Poem to read when you want to help someone but don’t know how

I think of this poem every time I’m feeling helpless because a friend or family member is sick or in physical or emotional pain and I want to do something, anything, to help….Not knowing what else to do I often give them a card or poem or book or silly little toy. It’s not much, but it’s

 A GESTURE

Molly Peacock 


Something kind done, something kind said
in spite of everything done and said, in spite
of a soreness of mind, is like being led
to a lawn edged with trees in partial light

Read rest of poem 

Dailies 9/25/17: Metamorphosis, peonies, Jesus walking (or not) on water, hummingbirds, the Italic Gods, a pear tree

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Linda Bierds – Metamorphosis: 1680

                     I paint flowers decorated with caterpillars.
                     I want to inquire into everything that exists and find
out how it began.
                                           —Maria Sibylla Merian
                                From basil, the scorpion.
                                           —Athanasius Kircher
From pine tree resin, amber.
**** From fury, hail.
From acacia’s sap, the bond.
**** From raindrops, frogs.

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Jim Harrison – Peonies

The peonies, too heavy with their beauty,
slump to the ground. I had hoped

Read rest of poem 

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Ciara Shuttleworth  – Police Statement

The morning we watched Jesus,
there was no fog. For weeks,
oil was tracked up and down Great Highway’s
sidewalk—a tanker spill had closed the beach

Read rest of poem

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Cintia Santana – Hum

Slip of
bird
with fan
of furious
wings in
blossom’s
throat I hear

Read rest of poem 

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Sherod Santos – The Italic Gods

 

In the back room of a secondhand bookshop on Printer’s Row, I leafed through a stack of nineteenth-century topographic maps spread out on a table and weighted with a stone. I was the only customer in the store, and though he’d checked my bag when I entered, the desk clerk hardly glanced my way.

