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Your portal into the mind & soul of J. Windley-Daoust

A poem, with a side of basil.

If it’s miracles you’re after,
then in the darkest days of December
purchase packets of tomato seeds
and hold them close, like holy cards,
and recite the litany of their names
as a stay against winter’s cruel claws:
Brandywine, Oxheart, Black Krim, Rosella;
Honey Gold, Pink Girl, Moon Glow, Tigerella;
Chianti Rose, Sunrise, Orange Jazz, Tangella.

And wait. Attend.
Abide as the Earth spins you around again
to the laughing days of late February,
the sound of snowmelt running
off rooftops in strings
of shimmering beads,
singing the prelude to spring.

This is the time to begin.
This is the time…

Like Huck Finn, these independent spirits have found a home (and a little adventure) on the Mississippi River.

Soon as it was night, out we shoved; when we got her out to about the middle, we let her alone, and let her float wherever the current wanted her to. . .. Yonder was the banks and the islands, across the water, and sometimes on the water you could see a spark or two — on a raft or scow, you know; and maybe you could hear a fiddle or a song coming over from one of them crafts.

— from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain


God knows, we’ve fought enough these past few years — but for one night, we make a truce. A poem.

As darkness settles over the land,
we gather above the wide river —
some thousands of us Americans
come for Fourth of July fireworks.

Our long shadows linger in the last
light, entangling us with one another,
and perhaps with the shadows of armies
once encamped here, waiting for war.
God knows, we’ve fought enough
these past few years — it’s been us
versus you, we the red & we the blue;
and even we who would wave
the white flag of truces
have shed our share of blood
and borne our share of bruises.

But for now we sheath…

Their friendship transcended their ideological differences. Will we follow their example?

Twitter exploded in the most predictable of ways following the announcement of the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It took minutes, not hours, for some users to unsheathe the partisan knives, deploying the same toxic rhetoric that has been poisoning our political discourse for years: name calling, personal attacks, cruel taunts, bullying, veiled (and not-so-veiled) threats of violence.

But there were plenty of tributes and condolences, too, from both sides of the political divide — heartening not only for their basic civility, but for showing that despite our political differences, most Americans still believe that we share certain foundational…

A poem.

My grandfather didn’t like to talk about the war,
but if you asked, he would share this story.

On a cold April morning just outside Monte Casino,
he walks into a field, dry stalks breaking under his feet.
His living breath makes small curling clouds of fog,
lit by the morning light for the space of a heartbeat
before vanishing on the breeze. White frost flecks
the land, and the men lying dead upon it. He pauses
before the form of a youth looking up as if perplexed
by the snowflakes falling from this clear morning sky;
or perhaps wondering why he is dead…

Millions of Americans say they could justify violence in the wake of an electoral defeat. To stop a post-election nightmare, we need to act now.

Does anyone else wake up at 3 a.m. worrying about the future of democracy in America, or is it just me?

As I lay there in the dark listening to the snoring of our asthmatic dog, I find myself wondering what will happen in the aftermath of the November elections. This being the middle of the night, the doom-and-gloom side of my imagination has free reign, serving up nightmare scenarios like these:

  1. The Democrats win, but many Republicans don’t accept the result as legitimate because they are convinced the vote was “rigged.” Some of the more extreme partisans turn out…

Sunday afternoon in January,
and the YMCA is full of boys
drumming brown basketballs
against the shining floor
and launching them
in languorous arcs
at red-rimmed hoops.

The boys run, reach,
and leap,
throwing themselves skyward:
they rise like egrets
and land like yearlings,
long limbs circling round
to snag spinning balls
from their furrowed flight
like gods plucking planets
from among the stars;
no wonder the walls resound
with their shouted joy.

But if some see angels
in their strong, glad hearts,
others see soldiers —
the world wants its wars,
after all, and boys like these
burn better than any kindling.
Forge them…

Ransom was so small that the state highway department noted its existence only by the SPEED LIMIT 25 sign on the way into town and the SPEED LIMIT 55 sign on the way out. Lacey was on her way out, and she had no intention of keeping any speed limits. It was a summer’s morning just after dawn, the road was empty, and her windows were rolled down. She wanted to feel the wind on her face as she left Ransom, a small place for small people. She wanted to fly.

Why she hadn’t left sooner was a mystery that…

THE RIVER FLOWS SOUTH, AND ALL THE FLOWING WATERS OF half a continent run to it — morning dew, whole gray-white fields of melting snow, rain running down rooftops and cascading through the leaves of trees, rivulets in the streets, brooks and streams and creeks and tributaries — all wash clean over the people and the land, drawing together in the broad and heavy river that pushes south. Even teardrops move to find solace in the warm southern sea; shed too many tears, and they will bear your soul along with them. …


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