The Darkling Thrush

I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.

– Thomas Hardy

Hardy became frustrated with the response to his novels, especially Tess and Jude (1895) and only wrote poetry for the rest of his life. He wrote around 600 poems in his life and many help understand his sense of tenderness, realism, and tragedy. 

 

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Here

After it ended badly it got so much better
which took a while of course but still
he grew so tender & I so grateful
which maybe tells you something about how it was
I’m trying to tell you I know you
have staggered wept spiraled through a long room
banging your head against it holding crushed
bird skulls in your hands your many hearts unstrung
unable to play a note their wood still beautiful
& carved so elaborately maybe a collector would want them
stupid collectors always preserving & never breaking open
the jars so everyone starves while admiring the view
you don’t own anyone everything will be taken from you
go ahead & eat this poem please it will help

– Kim Addonizio

Early October Snow

It will not stay.
But this morning we wake to pale muslin
stretched across the grass.
The pumpkins, still in the fields, are planets
shrouded by clouds.
The Weber wears a dunce cap
and sits in the corner by the garage
where asters wrap scarves
around their necks to warm their blooms.
The leaves, still soldered to their branches
by a frozen drop of dew, splash
apple and pear paint along the roadsides.
It seems we have glanced out a window
into the near future, mid-December, say,
the black and white photo of winter
carefully laid over the present autumn,
like a morning we pause at the mirror
inspecting the single strand of hair
that overnight has turned to snow.

– Robert Haight

Losses

General Petraeus, when the death-count of American troops
in Iraq was close to 3,800, said ‘The truth is you never do get
used to losses. There is a kind of bad news vessel with holes,

and sometimes it drains, then it fills up, then it empties again’—
leaving, in this particular case, the residue of a long story
involving one soldier who, in the course of his street patrol,

tweaked the antenna on the TV in a bar hoping for baseball,
but found instead the snowy picture of men in a circle talking,
all apparently angry and perhaps Jihadists. They turned out to be

reciting poetry. ‘My life’, said the interpreter, ‘is like a bag of flour
thrown through wind into empty thorn bushes’. Then ‘No, no’, he said,
correcting himself. ‘Like dust in the wind. Like a hopeless man.’

– Andrew Motion

Notes to Self

The following are a collection of my sometimes banal, sometimes lifesaving affirmations/words of love/things to remember that have polka-dotted this blog over six years. Ignore the irrelevant and skip to the one that might be looking for you this minute.

  • We are all within reach; no one is more than a call, a trip, or a note away. Make the world smaller. Find the ones you want and pull them in.
  • See the grit not as dirt to be avoided to keep yourself clean, but as the hard and necessary people and trials that give you courage and make your pearl shine. This is your oyster. This will be your great impact in a soft combustion of sound from a heart stronger than you can ever imagine. Listen. {lub dup… lub dup… lub dup…} Test that heart. Never be reluctant with any muscle. Use it and it will burn inside you day and night, making love while you sleep and bringing more in each day. Such a small thing with so much work to do, indeed the only work to be done, that will make your mark in this history.
  • Be open to it all, to the risk of being gutted, and go on when someone gives up on you.
  • What matters tremendously is how you fill yourself up, the content that instigates your thoughts and endeavors, the way you spend your days, and the people you tie your time to, purposely or by apathetic association. Who you are today is who you will have been tomorrow.
  • Don’t be an asshole.
  • Allow for a moment that you can hold all your heart requires. The world is so much bigger than these towns. You don’t have to think less to live smaller in scale. Don’t block the view. Choose who you make your home with carefully. Choose to honor and admire, to be relished and esteemed. What you feel is real. What is real is what you feel. This is true only in each moment.
  • It isn’t until you ask the stars for the key to your affection, until you articulate your desire, that your dreams can materialize. Such ambitions need your voice to fuel forward. So hike up your hems, stand on your tiptoes, inch closer in line, and be an omnivore of delight.
  • The Earth is full of people and paper and pens and time. It can be enough. Connect the dots. Creativity is only a matter of matching this with that, reconceiving wheels, and taking someone somewhere.
  • Test your pleasures. Dependence is measured in your ability to choose proximity.
  • Don’t BE because you feel you must; choose to be present to prove your pleasures, fulfill the desires only stars know, and hold close all that your heart requires.
  • Hold your head high, heavy heart.
  • If you feel critiqued incessantly, you begin to forget who you are. People who are preoccupied with criticism have no room to be original or to produce anything. They’re just reiterating the lines that keep us in convenient, digestible boxes. You are cage-less, boundless, without limit. Keep your heart free, no matter the times it is lost.
  • When you’ve been to hell and back, when you know what that tastes like, just breathing in this world feels like a gift. You can see those souls by their deliberate presence, their pause before judgement, and their delectation for what the rest of us ignore. When you meet these people, do not let them go. Surround yourself with them, ask questions, take pleasure in their pleasure.
  • Listen to the stillness. The crisp, cold air demands you turn your breath back to your chest. Everything is going to be alright. Whisper it out loud: Everything is going to be alright.
  • There isn’t a perfect decision to be made, but you do have to decide.
  • Once you are able to listen to your breath, search the strength in your self-efficacy, and step into the life you’ve made for this moment alone, your fists will unfold, your heart will open, your face will soften, and things will begin to be more than alright. Remember, at its worst, no feeling exists in perpetuity and once you take back the many tiny decisions that drive your days, things can be inconceivably marvelous.
  • Participate in your own one (one!) hallowed life.
  • Don’t let the world make you hard, packed, unyielding, and obdurate. Don’t allow it to rob you of your resolve. You are strong and steadfast.
  • The past needs forgiveness and you can not worry about the future. Keep moving, but be present above the fray, above the debates in your head, above the endless opinions around you.
  • This moment is the only true reciprocal gift you have with yourself. Listen to the stillness.
  • Happiness isn’t enough. Demand everyday rapture because it’s right there above you.
  • Don’t apologize for getting carried away. Don’t be too careful or pragmatic. Let the wind pick you up and sweep your soul into the mystery that is the next moment. Inside you are an infinite number of dear things, beyond any measure of worth, their value above anything defined. No one can ever take that from you, but it is yours to share, to overflow, and to put in the wind, so that the night can sing your song to the moon.
  • Things of value have no fear of lasting, because they will survive anywhere. You are the same. Stop holding yourself back from starting anew and live as you want to be.
  • Aim high, make the best effort, and forgive yourself if you have to fall. Surround yourself with the people who treat you well and walk away from the ones who don’t.
  • Put your hand on your heart and look in the mirror. Say to yourself: I love you. I forgive you.
  • Each person can only be the sum of her parts. Be careful how you put yourself together, what you let in, and to what you hold on to.
  • Oblige the emotionally slutty, sometimes only from a distance.
  • Real kindness is complicated.
  • Calmness is power. It doesn’t have to be stoic, but it is not reactive. You are in control of how you respond, no matter what.
  • Everything on your calendar is an occasion. Make your interactions special.
  • Welcome the cold. Let the bed hold you up under heaps of heavy blankets. Sleep in.
  • When you find that you’ve gone whole days without saying something uncertain, make an effort to be curious and share the questions.
  • Questions are good for you. Risk is generally worth it. Be a force in spirit. Be strong, speak your uncertain truth, and open that deep heart. There is so much splendor growing inside you, eager to love if you let go of what holds you in. Keep warm and let it rise.
  • Remember to do the double-take. Practice requited love every day, even if it’s just returning the smile of a stranger.
  • Remind yourself of the primacy of living, of being, an animal. Have the nerve to create the intimacy you desire and deserve. Say something that makes you vulnerable, especially in an argument.
  • Pour something into that half empty cup. There are endless sources surrounding you.
  • Don’t be a narcissist. Self-absorption leaves no room for anyone else and that’s tragic.
  • Say something real. Just push send. Have something in there. Fuck correctness.
  • Write poems.

