what the living do

by michelle on November 16, 2011



I don’t remember where I first heard Marie Howe’s poetry, but I remember being completely knocked over by it. Her poem What The Living Do is possibly one of my all-time-favorites. She reads it and others in this fabulous interview on NPR (does Terry Gross annoy anyone else??).



Prayer by Marie Howe

Every day I want to speak with you.

And every day something more important calls for my attention – the drugstore, the beauty products, the luggage I need to buy for the trip.

Even now I can hardly sit here among the falling piles of paper and clothing, the garbage trucks outside already screeching and banging.

The mystics say you are as close as my own breath.

Why do I flee from you?

My days and nights pour through me like complaints and become a story I forgot to tell.

Help me.

Even as I write these words, I am planning to rise from the chair as soon as I finish this sentence.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy November 16, 2011 at 10:43 am

I love this poem. Also, yes, Terry Gross’s voice is a little gritty. Plus, she says “yoo-man” instead of “human.” Eep. Still, I love her. Thanks for sharing this.


Keleigh November 18, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Mm, I love this poem. And yes, Terry Gross annoys me at times. Did you see my Facebook post about this?
“I’m a big fan of Fresh Air on NPR News, but sometimes Terry Gross surprises me with her narrow-mindedness. Interviewing Jeffrey Eugenides, she laughed out loud when he admitted he wept at his own wedding and then, still laughing, asked, “Why did you cry at your wedding?” like it was the silliest thing she’d ever heard. I had a similar reaction when she was interviewing Michael Pollan and acted like the idea of a White house vegetable garden was positively absurd.”


Madeleine November 27, 2011 at 10:32 am

Marie Howe is completely astonishing. And I will defend Terry Gross to the death. A more skillful interviewer I have never heard. :)


Erin Shugart November 30, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Wow. Straight to my heart.

Thank you. I’ve just discovered you here, and just heard myself calling.

Thank you.



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