What Life Looks Like

Yesterday I was sitting in a meeting
for the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire
commemoration meeting
if all meetings could be like theirs I would go
to more meetings yesterday I was
thinking about all the young girls who
died in that fire and what life is
my phone pinged (most people say dinged
but dinged doesn’t seem right)
and I looked at the picture in the text
a sonogram from Noah hard to tell
what it was just a sonogram this is
my daughter Noah said and I left
the meeting and started to cry
what does life look like how
it happens how quickly it goes away
this brown rectangle is my granddaughter
that’s all I know about her that she
is 20 weeks old more or less
she will have a life I can only hope
a very good life and that we
will watch her live we will
listen to her stories
tell her some of ours.


Tom Lux, excellent poet
he said in San Miguel last
week that many poets
write lists you need
an unexpected word or two.
Obama’s list more
than good: childcare
paid family leave
paid sick leave
equal pay
minimum wage
community college
(Obama needs
no blue bananas)

Dear Kay

Some years ago I had the idea that every single day I’d write a poem about someone I’d seen that day. Maybe in the form of a letter. I’d wanted to do this same thing with pictures once. There was a time (I have been in my apartment for years and years and years) when we had so many people sleeping on the couch or the floor (no blow up mattresses then) and I’m sorry not to have a wall of their pictures. A You Slept Here wall. Yesterday I saw one of my favorite people ever. An 89 year old writer named Kay. We met a while ago at Manhattanville College. She took my Good Story class. We have talked on Wednesday mornings ever since. I thought about that Wall (one of the thousand things I never did) and the poem idea and thought at least I could write a poem even just one about a person.

Dear Kay,

You might not like
the dear Kay part.
You may not even know though
I hope you do how unusual
you are unusual isn’t even
the right word and unique is
even less good Dear Kay
I wish we could all
be like you and I rarely
think that about anyone
except people like Dr. King
and he wasn’t a Good Man
(although he was a Great Man)
you are a Great Woman
a Good Woman
you are unflaggingly optimistic
about Life because yours
is good and you make
everyone else’s better
you know how to listen
and not just to listen
to respond to help us think
you have so many children
and grandchildren you actually
loved your husband took care
of him never stopped reading
for one day in your life
never stopped seeing your friends
and sometimes writing
Dear Kay you have had
your problems you
did not dismiss them
you knew that life
can be good if you are
lucky and you
are lucky and we
are lucky enough
to know you.
Dear Kay.

Martin Luther King

What is greatness?
What did he tell us?
Maybe King was just someone
able to lead us from small mindedness
to large intentions
Some people naturally
include others with them.
King had more than a vision.
He had a dream. How do
We learn to dream? And how do
our dreams become larger
than just ourselves?
We have to accept
no matter what we think
no matter what we know
there will be people
who say no. People who tell us
what we did wasn’t
enough wasn’t what
it should have been wasn’t
right or strong artful or good.
That No is a big part of yes.
He led, he preached
even to those of us who
don’t like preaching very much
King who died at 39
leaving behind his big story
leaving behind his certainty
about how we can and how we will.

Best Friend

and a sentence or two about yesterday.
Thank you all thank you for writing to me about poems. Mine and other people’s. Only one person wanted other people’s poems. Someone said I was like Walter Winchell sending poems. Walter Winchell made me happy. Maybe I am. I’ll keep trying this.

Best Friend

What you know best
is hardest to describe.
Maybe not for you
but for me.

We were young.
We were all young once.
What’s obvious in life
can be most elusive.

We were young for so many years
before we weren’t.
We were in college
when we met. You
talked a lot. So did I.

We have talked on the phone
every day for forty years.
What is it we don’t say
To one anther?
That’s what I wonder now.

About the Author

Some people have asked me if I will post OTHER PEOPLE’s POEMS. I’d like to. But I’m not sure what YOU think. Tell me. Here’s a poem I read yesterday that I LOVED LOVED LOVED. I am sometimes asked to write these crazy things. About the Author. Elizabeth Willis did a perfect job.

About her: the air, warm as fact.
An imaginary boat heading off to hell, her foot pushing it offshore.
The sunlit bank, emerge of the perfect past.
She was barking at the waves, thinking they barked first.
But this was not a river. It was Thursday, a word cast in lead.
Her eye had turned the water into sky.
The poet is a trespasser.
The poet is the king of Rome, New York, with one foot in a boat and one against the snowy shore of reason.
Wondering if, like a boy, she could go there for a season.

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