1.
Why do I write, and why do I read? I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.

2.
Wonderment, I tell myself earlier this year, in my journal. Every time I arrive at a page, I bring with me questions. Every time I turn to the next, I leave with more.

3.
What does it mean to be kind?

4.
There’s a lot of work to be done. I could see the road a little bit now: where I have to go, what I have to do. Really it’s more like a shadow of an arrow, saying, There. Forward. But the path is there.

Substantial Planes
A.R. Ammons

It doesn’t
matter

to me
if

poems mean
nothing:

there’s no
floor

to the
universe

and yet
one

walks the
floor.

This is from The Really Short Poems of A. R. Ammons, published by W. W. Norton & Company, 1992.

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Watching the news, my heart heavy. I just don’t know what to make of the world anymore, sometimes. Of our lives, and the things we lose.

In View of the Fact
A.R. Ammons

The people of my time are passing away: my
wife is baking for a funeral, a 60-year-old who

died suddenly, when the phone rings, and it’s
Ruth we care so much about in intensive care:

it was once weddings that came so thick and
fast, and then, first babies, such a hullabaloo:

now, it’s this that and the other and somebody
else gone or on the brink: well, we never

thought we would live forever (although we did)
and now it looks like we won’t: some of us

are losing a leg to diabetes, some don’t know
what they went downstairs for, some know that

a hired watchful person is around, some like
to touch the cane tip into something steady,

so nice: we have already lost so many,
brushed the loss of ourselves ourselves: our

address books for so long a slow scramble now
are palimpsests, scribbles and scratches: our

index cards for Christmases, birthdays,
Halloweens drop clean away into sympathies:

at the same time we are getting used to so
many leaving, we are hanging on with a grip

to the ones left: we are not giving up on the
congestive heart failure or brain tumors, on

the nice old men left in empty houses or on
the widows who decide to travel a lot: we

think the sun may shine someday when we’ll
drink wine together and think of what used to

be: until we die we will remember every
single thing, recall every word, love every

loss: then we will, as we must, leave it to
others to love, love that can grow brighter

and deeper till the very end, gaining strength
and getting more precious all the way…

Bad day. Can I just jump into bed and hide under the covers?

Shit List; Or, Omnium-gatherum Of Diversity Into Unity
A.R. Ammons

You’ll rejoice at how many kinds of shit there are:
gosling shit (which J. Williams said something
was as green as), fish shit (the generality), trout

shit, rainbow trout shit (for the nice), mullet shit,
sand dab shit, casual sloth shit, elephant shit
(awesome as process or payload), wildebeest shit,

horse shit (a favorite), caterpillar shit (so many dark
kinds, neatly pelleted as mint seed), baby rhinoceros
shit, splashy jaybird shit, mockingbird shit

(dive-bombed with the aim of song), robin shit that
oozes white down lawnchairs or down roots under roosts,
chicken shit and chicken mite shit, pelican shit, gannet

shit (wholesome guano), fly shit (periodic), cockatoo
shit, dog shit (past catalog or assimilation),
cricket shit, elk (high plains) shit, and

tiny scribbled little shrew shit, whale shit (what
a sight, deep assumption), mandril shit (blazing
blast off), weasel shit (wiles’ waste), gazelle shit,

magpie shit (total protein), tiger shit (too acid
to contemplate), moral eel and manta ray shit, eerie
shark shit, earthworm shit (a soilure), crab shit,

wolf shit upon the germicidal ice, snake shit, giraffe
shit that accelerates, secretary bird shit, turtle
shit suspension invites, remora shit slightly in

advance of the shark shit, hornet shit (difficult to
assess), camel shit that slaps the ghastly dry
siliceous, frog shit, beetle shit, bat shit (the

marmoreal), contemptible cat shit, penguin shit,
hermit crab shit, prairie hen shit, cougar shit, eagle
shit (high totem stuff), buffalo shit (hardly less

