“Spend all you have for loveliness”

November 5, 2010 @ 5:33 am | Filed under:

For Poetry Friday this week, two poems:
one from Sara, one from me.

by Sara Teasdale

Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children’s faces looking up,
Holding wonder like a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like the curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit’s still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.


String of Beads
by Melissa Wiley

Well, I’ll tell you
it’s a long time
since I’ve strung words
on these taut threads

My mouth got busy
and my fingers with tales
and showing how the bunny
goes around the tree
and through the tunnel

Busy playing cat’s cradle,
learning the shapes,
fingers together then drawing apart
like the sign for story
I learned from my deaf son

Bring the strands close,
slip a finger, loop another.
Catch the top rung of Jacob’s ladder
in your mouth for just a moment.
The angular teacup rests on its saucer.
Broom, candles, manger, diamonds.
Anything may happen.

How mutable the forms,
how fluid, more forgiving
than the faceted words winking
thisway thatway as you squint
at the sharp wet end of a line.

If you forget to tie a knot in the string
the words slide off the end and skitter
to all corners

Anyway, which is it?
Yarn shapes or beads on a string?
Sooner or later

you have to make up
your mind.

This week’s Poetry Friday roundup can be found at Teaching Authors.

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17 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater says:

    Oh, Poetry Friday is happy indeed. I hope that you don’t make up your mind…make yarn shapes and thread beads too. What a beautiful post. “Broom, candles, manger, diamonds.” A.

  2. Sue says:

    Your poem just distilled the kernel of the mid-life-crisis I dealt with a few years ago. I came down on the side of the yarn shapes. I miss my own version of threading words, but perhaps the time will come for that again too. Meanwhile, I’m satisfied with what I have. Not a bad thing to say about your life IMO.

  3. Andromeda Jazmon says:

    Wonderful match up of poems and photos! I love the way you string words, yarn, images… and remind me to catch all the loveliness I can find today.

  4. jama says:

    That’s one of my favorite Teasdale poems — and I love yours, too. 🙂

  5. Karen.Edmisten says:

    Oh, so fun to see you — you, who introduced me to Poetry Friday — back for the fun, and bearing such treats! Love the Teasdale, and love the tease of your original poem as well.

  6. Mary Lee says:

    I’m with Amy — I vote that you try to have BOTH the beads and the string games. “Spend all you have for loveliness,” like Sara says.

    (My inner city Dallas 4th graders and I memorized this poem in my first year of teaching, lo these many years ago. I like to think that there are still scraps of it in their memories that come back when they see “children’s faces looking up” or “blue waves whitened on a cliff” or when they smell the “scent of pine trees in the rain.”)

  7. Toby Speed says:

    Melissa, your poem is rich and dense, and intriguing, and you have me wondering about the choice that’s being weighed. But I’m loving it all — beads, string, words skittering to all corners, and the story-magic of cats cradle. Thank you for a poem that makes me think.

  8. Hannah says:

    I’ve always loved that first poem, and now I love the second one!

  9. Hannah says:

    Are you deciding between prose and poetry?

  10. sarah says:

    What a treat to have a poem from you!

  11. tanita says:

    Oh, Melissa. I could just SEE that cat’s cradle game going on. And really – if you’re spending all you have for loveliness, YOU decide what’s loveliness. And sometimes it will be cat’s cradle. And, in small moments, it will be words.

    We will wait for more of your lovely books.
    Your cat’s cradle games can’t wait, can they?

  12. Melissa Wiley says:

    Oh thank you, everyone—what fun to come home from a day away and find your takes on the poem. Hannah, yes, I was pondering the act of writing poetry after a long time of not writing poetry. 🙂 In grad school I was in the poetry arm of my MFA program, but while all my classmates were writing these gorgeous lyric and meditative verses, all my poems were long, narrative, character-based (and curiously, always about characters who were either very young or very old)—and after a while I shifted my focus to prose fiction. And got busy with novels and more novels, and somehow a lot of years passed without my writing any more poetry, except for the occasional bit of doggerel for my kids. Really it’s been reading Amy’s blog, marveling at her poems-every-day-for-a-year—and all so good!—that made me want to try stringing the beads again.

    (I am likewise inspired by Sarah Elwell’s poetry—her deftness with small quiet words, and the way she tells a whole story in a verse no bigger than your hand.)

    Tanita, what you wrote is true too—the words can wait when there are real games of cat’s cradle to be played….I took a long break from fiction-writing between the last two babies. When I started working again, it was slow, slow, snippets squeezed into the interstices. But once Huck turned a year old we seemed to hit a groove, the lot of us, and I began writing again on evenings and weekends. Which feels great. 🙂 It was a lovely hiatus, and it’s lovely to be back.

  13. April Halprin Wayland says:

    Wow. I’m definitely “sail-mailing” the poetry to my friend who is sailing around the world.

    Both are delicious.

    And howdy back at you, Melissa!

  14. Kathy says:

    Both these poems are beautiful. Thank you for the introduction to Teasdale, who I had never read before, and even more, for your own poem. I love that it completely captures (for me) the laying-aside of things, even deeply creative things, that being a parent demands in some seasons of life. What I particularly relate to about it is that it carries no sense of loss or regret, and revels in the delights of the cat’s cradle for what it is, rather than looking only at what it is not.

    I am, like you, starting to get back in to my creative life now that my youngest child is almost 2, and I’m so pleased to be, but I have nothing but rich and crowded memories of the years of laying-aside, no regrets, no sense of time lost.

  15. MelanieB says:

    I think my heart skipped a beat at: “…as you squint
    at the sharp wet end of a line.”

    And then again at: “the words slide off the end and skitter
    to all corners”.

    What a joy of a poem. Fiction, poetry… whatever you decide to string, it is all just lovely to read.

    Lissa, I envy you your new groove as mine keeps slipping away every time I think I’ve found it. Not, of course, that I at all regret the newness of life and the sweet babies who throw it off. I just need to sometimes remind myself to slow down and enjoy the games while they last.

  16. Eileen Smithdeal says:

    I love your poem and the matching photo! You have such a way with words. I miss you, dear friend. I hope we can talk next week!

  17. Julia S. says:

    Your poem is insightful, I can truly feel the the weight of the choice in the lightness of the images. As mom’s we make so many small seemingly insignificant motions every day and the choices deceptively simple, yet they never are.

    Keep writing.