Line Break: ‘A Poem for Someone Who is Juggling Her Life’ by Rose Cook

photo-1452914793772-af331bf6e4b6.jpegThis is a poem for someone
who is juggling her life.
Be still sometimes.
Be still sometimes.

It needs repeating
over and over
to catch her attention
over and over,
as someone who is juggling her life
finds it difficult to hear.

Be still sometimes.
Be still sometimes.
Let it all fall sometimes.

*

Rose Cook is an English poet. This poem is from her collection Notes From a Bright Field, published in 2013.

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Line Break: ‘Birdcalls’ by Anders Carlson-Wee

photo-1434871619871-1f315a50efba.jpegI crept around the dark train yard
while my brother watched for bulls.
Two days deep into the Badlands
and all our water gone. We had a birdcall
for if you saw something and another
for if you heard. A silent yard eight strings wide
with a few junkers parked. The horizon
a dull burn. The rails lit dimly by dew.
I was looking for the water bottles
the conductors used and threw out the windows
with maybe a sip left inside them.
I found one by stepping on it.
I sucked it like a leech. I stumbled
up and down the ballast and found five more,
unbuttoning my shirt and nesting them
against my chest upright and capless.
We had the sandpiper for if you should run
and the flycatcher for if you should hide.
I can’t remember why we had the loon.
I crouched in the space between coal trains,
cradling the bottles and feeling the weight
of how little I had to spill.
I rubbed coal on my face. I felt crazy.
I thought about being found like this.
I tried to imagine what my story would be.
A version with my brother in it.
A version with no brother. I swear
I could smell rain a thousand miles away.
I could smell rain in the soot. I folded my hands
around my lips and made the gray ghost,
which told him where I was.
And also meant stay alert.
And also meant some other things
only owls understood.

***

Anders Carlson-Wee is the author of the chapbook Dynamite and a 2015 National Endowment of the Arts Fellow. He holds an MFA in poetry from Vanderbilt University and, from what I’ve read about him, has spent a lot of time on freight trains. If you like this poem, I recommend checking out more of his work, as well as this interview he did with Sonora Review. He’s a fascinating character.

Riding the Highline is a short film Carlson-Wee made with his brother Kai, also a poet, documenting their train-hopping journeys.

(Top photo by Dmitrii Vaccinium)

Line Break: ‘This World’ by Mary Oliver

photo-1444159759392-aeeb3d5851c1I would like to write a poem about the world that has in it
nothing fancy.
But it seems impossible.
Whatever the subject, the morning sun
glimmers it.
The tulip feels the heat and flaps its petals open and becomes a star.
The ants bore into the peony bud and there is a dark
pinprick well of sweetness.
As for the stones on the beach, forget it.
Each one could be set in gold.
So I tried with my eyes shut, but of course the birds
were singing.
And the aspen trees were shaking the sweetest music
out of their leaves.
And that was followed by, guess what, a momentous and
beautiful silence
as comes to all of us, in little earfuls, if we’re not too
hurried to hear it.
As for spiders, how the dew hangs in their webs
even if they say nothing, or seem to say nothing.
So fancy is the world, who knows, maybe they sing.
So fancy is the world, who knows, maybe the stars sing too,
and the ants, and the peonies, and the warm stones,
so happy to be where they are, on the beach, instead of being
locked up in gold.

*********

I started this poetry series a year ago with a poem by Mary Oliver, so I thought it fitting to begin its second year with another one by her. Because we could all use more Mary Oliver in our lives, right? This is the tenth poem I have shared in the ‘Line Break’ series, and I plan to continue it…maybe forever.

You can check out other poems in this series here.

Line Break: ‘Questions to Ask Yourself Before Giving Up’ by Kaitlyn Boulding

photo-1442405740009-7b57cca9d316Questions to ask yourself before giving up:

Are you hydrated?
When did you last
glut your thirst
with a handful of spring?

Have you eaten anything
besides emails or your fingernails
in the last three hours? Have you
pulled the protein out of an oak
tree or palmed an avocado
pit this month? Are your forlorn probiotics

languishing on your butter shelf?
Are you dressed? If so, does your skirt
strike matches alight
as you walk by? Can you melt
it a little around your waist
and ribcage? Are you resisting

a dream? Wrestling a dreamless night? Let yourself
take a bath in your bed
clothes for fifteen minutes,
no pressure to fall asleep. But make sure
to turn off all your beehives
first. At least take them out
of your bedroom.

Have you uncoiled the ropes of your legs
and strung them along the length of the city
today? Have you let a lake or a snow bank
sketch silent letters on your back?
When did you last give away

your unworn clothes, your well-fitting
metaphors? Tell a neighbour or a person across
the coffee shop counter how well
they catch the light.

Have you snugged into a seedpod
in the past couple days? Do you need
a massage? Complete something

smaller than a lichen: return
a library book, or a letter, or a look,
or a relationship you regret. Sew
a button on that’s come loose. Crack
a window. Crack an egg.

Do you feel unattractive? Rub your skin
with smooth stones
or strong magnets. Wear sunglasses.
Take your reflection in
on the surface of a puddle.

