Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

Thank you!!

I am honored and a bit in awe… Passed a thousand followers this week. Thank you so much for taking the time to stop in to my little corner of the internet and for supporting me!!

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.

The Late Great Shel Silverstein

poetry

In honor of National Poetry Month, I would like to share some of my favorite poems with you. I will post different poets throughout the month.

To start things out right… I would like to share “Sick” by Shel Silverstein, one of my all-time favorite poets. It is from his wonderful book called Where the Sidewalk Ends.

SICK

“I cannot go to school today,”
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
“I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I’m going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I’ve counted sixteen chicken pox
And there’s one more–that’s seventeen,
And don’t you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut–my eyes are blue–
It might be instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I’m sure that my left leg is broke–
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button’s caving in,
My back is wrenched, my ankle’s sprained,
My ‘pendix pains each time it rains.
My nose is cold, my toes are numb.
I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow’s bent, my spine ain’t straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
There is a hole inside my ear.
I have a hangnail, and my heart is — what?
What’s that? What’s that you say?
You say today is…Saturday?
G’bye, I’m going out to play!”

Shel Silverstein (1930-1999) was a poet, author, songwriter, and playwright. He is best known for his poems and drawings for the young at heart.

If you have never experienced the wonder of Shel Silverstein, I highly recommend it, whatever your age. He was the poet who taught me that poetry didn’t have to be some highbrow thing. It could be accessible and fun and wallow in the every day.

The first page of Where the Sidewalk Ends sets the perfect mood for approaching life –

Invitation

If you are a dreamer, come in.
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
a hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!

So, tell me – who are some of your favorite poets?

In Rememberance

I live in a small city in Upstate New York. It is an area that has been hard hit by a poor economy for many years, but an area that is beautiful. The three-season road construction aside, we are surrounded by rolling hills and a short drive to the Finger Lakes and wine country. There are many parks, a university and community college, small playhouses and venues to hear live music.  People are generally friendly and there is a small town vibe in this area of about 200,000 people.

We are pretty quiet news-wise. There is your standard drug charges and occasional violence from that but the majority of the population is law-abiding and hardworking. And I never felt unsafe here.

candle

On April 3, 2009, my hometown made national news. An armed gunman entered the American Civic Association a few blocks from my office and opened fire on everyone in his path. Within minutes, he had killed 13, wounded 4 and then killed himself. The American Civic Association, for those who are not familiar with it, provides citizenship, cultural and language support for area immigrants. It is there for the sole purpose of helping people. Most of the people who lost their lives that day were attending a citizenship class that the shooter had previously attended.

My husband’s aunt was one of the lucky few who survived that terrible day in our history. She was a hero, though I know she would scoff at being called one. After being shot, she crawled under her desk and called 9-1-1. She remained on the line with authorities until they were able to storm the building, playing dead when the shooter returned to stand over her.

As the anniversary of that tragic day looms, I am reminded again of the important lessons that I took away from that day.

Hate and anger will eat you up. When something like this happens, I think it is human nature to rage against the shooter, anyone who was linked to the shooter, society, gun control, the universe. We need someone to blame and something to point to that will assure us that this cannot happen again. The shooter’s family residence was shown on the news and I feared that people would somehow blame them. But what many of the family members who were left behind showed us was a quiet acceptance, a releasing of that anger, and a support for those left behind. I didn’t hear the husbands who lost wives or children who lost parents screaming for vengeance on the evening news. Instead, I saw candlelight vigils, prayer and a strength of character that helped them crawl out of bed the next day and keep living.

Life is short. This one seems like a no-brainer. Everyone always says that, right? But how often do you really consider how fragile our existence is? We can be gone in the blink of an eye. Our time here is finite. We do not have unlimited days to follow our dreams, become a better person, or tell people how much we love them. We need to do it now, while we are still able to. I have always been a dreamer and I have always been big on hugs. I think after that day in April 2009, I started to dream a little bigger and do something about those dreams. I also started to hug people a little more, and to tell them how I feel.

We need to really see people. In this day and age, modern technology pretty much guarantees that we are taking phone calls in the middle of everything. I am not sure how they juggle it, but it seems everyone under the age of 25 is adept at texting and carrying on a separate conversation simultaneously while driving and eating. I can’t text and chew gum at the same time, let alone carry on a separate conversation. Please people. Put your phones down. Look into each others eyes and talk to each other. Listen to each other and really hear each other. Even when you are alone, put down your phone and say hi to strangers as you walk by. See the people around you. They may not be here tomorrow.

Lastly, be grateful for your days. I have talked before about how we tend to replace excitement with dread as we get older. Birthdays are no longer celebrations. But remember that not everyone gets another birthday. Not everyone gets another day. No matter what is going on in your life, it could be worse. Grab ahold of the days and moments that you have been given, live them for all they are worth and never give them back.

When we see tragedies like this in the news, they usually feel far removed from most of us. We never think it will happen here. But it can and it does. And it is our responsibility to remember that and to learn from it. We need to live a little more, and love each other more.

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