Submit your work, meet writers and drop the ads. Become a member
LJW Feb 2014
I've given poetry readings where less than a handful of people were present. It's a humbling experience. It’s also a deeply familiar experience.

"Poetry is useless," poet Geoffrey ****** said in a 2013 interview, "but it is useless the way the soul is useless—it is unnecessary, but we would not be what we are without it."

I was raised a Roman Catholic, and though I don’t go to Mass regularly anymore, I still remember early mornings during Advent when I went to liturgies at my parochial school. It was part of my offering—the sacrifice I made to honor the impending birth of the Savior—along with giving up candy at Lent. So few people attended at that hour that the priest turned on only a few lights near the altar. Approaching the front of the church, my plastic book bag rustling against my winter coat, I felt as if I were nearing the seashore at sunrise: the silhouettes of old widows on their kneelers at low tide, waiting for the priest to come in, starting the ritual in plain, unsung vernacular. No organist to blast us into reverence. No procession.

Every day, all over the world, these sparsely attended ceremonies still happen. Masses are said. Poetry is read. Poems are written on screens and scraps of paper. When I retire for the day, I move into a meditative, solitary, poetic space. These are the central filaments burning through my life, and the longer I live, the more they seem to be fused together.

Poetry is marginal, thankless, untethered from fame and fortune; it's also gut level, urgent, private yet yearning for connection. In all these ways, it's like prayer for me. I’m a not-quite-lapsed Catholic with Zen leanings, but I’ll always pray—and I’ll always write poems. Writing hasn’t brought me the Poetry Jackpot I once pursued, but it draws on the same inner wiring that flickers when I pray.        

• • •

In the 2012 collection A God in the House: Poets Talk About Faith, nineteen contemporary American poets, from Buddhist to Wiccan to Christian, discuss how their artistic and spiritual lives inform one another. Kazim Ali, who was raised a Shia Muslim, observes in his essay “Doubt and Seeking”:

[Prayer is] speaking to someone you know is not going to be able to speak back, so you're allowed to be the most honest that you can be. In prayer you're allowed to be as purely selfish as you like. You can ask for something completely irrational. I have written that prayer is a form of panic, because in prayer you don't really think you're going to be answered. You'll either get what you want or you won't.

You could replace the word "prayer" with "poetry" with little or no loss of meaning. I'd even go so far as to say that submitting my work to a journal often feels like this, too. Sometimes, when I get an answer in the form of an acceptance, I'm stunned.

"I never think of a possible God reading my poems, although the gods used to love the arts,” writes ***** Howe in her essay "Footsteps over Ground." She adds:

Poetry could be spoken into a well, of course, and drop like a penny into the black water. Sometimes I think that there is a heaven for poems and novels and music and dance and paintings, but they might only be hard-worked sparks off a great mill, which may add up to a whole-cloth in the infinite.

And here, you could easily replace the word "poetry" with "prayer." The penny falling to the bottom of a well is more often what we experience. But both poetry and prayer are things humans have learned to do in order to go on. Doubt is a given, but we do get to choose what it is we doubt.

A God in the House Book Cover
Quite a few authors in A God in the House (Howe, Gerald Stern, Jane Hirschfield, Christian Wiman) invoke the spiritual writing of Simone Weil, including her assertion that "absolutely unmixed attention is prayer." This sounds like the Zen concept of mindfulness. And it broadens the possibility for poetry as prayer, regardless of content, since writing poetry is an act of acute mindfulness. We mostly use words in the practical world to persuade or communicate, but prayers in various religious traditions can be lamentations of great sorrow. Help me, save me, take this pain away—I am in agony. In a church or a temple or a mosque, such prayerful lamentation is viewed as a form of expression for its own good, even when it doesn't lead immediately to a change of emotional state.

Perhaps the unmixed attention Weil wrote of is a unity of intention and utterance that’s far too rare in our own lives. We seldom match what we think or feel with what we actually say. When it happens spontaneously in poetry or prayer—Allen Ginsberg's "First thought, best thought" ideal —it feels like a miracle, as do all the moments when I manage to get out of my own way as a poet.

Many people who pray don’t envision a clear image of whom or what they’re praying to. But poets often have some sense of their potential readers. There are authorities whose approval I've tried to win or simply people I've tried to please: teachers, fellow writers, editors, contest judges—even my uncle, who actually reads my poems when they appear in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where he used to work.

And yet, my most immersed writing is not done with those real faces in mind. I write to the same general entity to which I pray. It's as if the dome of my skull extends to the ceiling of the room I'm in, then to the dome of the sky and outward. It’s like the musings I had as a child lying awake at night, when my imagination took me to the farthest reaches of the galaxy. But then I emerge from this wide-open state and begin thinking about possible readers—and the faces appear.

This might also be where the magic ends.

• • •

I write poetry because it’s what I do, just as frogs croak and mathematicians ponder numbers. Poetry draws on something in me that has persisted over time, even as I’ve distracted myself with other goals, demands, and purposes; even as I’ve been forced by circumstance to strip writing poetry of certain expectations.

"Life on a Lily Pad" © Michelle Tribe
"Life on a Lily Pad"
© Michelle Tribe
At 21, I was sure I’d publish my first book before I was 25. I’m past my forties now and have yet to find a publisher for a book-length collection, though I've published more than a hundred individual poems and two chapbooks. So, if a “real” book is the equivalent of receiving indisputable evidence that your prayers are being answered, I’m still waiting.

It hasn’t been easy to shed the bitter urgency I’ve felt on learning that one of my manuscripts was a finalist in this or that contest, but was not the winner. Writing in order to attain external success can be as tainted and brittle as saying a prayer that, in truth, is more like a command: (Please), God, let me get through this difficulty (or else)—

Or else what? It’s a false threat, if there’s little else left to do but pray. When my partner is in the ICU, his lungs full of fluid backed up from a defective aortic valve; when my nephew is deployed to Afghanistan; when an ex is drowning in his addiction; when I hit a dead end in my job and don’t think I can do it one more day—every effort to imagine that these things might be gotten through is a kind of prayer that helps me weather a life over which I have little control.

