“A Psalm of Life: Let Us Be Up and Doing”

I thought about posting a biblical poem today, but once again, I was overwhelmed by my choices, so I decided to share Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “A Psalm of Life.” I happened across the poem this morning as I was reading through Our Daily Bread: Timeless Wisdom to Nourish the Soul, a gorgeous book I purchased nearly 20 years ago. The book is overflowing with scripture, poetry, and meditations.

Longfellow’s message is timely–life is real and we should live it to the fullest.

A Psalm of Life
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

What The Heart Of The Young Man Said To The Psalmist.

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.


About today’s images: Today’s images are from a set of photo cards designed by my photographer/art journalist friend Diane W (midteacher on swap-bot). You have seen Diane’s stunning creations on the blog many times. She sent the photos in a beautifully designed handmade envelope filled with photo goodies and design surprises (like hidden pockets filled with photos, stitching, and butterflies). The set has been sitting in my “to be blogged” bin for nearly two years! The two included here are perfect matches for Wadsworth’s poem. To see what Diane has been up to lately, check out her Instagram page: A Focused Journey.

Poetry on Postcards | Ink wells up…

I’ve been sending and receiving poetry on postcards for almost a decade, so I was delighted when my Love Notes pal, Bianca, told me about Poetry on Postcards (PoP), a kindness initiative created by Rayna Hutchison.

Team PoP sends beautifully designed postcards with a personalized note written on the back. My note was inspiring and very much needed when I received it in mid-February:

Let the road steer your wheel. Go with the flow sometimes. Let things be. Smile your brightest smile. Go out there and seize the day!

I need these words today too–except I have to stay in and seize the day.

Want one?

All you have to do is request a postcard via the digital post office and Team PoP will wing one in your direction. You can read more about the project by clicking this link. To see more poetry on postcards, follow  PoP on Instagram.

Snail Mail Tip: While you’re waiting for your PoP to arrive, take the opportunity to send some of your favorite poems to family and friends. You can write short poems on the back of store-bought postcards or make your own postcards by cutting card stock into 4×6 pieces. You can type the poem directly onto the card stock and decorate the card in anyway you wish. The links below feature poetry on postcards presented in various ways:

You might also like the idea of pairing a poem (or excerpt) with a photograph. This is my favorite way of sharing poetry on postcards–as you can see from the blog posts below. If you’re not comfortable sending your own photos, see the many, many beautiful photos available for your use on Pixabay or Unsplash.

The weekend is here finally. I am on my way to my [current] favorite book of poetry and a piping hot cup of herbal tea. Won’t you join me?

“I Am Becoming My Mother”

“Flowers of North America” by Lou Paper

Today’s offering comes from Jamaican poet Lorna Goodison. I am currently reading I Am Becoming My Mother, her second collection of poetry. I struggled with the decision over which poem to share. I would have been satisfied with any poem in the book, but was literally torn when it came to works like “Guinea Woman,” “We Are the Women,” and “Garden of the Women Once Fallen.” I was driving myself crazy, so I decided on the one below on the basis that it is the title poem.

“I Am Becoming My Mother” by Lorna Goodison

Yellow/brown woman
fingers smelling always of onion

My mother raises rare blooms
and waters them with tea
her birth waters sang like rivers
my mother is now me

My mother had a linen dress
the colour of sky
and stored lace and damask
tablecloths
to pull shame out of her eye.

I am becoming my mother
brown/yellow woman
fingers smelling always of onions.

I am drawn to Goodison’s writing for a few reasons. Among them the cadence that makes me want to sing rather than just read the words and her masterful use of imagery, which makes the ordinary deeply striking.


About the image: The postcard above came from my swap-bot pal, EricB. I was randomly selected to receive this postcard via a giveaway on Instagram. Yay, me! The postcard was designed by Lou Papers, and was bedecked with even more flowers on the back.

“How to Live Your Poem”

April is National Poetry Month, so I’ve decided to share a beloved poem every day this month. The daily posting will add a bit of routine and balance in a moment when I feel a bit off center and out-of-sorts, and hopefully, my touching the works of other poets will also inspire me to get some of my own work out of folders and into the world.

Since April is also National Letter Writing Month, [starting tomorrow] I plan to share some of the snail mail I’ve received–recently and [maybe] not-so-recently.

Today’s offering is a piece created by Alabama author Irene Latham from the lines of other poems. Latham distributed the poem to readers and writers when she visited the University’s campus three (or so) years ago. I applaud the acumen and patience of individuals who do this kind of work–piecing together the beautiful words of others to create a new and still beautiful thing.

“How to Live Your Poem” by Irene Latham

Cultivate a secret life. Discover the fuel that feeds you. Eat peaches. Take the road not taken. Change your life. You do not have to be good. Go back. When the time comes to let it go, let it go. Reinvent. Identify what stays with you latest and deepest. Remember disobedience is the first right of being alive. Don’t think you’re better, stronger, or more important than you are. Pour yourself like a fountain. Come into the peace of wild things. Wait. Take the string you need. Forget-me-not. Believe morning is new sheet of paper. Don’t be polite. Go a-dabbling.  Let the rain kiss you. Allow yourself to be spelled differently. Feel the stars and sun and bells singing. Live with a full moon in each eye. Un-self yourself. Love still as once you loved, deeply and without patience. Know of nothing else. Know of nothing else but miracles.

