earthweal open link weekend #19

Welcome to earthweal’s open link weekend #19.

Link a poem that best suits your own theme or mood, be it new or one of your greatest hits. Include your location in your link so we get a feel for the breadth of global reportage. And be sure to visit your fellow linkers and comment.

Open link weekend ends at midnight EST Sunday night to make room for Monday’s weekly challenge.

Everybody gather round!


A person, watched by his cat, notes with chalk the days spent in confinement in his home, near Lyon on the 50th day of a strict lockdown in France to stop the spread of COVID-19. (Getty Images)

There’s a lot of exhaustion in the news—the dreary toll of deepening economic malaise around the world, unemployment lines stretching out of sight, meat growing scarce, toilet paper ever-absent from grocery shelves, the drone of unrelentingness hovering in the air. We don’t stay long with the PBS News Hour before switching to more entertaining realities—documentaries, say, nightcapped by reruns of The King of Queens.

But old truths seem shallow; a two-part American Experience doc on George Bush served us the grim drumbeat of all we already knew. Has 21st Century time become so thin that it can offer no vantage on the past?

And that King of Queens: How many times are we gonna watch the same reruns of a show that ended fifteen years ago? We can recite the scripts almost verbatim and laugh like Pavlov doggies along with the studio audience. Why do we find it so hard to wander off into the vast forest of available programming, dissatisfied and untrusting of it all?

Tack it up to the rough grain of pandemic, rubbing 21st Century dailiness raw. There’s no way around it, the wounds are real and ever-worsening and climate change looms just behind it, bringing if not new catastrophe this year then the ever-increasing volume of its approach.

We poets are the namers: It’s left to us to be the imagination’s first responders, discovering the contours and resonance of the crashing world we have awakened in. It’s not a job for poesies or dilettantes; without perceptive hearts our poems are just part of the debris field of the modern swath—blown litter. Maybe there is no way for poetry to assuage this, having been fatally disrupted one or two decades ago.

Yet maybe there’s a heroic element in all of us which has waited this long to awaken, tasking us to dig deeper, try harder; to burnish our sentences and pray to the brass angel that our foundations are correct and crafted stones are correct. Again and again and again, because now it feels like survival. The road of trials is truly long, but there is a treasure still to attain.

What I love about Jack Gilbert was his tenacity in this; settling for was a specie of dying, and he was too much in love with life (or enlivened by love) to reside in suburb of easy poems. It is never enough to merely subsist in poetry; one has to dig deeper, burnish harder, revise again and again. You never know which next word might fulcrum unexpected worlds.

This poem is from Gilbert’s 1995 collection The Great Fires:


We find out the heart only by dismantling what
the heart knows. By redefining the morning,
we find a morning that comes just after darkness.
We can break through marriage into marriage.
By insisting on love we spoil it, get beyond
affection and wade mouth-deep into love.
We must unlearn the constellations to see the stars.
But going back toward childhood will not help.
The village is not better than Pittsburgh.
Only Pittsburgh is more than Pittsburgh.
Rome is better than Rome in the same way the sound
of racoon tongues licking the inside walls
of the garbage tub is more than the stir
of them in the muck of the garbage. Love is not
enough. We die and are put into the earth forever.
We should insist while there is still time. We must
eat through the wildness of her sweet body already
in our bed to reach the body within the body.

Fierce stuff. I surely and sorely take heart from this insistence, be it in writing poems or loving others or this world. I have to keep reaching for the soul inside the spirit’s gliding line.

OK, ‘nuff said for now. It’s been great to see so many folks coming out for the weekly challenges and open link weekend; hope we keep seeing you around.

Keep the faith—and keep working!


Judy Woodruff of the PBS News Hour broadcasts from home.

10 thoughts on “earthweal open link weekend #19

  1. Brendan, I love the idea of poets as first responders. I have been doing 27 Days of Wild Writing with Laurie Wagner, and it is breathing new life into my work, which had been flagging under the weight of All That Is Happening. The Gilbert poem just floors me; so good. I, too, am so happy to see people linking up………..I love hearing voices from various spots around the globe, and love the conversation in the comments. On a graph today, I see my home province of B.C. is one of the best in the world at flattening the curve. We have a WONDERFUL woman guiding us and it is working. We will slooooooowly ease some restrictions, carefully, later this month.


    • The Wild Writing exercise has really given your work vigor … Makes for such a strong voice here! Happy to hear BC is doing things right. South of your border politics without masks leads to a White House on quarantine … Sigh.


  2. I also like the idea of poets as first responders, which is why I linked up my poem from Tuesday’s dVerse poetics. I’ve not read anything by Jack Gilbert, so ‘Tear It Down’ was a treat. I’ll be looking him up. Thank you, Brendan!


    • Thanks Kim – Your poem is an interesting – important — delve into the work of poetry. Every word is weighed for its utility in music of enchantment. I don’t think comment from the community helps us all that much — we’re usually far too nice, struggling just to understand poems which go everywhere — so your question was much appreciated. You are one of the hardest working at the craft I know. And the dilemma of how to bring in a phrase so vastly repeated in this moment I think is one of turning the pedestrian into wingman … Sometimes multisyllabic words blur the meaning, consider slant rhyme for a wider range of word choice. What dances? Or maybe a soft and fast line sets up a stronger punch line. – B

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Brendan, what do you think about the use of the word ‘situation’ in the ninth line? is it too journalistic? Any suggestions on what to replace it with? I considered ‘condition;’. I’d be grateful for your opinion.


  4. I love the idea of searching for the soul through our words and poems. Yes, I think our words, verses and poetry help define who we are in many aspects. I was struggling with some inner thoughts a couple of nights ago. I went to close the blinds and there was the flower moon shining in my face. I went outside and stood in the deserted street staring up in the sky. I could see a few neighbors still had on their dim lights but, most of the street was silent. I could hear frogs croaking near the lake a mating call, that was echoing up the street. There were a few puffy clouds dancing around the moon. I stood there trying to soak up the light to ease the emotional roller coaster inside of me. The stars seems to take on a new shape.

    In reading the following line in Tear It Down – I agree to fully see we must open our eyes in a new way of thought.

    “We must unlearn the constellations to see the stars”


  5. Ha, since the huge outbreaks of the virus in gigantic meat packing plants, on the evening news tonight they are talking about going back to small, regional centres – with any luck, maybe this will force us to go back to a more local, sensible way of life, instead of being so dependent on big corporations. We live in hope.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to earthweal Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.