Tag Archives: health

Jim Haba’s “In a Time of Confusion”

In a Time of Confusion
by Jim Haba
 

In a time of confusion and reckoning

pause.   Turn again to the endless

 

circle from which we sprang.

Respect its boundary.    Worship

 

its center.    Drink in the weight

of its soothing simplicity.    Ride

 

its lightning rotation

into stillness.    Drop

 

down ever more deeply.

Trust what is found there.

 

Jim Haba grew up in rural Washington, both east and west of the Cascade Mountains.  To the east on farms and orchards in the Yakima Valley.  To the west in state parks his stepfather pioneered on Bainbridge and Camano Islands. Haba designed, produced, and hosted twelve biennial Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festivals (1986-2008), the largest poetry events in North America. He divides his time now between Central New Jersey, surrounded again by fields and park land, and the outer reaches of Cape Cod. (Bio from JimHaba.com)

 

This poem was posted on “A Poet a Day,” a series that is part of journalist Bill Moyer’s website Moyers on Democracy. The website also has a video of Jim Haba talking about how the poem came to be written and then reading it aloud.

Jane Kenyon’s “Otherwise”

Otherwise
by Jane Kenyon

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.
At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

Jane Kenyon, “Otherwise,” from Collected Poems (Graywolf Press, 2007).

A. Van Jordan’s “Afterward but not Afterword”

Afterward but not Afterword
by A. Van Jordan

State of Florida v. Patrick Gene Scarborough, David Erwin Beagles, Ollie Odell Stoutamire, William Ted Collinsworth, 1959, case #3445.

Later I lower my head to my father’s chest,

the hollow where I hear his heart stop, if stop

meant speed to a stop, if hearts could gasp like a

mouth when events stun the heart to a stop

for a moment. His eyes fill with anger

then, collecting himself, he rises up to slump

his shoulders back down. The fists. The eyes.

Nothing can raise up, nothing feels essential,

a black body raising up in the south and all…

To a life starting here, ethereal, yet flesh, and all?

And even if you could, what all good would it do?

The damage and all. Black birds flock,

dulcet yet mourning, an uproar of need,

a cry of black but blue is not the sky

in which they gender. My God, if life is not pain,

no birth brought me into this world,

or could life begin here where it ends—

no shelter, no comfort, no ride home—
and must I go on, saying more? Pointing

them out in a court of men? Didn’t

the trees already finger the culprits? Creatures

make a way where there is no way. That way

after I lean into what’s left of me—and must I

(yes, you must) explain, over and over,

how my blood came to rest here—my body,

now labeled evidence, sows what I have yet to say.

About This Poem: “Betty Jean Owens was an African American woman who was raped by four white men—Patrick Gene Scarborough, David Erwin Beagles, Ollie Odell Stoutamire, and William Ted Collinsworth—in Tallahassee, Florida, on May, 1959. The trial was a landmark case, covered at the time by the BBC and international news outlets. This was the first case on record in which a jury of twelve white men found white-male assailants guilty of raping a black woman. Writing this poem, as a man, I can only approximate the emotion in the scene, even for the father as he tries to comfort her.”
A. Van Jordan

Copyright © 2020 by A. Van Jordan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 30, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets. Suggested to the Humanities Institute by Pauline Strong.

An Excerpt from Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen, An American Lyric”

Excerpt from Citizen, An American Lyric, a book-length prose poem by Claudia Rankine

The new therapist specializes in trauma counseling. You have only ever spoken on the phone. Her house has a side gate that leads to a back entrance she uses for patients. You walk down a path bordered on both sides with deer grass and rosemary to the gate, which turns out to be locked.
At the front door the bell is a small round disc that you press firmly. When the door finally opens, the woman standing there yells, at the top of her lungs, Get away from my house. What are you doing in my yard?
It’s as if a wounded Doberman pinscher or a German shepherd has gained the power of speech. And though you back up a few steps, you manage to tell her you have an appointment. You have an appointment? she spits back. Then she pauses. Everything pauses. Oh, she says, followed by, oh, yes, that’s right. I am sorry.
I am so sorry, so, so sorry.

 

Claudia Rankine, Citizen, An American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 2014).