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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

293: Never lose sight of the star, the sparkle you sense in the people around you

(Poet Amanda Gorman)

Day 293: Sunday January 3rd, 2020

"Never lose sight of the star, the sparkle you sense you see in the people around you" - Geoff Wood

The Ticket

Has it ever occurred to you that neither Herod nor his scribes could see the star the Magi saw? Otherwise they might have followed it themselves to discover the place where Jesus lay.

No - only the Magi could see the star and that was because they were visionaries, men who believed in the possibility of the impossible.

Men like Herod and his scribes had no such inclination. Having a somewhat paranoid or rigidly orthodox view of reality, they feared the possible as much as the impossible. Their minds were closed to any other notion of reality than the self-justifying one they possessed - and therefore so were their hearts, their imaginations, their eyes.

They saw no star and what’s more: they reveal in their later massacre of the innocents their determination to prevent others from seeing any stars, any deeper meaning to life - their determination to eradicate all visionaries, poets, to repress the creative imagination every child is born with -- all notion, for instance, that life for each of us could be in any way a Journey of the Magi whereby we feel we too are following some star toward realms and experiences ineffable.

For instance, Herod might have scoffed at me when as a boy of fourteen I was accepted by a seminary situated on New York’s Hudson River, a mind-boggling one hundred and thirty miles from my home in Philadelphia and, as I read the train schedule, became fascinated by the names of the stations along the way: Tarrytown, Ossining, Croton-on-Hudson, Verplanck, Peekskill, Garrison. “It’s nothing but a train schedule,” Herod might say.

But to me each name was exotic. Each stimulated my imagination the way the names of towns and people in some novel seduce one into reading on to discover what might happen beyond the novel’s opening page. This was to be for me no mere journey from one place to another (as Herod might declare) but a journey of discovery at the end of which I might eventually find my Self - even as the Magi found an infant in a manger.

Be like the Magi.

(Amanda Gorman)

Be like the poets among us.

Never lose confidence in your imagination, in your conviction that life is more profound than the media and business world and habit make it out to be.

Never lose sight of the star, the sparkle you sense you see in the people around you and the seemingly insignificant things you experience in life.

Be like the Catholic poet Anne Porter (to whom Mary Shea introduced me) who one day found a ticket in her purse and had no idea what it was for. It had a number on it and the words INDIANA TICKET COMPANY. On the reverse side it said KEEP THIS TICKET. And so she did, on the night table beside her bed - because being a poet she knew it to be no mere stub of paper but a signal of dimensions exciting - or as she puts it:

I keep it carefully

Because I am old

Which means

I’ll soon be leaving

For another country

Where possibly

Some blinding-bright Enormous angel

Will stop me

At the border

And ask

To see my ticket


In This Place (An American Lyric)

Amanda Gorman

An original poem written for the inaugural reading of Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith at the Library of Congress.

There’s a poem in this place—

in the footfalls in the halls

in the quiet beat of the seats.

It is here, at the curtain of day,

where America writes a lyric

you must whisper to say.

There’s a poem in this place—

in the heavy grace,

the lined face of this noble building,

collections burned and reborn twice.

There’s a poem in Boston’s Copley Square

where protest chants

tear through the air

like sheets of rain,

where love of the many

swallows hatred of the few.

There’s a poem in Charlottesville

where tiki torches string a ring of flame

tight round the wrist of night

where men so white they gleam blue—

seem like statues

where men heap that long wax burning

ever higher

where Heather Heyer

blooms forever in a meadow of resistance.

There’s a poem in the great sleeping giant

of Lake Michigan, defiantly raising

its big blue head to Milwaukee and Chicago—

a poem begun long ago, blazed into frozen soil,

strutting upward and aglow.

There’s a poem in Florida, in East Texas

where streets swell into a nexus

of rivers, cows afloat like mottled buoys in the brown,

where courage is now so common

that 23-year-old Jesus Contreras rescues people from floodwaters.

There’s a poem in Los Angeles

yawning wide as the Pacific tide

where a single mother swelters

in a windowless classroom, teaching

black and brown students in Watts

to spell out their thoughts

so her daughter might write

this poem for you.

There's a lyric in California

where thousands of students march for blocks,

undocumented and unafraid;

where my friend Rosa finds the power to blossom

in deadlock, her spirit the bedrock of her community.

She knows hope is like a stubborn

ship gripping a dock,

a truth: that you can’t stop a dreamer

or knock down a dream.

How could this not be her city

su nación

our country

our America,

our American lyric to write—

a poem by the people, the poor,

the Protestant, the Muslim, the Jew,

the native, the immigrant,

the black, the brown, the blind, the brave,

the undocumented and undeterred,

the woman, the man, the nonbinary,

the white, the trans,

the ally to all of the above

and more?

Tyrants fear the poet.

Now that we know it

we can’t blow it.

We owe it

to show it

not slow it

although it

hurts to sew it

when the world

skirts below it.


we must bestow it

like a wick in the poet

so it can grow, lit,

bringing with it

stories to rewrite—

the story of a Texas city depleted but not defeated

a history written that need not be repeated

a nation composed but not yet completed.

There’s a poem in this place—

a poem in America

a poet in every American

who rewrites this nation, who tells

a story worthy of being told on this minnow of an earth

to breathe hope into a palimpsest of time—

a poet in every American

who sees that our poem penned

doesn’t mean our poem’s end.

There’s a place where this poem dwells—

it is here, it is now, in the yellow song of dawn’s bell

where we write an American lyric

we are just beginning to tell.


Victor Jara Manifiesto

Don McLean - Vincent ( Starry, Starry Night) With Lyrics

Bruce Springsteen with the Sessions Band - This Little Light of Mine

Zorba le Greek – Sirtaki – Teach me to Dance

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