Existing Is Just Existing

"existing's tricky, but to live's a gift." ee cummings

struck by this

The Oxen
by Thomas Hardy

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
“Come; see the oxen kneel,

“In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,”
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.


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by Amy Lowell

amazing how a poet can make something overdone to me–like “opal” and make it new. I’ve tried and tried to use the word “opalescent” in a poem, gas on a lake, grackles’ or blackbirds’ wings. never worked. Look how Amy Lowell makes this short poem tension-filled, visual to the core, gorgeous with color.


You are ice and fire, 

The touch of you burns my hands like snow. 

You are cold and flame. 

You are the crimson of amaryllis, 

The silver of moon-touched magnolias. 

When I am with you, 

My heart is a frozen pond 

Gleaming with agitated torches. 

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don’t want to lose this: I had one hundred of these waiting at the wedding reception when we got there. so cool @ the Ohr-O’Keefe museum in Biloxi, Ms. We had all the “mad potter” exhibits open, a great band, the Flames, that my music girl found. she will be famous someday for art or finding new band talent or being a fine sandwich-maker. whichever is fine by me. Her chef/author/golfer/boyfriend’s family turned me on to these at THE SNACK BAR in Oxford. so here it is. The amount of gin varies according to how close you are to M&M.
! T. lemon juice, fresh
1 T. simple syrup
1 T. 1/2 gin, some say 3 T., others, 16 ounces
fill rest of a CHAMPAGNE glass (not a BIG GULP styrofoam left over from Conoco)
(Gloria Ferrera champagne is an option.)
Garnish with a single curl of lemon zest.
Just holding on to this for safe-keeping.
Only two tips I learned at Grayton Beach from a master.
Chill the gin and simple syrup prior to serving. Frost the glasses.

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I need

my boy.

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Are they stunning?

Are they stunning?


Am I grieving?

Yes. Surprising to me, too. I am grieving the shift in her role and her relationship with me.

At my core, all I ever really want or have wanted is to be seen. Of course, in God’s not-very-kind

providence (let’s be honest), the one thing I am not—is seen. And very much less so during a

wedding and now a fresh marriage. As it should be. But, too often, I resort to being

heard, which is not the same, because, again, at my core, I am a quiet soul, a bare introvert,

a wallflower. I wear a faded brown housecoat with sweet peas on it, so I blend, unmistakably

to the wall’s pattern. Can I be seen? Yes. Is there one who can see me who can see me? No.

See them. See someone’s child for who he is or who he hopes or wants to be. I have destroyed

people by not seeing them. I have a heart of stone; my heart of flesh has calcified. But, you, no,

not too late. See each other.

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Earth Day

today? In a different sort of way, not in the way that
humanity aspires to, not in a worshipful sort of way,
keening after God in the space Mother Nature
sometimes abides in. I do believe in caring for our
planet in the same way I believe in caring for our
bodies. But, in the end, we are broken soldiers
in a broken army playing on a disappearing field.

by Philip Levine

The new grass rising in the hills,
the cows loitering in the morning chill,
a dozen or more old browns hidden
in the shadows of the cottonwoods
beside the streambed. I go higher
to where the road gives up and there’s
only a faint path strewn with lupine
between the mountain oaks. I don’t
ask myself what I’m looking for.
I didn’t come for answers
to a place like this, I came to walk
on the earth, still cold, still silent.
Still ungiving, I’ve said to myself,
although it greets me with last year’s
dead thistles and this year’s
hard spines, early blooming
wild onions, the curling remains
of spider’s cloth. What did I bring
to the dance? In my back pocket
a crushed letter from a woman
I’ve never met bearing bad news
I can do nothing about. So I wander
these woods half sightless while
a west wind picks up in the trees
clustered above. The pines make
a music like no other, rising and
falling like a distant surf at night
that calms the darkness before
first light. “Soughing” we call it, from
Old English, no less. How weightless
words are when nothing will do.

