Poetry Friday

UNDER THIS SKY

There’s an enormous comfort knowing
we all live under this same sky,
whether in New York or Dhaka,
we see the same sun and same moon.

When it is night in New York,
the sun shines in Dhaka,
but that doesn’t matter.
Flowers that blossom here in spring
are unknown in meadows of distant Bengal —
that too doesn’t matter.
There’s no rainy season here —
the peasant in Bengal welcomes the new crop
with homemade sweets
while here, winter brings mountains of snow.

No one here knows Grandmother’s hand-sewn quilt —
even that doesn’t matter.
There’s an enormous comfort knowing
we all live under this same sky.

The Hudson River freezes,
automobiles can’t move.
Slowly city workers will remove the snow.
The old lady next door won’t go to work —
it’s too cold.
Maybe my old mother far away
will also enter her kitchen late.
Naked trees in Central Park and Ramna Park
quiver with dreams of new life and love.

Fog hangs on the horizon —
suddenly New York, Broadway, and Times Square
look dimly like Dhaka, Buriganga, and Laxmi Bazaar.

Zia Hyder
Bangladesh
Translated by Bhabani Sengupta with Naomi Shihab Nye

I shared this poem with my student teachers this summer (who, in turn, shared it with 4th graders), and came across it today as I was preparing course materials for the coming semester. It is from Naomi Shihab Nye’s beautiful anthology This Same Sky. Let’s hope for a peaceful year ahead.

Vacation’s End

We’ve spent this week in central Vermont, enjoying early August days in a rustic cabin near a mountain edged lake. Days are spent reading and hiking, and swimming and reading. My husband and son both set upon reading Donald Hall’s intriguing collection of memoirs and essays called String Too Short to be Saved. Watching them enjoy the book reminded me of some of Hall’s other works, notably his poem “White Apples.”
(Listen to Donald Hall read his poem, below)

White Apples
by Donald Hall

when my father had been dead a week
I woke
with his voice in my ear
I sat up in bed

and held my breath
and stared at the pale closed door

white apples and the taste of stone

if he called again
I would put on my coat and galoshes

White Apples

I remember listening to the radio a few years back, when Donald Hall was named that year’s Poet Laureate. He spoke specifically about this poem, and talked about his decisions on words he chose, taking into consideration the long and short vowel sounds and paying close attention to the sounds of the words. It was powerful stuff, and made a great impression.

I am teaching third grade this year, and while I don’t think we will take on “White Apples” I am certainly going to introduce my students to Donald Hall through his wonderful children’s book, Oxcart Man. Donald Hall is a national treasure, and I want my students to know who he is.

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Sitting on my porch on a summer’s eve ….

Long summer days turn into late evening dinners and we sit on our back porch until it gets dark. We enjoy listening to the rustling in the bushes as the occasional possum makes its way through our yard. I was leafing through Knock at a Star and came across this poem by Deborah Chandra. It made me think about us, sitting on our back porch….

Porch Light

At night
the porch light
catches moths
and holds them,
trapped
and
flapping,
in a tight
yellow fist.
Only when I
turn the switch
will it loosen
its hot
grip.

Deborah Chandra

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It’s Poetry Friday!

A recent series of thunderstorms reminded me of this wonderful collection of short poems by James Stevenson about ordinary, everyday things (mostly in summer).

SUMMER STORM

WHEN THE THUNDERSTORM COMES
PUNCHING ITS WAY THROUGH TOWN,
THE DOG STICKS HER NOSE UNDER THE SOFA.
ALL OF US FLINCH AS THE LIGHTENING HITS,
REVEALED AS CRINGING COWARDS IN THE FLASH.
RAIN HURLS ITSELF INTO THE STREET.
THE OLD HOUSE TREMBLES.
BUT EVERYBODY KNOWS
WHEN THIS LETS UP AND THE SKY TURNS BLUE,
WE’LL THROW OUR SNEAKERS OFF AND RACE
TO MUDDY PUDDLES DEEP AND WARM
AND KICK THE WATER BACK INTO THE SKY.

James Stevenson
Sweet Corn Poems

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