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Poem of the Week: “Equinox,” by Elizabeth Alexander

Equinox

Now is the time of year when bees are wild 
and eccentric. They fly fast and in cramped 
loop-de-loops, dive-bomb clusters of conversants 
in the bright, late-September out-of-doors. 
I have found their dried husks in my clothes. 

They are dervishes because they are dying, 
one last sting, a warm place to squeeze 
a drop of venom or of honey. 
After the stroke we thought would be her last 
my grandmother came back, reared back and slapped 

a nurse across the face. Then she stood up, 
walked outside, and lay down in the snow. 
Two years later there is no other way 
to say, we are waiting. She is silent, light 
as an empty hive, and she is breathing.

~Elizabeth Alexander

From Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems 1990-2010. Copyright © 2010 by Elizabeth Alexander. Retrieved 9/23/19 from https://poets.org

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Poem of the Week: “Awaken,” by Naima Penniman, of Climbing PoeTree

Join us this week as Climbing PoeTree opens the RCAH Wednesday Night Live series, at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the RCAH Theater, Snyder Hall, 362 Bogue Street, East Lansing.

View a live performance of this poem here.

Awaken

By Naima Penniman (of Climbing PoeTree)

We are in the wake
of a great shifting

awaken

you better free your mind
before they illegalize thought

there’s a war going on

the first casualty was truth
and it’s inside you

the universe is counting on our belief
that faith is more powerful than fear
and in that the shifting moment
we’ll all remember why we’re here

in a world where you’re assassinated for having a dream
and the rich spend 9 billion a year to control our ideas
and visions are televised so things aren’t what they seem

we gotta believe
in a world where
there’s room enough for everyone
to breathe

cause reality is made up of
7 billion thoughts
who made up their minds
of what’s real and what’s not

so I stopped believing
in false idols of war
greed and hate
is not worth my faith

my mind’s dedicated
to justice
my soul is devoted
to love

and love is God
and God is truth
and truth is you
and you are me
and I am everything
and everything is nothing
and nothing is the birthplace of creation
and transformation is possible
and you are proof

we were born right now
for a reason
we can be whatever
we give ourselves the power to be

and right now we need
day dreamers
gate keepers
bridge builders
soul speakers
web weavers
light bearers
food growers
wound healers
trail blazers
truth sayers
life lovers
peace makers

give what you most deeply desire
to give
every moment you are choosing to live
or you are waiting

why would a flower hesitate to open?
now is the only moment
rain drop let go
become the ocean

possibility is as wide
as the space
we create
to hold it


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Poem of the Week: “Grace”

Assistant to the Director, Estee Schlenner, chose this week’s poem. She was drawn to the poem’s honesty, imagery, and the concept of grace.

Grace

By Joy Harjo

                                    For Darlene Wind and James Welch

I think of Wind and her wild ways the year we had nothing to lose and lost it anyway in the cursed country of the fox. We still talk about that winter, how the cold froze imaginary buffalo on the stuffed horizon of snowbanks. The haunting voices of the starved and mutilated broke fences, crashed our thermostat dreams, and we couldn’t stand it one more time. So once again we lost a winter in stubborn memory, walked through cheap apartment walls, skated through fields of ghosts into a town that never wanted us, in the epic search for grace. 

Like Coyote, like Rabbit, we could not contain our terror and clowned our way through a season of false midnights. We had to swallow that town with laughter, so it would go down easy as honey. And one morning as the sun struggled to break ice, and our dreams had found us with coffee and pancakes in a truck stop along Highway 80, we found grace.

I could say grace was a woman with time on her hands, or a white buffalo escaped from memory. But in that dingy light it was a promise of balance. We once again understood the talk of animals, and spring was lean and hungry with the hope of children and corn. 

I would like to say, with grace, we picked ourselves up and walked into the spring thaw. We didn’t; the next season was worse. You went home to Leech Lake to work with the tribe and I went south. And, Wind, I am still crazy. I know there is something larger than the memory of a dispossessed people. We have seen it. 

From In Mad Love and War © 1990 by Joy Harjo.

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Poem of the Week: “The Rider”

This poem was chosen by Acting Director of the Center for Poetry, Laurie Hollinger. She was reminded of the new bike lane outside of Snyder Hall at MSU. This poem is also a brief study on loneliness. Loneliness is an isolating feeling, while simultaneously being a feeling shared by many.

The Rider

By Naomi Shihab Nye

A boy told me

if he roller-skated fast enough

his loneliness couldn’t catch up to him,

the best reason I ever heard

for trying to be a champion.

What I wonder tonight

pedaling hard down King William Street

is if it translates to bicycles.

A victory! To leave your loneliness

panting behind you on some street corner

while you float free into a cloud of sudden azaleas,

pink petals that have never felt loneliness,

no matter how slowly they fell.

Naomi Shihab Nye, “The Rider” from Fuel. Copyright © 1998 by Naomi Shihab Nye.