Originally appeared in The New Yorker, 2001. Copyright © 2001 by Philip Levine. Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

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“out, out . . . “

Funny, i would not have picked Frost to use a Shakespearean quote as a title to a poem. Especially, a quote by a female character and the conceit of this poem. I’ve been reading essays about Frost and his personality. It sounds like he was witty, sincere, unimpressed by position or wealth, and maybe one of those guys who laughs at his own jokes. (This is me just writing casually about a very great man who was a very great talent. I am not even trying to approach Frost academically, not sure if I could.) But, as I had last Saturday watched the new Macbeth with Patrick Stewart (insanely excellent, set in a more modern militaristic setting, but nothing specific), the intertextuality of Frost’s poem and the film felt difficult to ignore. I am content today or as close as I come to contentment: coffee, homeade granola, writing in a rocker on my porch with two sleeping dogs. Oh, and my phone is dead.:)

“Out, Out–”
by Robert Frost

The buzz-saw snarled and rattled in the yard
And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks

of wood,
Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it.
And from there those that lifted eyes could count
Five mountain ranges one behind the other
Under the sunset far into Vermont.
And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled,
As it ran light, or had to bear a load.
And nothing happened: day was all but done.
Call it a day, I wish they might have said
To please the boy by giving him the half hour
That a boy counts so much when saved from work.
His sister stood beside them in her apron
To tell them “Supper.” At the word, the saw,
As if to prove saws knew what supper meant,
Leaped out at the boy’s hand, or seemed to leap-
He must have given the hand. However it was,
Neither refused the meeting. But the hand!
The boy’s first outcry was a rueful laugh,
As he swung toward them holding up the hand
Half in appeal, but half as if to keep
The life from spilling. Then the boy saw all–
Since he was old enough to know, big boy
Doing a man’s work, though a child at heart–
He saw all spoiled. “Don’t let him cut my hand off–
The doctor, when he comes. Don’t let him, sister!”
So. But the hand was gone already.
The doctor put him in the dark of ether.
He lay and puffed his lips out with his breath.
And then-the watcher at his pulse took fright.
No one believed. They listened at his heart.
Little–less–nothing!–and that ended it.
No more to build on there. And they, since they
Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.

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One more thing.
Anything I say is brutal to you.
Maybe I need to quit this.

There really is no resolution.

You are vulnerable, and I am a self centered jerk who happens to be in love with you.


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This is a Photograph of Me

How do I go through life not knowing about poems like this one? How do you go through life not knowing people you once knew? What about all the people out there you don’t yet know? Is it possible? To discover something new, someone new, or something new in something you didn’t know existed. And haven’t I just proven it with this poem?
It was taken some time ago.
At first it seems to be
a smeared
print: blurred lines and grey flecks
blended with the paper;

then, as you scan
it, you see in the left-hand corner
a thing that is like a branch: part of a tree
(balsam or spruce) emerging
and, to the right, halfway up
what ought to be a gentle
slope, a small frame house.

In the background there is a lake,
and beyond that, some low hills.

(The photograph was taken
the day after I drowned.

I am in the lake, in the center
of the picture, just under the surface.

It is difficult to say where
precisely, or to say
how large or small I am:
the effect of water
on light is a distortion

but if you look long enough,
you will be able to see me.)

by Margaret Atwood

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your body is a wonderland

And i don’t mean the John Mayer kind. It really quite an accurate indicator

of what is going on inside us. Maybe this is a new phenomenon for just me.

I don’t know, sometimes my voice will quaver, my hands shake, my heart

will beat so hard, you could feel it through my clothes and yours if you were

to hug me. I had a couple of surgeries five weeks ago and for some reason,

an inexplicable reason, I cried. And I don’t mean just teared up. I cried

all day. From the moment I gave my credit card to the surgeon’s secretary

to hearing the mean nurse’s instructions, to the IV, to the multiple,

multiple nice nurses trying to get me to stop, to the doctor before

he prayed with me, after he prayed with me. Inconsolable.

I just turned my back to the room and face to the wall of that pale yellow

scuff-marked wall. Not fear, not fear of pain, certainly not fear of death,

not fear of missing anything, not anxiety over any certain thing, Well, maybe.

I think it was. This is why people journal–to figure out things. I was anxious

that I couldn’t get enough done, that I wouldn’t be able to get enough done

in the days that followed. And really, it wasn’t that I timed it all so miserably,

six weeks before a wedding, nine days before I had five children more

or less home AND the fiance, ten days before the first engagement party,

two weeks before I started my thesis, four weeks for the out-of-town

engagement party. No, I really know lying there scaring the nurses

with 145/95 (normally 90/60) blood pressure

and making my doctor frustrated with me that even though I had

stayed up till 1:30 staining my deck, and written thesis

drafts much of the summer, and read the book of poems I have to review

for a publication a couple of times, and left town twice to write, and tried

my hardest every single day, that I still couldn’t/can’t/won’t/ever/get

everything done. That does not feel liberating to me. That feels like a

defeat. Your body tells you though, tells you things if you listen. It’s

just that I never, ever want to hear what it’s telling me. Sleep. Eat. Rest.

Cry. Give up. Quit. If my body doesn’t like how I’m treating it, then

it’s just going to have to rebel a little harder.

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June 2018
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