As you tell me

As you tell me

the woes of the world,

of all that is wrong and out of place,

the injustices, the unfair dues of your space

carved out of a world you help build;

as you tell me

how the air is now

too thin

to breathe,

the ground,

too heavy

to dig,

the people,

too deaf

to hear your valid cries,

too blind

to support

your team’s placards, your tribe’s war-paint,

those with the correct branding on your

well-vetted t-shirts;

as you tell me

of apocalypse and my need to

wake up, and see Jesus in your message

of #allthismatters and #allthatmatters and

#fuckyourmatters because #onlyImatter;

as you tell me

about all we’re losing

if that guys wins, or this guy wins,

or some guy wins, or we all win

if my guy wins; so, get on board

the happy train your bunch

is driving, with the right conductor

on the right track, going the right way,

for the right reasons, to make things right,

again, the way they were;

as you tell me

the world is going to hell-in-a-handbasket,

my neighbour hasn’t heard your news,

she cradles a dying child.

Viral Dailies: the end…Before and After (a poem)

My candidate for the last Viral Dailies National Poetry Month 2020 installment.

All Nine

Before and after

There’s this thing going around about
how we should not want to go back
to “normal” because what came before
should be – upon reflection – forsaken.
I don’t know what your normal looked like
before, but as for me, I can’t wait to
have a random unplanned conversation
with a colleague by the coffee machine
as we hover waiting our turn, stand on
the sidelines with the other soccer moms,
go to the Word Barn crowded with lovers
of poetry and listen elbow to elbow
in rapt attention to a local writer
rap about random shit, sip wine as we listen
fully and nod, walk miles back and forth
with the waves and a hundred other
beach walkers on Long Sands, browse
aimlessly in an indie bookshop – touch
every interesting cover, then wait
in the café for my husband, who will take
twice as long to…

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Viral Dailies, Penultimate

I skipped a day yesterday. A little lie to continue calling these Viral Dailies under those circumstances. But, alas, here we go all the same for National Poetry Month’s penultimate offering. Today’s comes from 2012 Washington State Poet Laureate, Kathleen Flennikan.

Kathleen Flenniken is the author of three poetry collections.  Plume (University of Washington Press, 2012) Her first book, Famous (University of Nebraska Press, 2006), won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry and was named a Notable Book by the American Library Association.  Her third poetry collection, Post Romantic, has been selected by Linda Bierds for the Pacific Northwest Poetry Series and will be published by University of Washington Press in Fall 2020.

Kathleen’s awards include a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and Artist Trust. She served as Washington State Poet Laureate from 2012 – 2014.

Kathleen teaches poetry in the schools through arts agencies like Writers in the Schools and Jack Straw. For 13 years she was an editor at Floating Bridge Press, a nonprofit press dedicated to publishing Washington State poets, and currently serves on the board of Jack Straw, an audio arts studio and cultural center. Kathleen holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from Pacific Lutheran University, as well as bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering. She lives in Seattle.

What follows is a gorgeous recitation of her poem, “Angel” in both English and Spanish.

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Viral Dailies, Day 27

The role of art isn’t merely to inject beauty into ugliness. That’s decoration. Art plays a uniquely prophetic role in the culture. It must help us to see ourselves sufficiently to become not just self-aware, but fully aware of injustice and imbalance needing adjustment.

In this remarkable poem, written shortly after Trump’s inauguration (crowning), it holds truer today after four years of this seemingly unshakable shit-storm than it did when first published. 

Sherman Alexei, our featured poet, and those like him, we thank you for the courage of insight and setting it to the music of words.

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Hymn

Why do we measure people’s capacity

To love by how well they love their progeny?

That kind of love is easy. Encoded.
Any lion can be devoted

To its cubs. Any insect, be it prey
Or predator, worships its own DNA.

Like the wolf, elephant, bear, and bees,
We humans are programmed to love what we conceive.

That’s why it’s so shocking when a neighbor
Drives his car into a pond and slaughter-

Drowns his children. And that’s why we curse
The mother who leaves her kids — her hearth —

And never returns. That kind of betrayal
Rattles our souls. That shit is biblical.

So, yes, we should grieve an ocean
When we encounter a caretaker so broken.

But I’m not going to send you a card
For being a decent parent. It ain’t that hard

To love somebody who resembles you.
If you want an ode then join the endless queue

Of people who are good to their next of kin —
Who somehow love people with the same chin

And skin and religion and accent and eyes.
So you love your sibling? Big fucking surprise.

