The Names

Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.

A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,

And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,

I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened,

Then Baxter and Calabro,

Davis and Eberling, names falling into place

As droplets fell through the dark.

Names printed on the ceiling of the night.

Names slipping around a watery bend.

Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream.

In the morning, I walked out barefoot

Among thousands of flowers

Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears,

And each had a name –

Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal

Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins.

Names written in the air

And stitched into the cloth of the day.

A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox.

Monogram on a torn shirt,

I see you spelled out on storefront windows

And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city.

I say the syllables as I turn a corner –

Kelly and Lee,

Medina, Nardella, and O’Connor.

When I peer into the woods,

I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden

As in a puzzle concocted for children.

Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash,

Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton,

Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple.

Names written in the pale sky.

Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.

Names silent in stone

Or cried out behind a door.

Names blown over the earth and out to sea.

In the evening — weakening light, the last swallows.

A boy on a lake lifts his oars.

A woman by a window puts a match to a candle,

And the names are outlined on the rose clouds –

Vanacore and Wallace,

(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound)

Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z.

Names etched on the head of a pin.

One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.

A blue name needled into the skin.

Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,

The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.

Alphabet of names in a green field.

Names in the small tracks of birds.

Names lifted from a hat

Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.

Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.

So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.

~~ Billy Collins ~~

Song Book

Tiny keyboard bearing the massive reverie of the past–
press one button, we’re carried away on a country road,
marching with saints, leaving the Red River Valley…
here is every holiday you hated, every hard time,
each steamy summer wish.  You closed your eyes
in the wooden stairwell, leaning your  head against the wall,
knowing a bigger world loomed.  It’s still out there,
and it’s tucked in this keyboard too,
now we are an organ, now we are an oboe,
now we are young or ancient,
now we are smelling wallpaper in the house
our grandfather sold with every cabinet,
table and doily included,
but we are still adrift, floating,
thrum-full of longing layers of sound.
~~ Naomi Shihab Nye ~~

About Living

I wanted to live
To be
One hundred and one
Years old.
But that is no
Longer my goal.
When I die,
I die.
I cannot predict.
I cannot control.
I cannot change
What is to be,
Which is what it is
And will be
What it will be.
I wanted to live
To be,
And not die.
But,
While I’m alive,
I live
To the fullest.
I treasure each sunrise.
I remember each sunset.
I dance every dance and
I sing every song and
I celebrate every moment.
I wanted to live
To be.
And,
I am spending my time
On earth before death
Living,
Rather than dying,
And not wasting a moment
Of the precious gifts
Of time and
Of life and
Of being, for now.

~~ Mattie Stepanek ~~