lofty), otter shit, beaver shit (from the animal of
alluvial dreams)-a vast ordure is a broken down
cloaca-macaw shit, alligator shit (that floats the Nile

along), louse shit, macaque, koala, and coati shit,
antelope shit, chuck-will’s-widow shit, alpaca shit
(very high stuff), gooney bird shit, chigger shit, bull

shit (the classic), caribou shit, rasbora, python, and
razorbill shit, scorpion shit, man shit, laswing
fly larva shit, chipmunk shit, other-worldly wallaby

shit, gopher shit (or broke), platypus shit, aardvark
shit, spider shit, kangaroo and peccary shit, guanaco
shit, dolphin shit, aphid shit, baboon shit (that leopards

induce), albatross shit, red-headed woodpecker (nine
inches long) shit, tern shit, hedgehog shit, panda shit,
seahorse shit, and the shit of the wasteful gallinule.

In a Sigur Ros kind of mood. And a poem, of course. And everything is beautiful.

The City Limits
A.R. Ammons

When you consider the radiance, that it does not withhold
itself but pours its abundance without selection into every
nook and cranny not overhung or hidden; when you consider

that birds’ bones make no awful noise against the light but
lie low in the light as in a high testimony; when you consider
the radiance, that it will look into the guiltiest

swervings of the weaving heart and bear itself upon them,
not flinching into disguise or darkening; when you consider
the abundance of such resource as illuminates the glow-blue

bodies and gold-skeined wings of flies swarming the dumped
guts of a natural slaughter or the coil of shit and in no
way winces from its storms of generosity; when you consider

that air or vacuum, snow or shale, squid or wolf, rose or lichen,
each is accepted into as much light as it will take, then
the heart moves roomier, the man stands and looks about, the

leaf does not increase itself above the grass, and the dark
work of the deepest cells is of a tune with May bushes
and fear lit by the breadth of such calmly turns to praise.

Am not really religious, but growing up with parents who are so, I can’t escape the desire sometimes to hold on to something much bigger than myself. This is how I pray: I peel oranges, I tie my shoelaces, and I read poems like these.

Still
A.R. Ammons

I said I will find what is lowly
and put the roots of my identity
down there:
each day I’ll wake up
and find the lowly nearby,
a handy focus and reminder,
a ready measure of my significance,
the voice by which I would be heard,
the wills, the kinds of selfishness
I could
freely adopt as my own:

but though I have looked everywhere,
I can find nothing
to give myself to:
everything is

magnificent with existence, is in
surfeit of glory:
nothing is diminished,
nothing has been diminished for me:

I said what is more lowly than the grass:
ah, underneath,
a ground-crust of dry-burnt moss:
I looked at it closely
and said this can be my habitat: but
nestling in I
found
below the brown exterior
green mechanisms beyond the intellect
awaiting resurrection in rain: so I got up

and ran saying there is nothing lowly in the universe:
I found a beggar:
he had stumps for legs: nobody was paying
him any attention: everybody went on by:
I nestled in and found his life:
there, love shook his body like a devastation:
I said
though I have looked everywhere
I can find nothing lowly
in the universe:

I whirled though transfigurations up and down,
transfigurations of size and shape and place:

at one sudden point came still,
stood in wonder:
moss, beggar, weed, tick, pine, self, magnificent
with being!

Thinking of the fire trees at the university. Remembering what it feels like walking past them, under them, while the leaves are falling. It felt like fall. Wishing we had fall.

Play
A.R. Ammons

Nothing’s going to become of anyone
except death:
therefore: it’s okay
to yearn
too high:
the grave accommodates
swell rambunctiousness &

ruin’s not
compromised by magnificence:

the cut-off point
liberates us to the
common disaster: so
pick a perch —
apple bough for example in bloom —
tune up
and if you like

drill imagination right through necessity:
it’s all right:
it’s been taken care of:

is allowed, considering