Repeated disappointment in my quest to hit the Poetry Jackpot has taught me to recast the jackpot in the lowercase—locating it not in the outcome but in the act of writing itself, sorting out the healthy from the unhealthy intentions for doing it. Of course, this shift in perspective was not as neat as the preceding sentence makes it seem. There were years of thrashing about, of turning over stones and even throwing them, then moments of exhaustion when I just barely heard the message from within:

This is too fragile and fraught to be something that guides your whole life.

I didn't hear those words, exactly—and this is important. For decades, I’ve made my living as a writer. But I can't manipulate or edit total gut realizations. I can throw words at them, but it would be like shaking a water bottle at a forest fire; at best, I can chase the feeling with metaphors: It's like this—no, like this—or like this.

So, odd as this sounds for a poet, I now seek wordlessness. When I meditate, I intercept hundreds of times the impulse to shape a perception into words. Reduced to basics, the challenge facing any writer is knowing what to say—and what not to.

• • •

To read or listen to poetry requires unmixed attention just as writing it does. And when a poem is read aloud, there's a communal, at times ritualistic, element that can make a reading feel like collective prayer, even if there are only a few listeners in the audience or I’m listening by myself.

"Allen Ginsberg" © MDCArchives
Allen Ginsberg
© MDCArchives
When I want to feel moved and enlarged, all I have to do is play Patti Smith's rendition of Ginsberg's "Footnote to Howl." His long list poem from 1955 gathers people, places, objects, and abstractions onto a single exuberant altar. It’s certainly a prayer, one that opens this way:

Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy!

The world is holy! The soul is holy! The skin is holy! The nose is holy! The tongue and **** and hand and ******* holy!

Everything is holy! everybody’s holy! everywhere is holy! everyday is in eternity! Everyman’s an angel!

Some parts of Ginsberg's list ("forgiveness! charity! faith! bodies! suffering! magnanimity!") belong in any conventional catalogue of what a prayer celebrates as sacred. Other profane elements ("the ***** of the grandfathers of Kansas!") gain admission because they are swept up into his ritualistic roll call.

I can easily parody Ginsberg's litany: Holy the Dairy Queen, holy the barns of the Amish where cheese is releasing its ambitious stench, holy the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Internet. But reading the poem aloud feels to me the way putting on ritual garments must to a shaman or rabbi or priest. Watching Patti Smith perform the poem (various versions are available on YouTube), I get shivers seeing how it transforms her, and it's clear why she titled her treatment of the poem "Spell."

A parody can't do that. It can't manifest as the palpable unity of intention and utterance. It can't do what Emily Dickinson famously said that poetry did to her:

If I read a book [and] it makes my whole body so cold no fire ever can warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only [ways] I know it. Is there any other way.

Like the process of prayer—to God, to a better and bigger self, to the atmosphere—writing can be a step toward unifying heart, mind, body, universe. Ginsberg's frenzied catalogue ends on "brilliant intelligent kindness of the soul"; Eliot's The Waste Land on "shantih," or "the peace that surpasseth understanding." Neither bang nor whimper, endings like these are at once humble and tenacious. They say "Amen" and step aside so that a greater wordlessness can work its magic.
From the website
3.2k · May 2014
Caribbean Sundown
LJW May 2014
bluing beneath
my hands brushing over
warm Caribbean bathing salts
at dusk.
2.8k · Sep 2013
LJW Sep 2013
Sigh for relief it is a day of mine,
I have work, I have coffee,
I have a week to live through.
c. lisajeaninewinett
2.5k · Jul 2014
Epigrams by Alexander Pope
LJW Jul 2014
And more than echoes talk along the walls.

'Tis education forms the common mind. Just as the twig is bent, the tree's inclin'd.

I am his Highness' dog at Kew; pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?

Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.
LJW Jun 2014
The snow leopard mother runs straight
down the mountain.
Elk cliff. Blizzard.
Hammers keening
into the night.
Her silence and wild
falling is a compass
of hunger and memory. Breath
prints on the carried-away body.
This is how it goes so far away
from our ripening grapes and lime,
coyote eyes ******* the canyon.
we paddle out in our ice boat
headed toward no future at last.
O tired song of what we thought,
stillness crouches like a prow.
We break the ice gently forward.
If I want to cling to anything
then this quiet of being the last
to know about our lives.

Copyright @ 2014 by Jennifer K. Sweeney. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on June 27, 2014.
LJW Jul 2014
The Top Ten Epigrams of All Time

In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.—Albert Camus

It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.—Eleanor Roosevelt

If you can't be a good example, you'll just have to be a horrible warning.—Catherine the Great

If life were fair, Elvis would be alive and his impersonators would be dead.—Johnny Carson

Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.—Oscar Wilde

To err is human, but it feels divine.—Mae West

An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.—Mohandas Gandhi

For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.—Virginia Woolf

I'm not offended by dumb blonde jokes because I'm not dumb, and also I'm not blonde.—Dolly Parton

He does not believe, who does not live according to his belief.—Sigmund Freud

In April 2014 A Poet’s Glossary by Academy Chancellor Edward Hirsch was published. As Hirsch writes in the preface, “this book—one person’s work, a poet’s glossary—has grown, as if naturally, out of my lifelong interest in poetry, my curiosity about its vocabulary, its forms and genres, its histories and traditions, its classical, romantic, and modern movements, its various outlying groups, its small devices and large mysteries—how it works.” Each week we will feature a term and its definition from Hirsch’s new book.

epigram: From the Greek epigramma, “to write upon.” An epigram is a short, witty poem or pointed saying. Ambrose Bierce defined it in The Devil’s Diction­ary (1881–1911) as “a short, sharp saying in prose and verse.” In Hellenistic Greece (third century B.C.E.), the epigram developed from an inscription carved in a stone monument or onto an object, such as a vase, into a literary genre in its own right. It may have developed out of the proverb. The Greek Anthology (tenth century, fourteenth century) is filled with more than fifteen hundred epigrams of all sorts, including pungent lyrics on the pleasures of wine, women, boys, and song.

