Roethke’s Waking (Poems Save Lives)

I’m reposting this poem because I posted it from my phone and the line breaks got screwed up. The tercets make the poem speak more clearly. I hear my being dance from ear to ear. How can anyone say that poems don’t save lives? That line is like honey.



Theodore Roethke


I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Prado’s Heart (Poems Save Lives)


Adélia Prado (trans. by Ellen Doré Watson)

Funeral or feast
no matter which
everything beating inside me
is desire.
O heart that never tires of the resonance of things,
I love, love you, love you,
sad as you are, O world,
O man so handsome that I’m paralyzed.
I love you. I love you.
And with only one tongue,
one sense of pitch, imperfect.
I love you.
There’s a certain wild herb with jagged
fuzzy leaves–
I love you, I say, desperate
for a different word to come to my aid.
To the trembling grasses,
love is a breeze.

Ruefle’s Saga (Poems Save Lives)

by Mary Ruefle

Everything that ever happened to me
is just hanging—crushed
and sparkling—in the air,
waiting to happen to you.
Everything that ever happened to me
happened to somebody else first.
I would give you an example
but they are all invisible.
Or off gallivanting around the globe.
Not here when I need them
now that I need them
if I ever did which I doubt.
Being particular has its problems.
In particular there is a rift through everything.
There is a rift running the length of Iceland
and so a rift runs through every family
and between families a feud.
It’s called a saga. Rifts and sagas
fill the air, and beautiful old women
sing of them, so the air is filled with
music and the smell of berries and apples
and shouting when a gun goes off
and crying in closed rooms.
Faces, who needs them?
Eating the blood of oranges
I in my alcove could use one.
Abbas and ammas!
come out of your huts, travel
halfway around the world,
inspect my secret bank account of joy!
My face is a jar of honey
you can look through,
you can see everything
is muted, so terribly muted,
who could ever speak of it,
sealed and held up for all?

Merwin’s Butterflies (Poems Save Lives)

One of the Butterflies

WS Merwin


The trouble with pleasure is the timing
it can overtake me without warning
and be gone before I know it is here
it can stand facing me unrecognized
while I am remembering somewhere else
in another age or someone not seen
for years and never to be seen again
in this world and it seems that I cherish
only now a joy I was not aware of
when it was here although it remains
out of reach and will not be caught or named
or called back and if I could make it stay
as I want to it would turn into pain.

Waking Life

Fuseli’s The Nightmare

It’s morning again, another morning in which waking up literally hurts. I feel like the woman in Fuseli’s painting, The Nightmare, in which a little imp squats on her chest. Even asleep she looks like she’s in terrible pain. I wake up feeling that pressure. Those of you who know me know how this painting has haunted and fascinated me for nearly twenty years. As I get older, I begin to understand more about the unconscious mind, how it’s processing input with or without our permission. That imp on the sleeping woman’s chest has come to represent, for me, the outward expression of her Continue reading

Object Lessons: Old Pajama Bottoms, Bowling Balls, & Solitary Selves

This morning I woke up at 6 a.m. I’ve been doing this every morning since Ben left. It’s like my sleeping body is jolted into terrible memory every day. This morning I decided to watch a little Louis CK stand-up on my laptop to distract myself. Despite the fact that I could barely concentrate or keep my eyes open, I caught a few similes that killed me. Continue reading