The poem was created with lines from poems by Stephen Dunn, Naomi Shihab Nye, Li-Young Lee, Robert Frost, Rainer Maria Rilke, Mary Oliver, Sharon Olds, Walt Whitman, Paisley Rekdal, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Wendell Berry, Marilyn Singer, Lilian Moore, Ralph Fletcher, Eve Merriam, Kenneth Grahame, Langston Hughes, Emma Mellon, Gwendolyn Brooks, Hafiz, Christine Deluca.

We’re living in a surreal moment, but even with self-isolation and social distancing, we can choose to live out loud and live our poem.


About the image: The unrelated and not-so-great squirrel “portrait” is from another time, when I could happily take daily walks through campus observing spring’s awakening. The squirrels and I had become companions; we were a little wary of each other, but they often remained posed long enough for the click of the camera. This little guy was enjoying an afternoon snack and “living his poem.” He’s visiting for #WordlessWednesday. 🙂

A Thousand Moons | #WordlessWednesday

I am born as the sun,
but then turn into the moon,
as my blonde hairs turn
grayish-white and fall to
the ground,
only to be buried again,
then to be born again,
into a thousand suns
and a thousand moons

“Hymn of the Divine Dandelion,” by Suzy Kassem


About the image: Social distancing and the disrespectful amount of rain we’ve had has made it quite difficult for me to capture the early spring blossoms, but the dandelions never fail me. I captured this one a couple of days ago outside a small marketplace. My hubby and I went on a literal hunt for tissue paper and hand soap. Our mission was half accomplished–soap, no TP. It was challenging o get out of the house early enough to beat the market stalkers. No worries, though. Hubby found some yesterday. Thankfully, there will be no rain today, and we will have six hours straight of sun [no clouds]! #CoronaChronicles

May You Sing: Rest and Renewal

“Just Before Spring,” or “Last Day of Winter.”

Today is the first day of spring. There are few signs, but it is certainly on the way.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and planning this week. Universities, as most know, have transitioned fully to online instruction to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19.  Even though these are “troubled” times, I can’t help but notice a certain relief in the posture of my colleagues and students. Sure, there is disappointment and a little apprehension about this new way of doing things (for some), but there’s also a collective sigh, expelling loads of stress.

I am grateful.

I am not grateful for the virus. But I am grateful for the slowing down, for deliverance from the break-neck pace that had me feeling like life was spinning out of control and the only way to stop was to hit a metaphorical wall. I pray this wall is not as painful.

In the midst of the confusion, the questions, the planning, the poem below landed on my screen via a friend’s Facebook post. I felt every word. May the words carry you. May they lighten the heaviness of this load we’re all carrying. May they usher you into the magic and renewal of spring.

May you sing.

Lockdown by Fr. Richard Hendrick, March 2020

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
But,
they say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
you can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
the sky is no longer thick with fumes
but blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
people are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighborhood
so that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary.
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting.
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way.
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality.
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that:
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul.
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic.
the birds are singing again;
the sky is clearing;
spring is coming;
and we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
and though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
sing.

For Langston | Shatter This Darkness…Into a Thousand Lights of Sun

Today would have been Langston Hughes’ 118th birthday. Some of my Hughes books are in my [work] office; others are unfortunately buried in one of my many unpacked boxes, so I didn’t have the pleasure of revisiting my precious books and slowly inhaling the pages.

Like so many other Black poets, I fell in love with Langston Hughes through the books on my older siblings’ bookshelves. I took a course focusing on Hughes in graduate school and was sorely disappointed by the instructor’s style. He was knowledgeable but not an effective facilitator. He missed Hughes’ brilliance in his focus on the “celebrity” and ambiguity of Hughes.

I accidentally shot the “abstract” photo this morning while finishing up a letter to a friend. It pairs well with the closing lines of Hughes’ poem, “As I Grew Older.”

It was a long time ago.
I have almost forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
Bright like a sun—
My dream.
And then the wall rose,
Rose slowly,
Slowly,
Between me and my dream.
Rose until it touched the sky—
The wall.
Shadow.
I am black.
I lie down in the shadow.
No longer the light of my dream before me,
Above me.
Only the thick wall.
Only the shadow.
My hands!
My dark hands!
Break through the wall!
Find my dream!
Help me to shatter this darkness,
To smash this night,
To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
Of sun!

–Langston Hughes, “As I Grew Older”

Many read this poem and see disillusionment. The speaker of the poem dismisses the idealism and replaces it with the realization that in America his Blackness stands as a barrier to his dream. However, there is hope here too…He has “almost forgotten” the dream, but he recognizes that thick walls of racism can be breached, toppled even, by his dark hands.

Moreover…

Dark hands united with other hands can “shatter the darkness…into a thousand whirling dreams of sun.”