Sunday, November 30, 2014

Fortunes 2014: November

You take an optimistic view of life.
You have a friendly heart and are well admired.

You will win success in whatever calling you adopt.
You will win success in whatever calling you adopt.

You will win success in whatever calling you adopt.
Stop searching forever, happiness is just next to you.

You have a lively family.
You have a lively family.

You like participating in competitive sports.
Avert misunderstanding by calm, poise, and balance.

Don’t be hasty, prosperity will knock on your door soon.
You will travel far and wide, both for pleasure and business.

You will travel far and wide, both for pleasure and business.
Pray for what you want, but work for the things you need.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

After Sterling

For a couple years now, I've been working on a poem that draws upon Sterling Brown's poem After Winter to connect between him and the community in which I live:  North Laurel, Maryland.  Sterling Brown's family's farm was located in this community, a mile or so from my house.  The Rouse Corporation, which eventually bought and then developed the land on which his family's farm was located named a road after him:  Sterling Drive.  I've always wondered, though, how many people have made the connection between this road and Sterling Brown.  How many residents of this community have even heard of Sterling Brown?  Langston Hughes is taught in the local high school, but not Sterling Brown, even though he was an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance. 

After Winter has particular meaning to me since it is based on his memories of the farm.  I've wanted to tie the poem and its memories of a rural past to North Laurel.  My poem has gone through many drafts, most of which got bogged down in listing archetypes of different kinds of people who live here.  They were, in a word, boring.  You can read one of those drafts on this blog (see February 2013).

Somewhere along the way, I began asking (in my drafts) "where is the poet?"  And, "who is the poet?"  And my answer was:  "we are the poets."  Here is the current draft:


(With acknowledgement to Sterling Brown’s After Winter)

Where is the poet now,
bringing baskets of words
in from the fields:  
radishes and lettuce,
eggplants and beets?

Who will bridge us to the past,
not for nostalgia’s sake,
but to remind us of the working folk
who wrote lives in this place
just as we do today.

Ah, Sterling, we are the poets.
But that’s what you knew:
that the poet is more 
than the name of the road
that leads to where 
the butter beans grew.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Armistice Day: Hedd Wyn's "Rhyfel" ("War")

For Armistice/Veteran's Day, I'm sharing Welsh poet, Hedd Wyn's, poem Rhyfel/War.  Of all the poems by World War I poets that I've read, this is, in my opinion, the most poignant-- particularly the last two lines.  Hedd Wyn (the bardic name for Ellis Evans) went to war reluctantly, as did, no doubt, many in that war.  He was killed at the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917.  Hedd Wyn was posthumously awarded Chair of the Bard at the 1917 National Eisteddfod, the highest poetic honor in Wales.

The Welsh original is below.  My English translation appears in the Fall/Winter 2014 issue of the journal JMWW at

Gwae fi fy myw mewn oes mor ddreng
A Duw ar drai ar orwel pell;
O'i ol mae dyn, yn deyrn a gwreng,
Yn codi ei awdurdod hell.

Pan deimlodd fyned ymaith Dduw
Cyfododd gledd i ladd ei frawd;
Mae swn yr ymladd ar ein clyw,
A'i gysgod ar fythynnod tlawd.

Mae'r hen delynau genid gynt
Ynghrog ar gangau'r helg draw,
A gwaedd y bechgyn lond y gwynt,
A'u gwaed yn gymysg efo'r glaw.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Fortunes 2014: October

You have a reputation for being straightforward and honest.
Great thoughts come from the heart.

Great thoughts come from the heart.
You will soon be surrounded by good friends and laughter.

Adventure can be a real happiness.
The simplest answer is to act.

Great thoughts come from the heart.
Practice makes perfect.

You will soon be involved in many gatherings and parties.
Practice makes perfect.


There is no light.
I don’t dare move.
I fear what I might do.
The man across the room
tells me I should get up,
but I cannot move.
He yells at me,
but I just stare at him,
turn my back,
try to ignore myself.
If I could just blank my mind,
I think the light might return.