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Mary Jo Balistreri


after Barbara Crooker, Happiness

I love this ordinary August afternoon, heavy
breath of sub-tropical heat clinging to me like hot
words of a lover, the beach empty of people, the sea,
its luminous stillness. I love the way light spills from
the sky and weaves between waves a shining cloth
of white linen, and the sky itself, shapeless, abstract,
big Frankenthaler brush strokes that one could get lost
in. And the blue heron standing in a shell of silence,
I love the way he partakes of sunís effusive outpouring
in the great conch of the sea, waiting, listening without
restlessness or change.

On this late summer day, I love the transparent wings
of dragonflies, who throw their blue green nets and fish
" noseeums" from my glistening skin. And wind-up
sanderlings that run a race with shirred tides, careen
from waterís puckered stitch as sea meets sand. I love
the screech of gulls, their shrill cries that underscore
the quiet. The seaís voice. I love that sound of abundance
that bubbles and laughs like the effervescence in a glass
of Moet Chandon. But most of all, I love this solitude
the inclusion of myself in everything that matters.

From Joy in the Morning (Bellowing Ark Press, 2008)
Used with the authorís permission.

Mary Jo Balistreri spent most of her life in music, performing as a concert pianist and harpsichordist, and teaching for sixteen years. After the death of her first grandson to mitochondrial disease (the second one died two years later), she turned to the music of words as a way to give witness to his life as well as to transcend grief and turn it into something positive. Now retired from her musical pursuits, Mary Jo spends as many hours writing as she once did practicing. Her uplifting, joyous poetry has been published in numerous journals and she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2006. For Mary Jo, poetry has become both a passion and a way of life, and writing is now a spiritual path. Learn more about Mary Jo at

Post New Comment:
Brava! Another award winning poem! PLEASE send it to us for Quill and Parchment! I imagine that crank puss is just jealous! LOL!
Posted 08/16/2010 10:10 PM
What a great last line, echoing the peace that concludes the first stanza and giving that first stanza the only thing it still needed to be truly complete: the unity of the narrating subject with the natural world that has been so lovingly described. After that, there truly is nothing left to say, is there? Thank you for sharing!
Posted 08/16/2010 07:19 PM
Patt Clark:
Robert Frost said, "A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom." Mary Jo's poem "Awakening" fits this criteria. As I read the poem, I relished its natural images, visualized "sanderlings trying to run a race with shirred tides," and then researched the Frankenthaler brush stroke. One needs to be alone on the beach to realize its splendor; that splendor helps the individual to realize his own exquisteness. Patt Clark
Posted 08/15/2010 03:29 PM
Grandma, I really LOVE your poem. I have missed going to the beach this year with you but your poem makes me feel like I am there sharing the end of the day with you. Remember when Sam was so excited because he figured out how we could get to the beach when he could not travel anymore? He said, "We can just imagine ourselves there and we will be there." Your poem makes it easy to imagine being there with you.
Posted 08/14/2010 10:34 PM
F. Carl:
F. Carl Mary Jo Balistreri integrates the everyday experiences of sight, sound,taste,touch and smell in unique ways that are both subtle and forceful expressions of life.
Posted 08/14/2010 09:35 PM
Your poem feels so alive and real. Your words so beautifully capture a place and time that I have always loved. I don't have to try hard at all to "be there" as i read your poem. I can smell the ocean, feel the heat, hear the stillness interupted by the gulls' screeches, taste the salt of the air and behold all you have described. Your poem, so powerful, allows one to experience "all that matters." Thank you for sharing it with us.
Posted 08/14/2010 09:24 PM
What a great poem! Jayne, you are right about the solidness of the imagery--tasting the salt almost. And the last line, "the inclusion of myself in everything that matters." Just about knocked me over. Very powerful.
Posted 08/14/2010 08:17 AM

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