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Poetry Moment: 'and thank every hour' by nicole v basta

nicole v basta.JPG
Poet nicole v basta

Poetry Moment on WPSU is a program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. Host Todd Davis is a professor of English and Environmental Studies at Penn State Altoona.

This episode’s poem is “and thank every hour” by nicole v basta. Her poem first appeared in the magazine, Willow Springs.

nicole v basta is a poet with proud familial roots in the coal mines and garment factories of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Her poetry, art practices, and teaching practices are rooted in wild making and connected to her ancestors’ traditional sense of resourcefulness. Her poems have found homes in such magazines and journals as Ploughshares, The Cortland Review, and Waxwing. Her chapbook, V, was the winner of The New School's Annual Contest, and her second chapbook, the next field over, was published by Tolsun Books. She’s also a collage artist, a teaching artist, and the co-founder of the Say Yes Electric Collective.

Gratitude is an essential element of a healthy life, of a life that inspires us, that shapes our way of being in the world, at times providing a sense of joy and love, even in the midst of suffering. After all, suffering and grief do not disappear in the presence of gratitude, but our experience with suffering and grief assumes a very different shape when we give thanks for what remains. Learning the practice of gratitude is another matter, one that’s not simple or easy. In her poem, basta tries to understand “how to forgive” by paying close attention to the community that surrounds her, which includes the warblers and wrens as they fly across the field. The poet begins her practice of gratitude by acknowledging what every hour of the day may hold.

Here's —

and thank every hour

the small yellow gods that are warblers
are skimming the scum at the top with their wings
and may all words be like the name of this bird
the mouth trampling over the tongue to make sound
of our naming, an honest attempt to do justice
to what has no concept of justice and thank every hour
for each breathing honorable thing not making a mess
of another, no crooked law or wicked judge needed
to mitigate wrongdoing—and remembering the wrens
the tiny eyelashes on the cheek of the field
and how these birds throw the eggs out of the nests
of other birds instead of building their own
and so is instinct, in a way, like a soldier
who follows an order from the top?
can you tell me please where is it written
how to forgive


That was “and thank every hour” by nicole v basta.

Hear more episodes of Poetry Moment at WPSU.org/poetrymoment.

Music by Eric Ian Farmer.

Todd Davis is the 2022-23 host of "Poetry Moment" on WPSU.