Giving Away a Book of Poetry

Now and then, I weed my bookshelves (not often enough).  Today, I picked up a book of poetry, browsed through it and felt like it was one I could release.  I put it aside.  I would take it to the garage later on and start a giveaway book box.  It occurred to me that I should see if I’d written any private notes inside as I sometimes do.  On the last page and back book cover, there was a poem I’d written (with pen) in the year 2000.  I could easily rip the one page out but tearing off the back book cover seemed like too much of a vandalism.

What to do?  I could tear out the one page, make a copy of the back page to salvage my poem in toto and then put white acrylic paint over my words on the back cover.  The poem was about having broken up with someone.  I’d gone to the big city and was sitting at the cafe counter having breakfast.  “Everywhere I turn, there are reminders of us.”  About how I was hoping to dilute my loneliness by being around lots of people in the big city…

Finally, I decided to tear out the first page of the poem and leave the second.  No one would know that these were my words…anonymous script in a book of poetry feels like an intrigue, right?  Whoever finds this book might recognize themselves in my words.  Or somehow be elevated or validated, hopefully not depressed.

Finally, I gessoed over, painted over, whited out my words on the back inside cover.  A few words peaked through…that would have to provide enough of an intrigue.


So do you write in your books?  Is that a way to engage the conversation that any book engenders by virtue of being A Book?  Or is it more like any scrap of paper has to do when inspiration strikes?



quig6aShe was made to give
© by Christine O’Brien

The earth she says
I was made to give
take from my abundant larder.

and they took and returned to her
in intimate ways
and each was happy.

The earth she says
I was made to give
take from my abundant larder.

and they plowed and sowed her
to feed the many
who had set up villages
and put down roots
and they took and returned to her
in amenable ways
and each was content.

The earth she says
I was made to give
take from my abundant larder.

and they came with their heavy equipment
and modern ways
scavenged in her very bowels
bound her up in asphalt and concrete
rumbled heavy machines over her bare breast
constructed factories and buildings
increased their numbers
to populate these structures.

They said “We will make her subject to us.”
They worked the many to support the few
–a masked feudal system.
And they took
and they took
and they took from her
and it was never enough.
It was her nature to give
and though she felt dishonored
she complied.

The earth she says
I was made to give.
take from my…
however her larder was less abundant
and she felt a certain exhaustion.
To continue giving
to those who showed no appreciation
nor reciprocity
seemed a betrayal.

How much longer could she sustain them,
sustain herself?
Where she had once given
from her abundance,
now she was giving
from her personal storehouse.

“Ah, I am tired,” she said.
“I’ll shake these ungratefuls
from my empty breast.
I’ve nothing left to give.”

Writing Prompt:
One definition for ecology is “the branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings.”  What is your relationship to your physical surroundings?  Write about it.


Inspired by a painting

The Dive
© by Christine O’Brien

Diving Bird by Christine 2018

Feet plugged into the
sticky resin springboard,
I note the space between me and
the crushing water below.
The form I hold.
Buddha stillness.
The grace I invoke
as I design form
gliding through space.
The breath I hold.
The breath I take
like thunder in a canyon
fills my ears.
The shadow of fear
remains at the other end
of the platform
while I stand on the edge
in focused repose.

This is not my first dive
though my raised shoulders,
clamped mouth and clenched jaw
could be interpreted as fear.
There is always that
but with prayer and practice
it quickly transforms
as there is no turning back now.
The dive grooms the diver
in this conspiracy of grace, form and space.

Originally, it was a dare from friends
that sent me up the hot aluminum ladder
on that sweaty summer day.
Now, it’s a drive from within,
neither towards perfection
nor for judges’ scores.
There is no competition.

It is the ecstasy of flight
that sends me to this precipice.
Neither bird nor stone falling through space,
I am a wingless angel
who rejoices in
those few seconds of airtime.
Body imprinting space
air molecules conforming, buoyant.
I visualize the flex, fold, arc,
the straightening as
I neatly incise the water with my hands,
barely a splash.

I surface a few feet away,
a different sort of Phoenix rising.

I was invited to write and read a poem for an art gallery event.  The invitation was to choose a painting from the gallery show and write a poem to complement the painting.  I had two days.  I had been on a poetic hiatus and there is often the doubt “Do I have it in me to write poetry?”  I strolled through the gallery looking for a painting that resurrected my poetic voice.  There she was, the girl standing at the edge of the diving board.  I sat with her and asked what wanted to be spoken.  I took a photo and notes and went home.  This was not the first poem that came…the first poem was the process that lead me to this poem.

