Poems by Heart

Dear friends,

This is a document of all the poems I know by heart as of August, 2011. Please forgive the typos, and also that in several cases, there are not appropriate breaks between the poems. If you’d like to help out and create this page with a drop down menu to each poem, let me know! I welcome your help. Meanwhile, you can use your browser’s search engine to find the poems you seek.

With great gratitude to the poets who gave us these gifts ~

Kim

 

The Holy Longing

-Goethe, tr. Robert Bly/David Whyte

Tell a wise person or else keep silent

for those who do not understand

will mock it right away.

I praise what is truly alive

what longs to be burned to death.

 

In the calm waters of the love nights

where you were begotten, where you have begotten

a strange feeling creeps over you

as you watch the silent candle burning.

 

Now you are no longer caught

in the obsession with darkness

and a desire for higher lovemaking

sweeps you upwards.

 

Distance does not make you falter,

now, arriving in magic, flying

and finally insane for the light

you are the butterfly, and you are gone.

 

And so long as you have not experienced

this:  to die and so to grow

you are only a troubled guest

on the dark earth.

 


Wild Geese

Mary Oliver

 

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes

across the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile, the wild geese, high in the clean blue air

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination

calls to you, like the wild geese, harsh and exciting,

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.


The Journey

Mary Oliver

 

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice–

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles,

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations–

and though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds

and there was a new voice,

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world

determined to do

the only thing

you could do

determined to save

the only life you could save.
Starfish

 

In the sea rocks,

in the stone pockets,

under the tide’s lip

in water dense as blindness

 

they slid like sponges, like too many thumbs.

And what I wanted was to draw my hands

back from the water.  What I wanted

was to be willing to be afraid.

 

But I stayed there, crouched

on the stone wall, while the sea

poured its harsh song through the sluices

while I waited for the gritty lightning

 

of their touch, while I stared down

through the tides leaving

where sometimes I could see them,

their stubborn flesh lounging  on my knuckles.

 

What good does it do to lie

all day in the sun loving what is easy?

 

It never grew easy, but at last

I grew peaceful all summer

while they bloomed through the water

like flowers, like flecks of an uncertain dream

 

and I lay on the stone wall

reaching into the darkness

learning, little by little, to love

our only world.


The Man Watching

Rainer Maria Rilke

 

I can tell by the way the trees beat

after so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes

that a storm is coming,

and I hear the far off fields say things

I can’t bear without a friend

I can’t love without a sister.

 

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on

across the woods and across time,

and the world looks as if it has no age:

the landscape like a line from a psalm book

is seriousness, and weight and eternity.

 

What we choose to fight is so tiny!

And what fights with us is so great!

If only we could let ourselves be dominated

as things do, by some immense storm,

we would grow strong too, and not need names.

 

When we win it is with small things,

And the triumph itself makes us small.

What is extraordinary and eternal

does not want to be bent by us.

I mean the Angel who appeared

to the wrestlers in the Old Testament.

When the wrestlers sinews

grew long like metal strings

he felt them under his fingers

like chords of deep music.

 

Whoever was beaten by this Angel

(who often simply declined the fight)

went away proud and strengthened

and great from that harsh hand,

that kneaded him as if to change his shape.

Winning does not tempt that man.

This is how he grows:  by being defeated decisively

by constantly greater beings.

 

 

 

 

It is possible that I am pushing through solid rock

in flintlike layers, as the ore lies, alone;

I am such a long way in I see no way through

and no space:  every thing is close to my face,

and everything close to my face is stone.

 

I don’t have much knowledge yet in grief –

so this massive darkness makes me small.

You be the master, make yourself fierce, break in:

then your great transforming will happen to me

and my great grief cry will happen to you.

 

Rainer Maria Rilke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My life is not this steeply sloping hour

in which you see my hurrying.

Much stands behind me;  I stand before it like a tree.

I am only one of many mouths,

and at that, the one that will be still the soonest.

 

I am the rest between two notes,

that are somehow always in discord

for Death’s note wants to climb over –

but in the dark interval, reconciled,

they stay there trembling.

And the song goes on, beautiful.

 

Rainer Maria Rilke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just as the winged energy of delight

carried you over many chasms early on,

now raise the daringly imagined arch

holding up the astounding bridges.
Miracle doesn’t lie only in the amazing

living through and defeat of danger.

Miracles become miracles in the clear

achievement that is earned.

 

To work with things is not hubris

when building an association beyond words;

Denser and denser the pattern becomes –

being carried along is not enough.

 

Take your well disciplined strengths

and stretch them between two

opposing poles.  Because inside human beings

is where God learns.

 

Rainer Maria Rilke, tr. Robert Bly
Only the man who has raised his strings

among the dark ghosts also

should feel his way toward

the endless praise.

 

Only he who has eaten poppy

with the dead, from their poppy

will not lose even

his most delicate sound.

 

Even though the images in the pool

seem so blurry:

grasp the main thing

 

Only in the double kingdom, there

alone, will voices become

undying and tender.

 

Rainer Maria Rilke

 

 

 

 

All of you undisturbed cities,

haven’t you ever longed for the Enemy?

