I like the fossil buried in the word "encouragement," how it gives heart to the faltering. Sometimes in writing, particularly in writing poems, you find yourself on the edge of a dry, whistling canyon. If there's a river below, it seems only an incoherent rumor of one, its refreshment doesn't reach far enough to touch you. Encouragement--and encouragement materially and spiritually--is the answering voice that responds to the poet's. You might have been on the brink of losing faith, afraid that all that you were hearing in response to your words were echoes of your own voice. Being awarding an NEA Fellowship right now in my life has been to hear the answering voice that says, "Keep going, keep going." I am deeply grateful for the fellowship first to give me some time to focus on my poems and, just as important to me, for the vote of confidence in my work expressed by the panel of fellow poets and other judges. Knowing that such decisions don't come lightly, that they come after Himalayas of work, I am humbled and encouraged and brimming with thanks.
I don't believe in ghosts though I've seen
milk-steam wandering a darkened room.
I don't believe a big mind regards
all sparrows though I admire the faithful,
how crossing a street or a continent
of trouble they seem confident and frank
as stars. Cranky and cratered, I maneuver
like a moon of bright remarks.
In famous churches when the chanting
carries me into the showy moment–-
hoc est enim corpus meum–-the golden
rays lifted, bells shaken, incense tempest,
and I'm moved by what I don't believe,
I don't envy believers any more
than I envy beauty its ease, the ocean
its industry. The sun its long and lonely life.