Great Blue Heron

November 25, 2021


In the airport bar, I tell my mother not to worry.

No one ever tripped and fell into the San Andreas

Fault. But as she dabs at her dry eyes, I remember

those old movies where the earth does open.


There's always one blonde entomologist, four

deceitful explorers, and a pilot who's good-looking

but not smart enough to take off his leather jacket

in the jungle.


Still, he and Dr. Cutie Bug are the only ones

who survive the spectacular quake because

they spent their time making plans to go back

to the Mid-West and live near his parents


while the others wanted to steal the gold and ivory

then move to Los Angeles where they would rarely

call their mothers and almost never fly home

and when they did for only a few days at a time.

Ron Koertge, Geography of the Forehead (University of Arkansas Press, 2000)

Because Even the Word Obstacle Is an Obstacle

Try to love everything that gets in your way:

the Chinese women in flowered bathing caps

murmuring together in Mandarin, doing leg exercises in your lane

while you execute thirty-six furious laps,

one for every item on your to-do list.

The heavy-bellied man who goes thrashing through the water

like a horse with a harpoon stuck in its side,

whose breathless tsunamis rock you from your course.

Teachers all. Learn to be small

and swim through obstacles like a minnow

without grudges or memory. Dart

toward your goal, sperm to egg. Thinking Obstacle

is another obstacle. Try to love the teenage girl

idly lounging against the ladder, showing off her new tattoo:

Cette vie est la mienne, This life is mine,

in thick blue-black letters on her ivory instep.

Be glad she’ll have that to look at all her life,

and keep going, keep going. Swim by an uncle

in the lane next to yours who is teaching his nephew

how to hold his breath underwater,

even though kids aren’t allowed at this hour. Someday,

years from now, this boy

who is kicking and flailing in the exact place

you want to touch and turn

will be a young man, at a wedding on a boat

raising his champagne glass in a toast

when a huge wave hits, washing everyone overboard.

He’ll come up coughing and spitting like he is now,

but he’ll come up like a cork,

alive. So your moment

of impatience must bow in service to a larger story, 

because if something is in your way it is

going your way, the way

of all beings; towards darkness, towards light.


Alison Luterman, The Sun June 2010 

November 23, 2021

Men Marry What They Need

Men marry what they need. I marry you,

morning by morning, day by day, night by night,
and every marriage makes this marriage new.

In the broken name of heaven, in the light
that shatters granite, by the spitting shore,
in air that leaps and wobbles like a kite,

I marry you from time and a great door
is shut and stays shut against wind, sea, stone,
sunburst, and heavenfall. And home once more

inside our walls of skin and struts of bone,
man-woman, woman-man, and each the other,
I marry you by all dark and all dawn

and have my laugh at death. Why should I bother
the flies about me? Let them buzz and do.
Men marry their queen, their daughter, or their mother

by hidden names, but that thin buzz whines through:
where reasons are no reason, cause is true.
Men marry what they need. I marry you.

John Ciardi, May 16, 2012

How Much

 When the boy asked the man,

“How much do you love me?”

the man went down on one knee,

then he leaned toward the child,

and opened his thick arms

as wide as the earth

until his hands were behind him,

and, like Atlas, the world rested

on his shoulders and back.

At the funeral home before the burial,

I asked to see my father’s body,

even though the Rabbi said,

“I would not recommend it.”

It laid in a black walnut casket

in a room behind drapes.

When they opened the casket,

I saw it dressed in a shroud.

A hood covered the head.

I wanted to see it.

The director said,

“It is not recommended,”

but Susan and I insisted,

so they undid the tie.

His skin was pale white.

The Rabbi said, “Jewish bodies

are not prepared for viewing.”

His face felt cool.

I ran my finger down his cheek.

When the ceremony began,

the Rabbi asked me to speak.

The measure of a father

is not only how much he loves children,

but also how much children love him.

I have a picture of him on my refrigerator

holding his grandson, Daniel, in his arms.

I can see my father beaming as Daniel sleeps.

Twenty-five years ago that baby was my son, Joshua.

Twenty-five years before that, he was me.

