Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

The Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Let’s face it. Mondays are rough. The end of the freedom that came with the weekend, the start of a long week, the return to work. To help ease you into your week, I would like to share a little something that made me smile.

From one of the funniest shows on TV right now!

From one of the funniest shows on TV right now!

Old Woman Warning

There is a modern poem that sparked an entire movement called the Red Hat Society. I will tell you that I loved this poem long before that occurred. :) I have never attended a Red Hat Society tea, nor do I own a red hat, but when I am old, I will most certainly wear purple. This poem was written by Jenny Joseph.

Warning

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

***
So many poems about aging seem sad. I think that is why I always liked this one. It makes aging seem like freedom to finally be who you really are and do what you want. :)

Thank you!!

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The Words of Naomi Shihab Nye

There are a lot of poets that I did not have the opportunity to meet in my lit classes in college. Not to show my age to obviously, but many modern poets, including Billy Collins who I shared earlier did not publish prior to my graduation. As a result, I came to know their work through cruises through the virtual shelves of Amazon.com and reading writing books with suggested reading lists.

One such poet is Naomi Shihab Nye. She is an Palestinian-American who has written several books of poetry and fiction, including some for children. She was elected the Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2009.

The first poem I’d like to share is from her book, Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (1995).

Burning the Old Year

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn’t do
crackle after the blazing dies.

***

The other poem I wanted to share is from the same book. Something about her use of words just glows. :)

Famous

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than a dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

 

The Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Let’s face it. Mondays are rough. The end of the freedom that came with the weekend, the start of a long week, the return to work. To help ease you into your week, I would like to share a little something that made me smile.

 

A Return to the Classics: Robert Frost

One of my favorite poets from the anthologies we had forced upon us in high school and college is Robert Frost (1874-1963). He isn’t technically a classic poet, nor is he a full-on modern poet. He is kind of at a crossroad and that is reflected, I think, in the first poem I want to share.

The Road Not Taken

Two road diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence;
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

***

One of my all-time favorites! :)

The second poem I wanted to share will possibly make many of us who are in their forties want to say “Stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold!” after reading it. It was used in S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders (1967), which was later made into a movie in 1983. I will admit that I first saw the poem when reading that book. :)

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

 

The Accessible Billy Collins

When I first told my husband that I was going to post some of my favorite poems each Saturday in April in a celebration of National Poetry Month, he said that he was impressed that not only did I have a favorite poem, I had enough favorites to fill a month. :)

Today, I want to share some of my favorites by Billy Collins. He writes very accessible poetry about everyday lives. He was the U.S. Poet Laureate in 2002. If you are not familiar with his work, I urge you to pick up one or two of his books. This first one is from The Apple that Astonished Paris (1988).

Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

***

I want to share one more. This one is very fitting due to my addiction to the subject matter. It paints the magic the I find in every story I read.

Books

From the heart of this dark, evacuated campus
I can hear the library humming in the night,
an immense choir of authors muttering inside their books
along the unlit, alphabetical shelves,
Giovanni Pontano next to Pope, Dumas next to his son,
each one stitched into his own private coat,
together forming a low, gigantic chord of language.

I picture a figure in the act of reading,
shoes on a desk, head tilted into the wind of a book,
a man in two worlds, holding the rope of his tie
as the suicide of lovers saturates a page,
or lighting a cigarette in the middle of a theorem.
He moves from paragraph to paragraph
as if touring a house of endless, panelled rooms.

I hear the voice of my mother reading to me
from a chair facing the bed, books about horses and dogs,
and inside her voice lie other distant sounds,
the horrors of a stable ablaze in the night,
a bark that is moving toward the brink of speech.

I watch myself building bookshelves in college,
walls within walls, as rain soaks New England,
or standing in a bookstore in a trench coat.

I see all of us reading ourselves away from ourselves,
straining in circles of light to find more light
until the line of words becomes a trail of crumbs
that we follow across a page of fresh snow;

when evening is shadowing the forest,
small brown birds flutter down to consume them
and we have to listen hard to hear the voices
of the boy and his sister receding into the perilous woods.

The Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Let’s face it. Mondays are rough. The end of the freedom that came with the weekend, the start of a long week, the return to work. To help ease you into your week, I would like to share a little something that made me smile.

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