bring in color and event
from countryside or town,
oppressive ceilings and complaining floors?

The house must first of all accept the night.
Let it erase the walls and their display,
impoverish the rooms till they are filled
with humble silences; let clocks be stilled
and all the selfish urgencies of day.

Midnight is not the time to greet a guest.
Caution the doors against both foes and friends,
and try to make the windows understand
their unimportance when the daylight ends.
Persuade the stairs to patience, and deny the passages
their aimless to and fro.
Virtue it is that puts a house at rest.
How well repaid that tenant is, how blest
who, when the call is heard,
is free to take his kindled heart and go.

Jessica Powers

An excerpt from “A Toast” by Ilya Kaminsky

Bless each thing on earth until it sickens, 
until each ungovernable heart admits: “I confused myself 
 
and yet I loved—and what I loved 
I forgot, what I forgot brought glory to my travels, 
 
to you I traveled as close as I dared, Lord.”

Time Enough

by Dennis O’Driscoll

The tally of years
added up so rapidly
it appeared I had
been short-changed,
tricked by sleight
of hand, fallen victim
to false bookkeeping.

Yet when I checked
my records, each
and every year had
been accounted for,
down to the last day,
and could be audited
against old diary entries
(client briefings,
dental check-ups,
parent-teacher meetings,
wedding anniversaries),
verified with credit
card statements
(multi-trip insurance,
antibiotics, concert bookings,
mobile top-ups).

And, although
nagging doubts
remained—an 
inkling that I had
been ripped off
in some way,
given short shrift,
made to live at an
accelerated pace,
rushed through
my routines with
unseemly haste—
nothing could be proved,
no hard and fast
statistics adduced.

I had, it seems,
unknown to me,
been living my
life to the full.

"Time Enough" by Dennis O’Driscoll, from Dear Life. © Copper Canyon Press.  (buy now)

From “The Writer’s Almanac”

What You Sometimes Feel on Your Face at Night

Out of mist, God’s
Blind hand gropes to find
Your face. The fingers
Want to memorize your face. The fingers
Will be wet with the tears of your eyes. God
Wants only to love you, perhaps.

Robert Penn Warren
Source: Or Else

Half the Truth

by Jack Gilbert

The birds do not sing in these mornings. The skies
are white all day. The Canadian geese fly over
high up in the moonlight with the lonely sound
of their discontent. Going south. Now the rains
and soon the snow. The black trees are leafless,
the flowers gone. Only cabbages are left
in the bedraggled garden. Truth becomes visible,
the architecture of the soul begins to show through.
God has put off his panoply and is at home with us.
We are returned to what lay beneath the beauty.
We have resumed our lives. There is no hurry now.
We make love without rushing and find ourselves
afterward with someone we know well. Time to be
what we are getting ready to be next. This loving,
this relishing, our gladness, this being puts down
roots and comes back again year after year.

"Half the Truth" by Jack Gilbert from Collected Poems. © Knopf, 2012. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)