Give yourself ten minutes.
Give yourself ten years.
Give yourself an orgasm.
Give yourself a change of seasons.
Give yourself a new lover.
Give yourself a to-do list
written with sidewalk
chalk and hopscotch across it.

Have you been working really hard
shovelling all the sidewalks
of your friendships?
Remember it takes time
to recover from exertion,
especially when you are a seedling.

Know that your friends want to send help.
They want to send daffodils and their extra hands
to braid your hair. They all want to be deciduous trees
and long semi-coloned sentences for you.
They want to.

Remember: you are a comma, one
beloved earring, a house
circled on a traveller’s map,
sometimes misplaced,
but never an imposition.

Everyone feels like a hallway
at some point or another.
But you are a room
that people enter to stay.

(This poem was published in the Canadian feminist magazine Guts. I discovered it via my friend Leah Shumka, who shared it on social media. Thanks, Leah!)

Line Break: ‘Home’ by Warsan Shire

3500no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay. Continue reading

Line Break: ‘Hit’ by Ali Blythe

Today there is nothing
on the radio in my head
but the hotel radio is playing
“Drops of Jupiter” as my nausea

waits by the tracks for the rush-by
to stop. Being in a train or a Top 40
is like being caught in a lion’s
mouth that is still moving very fast.

I know I can’t really put on
a body other than my own.
And I know I can’t wear you forever,
sick blanket, or you, animal coat.

Children and doctors
are precise with their removals
of the heart and other
unmentionables. I am,

after all, alive, with a hint
occasionally of their fluttering
knives. When sense stops
coming through and the station

overruns with static
I get a rubbed-the-wrong-way
backlit feeling that is high
and whipping like the wind

reading Monday’s paper.
Not much in it if it comes at all.
I hope something is about to
pick me up in its mouth and run.

.

Ali Blythe’s poetry has been published in multiple literary journals and magazines including Descant, PRISM International, The Malahat Review and This Magazine. ‘Hit’ is from a first book of poems, Twoism, forthcoming with Icehouse Poetry at Goose Lane Editions on September 15, 2015. It can be pre-ordered at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca. CBC named Twoism one of the hottest Canadian poetry collections coming out this fall.

Ali is a friend and former classmate of mine in the writing program at the University of Victoria. Ali’s poetry blew me away from the first workshop we had together, and I’m honoured to feature the work here. Ali, thank you and congratulations on Twoism!

~C.

Line Break: ‘Dark Pines Under Water’ by Gwendolyn MacEwen

photo-1415200358018-bb07fced3660

This land like a mirror turns you inward
And you become a forest in a furtive lake;
The dark pines of your mind reach downward,
You dream in the green of your time,
Your memory is a row of sinking pines.

Explorer, you tell yourself this is not what you came for
Although it is good here, and green;
You had meant to move with a kind of largeness
You had planned a heavy grace, an anguished dream.

But the dark pines of your mind dig deeper
And you are sinking, sinking, sleeper
In an elementary world;
There is something down there and you want it told.

 

*Gwendolyn MacEwen (1941-1987) was a Canadian poet. ‘Dark Pines Under Water’ was published in 1969.
(Image by Yu-chuan Hsu via Unsplash)

Line Break: ‘Visiting Hours’ (An original poem)

hazy-trees
That first winter her wrists
were bruised blue from the IV: a word
she said suddenly often, its mysterious fluid
like a new, uninvited

part of the family.

My brother mostly waited at the door.
Twelve years old and six foot one
He’d push his hands into his pockets,
high-top laces dangling
on the floor. His glasses were always
smeared, their wire arms

wound with duct tape.

I tiptoed in,
ready for my important task:
unroll a washcloth
from the stack above the sink.
Get it good and cold
baby girl, she’d call, wring the water out.
Her forehead shone. I pressed
the corners of the cloth to each temple
and after, lifting the sheet,
slipped in, careful not to bump

the tube sliding from her nose.

We lay together, my mother smoothing
my hair with her hand
as if in that small bed
that smelled of medicine
we didn’t know the names of
no one was wounded at all.

*

(I wrote an earlier version of this poem in 2008. With Mother’s Day coming up, I felt compelled to share it. I still feel like that young girl, trying to protect her mom, trying to heal her. To all the moms and daughters reading this, Happy (almost) Mother’s Day. The bond we share is surely one of life’s most intense, most complicated, and most beautiful.)

xo ~C.

Line Break: ‘The Guest House’ by Jalaluddin Rumi

DSC_0374This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

*photo via superfamous

Line Break: ‘Gargoyles’ by Susan Glickman

steamSunlight in the window
a cup of lemon tea.
Nothing is about to happen.
This moment is mine —
I hold it in my hand and say
Yes, this is a new day,
I don’t believe we’ve met before,
then lean on my porch,
pretending to be a man in shirtsleeves, smoking,
or a grandmother resting her years.

I can feel myself fitting into the long corridors
of balcony-loungers all over the city:
we are the gargoyles of the great cathedral.
It is our scrutiny which brings pink
to geraniums, red to the tiles of the roof,
a vivid blue to the ribbons
in a little girl’s hair.

It is our vigilance that fills the air
with breakfast smells, and the memory
of last night’s rain. We are
the attentive ones, the guardians,
drinkers of tea
in the cup of the day.

*photo by Zugr via Unsplash