I would like to see you besieged by him

for ten endless and ground shaking years!

 

Until you were desperate and mad with suffering

finally in hunger you would feel his weight.

He lies outside the walls like a countryside

and he knows very well how to endure

longer than the ones he comes to visit.

 

Climb up on your roofs and look out;

His camp is there and his morale doesn’t falter

and his numbers do not decrease;  he will not grow weaker

and he sends no one into the city to threaten

or promise, and no one to negotiate.

 

He is the one who breaks down the walls

and when he works, he works in silence.

 

Rainer Maria Rilke
Sonnets to Orpheus I, 3

 

A god can do it.  But, tell me, how can a man

follow his narrow road through the strings?

A man is split.  And where two roads intersect

inside him, no one has built the Singer’s Temple.

 

Writing poetry as we learn from you is not desiring

not wanting anything that can ever be achieved.

To write poetry is to be alive.  For a god that’s easy.

When, however,  are we really alive?  And when does he

 

turn the earth and the stars so they face us?

Yes, you are young and you love and the voice

forces your mouth open – that is lovely, but learn

 

to forget that breaking into song.  It doesn’t last.

Real singing is a different movement of air.

air moving around nothing.  A breathing in a god.  A wind.

 

Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Robert Bly


I am too alone in the world, and not alone enough

to make every minute holy.

I am too tiny in this world, and not tiny enough

just to lie before you like a thing,

shrewd and secretive.

I want my own will, and I want simply to be with my will,

as it goes towards action.

And in the silent sometimes hardly moving times

when something is coming near,

I want to be with those who know secret things

or else alone.

I want to be a mirror for your whole body

and I never want to be blind or to be too old

to hold up your heavy and swaying picture.

I want to unfold.

I don’t want to stay folded anywhere

because where I am folded, there I am a lie.

I want my grasp of things

true before you.  I want to describe myself

like a painting that I looked at

closely for a long time,

like a saying that I finally understood,

like the pitcher that I use every day,

like the face of my mother,

like a ship

that took me safely

through the wildest storm of all.

 

Rainer Maria Rilke

Faith

 

I want to write about faith

about the way the moon rises

night after night over cold snow

 

faithful even in its fading from fullness

slowly becoming that last curving

and impossible slither of light

 

before the dark.  But I have no faith

myself.  I do not give it the smallest entry.

Let this then, my small poem,

 

be the first prayer that opens me to faith.

 

David Whyte

 

 

Tillicho Lake

 

In this high place it is as simple as this:

Leave everything you know behind

step towards the clear surface

say  the old prayer of rough love

and open both arms.

 

Those who come with empty hands

will stare into the lake astonished.

There in the cold light

reflecting pure snow –

the true shape of your own face.

 

David Whyte


The Opening of Eyes

 

That day I saw beneath dark clouds

the passing light over the water

and I heard the voice of the world speak out.

 

I knew then as I had before that life

is no passing memory of what has been,

nor the remaining pages in a book waiting

to be read.

It is the opening of eyes long closed.

It is the vision of far off things seen for the silence they hold

It is the heart after years of secret conversing

speaking out loud in the clear air.

It is Moses in the desert, fallen to his knees

before the lit bush.

It is the man, throwing away his shoes as if to enter heaven

and finding himself astonished, opened at last,

fallen in love with solid ground.

 

David Whyte

 

 

 

 

 

The Well of Grief

 

Those who will not slip

below the still surface of the well of Grief

turning down through its black water

to the place we cannot breath

will never know the source from which we drink,

the secret water, cold and clear,

nor find in the darkness glimmering

the small round coins

thrown by those who wished for something else.

 

David Whyte
The Soul Lives Contented

 

The soul lives contented by listening.

If it wants to change

into the beauty of terrifying shapes

it tries to speak.

 

That is why you will not sing,

afraid as you are

of who might join with you.

 

The voice hesitant,

her hand trembling in the dark

for yours.

 

She touches your cheek

and says your name

at the same time.

 

The one you refused to say,

over and over,

the one you refused to say.

 

David Whyte
It is not enough to know.

It is not to follow the inward road

conversing in silence.

It is not enough to stare straight ahead

to gaze at the unborn thinking the silence

belongs to you.

 

It is not enough to hear

even the tiniest edge of rain.

 

You must go to the place

where everything waits.

There, when you finally rest,

even one word will do.

One word, or the palm

of your hand turning up

in a gesture of gift.

 

And now we are truly afraid.

To find the great silence

asking so little.

 

One word.

One word only.

 

David Whyte
Checkmate

 

Borrow the beloved’s eyes.

Look through them and you’ll see the beloved’s face

everywhere.  No tiredness, no jaded boredom.

“I shall be your eyes and your hand and your loving.”

Let this happen and things you have hated

will become helpers.

 

A certain preacher always pray long and with enthusiasm

for thieves and muggers who attack people

on the road.  “Let your mercy, Oh, Lord,

cover their insolence.”  He doesn’t pray for the good

only for the blatantly cruel.

Why is this? his congregation asks.

 

Because they have done me such generous favors.