Ernst Robert Curtius writes in European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages (1953): “No poetic form is so favorable to playing with pointed and sur­prising ideas as epigram—for which reason seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Germany called it ‘Sinngedicht.’ This development of the epigram necessarily resulted after the genre ceased to be bound by its original defi­nition (an inscription for the dead, for sacrificial offerings, etc.).” Curtius relates the interest in epigrams to the development of the “conceit” as an aesthetic concept.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge defined the epigram in epigrammatic form (1802):

What is an epigram? A dwarfish whole;
Its body brevity and wit its soul.

The pithiness, wit, irony, and sometimes harsh tone of the English epigram derive from the Roman poets, especially Martial, known for his caustic short poems, as in 1.32 (85–86 B.C.E.): “Sabinus, I don’t like you. You know why? / Sabinus, I don’t like you. That is why.”

The epigram is brief and pointed. It has no particular form, though it often employs a rhymed couplet or quatrain, which can stand alone or serve as part of a longer work. Here is Alexander Pope’s “Epigram from the French” (1732):

Sir, I admit your general rule,
That every poet is a fool:
But you yourself may serve to show it,
That every fool is not a poet.

Geoffrey Hartman points out that there are two diverging traditions of the epigram. These were classified by J. C. Scaliger as mel and fel (Poetics Libri Septem, 1561), which have been interpreted as sweet and sour, sugar and salt, naïve and pointed. Thus Robert Hayman, echoing Horace’s idea that poetry should be both “dulce et utile,” sweet and useful, writes in Quodlibets (1628):

Short epigrams relish both sweet and sour,
Like fritters of sour apples and sweet flour.

The “vinegar” of the epigram was often contrasted with the “honey” of the sonnet, especially the Petrarchan sonnet, though the Shakespearean sonnet, with its pointed final couplet, also combined the sweet with the sour. “By a natural development,” Hartman writes, “since epigram and sonnet were not all that distinct, the pointed style often became the honeyed style raised to a higher power, to preciousness. A new opposition is frequently found, not between sugared and salty, but between pointed (precious, over­written) and plain.”

The sometimes sweet, sometimes sour, and sometimes sweet-and-sour epigram has been employed by contemporary American formalists, such as Howard Nemerov, X. J. Kennedy, and especially J. V. Cunningham. Here is a two-line poem that Cunningham translated in 1950 from the Welsh epi­grammatist John Owen (1.32, 1606):

Life flows to death as rivers to the sea,
And life is fresh and death is salt to me.

Excerpted from A Poet’s Glossary by Edward Hirsch. Copyright © 2014 by Edward Hirsch. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

collected in
A Poet’s Glossary
Each week we feature a new term from Academy Chancellor Edward Hirsch’...
1.7k · May 2014
adoration from afar
LJW May 2014
beyond the measure of any cure
sits my pleasure of sought after
dreams delighting in roaming with your
grace filled presence in city adventure
or sat at a table shedding quiet tears of adoration from afar.
LJW Jul 2014
Chance Operations are methods of generating poetry independent of the author’s will. A chance operation can be almost anything from throwing darts and rolling dice, to the ancient Chinese divination method, I-Ching, and even sophisticated computer programs. Most poems created by chance operations use some original text as their source, be it the newspaper, an encyclopedia, or a famous work of literature. The purpose of such a practice is to play against the poet’s intentions and ego, while creating unusual syntax and images. The resulting poems allow the reader to take part in producing meaning from the work.

The roots of using chance operations to generate poetry are generally traced to the Dada movement in Western Europe in the early and mid-twentieth-century, involving writers such as André Breton, Louis Aragon, Tristan Tzara, Philippe Soupault, and Paul Éluard. The Dadaists were deeply interested in the subconscious, and they believed that the mind would create associations and meaning from any text, including those generated through random selections. In one section of Tzara’s “Dada Manifesto on Feeble & Bitter Love," he offers the following instructions to make a Dadaist poem, here translated from the original French by Barbara Wright:

“Take a newspaper.
Take some scissors.
Choose from this paper an article the length you want to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Next carefully cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them all in a bag.
Shake gently.
Next take out each cutting one after the other.
Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.
The poem will resemble you.
And there you are--an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, even though unappreciated by the ****** herd.”

The use of chance operations in contemporary poetry has been used most famously by the international avant-garde group Fluxus, poet Jackson Mac Low, and the poet and composer John Cage. A good example of a poem that was written using chance operations is Jackson Mac Low’s “Stein 100: A Feather Likeness of the Justice Chair," which also includes Mac Low’s explanation of the methods he used to compose the poem.
1.3k · Sep 2019
Goodbye Sorrowland
LJW Sep 2019
I am sitting here, or lying there, yes, across this bed, penning in my diary as the tropical winds off the Argentinian jungles
breeze through my curls and a whisper tickles up my thighs.

I have left the din of sorrowland,
I have taken flight into the drifting clouds,
I sit atop a cottony cumulus, bouncing surrounded by delight,
for I have found love.
1.3k · Nov 2015
A Breath of Jesus Christ
LJW Nov 2015
Yoga is the union with God,
God is love.
I believe in Christ,
a word not often spoken on the mat.

The pain and agony of sin
tears at our souls and brings tears of suffering.
Ahimsa: Thou shall not ******.
Satya: Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Asteya: Thou shall not steal.
Brahmacharya: Thou shall not commit adultery.
Aparigraha: Thou shall not covet.

