Vain Doubts

Years ago now-  a breezy, bygone day,
walking a city street, my hair tossing,
feeling the beauty of my young body,
that animal friskiness triggered by spring,
I glanced admiringly at my reflection
in a storefront window, tossing my head
to watch that mirrored waving of a mane
I thought my best feature-   when a young man
coming in my direction barred my way.
With great disgust, he uttered, “Vanity!”

And I was stopped in my mindless moment
of physical joy, shamed to associate
that deadly sin with the upsurge of life
and self-love I’d been feeling, never doubting
my urban prophet had been right. Vanity-
so this was what that ugly sin felt like!
In his disgust, I heard the click of keys
in convents, harems, attics, marriages,
down the generations, doors closing on
bodies that could give both pleasure and life.

Now that the years have granted me release
from such vain doubts, I’d like to post myself
at slumber parties, bathrooms, dressing rooms,
wherever young girls gather, frowning at
their wrong-size figures, blah hair, blemished skin-
already taught to find fault or disguise
joy in their bodies. I’d like to be the voice
that drowns out their self-doubt, singing in praise
of what I couldn’t see when I was young:
we’re simply beautiful, just as we are.

– Julia Alvarez

Bad-Weather Friends

Old friends from my other, less successful lives
who put up with me, how grateful I am
to each of you for how you saved the day
when all my days were dark nights of the soul.
I must have been one of those sad cases
you see on late-night movies, thirty-plus,
insomniac, twice divorced, unsettled, poor,
while the writing I used as my excuse
for my unhappiness was utter trash.

And you, whose names I sometimes can’t recall,
came out of nowhere with buckets and vans
to help me move to the next rental,
packing my books, my clothes, my manuscripts,
storing my overspill in your garages.
Some of you even let me stay with you
on living-room couches, fold-away cots,
telling me that old story: happiness
is around the next corner, heroines
were once sad women who got lucky.

-Julia Alvarez

*must be nice to have such support

Emily Bronte Poem

Shall Earth no more inspire thee,
Thou lonely dreamer now?
Since passion may not fire thee
Shall nature cease to bow?

Thy mind is ever moving
In regions dark to thee;
Recall its useless roving-
Come back and dwell with me.

I know my mountain breezes
Enchant and soothe thee still-
I know my sunshine pleases
Despite thy wayward will.

When day with evening blending
Sinks from the summer sky,
I’ve seen thy spirit bending
In fond idolatery.

I’ve watched thee every hour-
I know my mighty sway-
I know my magic power
To drive thy griefs away.

Few hearts to mortals given
On earth so wildly pine,
Yet none would ask a Heaven
More like the Earth than thine.

Then let my winds caress thee,-
Thy comrade let me be,-
Since nought beside can bless thee,
Return and dwell with me.

-Emily Bronte

Ask Me

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt; ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

William Stafford

The Manor Garden

The fountains are dry and the roses over.

Incense of death. Your day approaches.

The pears fatten like little buddhas.

A blue mist is dragging the lake.


You move through the era of fishes,

The smug centuries of the pig

Head , toe, and finger

Come clear of the shadow. History


Nourishes these broken flutings,

These crowns of acanthus,

And the crow settles her garments.

You inherit white heather, a bee’s wing.


Two suicides, the family wolves,

Hours of blankness. Some hard stars

Already yellow the heavens.

The spider on its own string


Crosses the lake. The worms

Quit their usual habitations.

The small birds converge, converge

With their gifts to a difficult borning.

Sylvia Plath


If You Want to Write By Brenda Ueland

1. Know that you have talent, are original, and have something important to say.

2. Know that it is good to work. Work with love and think of liking it when you do it. It is easy and interesting. It is a privilege. There is nothing hard about it but your anxious vanity and fear.

3. Write freely, recklessly, in first drafts.

4. Tackle anything you want to…novels, plays, anything.

5. Don’t be afraid of writing bad stories. To discover what is wrong with a story write two new ones and then go back to it.

6. Don’t fret or be ashamed of what you have written in the past. How I always suffered from this! How I would regurgitate out of my memory (and still do) some nauseous little lumps of things I had written! But don’t do this. Go on to the next. And fight against this tendency, which is much of it due not to splendid modesty, but a lack of self respect. We are too ready (women especially) not to stand by what we have said or done. Often it is a way of foretelling criticism, saying hurriedly: “I know it is awful!” before anyone else does. Very bad and cowardly. It is so conceited and timid to be ashamed of one’s mistakes. Of course they are mistakes. Go on to the next.

7. Try to discover your true, honest, untheoretical self.