To Play Pianissimo

Does not mean silence,
the absence of moon in the day sky
for example.

Does not mean barely to speak,
the way a child’s whisper
makes only warm air
on his mother’s right ear.

To play pianissimo
is to carry sweet words
to the old woman in the last dark row
who cannot hear anything else,
and to lay them across her lap like a shawl.

(from Forty-Four Ambitions for the Piano, reprinted in Desire Lines)


To play fortissimo
hold something back.

It is what the father does not say
that turns the son.

The fact that the summit cannot be seen
that drives the climber on.

Consider the graceless ones:
the painter who adds one more brush stroke.

the poet of least resistance
who writes past the end of his poem.


In the middle of the night he arrives
with his pillow.
He climbs between us
and slowly his shivers die.

He heard
the leaves move in the yard, a step
at a time.

This is what we live for,
you and I, this private moment when
he settles into our breathing, and
we are three birds on one deep swell,
a lifetime from any land we knew.

The Sandhill Cranes

The blue air fills with cries.
The cranes are streams, rivers.
They danced on the night prairie,
leapt at each other, quivering.

The long bones of sandhill cranes
know their next pond. Not us.
When something is too beautiful,
we do not have the grace to leave.

(from The Grace to Leave)

Lola Haskins  lives in Gainesville, Florida and Skipton, Yorkshire.   Her poetry has appeared in The Atlantic, the London Review of Books, London Magazine, The New York Quarterly, Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, Rattle and elsewhere, as well as having been broadcast on NPR and BBC radio.  She has published fourteen collections of poems, a poetry advice book and a non-fiction book about fifteen Florida cemeteries.

Ms. Haskins has been awarded three book prizes, two NEA fellowships, four Florida Cultural Affairs fellowships,the Emily Dickinson/Writer Magazine award from Poetry Society of America, and several prizes for narrative poetry. She retired from teaching Computer Science at the University of Florida in 2005 and served from then until 2015 on the faculty of Rainier Writers Workshop.

Learn more about Ms. Haskins, buy her books, see where she’s reading, and enjoy samples of her poetry.