    You shall have no other gods before Me.
    You shall not make idols.
    You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
    Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
    Honor your father and your mother.
It goes deeper,
not even to think a harmful thought, or wish a harmful deed.
Not even to steal an extra moment of someone's time,
Or lie to yourself about how happy you are.

Lift the sin, lift the illness, lift the suffering.
Like a miracle disease is erased once the lie leaves the room.  
God, Christ, watches each moment,
every breath,
each half of a thought
we just made.

A breath of prayer and honesty
lifts the veil we hold in place
over our eyes.

Careful not to lower it too fast all over again.
LJW Jun 2016
Hey All,
Ploughshares is having open readings for publication in their journal...some of you should definitely submit!!
LJW Jun 2014
The patterns
of rainfall and afforestation,
the veins of village streams—
I colored them in
as I saw fit.

My beloved spiders
wove a second pattern
on top,
which I approved
before leaving.

Günter Eich (1907–1972) was a noted German poet and radio dramatist who won the Georg Büchner Preis in 1959. His translator, Michael Hofmann, is a poet and German translator; his versions of Eich will be out soon in book form in Angina Days: Selected Poems of Günter Eich (Princeton).
LJW May 2016
He buried me amongst the dead
kicked the dust off his boots
left the house in it's peace
wandered in to the next open door
to spread the word.

Now I am buried,
being buried by the dead
You being the dead.

Do we love ourselves
more than God? (Call him/God Christ if you want to.
God is enough for me
with how a name gets thrown around
by those who defile the name
with abuses of their own design. Christ becomes in vain)

Are mystics justified, by their closeness to the divine,
their missions in life to show us God,
to rebuke us in each of their own given manner,
harsh or light as it might strike,
no matter the tear at our inner light they saw as dark.

"We use God's mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments." says the bible.

Who was arguing, asks I?

Om Shanti is Sanskrit for peace for the all human kind, peace for all living and non living beings, peace for the universe, peace for each and every things in this whole cosmic manifestation.

"Am I a non-believer for using a Hindu language, Mr. Mystic?" I ask.

Is God that absent from my inner mind?
1.0k · May 2014
Yoga Saints
LJW May 2014
bakers dozen  
on the horizon near the playa
where apocalyptic marauders skate,
following a verde raw fruit shake,
beneath fade red chakra shawls  
billowing from the desert winds.

a touch of gypsy, an ounce of saint
distant, unattainable, supremely created beings.

dusty weathered skins, they survive on magic,
gifted to them
LJW Jun 2014
Happy Father's Day

Dad, I know you were never there for me
for the past 18 years
and that hurt like hell.

Thinking of you always.
Happy Father's Day.
950 · Nov 2015
vocabulary study
LJW Nov 2015
leaf mold
loam: a rich, friable soil containing a relatively equal mixture of sand and silt and a somewhat smaller proportion of clay.

marl:  Geology. a friable earthy deposit consisting of clay and calcium carbonate, used especially as a fertilizer for soils deficient in lime.

argil: clay, especially potter's clay.

any of a variety of soft, unctuous clays of various colors, used as pigments.
a medium red-brown color made from such clay.

loess: a loamy deposit formed by wind, usually yellowish and calcareous, common in the Mississippi Valley and in Europe and Asia.
till: a stiff clay, a glacial drift of clay, sand, gravel, and boulders
887 · Mar 2016
A Frozen Dream
LJW Mar 2016
A frozen house stilled mid life,
while the lives within shed
blood from a tear mid stride.

hearts stopped beating,
loving strokes suspended mid brush,
her dappling with the voice of another
pulled her love into adultery's pouch.

his seduction cloaked in friendship,
his lie of never leaving,
his deception of his true nature,
he could have known he would never love her.

her home barren of noise of family,
empty, gutted, a winter's frozen shell,
she will lie now in the out lands upon the ground,
freezing alone, unforgivable, a harlot, wishing, hoping for death.
887 · Sep 2013
Far Away
LJW Sep 2013
Our front porch is covered in chairs
waiting for visitors
We offer you hot tea or cold
Yoga at ten
and prayer flags if you need.

Far Away there are Yogis standing in
Mountain Pose...
Where is my peace guru?

My path is riddled without a person
holding my hand or
offering me an invitation
to pray the way I want to pray.

I can only imagine the room
hot and charged with mantras
and faith where followers
devote their hours to adherence.  

There lives are busy
moments of honesty,
fervent compassion,
sweat, and balance.

Here we sit drinking,
waiting in our chairs,
while our posture
is a hope rather than
a deed.
copywrite lisajeaninewinett
885 · May 2014
LJW May 2014
hearts on tiny
thoughts leaving for other
circles of people, searching
for love.
840 · Jul 2013
Walking in the Dead Field
LJW Jul 2013

I am quiet, walking between the rows of shoulder high...
there is learning catching up to me, racing towards my heels.
its pace crushes my lungs;
My head hangs, the earth's aroma lifts towards me so I can smell.

Huffing with the strength of an intelligent woman,
My ******* are firm,
my brawny hair ringlets down my sides,
my solitude attracts attention for one moment,
then the love moves on.

the cold freezes my breath.

I sit at a desk,
conjuring up their names without permission.
invading their lives like an uninvited transient.
watching through an open curtain as they make love to other women.
discarding my own life, calm, slow, sleeping,
fighting for nothing.

October 2, 2005
LJW Jun 2014

This is a poet of the river lands,
a lowdown man of the deepest
depth of the valley, where gravity gathers
the waters, the poisons, the trash,
where light comes late and leaves early.

From the window of his small room
the lowdown poet looks out. He watches
the river for ripples, flashes, signs
of beings rising in the undersurface dark,
or lightly swimming upon the flow,
or, for a minnow, descending the deeps
of the air to enter and shatter
forever their momentary reflections,
for the river is a place passing
through a passing place.

