Healing Poems 809

Outside of Richmond, Virginia, Sunday

It’s the kind of mid-January afternoon—
the sky as calm as an empty bed,
fields indulgent,
black Angus finally sitting down to chew—
that makes a girl ride her bike up and down the same muddy track of road
between the gray barn and the state highway
all afternoon, the black mutt
with the white patch like a slap on his rump
loping after the rear tire, so happy.
Right after Sunday dinner
until she can see the headlights out on the dark highway,
she rides as though she has an understanding with the track she’s opened up in
the road,
with the two wheels that slide and stutter in the red mud
but don’t run off from under her,
with the dog who knows to stay out of the way but to stay.
And even after the winter cold draws tears,
makes her nose run,
even after both sleeves are used up,
she thinks a life couldn’t be any better than this.
And hers won’t be,
and it will be very good.

~ Deborah Slicer

Healing Poems 808

Unfortunate Location

In the front yard there are three big white pines, older
than anything in the neighborhood except the stones.
Magnificent trees that toss their heads in the wind
like the spirited black horses of a troika. It’s hard to
know what to do, tall dark trees on the south side of
the house, an unfortunate location, blocking the
winter sun. Dark and damp. Moss grows on the roof,
the porch timbers rot and surely the roots have
reached the old bluestone foundation. At night, in
the wind, a tree could stumble and fall killing us in
our beds. The needles fall year after year making an
acid soil where no grass grows. We rake the fallen
debris, nothing to be done, we stand around with
sticks in our hands. Wonderful trees.

~ Louis Jenkins


Healing Poems 807

Sheep in the Winter Night

Inside the barn the sheep were standing, pushed close to one
another. Some were dozing, some had eyes wide open listening
in the dark. Some had no doubt heard of wolves. They looked
weary with all the burdens they had to carry, like being thought
of as stupid and cowardly, disliked by cowboys for the way they
eat grass about an inch into the dirt, the silly look they have
just after shearing, of being one of the symbols of the Christian
religion. In the darkness of the barn their woolly backs were
full of light gathered on summer pastures. Above them their
white breath was suspended, while far off in the pine woods,
night was deep in silence. The owl and rabbit were wondering,
along with the trees, if the air would soon fill with snowflakes,
but the power that moves through the world and makes our
hair stand on end was keeping the answer to itself.

~ Tom Hennen

Healing Poems 806


When I was a child
I once sat sobbing on the floor
Beside my mother’s piano
As she played and sang
For there was in her singing
A shy yet solemn glory
My smallness could not hold

And when I was asked
Why I was crying
I had no words for it
I only shook my head
And went on crying

Why is it that music
At its most beautiful
Opens a wound in us
An ache a desolation
Deep as a homesickness
For some far-off
And half-forgotten country

I’ve never understood
Why this is so

Bur there’s an ancient legend
From the other side of the world
That gives away the secret
Of this mysterious sorrow

For centuries on centuries
We have been wandering
But we were made for Paradise
As deer for the forest

And when music comes to us
With its heavenly beauty
It brings us desolation
For when we hear it
We half remember
That lost native country

We dimly remember the fields
Their fragrant windswept clover
The birdsongs in the orchards
The wild white violets in the moss
By the transparent streams

And shining at the heart of it
Is the longed-for beauty
Of the One who waits for us
Who will always wait for us
In those radiant meadows

Yet also came to live with us
And wanders where we wander.

~ Anne Porter

Healing Poems 805

First Desires

It was like listening to the record of a symphony before you knew anything
at all about the music,
what the instruments might sound like, look like, what portion of the
orchestra each represented:
there were only volumes and velocities, thickenings and thinnings, the
winding cries of change
that seemed to touch within you, through your body, to be part of you
and then apart from you.
And even when you’d learned the grainy timbre of the single violin, the
ardent arpeggios of the horn,
when you tried again there were still uneases and confusions left, an
ache, a sense of longing
that held you in chromatic dissonance, droning on beyond the dominant’s
resolve into the tonic,
as though there were a flaw of logic in the structure, or in (you knew it
was more likely) you.

