“all their griefs in their arms”

In My Craft or Sullen Art
by Dylan Thomas

In my craft or sullen art,
exercised by the still night,
when the moon rages
and the lovers lie abed
with all their griefs in their arms,
I labor by singing light.

Not for ambition or bread,
or for the strut and trade of charms
on the ivory stages,
but for the common wages
of their most secret heart.

Not for the proud man apart
from the moon I write
on these spindrift pages,
nor for the towering dead
with their nightingales and psalms,
but for the lovers, their arms
’round the griefs of the ages,
who pay no praise or wages
nor heed my craft or art.

Grateful

Photo from Sodahead

Today, I am grateful for

  • days to dress up in 40s garb
  • Chinese milk tea from a dear friend (It tasted like home.)
  • the way technology connects people far and wide
  • C.S. Lewis’ Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
  • my cat
  • the wonderful coffee shop right down the road from my house
  • poetry
  • my parents
  • students who read my favorite play (Cyrano de Bergerac) and actually get it
  • the howling wind outside, bringing cooler air
  • the patience of my Heavenly Father, who hearkens to my scattered, mumbling prayers
  • a boss who truly takes into account the opinions of his staff
  • language learning apps (I’m working on Chinese and Gaelic intermittently.)
  • mercy
  • this song

“We’ll give thanks to You with gratitude for lessons learned in how to thirst for You, how to bless the very sun that warms our face if You never send us rain.”

“What is Poetry?”

Your inquisitive Chinese eyes looked into mine and asked, “What is poetry?”

I searched for words to bridge the chasm between my heart language
and yours
and found instead an old friend,
Yeats.

“What is poetry?” you asked,
so I turned to page ten
and began to read…

 

 

WHEN you are old and gray and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face among a crowd of stars.
(“When You are Old”, by William Butler Yeats)

Eyes (Edited)

I wrote this poem after listening to an audio version of Eudora Welty’s “Where is the Voice Coming From”, which took me back to my days of teaching in public school. Over the course of three years, four students of mine were tried and convicted for involvement in murder. This poem is not written to excuse their actions, but rather in hopes that we will look deeper into the hearts of those my mom has always called “the lost boys” and see things from their point of view. Constructive criticism is welcome in the comments.

Eyes

You saw my eyes,
my retinas reflecting
trouble,
my antipathy speaking
volumes.

You showed me a mirror.

It stared back and said,
“Keep walking this way,
and you’ll only find
trouble”,
but I shut my eyes and covered my
ears.

I wasn’t thinking.

I saw her eyes,
her retinas reflecting
terror,
my gun and white-hot rage speaking with a
bang.

They showed me a cell.

It stared back and said,
“Twenty-five to life
for one moment’s
actions”,
then, terror and despair consumed my soul.

You, teacher, you saw my eyes,
but not my heart.

You weren’t there those nights I
was lullabied with my mother’s screams

and my brother’s cries.

You weren’t soothed to sleep
by the drumbeat
of gunshots every night.

You didn’t watch your father disappear
after telling you that all you’ll ever be
is nothing.

You didn’t grow up
not knowing where your next meal
or next night’s bed would come from.

You didn’t walk my streets
under pairs of shoes on power lines,
watching dope deals happen everywhere you turn.

You didn’t grow up
with no one showing you any other way
out.

So, teacher, see my eyes,
my retinas reflecting
pain,
my hardened heart and hollow voice speaking
hopelessness.

And then look into another’s eyes,
and tell him,
“I see your heart.”