But how much do you love the strange and stranger?
Hey, Caveman, do you see only danger

When you peer into the night? Are you afraid
Of the country that exists outside of your cave?

Hey, Caveman, when are you going to evolve?
Are you still baffled by the way the earth revolves

Around the sun and not the other way around?
Are you terrified by the ever-shifting ground?

Hey, Trump, I know you weren’t loved enough
By your sandpaper father, who roughed and roughed

And roughed the world. I have some empathy
For the boy you were. But, damn, your incivility,

Your volcanic hostility, your lists
Of enemies, your moral apocalypse —

All of it makes you dumb and dangerous.
You are the Antichrist we need to antitrust.

Or maybe you’re only a minor league
Dictator — temporary, small, and weak.

You’ve wounded our country. It might heal.
And yet, I think of what you’ve revealed

About the millions and millions of people
Who worship beneath your tarnished steeple.

Those folks admire your lack of compassion.
They think it’s honest and wonderfully old-fashioned.

They call you traditional and Christian.
LOL! You’ve given them permission

To be callous. They have been rewarded
For being heavily armed and heavily guarded.

You’ve convinced them that their deadly sins
(Envy, wrath, greed) have transformed into wins.

Of course, I’m also fragile and finite and flawed.
I have yet to fully atone for the pain I’ve caused.

I’m an atheist who believes in grace if not in God.
I’m a humanist who thinks that we’re all not

Humane enough. I think of someone who loves me —
A friend I love back — and how he didn’t believe

How much I grieved the death of Prince and his paisley.
My friend doubted that anyone could grieve so deeply

The death of any stranger, especially a star.
“It doesn’t feel real,” he said. If I could play guitar

And sing, I would have turned purple and roared
One hundred Prince songs — every lick and chord —

But I think my friend would have still doubted me.
And now, in the context of this poem, I can see

That my friend’s love was the kind that only burns
In expectation of a fire in return.

He’s no longer my friend. I mourn that loss.
But, in the Trump aftermath, I’ve measured the costs

And benefits of loving those who don’t love
Strangers. After all, I’m often the odd one —

The strangest stranger — in any field or room.
“He was weird” will be carved into my tomb.

But it’s wrong to measure my family and friends
By where their love for me begins or ends.

It’s too easy to keep a domestic score.
This world demands more love than that. More.

So let me ask demanding questions: Will you be
Eyes for the blind? Will you become the feet

For the wounded? Will you protect the poor?
Will you welcome the lost to your shore?

Will you battle the blood-thieves
And rescue the powerless from their teeth?

Who will you be? Who will I become
As we gather in this terrible kingdom?

My friends, I’m not quite sure what I should do.
I’m as angry and afraid and disillusioned as you.

But I do know this: I will resist hate. I will resist.
I will stand and sing my love. I will use my fist

To drum and drum my love. I will write and read poems
That offer the warmth and shelter of any good home.

I will sing for people who might not sing for me.
I will sing for people who are not my family.

I will sing honor songs for the unfamilar and new.
I will visit a different church and pray in a different pew.

I will silently sit and carefully listen to new stories
About other people’s tragedies and glories.

I will not assume my pain and joy are better.
I will not claim my people invented gravity or weather.

And, oh, I know I will still feel my rage and rage and rage
But I won’t act like I’m the only person onstage.

I am one more citizen marching against hatred.
Alone, we are defenseless. Collected, we are sacred.

We will march by the millions. We will tremble and grieve.
We will praise and weep and laugh. We will believe.

We will be courageous with our love. We will risk danger
As we sing and sing and sing to welcome strangers.

©2017 Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexei

Spokane-based Sherman Alexie is a preeminent Native American poet, novelist, performer and filmmaker. He has garnered high praise for his poems and short stories of contemporary Native American reservation life. He has published 22 books including The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, winner of a 2007 National Book Award; War Dances, recipient of the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award; and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, which earned the PEN/Hemingway Award for Best First Book.

Viral Dailies, Day 26

Today’s poem is by Brooke Matson.

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Brooke Matson is a poet and educator in Spokane, Washington. Eight years of teaching and mentoring at-risk youth deepened her study of physical science and the psychological effects of violence and loss. Her current poems explore the intersection of physical science—particularly chemistry, physics, and astrophysics—with human experiences of loss, violence, and resilience.

