Village Voice: Poems for Healing & Renewal

12.19.20

In this edition of the Village Voice, Richard Blanco recited poems for Healing and Renewal.

“I’m thinking about the holidays, but this isn’t the usual matching sweater holiday! I want us to reflect on new meanings of gratitude, renewal, healing.”

Blanco read “Holding the Light” by Stewart Kestenbaum, “Letter to My Body” by Joy Ladin, and “When Giving Is All We Have” by Alberto Ríos. He shared news of the Inaugural Poem Project for students and his hopes to pass the baton to the next inaugural poet.

Tune in to hear the conversation and read along with the poems listed below.

Holding the Light
Stuart Kestenbaum
for Kait Rhoads

Gather up whatever is
glittering in the gutter,
whatever has tumbled
in the waves or fallen
in flames out of the sky,

for it’s not only our
hearts that are broken,
but the heart
of the world as well.
Stitch it back together.

Make a place where
the day speaks to the night
and the earth speaks to the sky.
Whether we created God
or God created us

it all comes down to this:
In our imperfect world
we are meant to repair
and stitch together
what beauty there is, stitch it

with compassion and wire.
See how everything
we have made gathers
the light inside itself
and overflows? A blessing.

Letter to My Body
by Joy Ladin

Philosophers shilly-shally, but it’s true:
you are me; I am you.
This dust, these rays, this strange internal sense
that after all these years, I finally exist—all of this
is only mine through you. You still seem surprised—
that’s part of your charm— that I wish to be extracted
from your handsome bindings.
This, you say, is only the beginning,
which is why it feels like drowning
in what we’ve both survived. Ever the politician,
I say I’ll be your widow. 
Try to look cheerful as you die.
Not yet, you say, as though
—this is the other part of your charm—
you still believe in time.
Violent laughter, yours and mine.
Let’s go out into the woods
of meaning and matter, among the laurels and the mustard,
the unlit suns and unnamed branches, the listening shoots and loosening leaves
we can only appreciate when we’re drowning
in one another. Let’s break up before we meet
and fall in love again, let’s whisper wishes
in the darkening parlor of the heart,
let’s wait for God in the gathering dusk
and watch the stars come out.

When Giving Is All We Have
Alberto Ríos

One river gives
Its journey to the next.

We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.

This episode of “Village Voice” aired on GBH Boston Public Radio on December 17, 2020.