Kinship Demands Reciprocity

The Florilegia Project #1: Autumn Equinox

This poem, title and all, is collected from the last 6 weeks of sparkling phrases. (If you’re reading this thinking “what is a sparkling phrase?” detour over here to The Florilegia Project for a little background.) Every word is someone else’s; only the order, punctuation, and line breaks are my own. (Ok, one line is also my own.)

Kinship Demands Reciprocity

We didn’t know what we were seeing, and so 
saw less. An archipelago of half-sunken dictionaries, 
the shape of things gone missing.
The source, equally, of our grief and our delight. 

It’s a vessel. It will hold us–the husks of fate, 
and fiercer desires, the sinuous absence of water–
in thunder, or another of its tongues.

To exit the trajectory of productive time, 
dark-souled and supremely efficient, 
try to praise the mutilated world.
Patterns of attention are how we render reality:
the act of pure listening, without burden of understanding. 

To be quiet, even wordless, in a good place is a better gift 
than poetry, so that your soul goes soaring 
and never quite settles all day. 

The shimmer of gods is easier to perceive
at sunrise or dusk–unruly, indescribable detail. 
Your eyesight will fail you; this is not a human hour. 
Let’s step outside, and I can direct you with more gusto.

The moment it becomes a subversive activity–wait. 
The work will come. It will take you 
into yourself, and bless you, and keep you.

There is sorrow in the light at this hour, 
outside, where the only news comes 
as fresh air folding over the houses. 
Weather is our one true leader, sliding smoothly along 
observational ruts. (I said aloud “good light,” as if it were dog.)

Landscape that lacks vocabulary cannot be seen. 
Whole families vanished into rain. 
You have got to find out what your name is.

Yesterday I got a call from the outside world. 
But I said no, in thunder, 
to disappear into the hills and tarns
and miss my way home as long as possible. 

Where are we fixed on the earth’s lissome curve?
Where you’d want to come from if 
you knew who you really were.

Stripped down to God, baptism is wonderfully pagan.
Not preachy-holy but instinct-holy: 
the unwritten places, the blue of deep deep time. 
Endless ocean, always deeper than all of our needs. 
It is all enough to make one cry, and being one, I do. 

What did you think, 
that joy was some slight thing? 
It reassures me that no one knows the answer.

Are you waiting for time to show you some better thoughts?
Longing, we say, because desire is full of endless distances. 
Fear of subjects about which little is written, 
routine fits of absence of mind. 

There is no remedy, 
so go ahead 
and stay crazy.

To witness the ten thousand worlds, to tell your story, 
you sang a map. I live here, and it is the right place.
On some nights, your rest is as deep as blood.
Stars the scattered white teeth of the gods
which spare none of us. 


Every one of these is enthusiastically recommended. Especially the first.

A friend, in conversation

A Better Animal (essay)
Talley V. Kayser

Ask Me (poems)
William Stafford

  • For My Young Friends Who Are Afraid
  • You Reading This, Be Ready

Baptized and Set Free (hymn)
Text and music by Cathy Skogen-Soldner

Earth Again (poems)
Chris Dombrowksi

  • Blown Snow
  • My Recently Implanted Gov’t Eco-Guilt Chip
  • Possible Psalm

Here, Poems for the Planet (…poems)
ed. Elizabeth J. Coleman

  • First Verse
    Tim Seibles
  • Inland
    Mark Tredinnick
  • Meditation at Lagunitas
    Robert Hass
  • The Path to the Milky Way Leads Through Los Angeles
    Joy Harjo
  • Try to Praise the Mutilated World
    Adam Zagajewski, translated from Polish by Clare Cavanagh
  • Visitation
    Mark Doty

How to Do Nothing (nonfiction)
Jenny Odell

How to Look for Owls: On Writing, Ritual, and Intuition (essay)
Tara K. Shepersky

Homestead (poem)
Ryler Dustin

In Search of Small Gods (poems)
Jim Harrison

  • Age Sixty-Nine
  • Barking

On Discipline (essay)
Carey Wallace

Outside Lies Magic (nonfiction)
John Stilgoe

Pictograph: Avalanche Mouth (poem)
Melissa Kwasny

Shallow-Water Dictionary (nonfiction)
John Stilgoe

The Anthropology of Turquoise (nonfiction)
Ellen Meloy

The Seabird’s Cry (nonfiction)
Adam Nicolson

The Shape of Things Gone Missing (music album)
Martha Scanlan

The Sound of the Genuine (address)
Howard Thurman

Waterlog (nonfiction)
Roger Deakin

21st Century Yokel (nonfiction)
Tom Cox

6 thoughts on “Kinship Demands Reciprocity

  1. Hi Tara, Tried posting this comment on your website, but I’m having some issues with logging in (two emails, two wordpress accounts (one old), forgotten passwords, etc), so I’m just replying to the email.

    Thank you. I’ve recently deleted facebook and am pulling back from twitter and have been dealing with some health issues that really constrain my energy, so I’m being very picky about where my attention goes. I’m so glad to have been following the Florilegia Project and this poem has come to me at the right time today. I’m not sure why, but I’m weeping reading this poem. Very visceral. Thank you for the beautiful words.



    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Amber,

      I’m so deeply pleased to hear that this poem was there for you today. I think this is what any poem wants most: to be where it’s needed, in a particular person’s heart at a difficult, or beautiful, or otherwise particular time.

      Thanks very much indeed for following along with the project, and for getting in touch. I most definitely understand the need to be careful about placing attention, and I’m honored that my quiet little project is one of your chosen foci.

      Cheering you on and wishing you peace and energy and beautiful words,

      Liked by 1 person

Thoughts? Questions? Stories to share?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s