The Armful

I’m not as big a poetry person as I think I ought to be, but sometimes I come across a poem that just speaks to me. Who knew Robert Frost felt this way, too?

The Armful
by Robert Frost

For every parcel I stoop down to seize
I lose some other off my arms and knees,
And the whole pile is slipping, bottles, buns—
Extremes too hard to comprehend at once,
Yet nothing I should care to leave behind.
With all I have to hold with, hand and mind
And heart, if need be, I will do my best
To keep their building balanced at my breast.
I crouch down to prevent them as they fall;
Then sit down in the middle of them all.
I had to drop the armful in the road
And try to stack them in a better load.

This poem appears to have been first published in 1928 in the collection West-Running Brook.

An Island off the Coast of Denmark

A few months ago my five-year-old made an erroneous but poetic statement about his place of birth and inspired this pantoum


I was born in Poverty,
An island off the coast of Denmark.
Our only bit of property,
A parcel just barely a landmark.

An island off the coast of Denmark
Is not a bad place to live;
A parcel just barely a landmark
Has a surprising amount to give.

It’s not a bad place to live.
The winds and the currents incessant
Have a surprising amount to give
To a child who lives in the present.

The wind’s and the current’s incessant
Whooshing about the snug home
Of a child who lives in the present
Can lead him to dream in poems.

Whooshing about the snug home,
Our only bit of property,
The winds and currents incessant.

I was born in Poverty.

The Slippery Nature of Happiness

Tonight in my Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction class, the instructor offered this poem, by Naomi Shihab Nye. I’ve not read Naomi Shihab Nye since college, but I recalled tonight that she was once one of my favorite poets:

So Much Happiness

It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up.
something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.

But happiness floats.
It doesn’t need you to hold it down.
It doesn’t need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
And disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
It too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records…

Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known.

The poem reminded me of how I felt after my son’s birth. His birth was incredible, amazing, powerful. For three days afterward, I alternated between feeling absolutely exalted and ecstatic in the wake of that experience and sobbing with the knowledge that no matter how vividly I try to remember giving birth to him, that experience is gone and it will never come again.

My husband was a little worried that meant I wanted to have more children (our plan was—and is—for our son to be our last biological child).

“I don’t want to give birth to another child,” I explained through my tears. “I want to give birth to this one over and over and over again.”

Since then, the rest of life intervened, dulling both the ecstasy and the despair, leaving me with only echoes.

That’s the double-edged sword of mindfulness. If we’re aware and present, we can be aware of and filled with happiness. But if we’re aware and present, we’re aware of the emptiness when happiness is gone. We can’t hold onto happiness. Like everything in this world, happiness has a finite lifespan. All we can do is notice it, experience it, then let it go.

Poetry Break

Original Winnie the Pooh stuffed toys. Clockwi...

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been having fun spending a lot of time on my posts every night, but tonight, I decided to give myself—and you—a little break.

I happened upon this poem tonight in my daughter’s The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne. I love how Milne captures a moment of happiness for this youngster.

Happiness, by A. A. Milne (from When We Were Very Young)

John had

Great Big

Waterproof

Boots on;

John had a

Great Big

Waterproof

Hat;

John had a

Great Big

Waterproof

Mackintosh—

And that

(Said John)

Is

That.