The poet, his window, and his poems
are creatures of the shore that the river
gnaws, dissolves, and carries away.
He is a tree of a sort, rooted
in the dark, aspiring to the light,
dependent on both. His poems
are leavings, sheddings, gathered
from the light, as it has come,
and offered to the dark, which he believes
must shine with sight,
with light, dark only to him.


Times will come as they must,
by necessity or his wish, when he leaves
his enclosure and his window,
his homescape of house and garden,
barn and pasture, the incarnate life
of his desire, thought, and daily work.
His grazing animals look up
to watch in silence as he departs.
He sets out at times without even
a path or any guidance other than knowledge
of the place and himself as they were
in time already past. He goes among trees,
climbing again the one hill of his life.
With his hand full of words he goes
into the wordless, wording it barely
in time as he passes. One by one he places
words, balancing on each
as on a small stone in the swift flow
in his anxious patience until
the next arrives, until he has come
at last again into presentiment
of the Real, the wholly real in its grand
composure, for which as before
he knows no word. And here again
he must stop. Here by luck or grace he may
find rest, which he has been seeking
all along. Sometimes by the time’s flaws
and his own, he fails. And then
by luck or grace he will be given
another day to try again, to go maybe
yet farther before again he must stop.
He is a gatherer of fragments, a cobbler
of pieces. Piece by piece he tells
a story without end, for in the time
of this world no end can come.
It is the story of eternity’s shining,
much shadowed, much put off,
in time. And time, however long, falls short.

Wendell Berry's most recent books include It All Turns on Affection: The Jefferson Lecture and Other Essays, New Collected Poems, and A Place in Time, the newest volume in his Port William series.
800 · May 2016
Sun, grass, all in a day
LJW May 2016
Turn it around in the grass
it's summer, I'm getting' older
Sun's up hot who knows
If life does get better.
When will all my friends show up?
Today I'll stay level,
Just enjoy the normal,
No need for exceptional,
It's so flighty
And always flies away.
789 · Jul 2013
Flower Box Old
LJW Jul 2013
When pain upon pain
becomes the rhythm of the season,
the day of healing falls short of now.
When beauty in Jah becomes a greedy boat,
then my bitter white dress
I will pull up to above my ankles and excuse myself.  

Dancers jumpin’, rollin’ their thunder,
dippin’ their hips till the men start to rumble,
dancer woman watch that young girl toil;
gather in your jealous heart old woman,
she’s here to work.  

Make room old ladies, our daughters are a comin’,
you’re youth goes in the locker room;
your privies go in a flower box.  

October 16, 2010
LJW Jun 2014
I've wanted to tell you,
it hurt me when you threw me out.
I needed help
you turned your back on me and called the cops.  

That ******.

You were my mom.
I think about that on this day and wish I could forgive you.
I can't.
Happy Mother's Day.
751 · Apr 2020
LJW Apr 2020
Foiled at every turn
some say this as cliche,
for me it is true.

Every love affair spoils,
each chance at wealth stolen,
any opportunity to get ahead blocked.

Flower petals fall when
the bee refuses it's kiss, or
light reserves its brilliance.
743 · Sep 2015
Poem Challenge Prompt
LJW Sep 2015
Here's a challenge for any poet out there...and a tiny bit of critique, on this site many of the poems are about the same subject, love, sadness, the blackness of life, suicide, hate for the life they are in, nature. And they are often times very general. What about something more specific, a moment, an event, a person,

Here's the challenge:
Find one of your favorite poets and pick a poem you like by them. Look at the subject matter and write a poem of your own using the same or a similar subject matter. Leave your poem in the comments section...

Here's my poet and poem i picked:

The Morning Baking

Grandma, come back, I forgot
How much lard for these rolls

Think you can put yourself in the ground
Like plain potatoes and grow in Ohio?
I am **** sick of getting fat like you

Think you can lie through your Slovak?
Tell filthy stories about the blood sausage?
Pish-pish nights at the ****** in Detroit?

I blame your raising me up for my Slav tongue
You beat me up out back, taught me to dance

I'll tell you I don't remember any kind of bread
Your wavy loaves of flesh
Stink through my sleep
The stars on your silk robes

But I'm glad I'll look when I'm old
Like a gypsy dusha hauling milk

by Carolyn Forché
726 · Sep 2018
To Be A Christian
LJW Sep 2018
God didn't give me an epiphany
He didn't give me the tragic life of a *******
or drug addict
that brought me to him
in a spell of repentance and tears.

He quietly, gracefully, gave me a child.
He gave me the fear of keeping my son safe
in a world that so readily devours it's young.
I chose Christ, in a long, slow, up hill climb to him.

Taking my time to shed my Jewish heritage,
sinning over and over again on the quest
for marriage and a happy home.

Still climbing, now one more attempt has left
and I can resume my journey, my pledge,
my desire to be a Christian. To give that to my son.

What does that mean, even, to be a Christian?
Where can I find others who truly live that life?
So many I have seen, men and women, in love, married
But one man I knew denied even them the title. I guess they were doing it wrong.  

Who is right in the game of Christianity?
Some will say Jesus, Jesus, yet he will say
He does not even know them.
Which one of us are they?
September 27, 2018
715 · Jul 2014
Epigrams by John Donne
LJW Jul 2014
A Lame Beggar
I am unable, yonder beggar cries,
To stand, or move; if he say true, he lies.

Hero and Leander
Both robb'd of air, we both lie in one ground;
Both whom one fire had burnt, one water drown'd.

If in his study he hath so much care
To hang all old strange things, let his wife beware
705 · May 2016
Towards God
LJW May 2016
My search for God has not led me far,
just into a bed with a man
Who spoke from scripture.

His holy spirit spat at me,
taking advantage to persecute my ignorance.
I thought God was there, his name came up,
The man believed, I am certain of this.

