Jeremy Gregg

Changing the Way that Charity Changes the World.

Category: Poetry (page 1 of 2)

A Poem for Mr. Rodney Walter, Upon His Retirement

Another of my fellow teachers at Cistercian Preparatory School in Irving, TX, Mr. Rodney Walter has retired after a lifetime of service to the school. In his latter years, he served as the archivist and historian of the school, gathering photos from its early decades and cataloging them for posterity.

Poem for Mr. Rodney Walter

Who gathers up the dust of dreams,
of memories left beside the road?
Who sweeps them neatly in a box
and seals them with a father’s kiss?
Who places them, now wrapped and neat,
on shelves our future selves will see
and pull back down, to open up,
revealing truths we left to find?

Who knows that all we hold most dear
is nowhere else than here, at home?

Oh precious friend, who guards our heart,
what service you have rendered long!
May God, who graced us with your art,
now lead the swan of this: your song.

Villanelle (For My Creative Writing Class, Fall 2015)

This poem was written for the students who had the great misfortune to enroll in my Creative Writing class at Cistercian. It is an imitation of “Do not go gentle into that good night,” by Dylan Thomas (available here), which I taught during our class on the villanelle.


cisterican hawks logo

The Cisterican Hawks

Do not go gentle into this good form,
Young age should fly and shriek in villanelles;
Shriek, shriek within the poem’s storm.

Though young men in their haste detest the norm
Imposed by metered rhymes that feel like cells,
Do not go gentle into this good form.

Good hawks, the next wind up, screeching how warm
Their fierce wings may yet burn in azure quells,
Shriek, shriek within the poem’s storm.

Wild birds who soar and hunt alone, no swarm
To teach how soon the once-calm wind rebels,
Do not go gentle into this good form.

Glad flocks, near birth, whose boiling blood transforms
Deaf hearts, can pierce the sky with caws like bells,
Shriek, shriek within the poem’s storm.

And you, my students, there in the lonely dorm,
Curse, bless me now with your new poems (not hell’s).
Do not go gentle into this good form,
Shriek, shriek within the poem’s storm.

How do you find serenity in #prison?

Why are you still, my brother?
The lights go out in an hour, the guard is waiting;
why have you stopped here to gaze at the stars?

“Did you know they burn in silence?”

The whistle blows. Feet shuffle. The guard’s eyes rise.

What good is a flame that gives no heat?
What use is a blaze that cannot roar?

The guard draws near. The path grows clear.
Lights out,

Anapestic Ghazal, for Aylan Kurdi

Photo by Nilufer Demir (Turkey’s Dogan News Agency)

Tell me who sent the boat that was flipped in the waves?
Tell me who is the boy who was slipped in the waves?

Oh no, please, do not talk of the wars that we wage,
or about all the others we’ve lost in the waves;

for my heart cannot stand the mere sight of the sand
that held him in its hand as he slept in the waves.

Yes, I know there is much we should change in the world,
yet I know that all change comes in drips, comes in waves.

And so tell me, J. Gregg, who was drowned, who was saved,
who will weep by the grave of the boy in the waves?

A Dedication, for Willard Spiegelman

dr willard spiegelman, (photo via SMU)

Dr. Willard Spiegelman (photo via SMU)

I was surrounded by talented teachers throughout my life. Almost all were good, and some were truly great. But among them all, there stood none greater than my dear W.S.

An announcement from my alma mater: “For over forty years, Willard Spiegelman, the Hughes Professor of English, has inspired generations of SMU students with his unique and energetic teaching style. Now, as he leaves full-time teaching as well the editorship of The Southwest Review (celebrating its centennial in 2015), former students of Professor Spiegelman are organizing an event in his honor.”

One of the many poets whom Willard brought into my life was James Merrill, whose poem “A Dedication” has frequently served as a source of inspiration to me. In honor of that gift, I offer this imitation of that poem.

A Dedication, for My Dear W.S.

Willard, there are moments when the class
Resolves itself into a pair of dancing feet, or hands
Scratching to pluck from the deep well of a book
That vigor they do not yet need to pack away.
These are the moments, if ever, a songbird sweeps
Into the school, like sunlight into the heart of a
Diamond, for its gift of clarity.
There are moments when teaching is but a hand pressed
Firmly and lovingly against the student’s back.

Coleman Barks reads Rumi’s ‘I See My Beauty In You’

Stunning reading of a gorgeous poem … with the perfect musical accompaniment. Amazing.

(Click here if the video below is not working.)

Coleman Barks reads Rumi’s ‘I See My Beauty In You’ from BillMoyers.com on Vimeo.

Here is the text of the poem, taken partially from this site with some minor adjustments that I made:

“I see my beauty in you. I become
a mirror that cannot close its eyes

to your longing. My eyes wet with
yours in the early light. My mind

every moment giving birth, always
conceiving, always in the ninth

month, always the come-point. How
do I stand this? We become these

words we say, a wailing sound moving
out into the air. These thousands of

worlds that arise from nowhere, how
does your face contain them? I’m

a fly in your honey, then closer, a
moth caught in flame’s allure, then

empty sky stretched out in homage.

I see my beauty in you.

I see my beauty in you.”

prayer of the shards

shards of glass fit together

Via CC license

May the brokenness in me
fit the brokenness in you
so both are made whole.

homeless as octameter (#poem)

How shall I, whose tears now drench this steering wheel, share love with you
whose wheelchair sputters in the dirt, beside the road on which I drive
towards my home, so far away from this strange place in which we meet,
where I embrace your hand in mine, feel how your thumb enwraps my own,
feel how your hand has no more grasp, see where your other ends in stubs,
behold your legs that stop at the knee, that ache in the space no flesh has known?
who am I that passes cash, a fistful of a day’s earned wage,
towards your chest and speeds off tearing, tearing through the night towards home
where I will sleep within a bed while you lie somewhere on the street?

Forgive me, friend, whose name I asked and dropped beside the highway where
our paths entwined for one clear glimpse, where God himself saw through your eyes.

What if Walt Whitman could have watched the Earth breathe?

WHEN I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick; 5
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.”

— Walt Whitman (1819–1892).  Leaves of Grass.  1900.

I thought of this poem when I saw the image below, a GIF made from a compilation of 12 of NASA’s Visible Earthimages, one taken each month in 2004. The GIF was posted by John Nelson, a user-experience expert for the software firm IDV Solutions. I learned of it through Upworthy‘s posting of the link here.

Walt, what would you have written if you could have seen this image?

earth breathing

The paths down which we walk within our dreams

self portrait as a shadow on a prison parking lot

self portrait as a shadow on a prison parking lot

The paths down which we walk within our dreams
have led us to this place we dare not sleep:
this place where waking is not what it seems.

Our words have traveled down the narrow streams
of halting conversation from the deep
chasms carved by weeping in our dreams.

What scribes have caught our thoughts within the reams
of parchment buried deep beneath the keep
that slumbers here where waking shows no seams

against the teaming cauldron of our schemes,
across the patchworked calculus we heap
to bind the paths down which we walk our dreams

like dogs that bark at every light that gleams
within the shadows cast around the sheep
whose dim-eyed waking is not what it seems?

None but these, who prowl upon the lams
to gauge the ripeness of the time to sweep
along the paths down which we walk in dreams
towards a waking state not what it seems.

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