I believe
in forgiveness
in putting all my eggs in one basket
in travel
in blood and promises
and knowing when neither is enough
in scars
in stories
in letting go
and not letting go
in rearranging furniture
in ascribing the best intentions
in tomatoes
in being a good audience
and especially
in you.

  • Say you’re sorry when you know you’ve hurt.
  • Kiss with both hands, whole chest, hips, and toes. Kiss standing. Kiss close.
  • Stop preaching moderation. For many, there is no moderation. A little isn’t enough and a little only makes you crave more and feel unsatisfied. But when it’s not that, be it love or honesty or a career risk or heart racing intimacy or hard introspection or a delicious book or a third bowl of soup, moderation shows self-doubt and insecurity, as if you don’t deserve more of this wonderful thing because you’re not enough. When it’s not a healthy thing you crave, like fickle, conditional love or the doughnuts in the break room or 14 hours hiding in bed or tequila when you’re sad or the attention of someone disingenuous or shaming self-talk or heroin, a little “moderation” is an ugly, deep, dark way to chip away at your better self.
  • You will be successful if you show up to your life and live with calm confidence. If you show up, you will suffer and change and have to be honest and you will experience so much beauty around you and in you. And if you show up with calm confidence, realizing that most things don’t need your opinion, that your reaction to anything is your most useful power, and that most things that hurt you have nothing to do with who you are, you will find your freedom. You don’t need approval.
  • Look her in the eye and hug her.
  • If there is something that stirs you and makes you uncomfortable and tests you in seemingly unrelated ways, that thing that won’t let you go, you must confront it. In the words of E. Roosevelt, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” This will define you whether you confront it or not, so be bold.
  • Make mistakes and don’t expect perfection.
  • Secrets rarely help. Say your truth out loud. You owe the people who love you that much.
  • Inactivity will kill you. When you lose something – a person, a dream, a chance – at some point you have to move on and that change, that forward grieving movement is the most painful, necessary thing you must do to save the rest of your life. Inactivity can kill your body, too. Go outside and walk. Breathe deep. Stretch. Run or compete or adventure or lift heavy things. Appreciate the body you have and don’t take it for granted.
  • You are good, worthy of grace, and have nothing to prove.
  • You are precious beyond expression. Every single person is worthy of living. Your ache and desire make this world what it is and if you ever doubt your part in it, bring it closer. Pick up the phone, take a trip, write a note. Be seen and heard, but more importantly, look very carefully and listen with unconditional strength. Pull in the grit with the water of life and make pearls only to give them away and make more. Over and over, stretch your world and make it smaller. Love like you deserve it. Love the way someone is going to love you back. {Lub dup… lub dup… lub dup.}