I spent small moments sitting in pews, listening,
Watching the moment of transfiguration.
A glistening, a subtle odor of Christ, I swear.

Wanting to believe so I might receive the sacraments,
Baptism, Holy Communion, Marriage.
I walked near, then turned down a stumbling road,
Never finishing, never marrying.

Still walking to God, in search of God,
Wanting to find him holding
A palm leaf, an olive branch, and a man.

Still walking, I'll plan a pilgrimage,
walk to a monastery,
Eat dry bread dipped in hot salted broth,
Walk until my soles tear,
My clothes dissolve into rags.

I will walk to God
Until the end,
Even if a man denies my effort,
My head is down.
677 · Feb 2014
Steppe Eagle
LJW Feb 2014
In the shadow of the volcano,
fresh from the dark sands of Siberia,
the brown steppe eagle circles and waits,
watching for weakness, searching
for carrion, leg feathers bristling,
shoulders hunched like a hunting wolf.

Exultant, it swoops down
on a yellow wagtail,
barks like a crow as it revels
in the taste of blood. I see
the bright buttery feathers
sticking to its wet tongue.
Not my poem, but I love her imagery and detail. The flight in her poem, the length of her lines and how pact they are with colors, shapes, and objects.  How full her lines are!

Eveline Pye lectured in statistics at Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland for more than twenty years. Before that, she worked as an operational research analyst in the Zambian copper industry. Her poems about Africa and mathematics have been widely published in literary magazines, newspapers, and anthologies in the U.K.

Her statistical poetry was featured in Significance, the joint magazine of the British Royal Statistical Society and the American Statistical Association, in September 2011 as part of its Life in Statistics series. A selection of her statistical poems appears in the Bridges (Enschede) Anthology, edited by Sarah Glaz (Tessellations Publishing, 2013).
672 · May 2014
Daring 19
LJW May 2014
to fast
I  ran to the
sun as I hurdled the
pits dug for young ladies to small
to dare.
LJW Jun 2014
Happy Valentine's Day to a Man I Will Always Love but Can Never Have:
I Still Love You Anyway!!!!

I think about you ever day
in every kind of way
your laughing eyes
your sensuous voice, deep, melodic, faithful

**** the girl who walks beside you
I wish it were me, but that will never be.

I won't stalk you,
I'll just obsess over you
in secret.
Writing poems about you
forever to people who
will never know you or know me.

In my heart you are always a valentine.
659 · Jul 2013
Somewhere Golden
LJW Jul 2013
One woman said
Clean yourself up
with a cocktail napkin, so here I am
in the bathroom.
Sounds of the party.
Sounds of one man
pretending he gets the joke.
Oh, he gets the joke.
He just didn’t think
it was very funny.
I can understand that man.
The bones of Tom’s hands
made a fist
and told my nose
a joke, which is to say he
hit me. The resulting laughter
was quiet, but
well-sustained. People decorate
their bathrooms
like I would rather be at the beach
than in this bathroom.
I’d rather be watching swans
mate for life. Well,
not actually mating.
Okay, actually mating;
you can hardly tell
what’s going on. Unlike
*******, or unlike
a wedding ceremony. Or, no.
The wedding ceremony is more
like swans. I thought
I was just watching two people
hold hands
in front of a candle.
The people deciding
to wear flowers in the winter,
disrespectful of what the world,
bigger than us, said we could wear
or eat, like the asparagus hoers d’oeuvres
insisted it was a good time
to feel like it was summer.
At the wedding I was quiet.
At the party I was quiet
until Tom found me
offensive. The homeowners
long ago had decided
I’d rather be somewhere golden
than in this bathroom.
Outside the sounds
of people making promises,
or rather, hushing a room
to condone the most public
of promises made
in front of a candle.
When I’m cleaned up
I’ll find, if he was invited,
the man who played the *****,
or the priest who wears soft shoes
so he doesn’t disturb the holy
spirits resting in the rafters
when he walks through
the resting cathedral,
stooping at times
to pick up flowers.

By Hannah Gamble
This poem is written by Hannah Gamble
LJW Jul 2013
Autumn crept in without word or a doubt.
It slept all summer, or so they all thought.
Really it traveled round trees and plains,
To find it’s real home among the oak laden trails.

Never did it speak only scent told its tale.
Cool acorns and apples growing fast for the cold spells.

Slow seems fast when a chill rolls by                                                      
during a late summer swim on the river rock slide.                                  
The children looked round, then heard a school bell.                        
They knew the call flying through the pine trees as they screamed,
“Hurry, Hurry, only one more time!”

Round the death and dying came,
the end of young summer into a lady.  
The end of girls and boys for all.  
Into proper gentle children
dressed in sweaters and tightly rung curls.  

August 10, 2011
635 · Oct 2013
Dance of Love
LJW Oct 2013
Tonight I wander through yellowing pines
through days of autumn while I
am twenty nine dancing drunk on northern Cali
wine, cold, wet, between an angry coast and
the moss on ancient tree groves.

Dancing like a Dervish in my crinkled cotton
gauze skirt tickling at my naked ankles and
washing my dirt covered feet.  

Hair wet from misty air, curling and dripping
he stares at me, mesmerized by some magic
that does not exist. It is only me 'neath the moon.

He wants to be in love with a freedom that has no
place near me.  I mean entrapment, commitment,
ownership, caged.  

If he holds me, I'll want him there forever and ever,
that will never change.  He should not want to leave if
he walks through my door.  Keep walking if you're only going to
walk out.

He does, he smiles, laughs, drinks, then, as I'm turning
one more spiral, he falls into the dark and walks on
to a woman who will let him love her for only a
fraction of a lifetime.
copywrite 2013 Lisa Jeanine Winett
633 · Feb 2014
LJW Feb 2014
The last place for a waterfall, no mountains or valleys,
horizons flat as summer seas, then from thirty miles,
a white tower of spray punctures the blue sky.