Read rest of poem 

~~~TRIBRACH~~~

Poetry Diary: a nice September poem.

Freya Manfred – Green Pear Tree in September

On a hill overlooking the Rock River
my father’s pear tree shimmers,
in perfect peace,
covered with hundreds of ripe pears

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Dailies 1/28/17: Alas! A therapist/artist, Mexico, the Great Molasses Flood

 

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Life, Lightened – Molly Peacock

 

Like a runaway artist, you used to flee
your patients’ modern anguish at home

to stroll along the ochre squares of Rome,
to sketch a yellow leaf, a tawny hound,

Read rest of poem 

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Mexico – Robert Bernard Hass

I have just crossed the Rio Grande,
And by a string of clever switchbacks
Have, for the moment, outwitted the posse.

Read rest of poem 

There’s also a good quote on the Writer’s Almanac site today:

“The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.”—Pico Iyer

 

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The Great Molasses Flood – Ben Berman
Here and there struggled a form …
Only an upheaval a thrashing about
in the sticky mass, showed where any life was.

—The Boston Post, 1919

Over two million gallons of molasses
turned Boston into a modern Pompeii,
drowning men and horses under massive

Read rest of poem 

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Alas – Walter de la Mare

One moment take thy rest.
Out of mere nought in space

Read rest of poem 

“It isn’t what happened that lasts./ Not art, either, but the savory core. What’s felt.”

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Thinking of the letters Elizabeth Bishop wrote to her psychiatrist that I posted about yesterday,  here is a link to an article by poet Molly Peacock about her own therapist, called  My Analyst of 40 Years Had a Stroke—Then Became an Artist,” published in the Partisan Review (June 16, 2016.)

The topic of poets and their relationships with their therapists is a rather fascinating one. I assume we’ll see more stories about it in the following months, esp. after Peacock’s new book of poetry, The Analyst, “a new, visceral, twenty-first-century In Memoriamin which Peacock brilliantly tells the story of a decades-long patient-therapist relationship that now reverses and continues to evolve” (quote taken from the publisher’s description) is published next year. Here’s a poem from the upcoming book:

In Our Unexpected Future

Molly Peacock

Love-sadness prances across the flounces
of peach-gowned women in old-fashioned portraits
as an anniversary presses us toward them.
(Stick-stick: the sound of your cane tip on marble.)

Read rest of poem at The Hudson Review. Also see this interview with Peacock at Duende.

On Molly Peacock & chocolate-covered grasshoppers

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I’ve got an op ed coming out in the Hartford Courant tomorrow about poetry and mental illness, which I’m happy but nervous about, esp. as they’re trying to do more videos = they sent out a photographer on Thursday to video tape me reading a poem as well. The photographer was much fun to work with, though gently let me know that the video had to be under one minute long…which meant that I had to scrap everything I’d prepared and pick a new poem and write a new intro immediately.

At least that gives me the opportunity to plug a few of poems a little more here, talking about what I wanted to read as well as what I did read….  I originally wanted to read “The Distance Up Close” by Molly Peacock, because the sounds in it are beautiful and it features prominently in my piece.  I find it hard to not get choked up (good for video?) when I read it too, esp. at the part about how “the fantasies that rose/from my young mind, guarded against my foes’/mocking by my own mocking, lessen.”  –That makes me teary because it’s such a good way of phrasing why making fun of ourselves/ putting ourselves down (as depressives do to an uber-amount,) makes us feel like we’re protecting ourselves from others doing the same. (I’m having to hold myself back here, for ex, from totally making fun of how I look in the video and tearing my looks self apart as a form of self-protection against others doing so first….)
I picked Emily Dickinson’s “A Formal Feeling Comes” because I love it and knew it was super-short, but if I had more time to think I might have picked Peacock’s “Anger Sweetened,” which I also mention in the essay.  Here it is:

ANGER SWEETENED

Molly Peacock

What we don’t forget is what we don’t say.
I mourn the leaps of anger covered
by quizzical looks, grasshoppers covered
by coagulating chocolate. Each word,

Read rest of poem at Women’s Voices for Change.

This poem is especially important to me because I can use it to sum up what happened in a five-year romantic relationship I once had in which my then-partner and I never argued. Although we seemed like a wonderfully happy couple to others, when we got to the inevitable rough times that all relationships go through we fell completely apart, partly due to the resentments that formed when we didn’t express our small angers. They ended up gagging us, as Peacock describes, like chocolate-covered grasshoppers.

Oy. This poem has helped me pinpoint and understand one of the main problems with that relationship. Figuring it out has helped me to not make the same mistakes in others. (I do  argue, when necessary, with my current husband.  Sigh.) 🙂

Molly Peacock is the contemporary poet whose work has most helped me through and learn from my own difficult times, because her work helps me to understand the complexities of emotional situations.

I hope more people might read her work and find similar insight.

—-

More poems that can help bring others back from depression

     I posted a Washington Post article a few days ago about a suicidal teenager whose life was saved by a Mary Oliver poem.  It reminded me of a recent New York Times “Modern Love” piece by Betsy MacWhinney, called “Bringing a Daughter Back From the Bring With Poems,” (February 26, 2015.)  The essay starts off telling us how MacWhinney’s teenaged daughter stopped wearing shoes out of depression and because “George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004.”  The shoes eventually came back on, but the depression continued.  MacWhinney writes:

I started leaving poems in her shoes in the morning. She had used the shoes as a form of quiet protest, so I decided I would use them to make a quiet stand for hope. When one of your primary strategies as a parent involves leaving Wendell Berry’s “Mad Farmer Liberation Front” in your child’s shoe, it’s clear things aren’t going well.

What I wanted her to know is: People have been in pain before, struggled to find hope, and look what they’ve done with it. They made poetry that landed right in your shoe, the same shoe you didn’t wear for four months because of your despair.

     Read the rest of MacWhinney’s good essay here: “Bringing a Daughter Back From the Brink With Poems.”
     The article also reminded me of the poem that once helped save my own life.
     I spent a few months in a psychiatric hospital for clinical depression when I was a teenager, back in the 1980’s.  To get out of the hospital I had to move up different “levels,” for example, to get better enough to not have to constantly have a staff member with me making sure I didn’t harm myself, then to get better enough to be allowed to walk around the hospital campus by myself without running away.
      On a visit, my father brought me the poem “The Distance up Close” by Molly Peacock.  I read the poem over and over again, not just because of what it said about goals and how it helped inspire me to work harder and get better, but because the “oh” sounds in it are so pleasing and healthy-sounding (unlike the sick-sounding “oo” sounds in Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy, for contrast.)
     In hopes that reading this poem might help someone else sometime, here it is:
THE DISTANCE UP CLOSE
Molly Peacock
All my life I’ve had goals to go after, goals
in a molten distance. And just the way snows
in the distance, dense and white among groves
of bare trees, lessen as I approach and show

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