I’m excited to be offering these excerpts from my new book, How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope. Please allow these poems to spark your own joy, delight, memory, and imagination in whatever ways they will. As much as you can, I encourage you to create some quiet space each week to sit with these pieces and see what they bring up for you. I have offered a short reflection for each poem that delves deeper into my interpretation as well as an invitation for your own writing and reflection, which gives some ideas for gratefulness practices you might integrate each week. 

A pair of glasses and a small black key lie on top of a blank notebook. To the right is a grey cloth and a mug.

Photo by Debby Hudson

You might write a poem, a list, a letter, a journal entry, story, or essay; simply let the words carry you forward. Please feel free to stray as much as you’d like from the invitations, obeying the call of your creativity. My hope is that you can use these poems as tools for gratitude and a deeper engagement with life as it is right now. I welcome you to print out the poems, carry them with you for several days, and share them with others as you see fit. 

The poems collected in this book have helped me personally to weather the trying times of this pandemic and the racial injustice in the United States, and I hope they can help you as well to love this difficult, beautiful world. As Ross Gay reminds us in his Foreword to the book: “Witnessing how we are loved and how we love makes the world.”

May you find delight and inspiration in this week’s practice.

With hope and love,

 

Improvement

by Danusha Laméris

The optometrist says my eyes
are getting better each year.
Soon he’ll have to lower my prescription.
What’s next? The light step I had at six?
All the gray hairs back to brown?
Skin taut as a drum?

My improved eyes and I
walked around town and celebrated.
We took in the letters
of the marquee, the individual leaves
filling out the branches of the sycamore,
an early moon.

So much goes downhill: our joints
wearing out with every mile,
the delicate folds of the eardrum
exhausted from years of listening.
I’m grateful for small victories.

The way the heart still beats time
in the cathedral of the ribs.

And the mind, watching its parade of thoughts
enter and leave, begins to see them
for what they are: jugglers, fire swallowers, acrobats
tossing their batons in the air.

 

You can find a printable version of this poem as part of our poetry collection.


Option 1:  Stop here. Allow yourself to sit with this poem and let it live in you. Notice how and when it enters your awareness over time. What surfaces for you? If and when you’re ready, you might continue your exploration of the poem with option 2.

Option 2:  Deepen your relationship with the poem with the following suggestions: You might begin by reflecting on your sense or interpretation of the poem, reading my reflection of the poem’s meaning as it feels helpful for your own reflection. Engage in the suggested practices to cultivate an embodied experience of the poem’s words and images. 

James’s Reflection

Danusha Laméris recounts the seemingly rare experience of something actually getting better with time, and invites us to celebrate the good news with her, no matter how slight it might seem. “So much goes downhill,” she says, reminding us of the body’s fragility and vulnerability, of which we are all painfully aware right now. Yet she also urges us to be “grateful for the small victories,” for the fact that the heart carries on “in the cathedral of the ribs” and the endlessly busy mind keeps sending out its “parade of thoughts.” 

I love the way the speaker of this poem seems to detach from her own anxieties and intrusive thoughts, even playfully seeing them as “jugglers, fire swallowers, acrobats” meant to entertain, and not to be obeyed. And in her question, “What’s next?,” I hear the willingness to have hope that other things in her life, and in the world, might begin to improve as well, little by little, over time.

Invitation for Practice

This week, write your own celebration of “small victories” during this time of life (reflecting on perhaps the course of the pandemic or simply this week). You might make a list of things you made space for in spite of fear, worry, and (if you’re anything like me) resistance to the way things are right now. Maybe you wrote an email, worked on a project, made a new meal, or simply showered. You might also reflect on those aspects of life that took care of themselves without you doing anything — like the heart still beating, the world keeps turning. Try to capture a sense of gratitude and joy for the things that went well, instead of focusing on the things that didn’t.

We invite you to share your reflections in the space below the author bio.

Next Practice →

 

Enjoy the full four-session How to Love the World poetry practice.


James Crews is the author of four collections of poetry, The Book of What Stays, Telling My Father, Bluebird, and Every Waking Moment. He is also the editor of two anthologies: Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness and Connection and How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope. Crews teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Eastern Oregon University and lives with his husband on an organic farm in Vermont. jamescrews.net.


Practices
James Crews

James Crews

About the author
James Crews’ work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Sun Magazine, Ploughshares, and The New Republic, as well as on Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry newspaper column. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a PhD in Writing & Literature from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and is the author of four collections of award-winning poetry, including The Book of What Stays (Prairie Schooner Prize and Foreword Book of the Year Citation, 2011), Telling My Father(Cowles Prize, 2017), Bluebird, and Every Waking Moment. He is also the editor of several anthologies of poetry: Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness and Connection; and How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope. He leads Mindfulness & Writing retreats online and throughout the country, and works as a creative coach with groups and individuals. He lives with his husband, Brad Peacock, in Shaftsbury, Vermont.