What I Say to You After Work: for Naomi It’s just a bad day, Darlin. There have been others before this and we’re still here, still breathing, still waking up in the morning to do it all over again. I know. I know it has to get better. It will. Let’s go for a walk and look at the maples in our neighborhood budding their fresh green leaves, shedding the whirlygigs with their veined helicopter wings. Let’s feel the warming spring Kansas breeze on our faces, let it tousle our hair like a busy mother’s touch. Let’s leave the smart phones and music players at home. Let’s talk out the frustrations and the humiliations and the fuckups. Let’s talk about planting flowers and tomatoes, playing guitars, grilling, inviting friends over, getting out of the house. Let’s stop at the corner where the redbud ignites against the greening grass. Let’s curse the dandelions but enjoy the yellow. Let’s give the bad day the attention it deserves, which, really, ain’t much. © 2019 by Shawn Pavey
“The poems in Shawn Pavey’s Nobody Steals the Towels From a Motel 6 examine the seasons in the author’s life, broken down into days and then into moments, whether it’s a warm Kansas City wind, drinking on 39th Street, or a moment of quiet contemplation filled with the uncertainty that comes with just being alive in the 21st century. Pavey’s poems are straight and honest, taking the time to just live now and put it all down on paper, something that the rest of us usually put off until tomorrow. His words are as spare as bone, leaving the wind and taking nothing for granted.” John Dorsey, author of Appalachian Frankenstein
“Shawn Pavey’s poems capture the longing we feel when we lift the needle from a record album. In the turntable’s wishwiswish between Stratocaster riffs, there lies hope and resignation, Bruce Springsteen and hungry cats, maple leaves and ‘plastic blasted into space.’ Pavey’s poems give voice to our hunger for life, a medieval song heard through 21st Century earbuds.” Al Ortolani, author of Francis Shoots Pool at Chubb’s Bar and Waving Mustard in Surrender.
“In Nobody Steals the Towels From a Motel 6, I was reminded of how a gifted poet like Shawn Pavey doesn’t try to convince his readers to have things we don’t need but to slyly persuade us to open our eyes to the presence of the treasure of those things we cannot live without. In this book we have love, surprise, death, angels and more pictured for us in a flow of language both ordinary and extraordinary gracing us with a dancing vocabulary’s most lyrical and unforgettable choreography.” Chuck Sullivan, author of Zen Matchbook and Alphabet of Grace.
My contribution to Ghosts Over Water: A Kansas City Renga was selected by the Johnson County Library as one of the “Poem a Day” selections for National Poetry Month.
Take a look!
snowfall makes no noise,
falls as forgetting falls,
flake after flake.
~~ Miguel de Unamuno, “The Snowfall Is So Silent,” as translated by Robert Bly
We imagine ourselves atmospheric,
waiting for a thick covering of snow
that we know will come.
I build a fire.
We blanket ourselves before it,
fill our space with warmth –
these rooms from which we will see
white flakes fall from the gray sky
through the cold glass of windows
shut tight against the Kansas wind
that seems to seep, still, through
cracks and seams around frames, under doors.
It is like this in winter.
It is like this when skin
shivers at the touch of air
colder than water frozen in the ground.
We settle in, adjust to walls familiar
and worn, to furniture that holds our shape,
to the warmth of our blanketed bodies.
The tea kettle whistles,
steams the windows. Outside,
we could see our breath and imagine
ourselves as storm clouds
shedding snow crystals over the stubbled plains,
as snow clinging to the bare branches of maples,
to the needles and cones of pines,
coating browning lawns, covering
the sidewalks and the streets.
We imagine the quiet and imagine the snow,
imagine a day spent bundled up
in the warmth of each other,
hastening that which we know will come.
© 2010, Shawn Pavey. All rights reserved
In winter, the body knows
it is born to vanish.
Flesh turns to dirt, bones
wash white in March rains.
Life churns, returning
to wet layers of earth.
We – dead and dying, rotten and rotting –
look up to a sun far away and wait,
wait for the body and the solar body
to pull each other closer,
moisten skin with sweat,
green the dead husk of the world.
In spring, the body knows
it is born to sing.
Previously published in the Winter 2011 issue of The Main Street Rag Literary Journal.
© 2011 by Shawn Pavey. All rights reserved.
In Spring of 2011, I participated in a renga project with 30 other poets from around the Kansas City area as part of a traveling, multi-media art exhibit. The resulting collaborative poem, this renga, is titled Ghost Over Water.
You can go to the America: Now and Here website to view the poem in its entirety and view a photo of our poem stenciled on the wall of the Leedy-Volkous gallery in the Crossroads Arts District in Kansas City, MO. While at the site, click around to find out more about A:N&H. Here’s a link:
To hear the Kansas City poets (including yours truly!) read their contributions to Ghost Over Water on our local NPR station, go here:
But that was 2011. In 2012, I was fortunate enough to be included in a 150 Kansas Poets renga for America: Now and Here. As a result, I am spending several weekends this year traveling the state of Kansas, meeting other poets, and performing selections from this beautiful book. The poem is here:
And it can be purchased here:
I wanted to share my contribution to To The Stars Through Difficulties: A Kansas Renga in 150 Voices.
Listening: how wheat
bristles in wind like tele-
graph wires charged with part-
icles carrying voices
of dark communications
deeper than music
of our bright songbirds: seeds of
prairie grasses crack
secret in the loam, yearn for
wildfires of blanketing shoots.
Here is the Kansas Renga that I’ve mentioned a few times. I’m number 65, but I recommend reading the whole thing.
No other way most of the time, and yet the light
unscrolling from the milky horizon conceals what will shine
above, around, below us just hours from now on the longest night.
Snow, ice, and rain: what melts or refreezes clings to branches
and grasses. Did you think it would be easy to step outside,
to get on with the day and the weather of a collapsed blizzard?
Not when a beloved watches his life narrow to breath. Not when
the car barely starts, the windshield won’t emerge from its ice,
or the dear ones long gone suddenly feel close as sleet turned to rain.
The veil lifted. On the bare branch, like an inverse star, one bluebird.
— Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg