Red Letter Poem #54

Steven Ratiner, Arlington’s Poet Laureate, is today’s guest blogger.

The Jewish Passover; Christianity’s Easter; Islamic Ramadan; Hindu’s Holi; the Wiccan Ostara; the April festival referred to as Buddha’s Birthday; and countless others. One aspect of the holiness inherent in these holidays focuses on that most human of experiences: winter has released its grip – the earth is becoming green again. No matter where you make your home on this planet, there are the hard and fallow seasons of the year, and others where fertility and renewal are ascendant. The angel of death passes over our community – and then we rejoice at our survival.

America and the world are slowly moving through the cruelest and most unyielding of winters in recent memory; the pandemic drove us indoors to hunker down in isolation, desperate for that invisible storm to finally pass us by. We are presently going through our second Covid spring – and with vaccinations becoming more widespread, we have reason to pray (however you interpret that word, and whatever your family’s tradition) that spring will bring us reason to celebrate.

Charles Coe’s writing is filled with celebration: of family, memory, history; of the beauty surrounding us and those inner clearings we retreat to for a sense of peace. Poet, educator, singer, blogger, raconteur, he published his third collection, Memento Mori (Leapfrog Press) in 2019. Running all through the poet’s work there is praise for endurance, continuity; but the challenge is how can we endure while still keeping our hearts intact in an often-brutal world? The answer, his poems seem to suggest, involves more than stubborn determination; you have to find a way to love the world despite its failings, despite the obstacles placed in your path. It’s by no means an easy discipline, but necessary nonetheless. Sometimes the insight contained in a poem strengthens our resolve. When I first read Charles’ simple and simply beautiful poem, “Prayer”, in the recent collection, I felt he’d managed to transform the ordinary into a Red Letter day. Holy.

Red Letter Poem #54: 

Red Letter 54

The Red Letter Poems Project was created in grateful partnership with many of our town’s cultural resources: the Arlington Commission for Arts and Culture, the Arlington Center for the Arts, the Robbins Library, the Arlington International Film Festival, and Arlington Community Education.  See the full archive of the project at  We’ll send out a poem from a new poet every week. If you enjoy them, we encourage you to forward them to friends –  in Arlington and beyond –  or to post them on your social media platforms with the hashtags: #RedLetterPoems, #ArlingtonPoetLaureate. If you want to make sure you receive these poems directly – or to receive notices about future poetry events – send an e-mail to: with the subject line ‘mailing list’.

In ancient Rome, feast days were indicated on the calendar by red letters.  To my mind, all poetry and art – and, in truth, even the COVID-19 crisis itself – serves as a reminder that every day we wake together beneath the sun is a red-letter day.

– Steven Ratiner

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