Matson’s first full-length collection of poetry, The Moons, was published by Blue Begonia Press in 2012 and was also included in the 2015 Blue Begonia Press boxed set, Tell Tall Women. Her poems have most recently been accepted to Prairie Schooner, Rock & Sling, Poetry Northwest, and Crab Creek Review. The 2016 recipient of the Artist Trust GAP Award with Centrum Residency and the 2016 winner of the Spokane Arts Award for Collaboration, Matson poetry has also been selected for regional anthologies such as Railtown Almanac (Sage Hill Press), and Lilac City Fairy Tales (Scablands Books).

She currently serves as the executive director of Spark Central, a nonprofit dedicated to igniting creativity, innovation, and imagination. Find out more about her and how to purchase her work here.

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Viral Dailies, Day 25

Just five days to go until the quarantine version of National Poetry Month comes to its virtual end. I’m marking the occasion by posting gems from a few of our own Pacific Northwest poets.

We see life a little different here in the PNW. A bit more aloof and distant at times, perhaps to highlight our sense of entrancement at the beauty and danger of our surroundings. Perhaps because the only words that don’t fail are those sung in poems. 

Ironically, to say as much, my offering today is from one of our favourite bands, Scottish group called Deacon Blue. They describe it well in their song lyric from “The Hipsters” – “Friends. Who needs friends, when there’s a road and an ocean?” 

So then, to highlight the unique Pacific Northwest ethos with a remarkable economy of words is this song by a band not even from here!

The Hipsters

All, all those waves
And that old sun
Shining

So drive
Drive to the coast
And let the water
Surround you

I was standing by the shore
Pulled by the deepest blue
Aching for the allure
Of the hipster boys
And the hipster girls
Shining

Friends, who needs friends?
When there’s a road
And an ocean

I was standing by the shore
Pulled by the deepest blue
Aching for the allure
Of the hipster boys
And the hipster girls
Shining

When I let the dream
Die slowly down
Did I do it right
Or was I wrong?

I was standing by the shore
Pulled by the deepest blue
Aching for the allure
Of the hipster boys
And the hipster girls
Shining, falling
Glistening, diving…

Viral Dailies, Day 24

Today’s Viral Dailies, my recognition and celebration of National Poetry Month in isolation, is by the unforgettable Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda.

He was a contemporary Shakespeare when writing about love. Below is one of his best. Enjoy!

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If you forget me

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
remember
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

But
if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

Viral Dailies, Day 22

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One more new day

A spot returned to an otherwise muted sun.

“I’ll not be waylaid”, she said, panting warily

in her suffusing bathtub of light, coughed up

and thick, like an overworked calendar.

“There’s much to lose on these days

of quarantined madness.” 

So, without another word, she sighed

and winked, baring her breasts to

suckle one more new day.

 

Picture found here

Viral Dailies, Day 20

Our National Poetry Month/#poetryinisolation initiative continues apace. Today belongs to Christine Valters-Paintner. Christine is our online abbess at Abbey of the Arts. 

On the Abbey website (which you are hitherto strongly urged to frequent and muck about in!) we read the following:

“The Abbey is a virtual global online monastery offering pilgrimages, online classes & retreats, reflections, and resources which integrate contemplative spiritual practice and creative expression with monastic spirituality. We support you in becoming a monk in the world and an artist in everyday life. We believe in nourishing an earth-cherishing consciousness. We are an open and affirming community and strive to be radically inclusive.”

What follows is a most encouraging piece that gives full-throated praise to those who deserve it most, those who have stood in the gap, and the God whose expansive grace envelopes all, especially during suffering.

Watch. Listen. Pause. Pray. Rinse. Repeat…

Praise Song for the Pandemic

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Get to know Christine through the many rich spiritual resources available on her virtual monastery page, including prayer resources for the pandemic.

She has two books out this year. This one.

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And a collection of poems.

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Thanks for all you do among us, Christine, to help shape the artist monk within!

Viral Dailies, Day 18

Today’s Viral Dailies comes to us by way of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Still one of my all time favourite poets. He was a Jesuit priest who never totally felt comfortable as a poet.

His earthly work with the pen ensured a better, richer ministry as priest.

As a Jesuit minister of the Gospel, his poems are infused with the breath of heaven.

There is a sadness afoot in the following poem. It seems written from one whose heart longs once again for the passionate, innocent throes of youth but has been forcibly awakened to the fears and disturbance of maturity and “the real world.” What in youth enthralls will soon disappoint.

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Spring and Fall

To a young child

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.