Closer, you hear thunder, though there is no storm,
see double rainbows, bright bridges across air,
feel a welcome drizzle in searing, blistering heat.

Closer, you part a bush, stand on the edge of a chasm;
the wide Zambesi glides forward, then plunges deep
into a wound in the earth’s crust, a break in basalt.

The ground trembles with shock, you shout but hear
nothing except a raging roar as solid water
explodes up in your face, blinds you, engulfs you.

Down in the Devil’s Cataract, the river cuts frantic
zigzags through deep gorges until it pours into a pool
where a dead hippo bounces up like a rubber ball.

[Mosi-oa-Tunya: the Victoria Falls, translated as "Smoke that Thunders"]
Eveline Pye lectured in statistics at Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland for more than twenty years. Before that, she worked as an operational research analyst in the Zambian copper industry. Her poems about Africa and mathematics have been widely published in literary magazines, newspapers, and anthologies in the U.K.

Her statistical poetry was featured in Significance, the joint magazine of the British Royal Statistical Society and the American Statistical Association, in September 2011 as part of its Life in Statistics series. A selection of her statistical poems appears in the Bridges (Enschede) Anthology, edited by Sarah Glaz (Tessellations Publishing, 2013).
629 · Jul 2014
Birthday Poem
LJW Jul 2014
I love your voice,
your smile,
your lower lip,
so **** when it's thinking
just relaxing waiting to
pounce in daredevil

I love your skin
the color it turns
after sunning, reddish
burn, like your hair,
your beard.

I love how you tolerate me
the devil, the nag, the sad
doll, unhappy, discontent,
searching, demanding.

I love being with you and
being the one who gets to
touch your strong arms,
flexing with work, always cut,
how do you get that way
with no fitness?

You are July, you are
what the summer was
waiting for.

How lucky I am,
to spend my days
near you, coming home
to you, curling next to you,
you let me kiss you, these
are treasures I will carry
all my life.
616 · May 2016
Into the Light With Us
LJW May 2016
Why does Christ behave the way he behaves
through his messengers on Earth?
To send out his call vibrations
Attracting those who fly into his light
sending away those who become irritated by the sound?

Can't I have my Aum and Christ in my bowl?
Can't I have what was before and after?
Or was all that Satan's pulling,
leave my life behind,
give up what feels right,
spend a life, in fact, with no feeling.
There again, I fly away from the sound.

Believing, I believe, with a question mark.
My people's origins are suspect,
Christ in the cradle, then they ran from God poor Churches.
Most have not returned.
We huddle together reaching back for God
in a way our souls can find him,
or are we lost and wrong?

Who do we listen for?
Shall we play follow the leader until they turn in for the night,
closing the door on our mass,
then leave us to sleep against their door until they rise in their shining?

I'll not follow them,
I will follow you,
and when you lead me astray,
I will turn us back around.
LJW Sep 2015
Tobacco, the first intoxicant wrapping me in a gauze of sultry skip days,
Wine, beer, swimming pools with bikinis, suntans, tropicana oil,
Kansas heat on concrete. Lawrence, Ks, KU, art and black, red ochre conti crayons,

Life drawings of nudes on platforms, fat, poor,
glamorous models, how i wanted to be one of them
stripping myself in front of you all,
my young beautiful naked body
you'll never see that again.

Fresh grass and lemonade,
Volvos driving across our country
55mph...80 was faster.

One night stands
led to terror.

Hurting men forever.

Barns and Nobels stealing book
coffee was new
young at 25.

Walking the street in Kansas City,
Warwick street with it's three story walk up
trimmed colonial white

Tea, herbs, kale with sesame,
Health food shops on corners
young women of 23 starting their biz.
We could do it our own way back then.

Abortion, adoption, college graduation,
law school, med school, drop out,
614 · May 2016
Shanti Shacks
LJW May 2016
"What do you do?"

"I create shelters for peace. Places you can go to when you have no where to go. I buy shacks in the desert."

He nodded, looked to his friend. Their social class hung on their East coast shoulders as they lifted a paid for beer up to their pampered lips.
I said, "If it is not something you need, it has no value to you. Much like a Bonsai or Christ."

I felt secure, knowing they couldn't grasp the feeling of being lost in a Western desert.
592 · Jul 2013
Pine. Opine.
LJW Jul 2013
We sip sap as
wood pecker
would dream

of the rhythm of the

beak in bark.

Hey, eucalypt eyes.
Hello, belly birch.

Oh my moss.

By Rose Linke
This poem is written by Rose Linke
581 · Jun 2014
In the Past
LJW Jun 2014
blossoms like cad fish lingering
beneath salten seas lost
yellowing days
desperate for remembrance.

creeping thyme crevicing
through sandstone
jumping gardens of
mist spray.

broken teeth alongside
coffee and news
old printed cities
chilled by traffic noise.
575 · Apr 2016
My Christ, My God
LJW Apr 2016
Dear Lord, Christ, I have known you my whole life
as the God of the Jews.
I have met you in the home of my mother as the Lord Christ.
You have walked with me in my youth,
slapping me in the face with the hand of an evangelist,
you destroyed my foundation and inspired me to relinquish all I knew.

My Christ it is hard to accept you as God
when I have known your Father
for so many more years.
How is it he disguised himself in you, as you?

You have brought to my doorstep
Mystics, poets, great men of vision
only to have them wisked away?
Was it my lack of faith?
My resistance to you?

I believe in you,
but I can not believe in you.
You have shown yourself to me,
but others deny me that.
Was that your blood I saw in the air?
Was that your voice showing me the firmament on the hill side?

My walk with you will be alone
No other gives validity to my understanding of you.
I will walk with you in question,
asking you,
knowing you are there, so many have told me,
believing as your gifts for my life unfold.