Writing Prompt:
Give yourself this challenge.  Go to an art gallery, stroll through and stop when you feel that gripping connection with a painting.  Then, sit with it for awhile, take notes, take a photo.  Go home (or to a cafe–make it an artist’s date) and write your poem.  This is such a special experience.  Do try it.

Note:  Remember the first poem may not be the final poem (nor the second or third).  Allow yourself to be in process with what wants to be spoken referring back to the painting as inspiration.

Note 2:  The artist is Jan Wurm.  Her painting is called “The Dive.”  I was hoping to include an image of the painting.  However, I have not received permission from the artist to date.


The Poet Responds to Herself/Himself

When I write a poem, it often stands alone.  However, there are times that it becomes a poem that sparks another poem and another and another.  A trilogy or quadrilogy or pentalogy or even a hexalogy of poems.  Don’t you love those words?  Who dreamed them?

When I wrote the first poem, To the God of Sunlight, it became just that for me.  Actually, it grew into a hexalogy of poems, that is six interconnected poems.

These poems toppled out, one after the other.

Here is the second poem:

The Eleventh Hour
© by Christine O’Brien

Not to say we shouldn’t desire more
of that which feeds the hungering soul.
For such yearning, it seems, opens the door
as we stare out upon a distant knoll.

Comfortable complacency is fine.
We all need pauses in our quest for more.
Grateful for the banquet upon which we dine,
fingers laced, beside the fireplace, shut the door.

But when the bell tolls the eleventh hour,
mustn’t we from our sedentary rise
step into our uncomfortable power
–this before our comforts become a vise?

The hungering soul feasts on freedom.
Quick! They are capturing the kingdom.


Writing Prompt:
Have you had this experience–a poem that arrives in segments?  Give yourself a poetic few hours writing about something for which you have passion and see where you go.

Valentine’s Day


© by Christine O’Brien

The heart wants to love,
that capacious muscle
to open outwards
in trusting embrace
to loosen its tight grip on pain
to soften.

The heart wants to love
free of constraints
of fear, past hurts, rules–
to break apart
releasing butterflies
like an open air arboretum
fragrances floating lightly
on sweet spring’s breath
turning one around
towards love.


Do you have a love poem?  If not, find one or write one.
Share a love poem with someone this week.


Making it your own

Do you have a repertoire of poetry that you’ve memorized?  Or, one single poem that you turn to when you need to be reminded of what’s important to you?  Or one that gives you comfort or support in some way?  Or a poem that is solely for your enjoyment?

For me, one poem I memorized and have recited at past poetry readings is Mary Oliver’s “Sleeping in the Forest

“I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.”

Creative Prompt:
If you haven’t memorized a poem, find one–it can be short–and memorize it.  Hold it close and when you’re in a circumstance where you feel it would be appropriate, share it with a friend, family or companion.  Surprise them (and yourself) with a poem!

Middle Falls, McCloud, CA

Firewood Delivered

There are certain harbingers of a season.
In the mountains, one such winter’s messenger is the delivery of firewood — a cord of oak or lodgepole pine cut to size, left in an unwieldy pile in the driveway near the house.  Below is an unpolished, unedited poem from my writing journal.  I don’t have a woodstove now…I have another type of heat.  But I remember very well that sense of gratitude and a feeling of wealth when the firewood was delivered.  These were my poetic thoughts while stacking wood.

Stacking Wood
© by Christine O’Brien

I don’t know what it is
to witness a tree falling
toppling hard upon the earth
vibrating with a thunderous curse.
Was it ready to give up life,
spirit sap, seamless strife,
surrendering to weapons
which sever, protest unheard.
Who will house that lonely bird
which once kept home within these leaves?
Does the bird fly to another hovel or
descend with the tree in a graceless flutter
like flower petals
though not so gently.
Perhaps they remember
the earth from which they’ve come
and rise again in a new form.

Now I stack it in imperfect piles
heat of my hearth
blazing and wild
challenging me
to be so used
The wealth of all that one life can be
standing small am I beside this tree

Writing Prompt:
What is a harbinger of the season in your hemisphere?  Choose one thing and write about it uncensored in poetry or prose.  Be real, be silly,  be serious, be ridiculous, be imperfect, just be.