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August 2009

Written in summer, these poems were a long way off from the time for resolutions that people make for the new year. Then, we usually resolve to do something (eat healthier, exercise, learn a musical instrument) or stop doing something (no more smoking, drinking, wasting my life).

In "I'm Going to Start Living Like a Mystic" (from his book Lay Back the Darknessx), Edward Hirsch starts right off in his title with a major resolution. Change your life. Live like a mystic.

And that comes from a winter walk in the park, trees on a pilgrimage, pigeons who study winter, and looking for Sophia in a pond.

What does it take to change your life? Not always a big thing or a tragedy or a revelation.

What does it take to change your mind about poetry or a poet? One poem? One line?

For this month, try writing a poem that starts off with a resolution to change your life and take us through the inspiration and the process.

There is much more about this prompt and Edward Hirsch on the Poets Online blog - check it out before you write.

Edward Hirsch was born in Chicago in 1950 and educated both at Grinnell College and the University of Pennsylvania, where he received a Ph.D. in folklore. His first collection of poems, For the Sleepwalkers, was published in 1981. His second collection, Wild Gratitude (1986), received the National Book Critics Circle Award. He is also the author of the prose bestseller How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry. He has been a professor of English at Wayne State University and the University of Houston, and is currently the president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.


I am going to stop calling out your name,
stop trying to find you within each passing cloud

the ones that open themselves inside out
so that now the blue and yellow flowers
in my garden are growing sideways.
They have laid themselves down and to gather them I too must lie down.

I whisper your name into these damp shadows,
the places the slugs and snails have gathered to collect
I am going to stop this now

instead I will call the tears on my face
the hole in my heart

I will fill myself with pesto, corn, blackberries.
I will not fill myself with this search for you.
I will not call out your name.
I will not lie in the garden all day waiting for rain to fill the nothingness

I will not look away.

Patty Joslyn


I want to enjoy
being ordinary.

I want
the choosing
of a nail color
to assume

More importance
than understanding
As I Lay Dying

I want
going out
to some fancy rip-off restaurant
To feel exciting

The hell
with struggling
to learn to play
The piano better
my age.

The hell
with measuring
my poems
the dead
and the great.

I want to be…
In fact,
I am

Beverly Rosenblum


I step outside the door this morning
and hear Sunday bells calling
from somewhere down the hill. Which church?
One where strangers worship.

How about me? Could I fire my furnace,
bring metal to red-hot molten,  
let the rich stream rush
into the broad-curved mold of my mind?

Then, while the metal cools and hardens
into my idea of a bell, I’ll listen
as silence comes unexpectedly over the waking
town, and blue sky holds its breath

like finding a word for praise.
Imagine myself a single small brass bell,
and how this late-summer, weary countryside
waits all week for song.

Taylor Graham


Leaving for work I see my little cat
Streaked in morning light,
White, orange and yellow,
Sitting still with paws folded
On back of an easy chair
Watching circling sea gulls
Flown inland from the storm
As what's left of the rain
Drips curiously from the eaves.
A slight amusement.

The street scrubbed slick and clean
Refracts radiant points of light,
Myriad tiny suns
Spread across thin wet skin on black asphalt bone,
Black as bare tree trunks
Against cloud-white sky.

Most of the workers are gone from these streets,
I am late,
Most are gone
Yet I cannot help but linger
To taste this forbidden time,
Forbidden to me,
This absence of time.

On my way once more
The chilled air snaps
Little leaves falling as branches blow
The song of some little bird
In some neighboring tree
Singing quietly,
Calling me.

The sound of a passing car also calls.
It calls me as I stand
Transfixed by bird song,
Beckoned by the world,
Called by my ambitions
And by no ambition at all.

There is so much to see here,
So much not to do,
For the mountains in this valley
Are streaked with virgin snow
Among silent solitary clouds
Frayed and twisted by wind.

Russ Allison Loar


Each day that summer I decide to live a new life.
River explorer, first baseman, seller of roadside beverages,
farmer, dog trainer, reader, carpenter, mountain climber,
writer, builder of race cars, painter, spy, soldier,
rocket scientist, bike mechanic, carpenter.

My father comes home from the hospital
and summer ends at mid-point.

All the colors change, the weather cools,
the Earth tilts on its axis,
and I have many jobs to do,
but only one life
for the remainder
of this last summer.

Ken Ronkowitz


Today I am leaving for The Hill
before the fat air and sweet taunts
of the city stir up the work wasps
into an unstoppable frenzy.

A morning glory muse helps me pack
my bags and I head for a place where
hawks carve up clouds and streams
tangle men in high-waisted boots.

I go to stake my claim like a redwing
at the top of a northern pine screaming
this is my time. Give me something
sacred to see, I will cry, something

bold to bless, fling me screaming
into blue flame, give me something
wild to hold onto.

I will sit still in clover, let small sunsets
of Indian Paintbrush rise around my ankles,
my hands hiding in the folds of my dress.
And when I grow meek from painting

peaks and hayfields on a streak of mauve,
I will laugh into a gust of wind, trick me
into a patch of passion, I will say, shake me
dry like a gourd until my seeds clamor

and crack again, even
if all that's left is dust.

Shirl McPhillips


It is almost too easy a prompt
'I am going, I am starting'
But suppose it is me with a wrench in hand
Tightening up or with a screw driver,
Flat headed or with a Philips pointed head
Persistently going around in circular gesture
Like O or Oh or Oye.
That is a start, that is an end.

As we get older it is no only to start
But to continue what we have started
And what will always be started anew
And never ended

To understand the child
They are asked to draw a house;
It starts with an irregular square
With a folded paper hat for a roof,
That goes where ever it will.

Shall it be placed in the middle of the paper
With a line on which to sit
Or flying in cinematic space over and over.
Are there steps for self and us
With a knob to open the door
To enter in.
Will we be going through the windows
Bushing against soft and lacy lingerie curtains
Or will there be an empty window blind to change.;
Does it have a have a chimney
With orderly smoke or the rage of uncontrolled fire
That is starts to erupt as a volcano

Does the sky has a quarter sun
With straight lines of warmth
Or are there black clouds and lightning streaks
With smudges from a soft pencil carbon
These are the questions asked when starting?

What the poet says is good,
"I am going, and I can start...
Just roll along.
Hesitation is lost
And the mood of going back
To check the door and key as being locked
Is lost.

Edward N Halperin


I woke up today to a sunrise that is already hot and sticky
and decided that today I will live my life as a man.
I shower like a man.
I dress like a man in my jeans and t-shirt.
I make eggs and bacon and leave everything
on the stove and the table.
I buy coffee and a donut, though I am not thirsty or hungry,
and walk to the beach.
I rent a beach chair from a beautiful young girl half my age
and eye her tan line that is chocolate syrup on two scoops of vanilla
and I overtip her.
I watch women walk past me at the water's edge
and check each off on my mental sex list -
yes, no, maybe, definitely.
I fall asleep to the sound of the waves
and wake up to the sound of children
playing in the surf.
Back at the apartment, I take another shower
and watch TV for a few hours.
Catherine calls and I ask her if she wants to go out
and grab some dinner, have a few drinks
and see what happens.
She is very attractive. We have never had sex,
but anything is possible tonight.

Lianna Wright