Our gentle relation
you've answered all my prayers.
571 · May 2016
LJW May 2016
I'll probably end up
wandering on the road
Driving anonymously
No one checking in,
You being the only
People to know my whereabouts
Unless I decide you too
have stopped caring.

I am aged
Never have been one to stop for
Even less so now.
558 · Mar 2016
Slush Pile
LJW Mar 2016
my dearest poetry world of poets,
did you know there are anti feminists out there
who hate women who moan and ***** about their good men?

Did you know there are German supporters
who cry for the shed blood
after WWI.
Germans massacred by armies
bodies melting in the asphalt.

Horrors certainly.
Death of all men,
except those who should die.

Loss of value of all men,
women should love their men more.

I sit in the dark on these issues,
until just recently.
The illumination burst in my eyes,
I was shone the annihilation.

Yes, men die, they are whipped by the tongue of the woman,
they are wasted and not cared for in a manner suited by men.
Men have a life, so much so, we may not play a role in the show.
We may not fit their needs,
and so to the slush pile with us we go.
LJW Jul 2014
A feather table: reckless gratitude.
It is that-there that means best.

White the green grinding trimming thing!
The disgrace, like stripes.
More selection, slighter intention.

Rosewood stationing is use journey: curious dusty empty length.
Winged cake: the cake, the plan that neglects to make color certainly.
Time long could winter: elegant consequences monstrous.
So much and guided holders garments are—and arrangements.
Staring then that when sudden same time’s necessary, that circular
     same’s more necessary, not actually aching.

And why special?
Not left straw, the chain’s the missing, was white winningly and
     occasion’s entirely strings.
Reason is sullenness: it’s there that practices left when six into
     nothing narrow, resolute, suggests all beside that plain seam.
Pencils, mutton, asparagus: the table there.
There reddening is not to change that in such absurd surroundings.
Considering clearly, a feather’s large second heat is there.
There that thing which smells that whistles that there’s denial,
     difference, surfeit-dated choices—everything trembling

Imitation?—imitation is a joy gurgle.
Best bent, likely disappointed.
Cake season’s not more than most.
That cake makes no larder likely.
Not a single protection is even temporarily standing.
Sugar and lard there are sudden and shaming.
That single set comes orderly.
There the remarkable witness made no more settlement than
Increase the way steak colored coffee.
Wheatly that music half-noisy.
Reason’s decline is not a little grainy.

This means taste where toe-washing is reasonable.
Salmon carriage?—action hanging.
Scene bits and this nervous draught don’t satisfy elevation,
There is no change.
Much was temporary behind that center and much was formerly
Then the then-triumphant showed their disagreeable hidden worries.
The chair asked the speech be repeated, supposing
It is just summer.
Another section has a light likeness to pedestrianism.
Which is light?
That used this there.
The chair’s justice: nothing-colored mercy.
No, perhaps some is likely.

That is not a genuine bargain.
There preparation so suits white bands’ singing and redness that the
     same sight’s a simpler splendor.
No, not the same.
Wishing the same is not quite the same as a different arrangement.
Any measure washed is brighter than an occasional string set.
A precocious nothing discolors that extract sooner than showing its
A bag place chain room winningly reasons with shining hair.
What with supposing without protection, no wound is sudden.
Coloring sullenness rushes bottom reason in gilded country.
What if it shows?
Necessarily, the whole thing there is shining.
Is that anything?
More single women stitch tickets.
To show difference exudes reliability.
Inside that large silver likeness, Hope tables thick coal.
Coal makes morning furnaces darker,
Joy and success are exceptions.

Four suggest a sadder surrender.
Pretence and cheaper influences are staining tender Pride there.
Sort out that little sink.
Why is the size of the baking remainder something that resembles
     light more than cutting?
This cheese is more calm than anything solitary.
It is still an occasion for bottom anticipation.
Reason’s season cracked that which was ripe.
Nearly all were neglected by blessing, not without nervous actions.
He’s readily beginning to seed the cheese and estrange the Whites.
The celery curled its lashes at the slam.
Not-so-heated reason will be little able to satisfy another.
This was formerly much used as a charming chair.
Pedestrianism showed itself triumphant and disagreeable.
That which was hidden worried them.
They asked that her speech be repeated.
Summer light bears a likeness to justice.
Then the light is supposing attention.
That section has a resemblance to light.
Is it a likeness of the justice chair?
557 · Aug 2014
You'd Th nk, 'll Walk Alone
LJW Aug 2014
You'd th nk, with HUNDREDS
of people flocking to yoga fest vals
'd be able to f nd someone
to talk to.

Dharma talks, people s t and l sten,
where do they go when they return home?

My door bell  s s lent,
none enter to s t and further the talk.

  guess  'll never reach Samad , passed by,
no one wants me to get there,
only myself,
   guess  'll walk alone.
514 · Apr 2017
Pray for the Day
LJW Apr 2017
It's a predictable cycle
Peaceful Nature.
The hum of the streams
layered by the whistle and the **** call.
Sunning spring green grasses
dew soaking the new season's blade.
A croak interrupts the morning,
calling us out to the field.
Only we hold our position, listening in anticipation.
Nature excites us as though the unexpected will appear momentarily,
only it's the regularity that surprises.
Our nervous system is poised for action,
until we realize the day is relaxing, breathing deeply,
Sat in prayer and obedience.
511 · May 2016
To live, to love
LJW May 2016
Our lives are but a collection of the hours we spent loving one another.

I love you all.
492 · Jul 2013
LJW Jul 2013
Is obviously unsolved to this day.
Is a heavy blizzard subject to drought.
Is a crater in the ground launched into space.
Is the lowliest temperature in a dance hall fire.
Is said to help stem the spread of ceasing to exist.

Critics call it the finest film ever made.

by Rose Linke
This poem is written by Rose Linke
Next page