~ C.K. Williams


Healing Poems 804

Carpe Diem

Night and day
seize the day, also the night —
a handful of water to grasp.
The moon shines off the mountain
snow where grizzlies look for a place
for the winter’s sleep and birth.
I just ate the year’s last tomato
in the year’s fatal whirl.
This is mid-October, apple time.
I picked them for years.
One Mcintosh yielded sixty bushels.
It was the birth of love that year.
Sometimes we live without noticing it.
Overtrying makes it harder.
I fell down through the tree grabbing
branches to slow the fall, got the afternoon off.
We drove her aqua Ford convertible into the country
with a sack of red apples. It was a perfect
day with her sun-brown legs and we threw ourselves
into the future together seizing the day.
Fifty years later we hold each other looking
out the windows at birds, making dinner,
a life to live day after day, a life of
dogs and children and the far wide country
out by rivers, rumpled by mountains.
So far the days keep coming.
Seize the day gently as if you loved her.

~ Jim Harrison

Healing Poems 803

Facing North

Ninety billion galaxies in this one tiny universe—
a billion seconds make thirty-two years.

No matter how many ways we conceive it,
this generous wedge called Ursa Major
more than fills my sight.

But now, as I turn to put out the lights
and give my dog her bedtime cookie,
my eyes become the handle of the great Milky Way,
and carry it into the house.

~ Dan Gerber

Healing Poems 802

I really liked this poem. I am including it here. It was meant to be a part of an art installation in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, but it got censored and banned from the installation. This is the only reason that I found the poem and an article about it, at City Pages, a local free weekly newspaper in my area, instead of its rightful place where I would have been able to see it and read it, out there in public, in downtown Minneapolis. The author says, “she envisioned it as an homage to all the strong, revolutionary women who work to make the world a better place.”

A Prayer for Pussies

Grown women know that feeling.
You a little girl under all that skin.
All of that life and holding back.
All of that gray coochie hair
And planted placentas under the tree the kids climb,
when hiding from spankings.
Under piles of unpaid bills and expired lottery tickets.
In your shadow sits that girl within.
Wise and wild.
Quiet and unforgiving.
Indignant and quick.
Clitoris driven.
An emotional wreck with soulful perfection.
Plotting on wildness
You start thinking:
Remember when I was all one hot heat?
One red ferocious flash?
One smooth sweet licorice?
One free flying unknown?

~ Junauda Petrus

Healing Poems 401

That Light

Everything is interesting
if you’re of a mind to see it
in that light. Claude Monet
probably understood this. The stoners
back in high school definitely
understood that everything is intoxicatingly
interesting if you’re of a mind
to see it in that light. My grandmother
in the emergency room
surrounded by doctors and nurses and children
and grandchildren, was of a mind to see
the pulse-oximeter on her left index finger
as the most interesting thing in the room,
more interesting than anything else in recent
memory, which was mostly gone
by then anyway. She cocked
her head like a bird or philosopher
contemplating a crumb
on God’s table under the light, that light,
and said to her children and her children’s children
and all of the strangers working together
to keep her from dying: “What
is the name of this thing? It’s so interesting.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before.”

~ Paul Hostovsky

Healing Poems 400

To Leave

Those rocky outcroppings
on the side of the highway
remind me of the planets
the Little Prince visited,

just big enough
for one person and a desk,
a space for thinking to yourself
out in the middle of space,

I think to myself as I drive past,
picturing that little kid
with the long scarf and yellow hair
standing up there. How did he

get around anyway? They never
explained that in the book. Madame
loved that book and wanted us
to love it, too. But I think we

misunderstood it. Something about
a flower and a sheep. A fox and a hat that
was really a snake with an elephant
inside it. That book was harder

than it looked. Maybe that’s why
I’m still thinking about it now,
looking for an exit ramp, light-years
away from the hillocky sphere where I was a kid

myself once. Madame got sick—
and we had a substitute teacher then
who dropped her r’s, even in French.
Every time she dropped an r we dropped

a book, loudly on the floor. Oh how we
tortured her. She got mad, ordered me to
leave: sortez! Minus the r, it sounded
like sauter: to jump. So I jumped

up and down, up and down. I kept
jumping because she kept on yelling:
sauter! sauter! In the end, Madame
never came back. I think she may have

died. It was ambiguous, the way
they left it at the end of that book—you felt
like crying though it wasn’t clear exactly
what happened. Just that it was sad

but also somehow very
beautiful. Sometimes you don’t
quite know why you feel like crying.
You just do. And it feels good, somehow.

Once upon a time I was laughing
when the next thing I knew
a book shut loudly, then a door
was closing behind me

and I was leaving—
walking down an infinitely tessellating
hallway, crying
with a little jump in my step.

~ Paul Hostovsky