Angela Kelsey

Tell the Story

Tag Archive: poetry

  1. Her


    This post is the third in a series of guest posts in honor of Women’s History Month, nests for ourselves and others.

    Welcome, lovely D Smith Kaich Jones.


    I am built of the small moments gifted by women I have known,
    pieces of gold stacked helter skelter against the sides of my soul.

     in the 3rd grade I drew words in the air and when others laughed,
    my teacher did not.
    her.  a small moment.
    a friend’s young daughter on the side of a pool, scared of the deep end,
    jumping anyway.
    not yet a woman, but her.  another small moment.
    christmas dinner the year my father died,
    hospital food, hospital cafeteria,
    but that night a knock on my door.
    my 80 something neighbor with arms full of hugs
    a plate full of turkey & dressing & pie;
    “you should always have leftovers on Christmas night”.

    i am built of the moment my mother put a paintbrush in my hand,
    “if it’s bad you can just paint over it”,
    i am built of my sister-in-law’s apple pies baked extra tart just for me,
    of a friend’s silly messages when life was hurting,
    of fresh-from-the-yard hydrangeas propped against my early morning door.

    i am built from all the women who have stood before me
    and beside me and those behind me,
    pushing, holding me up.
    i am built of the moments they gave,
    hammers in hands,
    mouths full of nails and kisses,
    a blueprint called me spread before them.
    the small moments belong to women,
    to the girls,
    to the cousins and coworkers and friends we wish were sisters,
    because we know they aren’t ours to keep
    and we give them away.


    D Smith Kaich Jones is a Texas baby who grew up to be an artist – painter turned writer turned storyteller/poet, using whatever tool is at hand to spin her stories.   She is interested in the overlooked small moments, the imperfections of daily life, forgotten secrets, the hints of people a place remembers, and can be found online at or!/smithkaichjones.


    Looking for more nest-making posts? They’re here and here.

  2. Celebrating Charlotte Forten Grimke


    Charlotte Forten Grimke (1837-1914)  was the first African American woman to teach white children in Massachusetts.  She risked her life and health to teach liberated slave children on the island of St. Helena off the South Carolina coast during the Civil War.

    And she leaves a legacy through her journals, essays, and poetry. Her writing tells her story nearly a hundred years after her death.

    From her poem “Wordsworth”:

    We turn to thee, true priest of Nature’s fane,
    And find the rest our fainting spirits need, —
    The calm, more ardent singers cannot give;
    As in the glare intense of tropic days,
    Gladly we turn from the sun’s radiant beams,
    And grateful hail fair Luna’s tender light.


    You know what’s really amazing? Charlotte Forten Grimke has a Facebook page.


  3. White Wedding Slippers

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    At night
    my mother opened a chest and took out
    her white silk wedding slippers.
    Then she daubed them
    a long time with ink.

    Early in the morning
    she went in those slippers
    to the street
    to line up for bread.
    It was ten degrees,
    she stood
    for three hours in the street.

    They were handing out
    one quarter of a loaf per person.

    –Anna Swirszczynska
    Tr. Czeslaw Milosz
       Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness

  4. Fight or Flight Pantoum

    Comments Off on Fight or Flight Pantoum

    Sometimes you know it’s going to happen.
    We should believe people when they try to tell us who they are.
    I was your girl.
    Oppressiveness of the waiting and the uncertainty.

    We should believe people when they try to tell us who they are.
    If I do not fly I want to fight.
    Oppressiveness of the waiting and the uncertainty.
    Nothing is undone.

    If I do not fly I want to fight.
    I was your girl.
    Nothing is undone.
    Sometimes you know it’s going to happen.

  5. Anniversary 3. Take out your pencils. Begin.

    Comments Off on Anniversary 3. Take out your pencils. Begin.

    Three years ago I created a blog called Graciespeaks with a link to this poem.

    I think I should read it every day.  Aloud. And begin again.

    Praise Song for the Day


    A Poem for Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration

    Each day we go about our business,
    walking past each other, catching each other’s
    eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

    All about us is noise.  All about us is
    noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
    one of our ancestors on our tongues.

    Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
    a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
    repairing the things in need of repair.

    Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
    with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
    with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

    A woman and her son wait for the bus.

    A farmer considers the changing sky.

    A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

    We encounter each other in words, words
    spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,

    words to consider, reconsider.

    We cross dirt roads and highways that mark

    the will of some one and then others, who said

    I need to see what’s on the other side.

    I know there’s something better down the road.

    We need to find a place where we are safe.

    We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

    Say it plain: many have died for this day.

    Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,

    who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

    picked the cotton and the lettuce, built

    brick by brick the glittering edifices

    they would then keep clean and work inside of.

    Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.

    Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,

    the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

    Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,

    others by first do no harm or take no more

    than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

    Love beyond marital, filial, national,

    love that casts a widening pool of light,

    love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

    In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,

    any thing can be made, any sentence begun.

    On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp.

    Praise song for walking forward in that light.

