Wednesday, July 12, 2006

In case of emergency, break glass

What poem(s) do you carry around in case of emergency? Put another way, what is that one poem you lean on when you need a lift?

For me, it's Mark Strand's Keeping Things Whole:

Keeping Things Whole

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body's been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.

~ from Selected Poems by Mark Strand. Copyright © 1980 by Mark Strand.

This poem describes how I'm feeling most days. If I'm not in balance, then I'm frenetic in an effort to restore order. Days that that leave me with a why-am-I-here? feeling. The line, "I move to keep things whole," reminds me why I do so much for so many people. That's the job description for a mom and an editor: keeping things whole.

(Also, I've heard Strand read it live, so it's his voice I hear in my head. )

So, what poem keeps you whole?


Anonymous said...

"maggie and millie and molly and may" by e.e. cummings reminds me to look at the world through fresh eyes and not take anything for granted.

maggie and millie and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and

millie befriended a stranded star
who's rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea.

January said...

What a great poem! Thanks for sharing, Boston Erin :)

I love e.e. cummings, but I don't read his work nearly enough.

vlaw said...

The Jewel (James Wright)

There is this cave
In the air behind my body
That nobody is going to touch:
A cloister, a silence
Closing around a blossom of fire.
When I stand upright in the wind,
My bones turn to dark emeralds.

Deb R said...

High Flight

It reminds me to live while the livin's good.

ecm said...

I have this hanging by my desk:

Sometimes things don't go, after all/from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel/faces down frost, green thrives; the crops don't fail/ sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people will sometimes step back from wars;/elect an honest man; decide they care/enough, that they can't leave some stranger poor./Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go/amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to./The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow/ that seemed hard frozen; may it happen to you.

--Shenagh Pugli

I also love Thank You by W.S. Merwin but it is very long...

January said...

Look at the range of poetry here--from James Wright to "High Flight" to Shenagh Pugli! Wonderful words to keep you going when the going gets tough.

Thank you all for sharing.

bb said...

I've had a good think about this and there isn't a poem that I find myself turning to for a lift on a bad day.
I think it's because when I'm in a down mood I don't want to read anything that is too obviously inspriational, instead I prefer to savour the dark emotions and channel them into production, somehow.
If I was going to read anything else it would be something spiteful and bombastic to aid my wallowing, like Plath's Daddy.
So perhaps I just won't allow any one else's poetry to give me a lift on day's like this, I want the bleakness to have greater meaning instead.

But then again, I'm contrary like that ;-)

January said...

BB, my contrarian friend, I know the rhythm of "Daddy" well, so I can see how you can carry with you on a bad day. I'm glad you posted your comment.

When you look at the Mark Strand poem I posted, it's not a happy poem. But somehow it gets me through the day.

jim said...

Yes, Wright's "A Blessing."

Plath's "Poppies in October." The later I write about here--just scroll down a bit, and you'll find it, along with lots of good discussions of necessary lines.

twitches said...

I LOVE this Strand poem - always have.

Mary Oliver is my favorite poet, and there is a stanza in her poem "In Blackwater Woods" that is my absolute favorite:

"To live in this world
you must learn to do three things:
to love what is mortal, to hold it
against your bones knowing your own life
depends on it, and, when the time comes
to let it go, to let it go."


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