As I left his hospital room that last Sunday night,

I kissed him on the cheek and turned to go,

but then I turned back and kissed him again.

Then we flew home, and then he died,

so we all turned around again

and in the night between coming and going,

I stood at the side of my bed

with my suitcase laid open.

I saw the shirts, underwear, pants,

socks, belts, and ties, and I couldn’t remember,

was I packing or unpacking,

or for where or why?

Then, back in Tennessee,

the other pallbearers and I carried the casket

to the grave and lowered it into the ground,

and each family member in turn—

I was first, then Susan, Josh, Bonnie, Nancy,

and the rest, except for my mother—she couldn’t—

each threw a shovel-full of dirt.

The earth went thud as it hit the black walnut.

Later, Daniel asked his mother

why we throw dirt on Papa Joe?

Then he asked his father why are we sad?

Then he asked Joshua why we laugh when we’re sad?

So we told him, “When we love, we feel it all,”

and we showed him the world on our backs.

Robert S. Carroll, M. D. Rattle #8 (Winter 1997) 

November 19, 2021

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird


Among twenty snowy mountains,   

The only moving thing   

Was the eye of the blackbird.   



I was of three minds,   

Like a tree   

In which there are three blackbirds.   



The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.   

It was a small part of the pantomime.   



A man and a woman   

Are one.   

A man and a woman and a blackbird   

Are one.   



I do not know which to prefer,   

The beauty of inflections   

Or the beauty of innuendoes,   

The blackbird whistling   

Or just after.   



Icicles filled the long window   

With barbaric glass.   

The shadow of the blackbird   

Crossed it, to and fro.   

The mood   

Traced in the shadow   

An indecipherable cause.   



O thin men of Haddam,   

Why do you imagine golden birds?   

Do you not see how the blackbird   

Walks around the feet   

Of the women about you?   



I know noble accents   

And lucid, inescapable rhythms;   

But I know, too,   

That the blackbird is involved   

In what I know.   



When the blackbird flew out of sight,   

It marked the edge   

Of one of many circles.   



At the sight of blackbirds   

Flying in a green light,   

Even the bawds of euphony   

Would cry out sharply.   



He rode over Connecticut   

In a glass coach.   

Once, a fear pierced him,   

In that he mistook   

The shadow of his equipage   

For blackbirds.   



The river is moving.   

The blackbird must be flying.   



It was evening all afternoon.   

It was snowing   

And it was going to snow.   

The blackbird sat   

In the cedar-limbs.


Wallace Stevens, The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens (Alfred A. Knopf, 1954)

Surprise Visit


She arrived with a small box of gifts—
two tree-ripened avocados, crispy kale
she’d roasted with spicy tahin,
a bar of dark chocolate laced with salt,
and a paperback book of koans.
I received them all with raw gratitude,
knowing what was really in that box
was devotion, compassion, integrity, hope.

But it was her arms that saved me
that day, her arms and the quiet song
of her breath, the way she held me
until I felt known—the way a shore
holds a lake, the way empty branches
hold sky, the way love holds us all.

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, October 25, 2021 

November 16, 2021

Because You Left Me a Handful of Daffodils

I suddenly thought of Brenda Hatfield, queen

of the 5th grade, Concord Elementary.

A very thin, shy girl, almost

as tall as Audrey Hepburn,

but blond.


She wore a dress based upon the principle

of the daffodil: puffed sleeves,

inflated bodice, profusion

of frills along the shoulder blades

and hemline.


A dress based upon the principle of girl

as flower; everything unfolding, spilling

outward and downward: ribbon, stole,

corsage, sash.


It was the only thing I was ever

Elected. A very short king.

I wore a bow tie, and felt

Like a third-grader.


Even the scent of daffodils you left

reminds me. It was a spring night.

And escorting her down the runway

was a losing battle, trying to march

down among the full, thick folds

of crinoline, into the barrage of her

father's flashbulbs, wading

the backwash of her mother's

perfume: scared, smiling,

tiny, down at the end

of that long, thin, Audrey Hepburn arm,

where I was king.

Max Garland, The Postal Confessions (University of Massachusetts Press, 1995)