  6. Borders

    1 Comment

    irresistible, irrefutable

    pause, space, bridge


    inhale and exhale

    the tide’s coming in and going out

    salt and fresh water

    this life and the next

    night and morning

    one year’s ending and the next’s beginning

    plan and implementation

    action and fruition

    you and me

  7. “woven into fire”

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    Early this morning I heard on the radio that Christopher Hitchens died.

    Hitchens has written for the past eighteen months or so about his “living dyingly,” giving his readers more than a glimpse into a part of life that is often private to the point of hidden.

    A couple of days ago, I read this honest and moving Vanity Fair piece, in which Hitchens weaves his personal experience, poetry, and philosophy in an examination of the question of whether what doesn’t kill us, in fact, makes us stronger.

    I’ve been thinking about him since then.

    Tonight Mr. Z. and I went to hear Seraphic Fire‘s Christmas concert.

    They performed Stephen Paulus’s “Hymn to the Eternal Flame,” and again I thought of Hitchens, “woven,” as we all are, “into fire.”

    Here are the words:

    Every face is in you, every voice, every sorrow
    in you,
    every pity, every love, every memory,
    woven into fire.

    Every breath is in you, every cry, every longing
    in you,
    every singing, every hope, every healing,
    woven into fire.

    Every heart is in you, every tongue, every trembling
    in you,
    every blessing, every soul, every shining,
    woven into fire.


  8. one more flower-poem post

    1 Comment

    How to Feed An Orchid

    Clarify the relationship.

    It is you being fed and the orchid
    who spoons blossoms in your mouth.

    Find an east-facing room
    quiet as a theatre of monks
    watching a woman cross the stage.

    Do not involve your own thirst when watering.
    Incidental light is preferable to any replica of sun.
    Stone, wood, marl or coconut husk
    provide anchorage and let it be.

    Like your thoughts without television,
    the columns will harness the underestimated air
    into calyx and corolla.

    Urn-shaped or lyrate, barbate or ephemeral,
    to nourish the orchid,
    maintain a spirit of delicacy
    with your dearest.

    For the careful rosette and trinity of petals,
    it bears the common name of “nun.”
    But look at its center–
    sheathed, gaping, labiate–

    no less a woman.

    –Jennifer K. Sweeney, from  How to Live on Bread and Music

  9. For the greater strength


    Tonight has been a long time in coming.

    I’ll be at Women in Distress, leading a writing workshop for survivors of domestic violence.

    Before we start writing our stories, I’ll read them this poem by Jennifer K. Sweeney, from the collection How to Live On Bread and Music:


    For the man whose Impala breaks down on the highway mid-lane,
    his face wrinkled in agony as he heaves the machine toward gravel.

    For grief which slows time and makes everything sad and beautiful–
    the children’s art hanging crooked in the museum,
    a woman carrying a loaf of bread with both hands.

    For the Harlem Renaissance painted on an old boat.

    For renewal, a woman’s vintage slip
    stretched around a lampshade like light shining through a body.

    For grief which makes details appear to have meaning
    as when we bought new koi for our pond
    and hoped they would have babies but they didn’t.

    For the time being.

    For beach grass, boxwood, bearded iris, calla lily, yucca, ghost rose.
    We make these things grow.
    They are of us and we are of them,
    but they do not belong to us any more than this house.
    Neither my body anymore which I have left across the city
    in medical buildings and turrets of wind.

    For giving back everything borrowed.

    For the Chinese-American teenager
    who described herself as a paper daughter.

    For the man who wakes from his surgery
    and wails into the cold Am I alive?

    For irony, that writes itself into our lives
    making them fictions to us.

    For the homeless woman who sang to me at the gas station,
    You’re just too good to be true, Can’t take my eyes off of you,
    mottled black arms outstretched to the clouds.

    For my students searching in silence
    the alley-cracks and gutters for haiku in their composition books.

    For the greater strength it takes the woman
    who has been pushing an immense rock for years
    to walk the opposite direction.

  10. thank you


    “absence can be present, like a damaged nerve, like a dark bird”
    The Time Traveler’s Wife.

    Thank you Griselda for this dark bird.

    Thank you Amy for the book that found its way to the top of the stack at just the right time and for this sonnet by Wordsorth:

    Surprised by joy – impatient as the wind

    Surprised by joy – impatient as the wind
    I turned to share the transport – Oh! With whom
    But thee, long buried in the silent tomb,
    That spot which no vicissitude can find?
    Love, faithful love, recalled thee to my mind –
    But how could I forget thee? – Through what power,
    Even for the least division of an hour,
    Have I been so beguiled as to be blind
    To my most grievous loss? – That thought’s return
    Was the worse pang that sorrow ever bore,
    Save one, one only, when I stood forlorn,
    Knowing my heart’s best treasure was no more;
    That neither present time nor years unborn
    Could to my sight that heavenly face restore.

    Thank you Crescent Dragonwagon for sharing your post about Beanblossom,  reminding me that there will be a long view and I must waste nothing.

    Thank you Elizabeth and Paula and Marjory  and Bridget for friendship via comment and tweet.

    Thank you Alana and Judith for showing me how to blog grief.

    Thank you Julie and Bindu for phone and text support.

    Thank you friends and family who would prefer not to be blogged about.

    Thank you Jeanne for all of the above and more.