Every time I turn back toward the things they want

I run into them.  They beat me and leave me nearly dead

in the road.  Then I realize again that the things

they want are not the things I want.

They keep me on the spiritual path.

That is why I honor them and pray for them.

 

Those that make you return, for whatever reason,

to God’s solitude, be grateful to them.

Worry about the others

who give you delicious comforts that keep you from prayer.

Friends are enemies sometimes,

and enemies friends.

 

There is an animal called an ushghur, a porcupine.

When you beat it with a stick, it extends its quills

and gets bigger.

The soul is a porcupine, made strong by stick b eating.

So a prophet’s soul is especially afflicted

because it has to become so powerful.

 

A hide is soaked in tanning liquor and becomes leather.

If the tanner didn’t rub in the acid

the hide would become foul-smelling and rotten.

 

The soul is a newly skinned hide, bloody and gross.

Work on it with manual discipline

and the bitter tanning acid of grief

and you will become lovely and very strong.
And if you can’t do these things yourself, don’t worry.

You don’t even have to make a decision

on way or the other.  The Friend, who knows

allot more than you do, will bring difficulties,

and grief and sickness

as medicine, as happiness

as the essence of the moment when you’re beaten,

when you hear Checkmate, and can finally say

with Hallaj’s voice,

I trust you to kill me.

                 

                        –Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday was glory and joy.

Today a blackened burn everywhere.

In the record of my life,

These two days will be put down as one.

 

                                    Rumi
When you do things from your soul

you feel a river moving in you, a joy.

 

When actions come from another place

the feeling disappears.

 

Don’t let others lead you.  They may be blind,

or worse, vultures.  Reach for the rope

of God.  And what is that?

 

Putting aside self-will.

 

Because of willfullness people sit in jail.

From willfullness the trapped bird’s wing is tied.

From willfullness the fish sizzles in the skillet.

 

The anger of police is willfullness.  You’ve seen

a magistrate inflict visible punishment.

Now see the invisible.

 

If you could leave selfishness, you would see

how you have been tortured.

 

We are born and live inside black water in a well.

How could we know what an open field of sunlight is?

 

Don’t insist on going where you think you want to go.

Ask the way to the Spring.

 

Your living pieces will form a harmony.

 

There is a moving palace that floats in the air,

with balconies and clear water running in every part of it,

infinity everywhere, yet contained under a single tent.

 

Rumi


“You must not do anything because it is right, but because it is your wish.  Right is a word and wrong is a word but the sun shines in the morning and the dew falls in the dusk without thinking of these words, which have no meaning.  The bee flies to the flower and the seed goes abroad and is happy.  Is that right, Shepherd girl?  It is wrong also…

I want you to forget right and wrong; to be as happy as the beasts, as careless as the flowers and the birds.  To live to the depths of your soul as well as to the heights.  Truly there are stars in the heights, and they will be a garland for your forehead.  But the depths are equal to the heights.  Wondrous deep are the depths, very fertile is the lowest deep.  There are stars there also, brighter than the stars on high.  The name of the heights is wisdom and the name of the depths is love.  How shall they come together and be fruitful if you do not plunge deeply and fearlessly.  Wisdom is the spirit and the wings of the spirit.  Love is the shaggy beast that goes down.  Gallantly he dives, below thought, beyond wisdom, to rise again as high above these as he had first descended.  Wisdom is righteous and clean, but love is unclean and holy.  I sing of the beast and of the descent:  the great unclean purging itself in fire; the thought that is not born in the measure or the ice or the head, but in the feet and the hot blood and the pulse of fury.  The crown of life is not lodged in the sun:  the wise gods have buried it deeply where the thoughtful will not find it, not the good:  but the Gay Ones, the Adventurous Ones, the Careless Plungers, they will bring it to the wise and astonish them.  All things are seen in the light – how shall we value that which is easy to see?  But the precious things which are hidden, they will be more precious for our search:  they will be beautiful with our sorrow, they will be noble because of our desire for them.  Come away with me, Shepherd Girl, through the fields and we will be careless and happy and we will leave thought to find us when it can, for that is the duty of thought and it is more anxious to discover us than we are to be found.”

 

So Caitlin Ni Murrachu arose and went with him through the fields, and she did not go with him because of love, nor because his words had been understood by her, but only because he was naked and unashamed.

 

 

– from The Crock of Gold

by James Stephens


Practice

 

Not the high mountain monastery

I had hoped for, the real

face of my spiritual practice

is this:

the sweat that pearls on my cheek

when I tell you the truth, my silent

cry in the night when I think

I’m alone, the trembling

in my own hand as I reach out

through the years of overcoming

to touch what I had hoped

I would never need again.

 

–Kim Rosen


In Impossible Darkness

 

Do you know how

the caterpillar

turns?

 

Do you remember

what happens

inside a cocoon?

 

You liquefy.

 

There in the thick black

of your self-spun womb,

void as the moon before waxing,

 

you melt

 

(as Christ did

for three days

in the tomb)

 

conceiving

in impossible darkness

the sheer

inevitability

of wings.

–Kim Rosen

 

Revision: 7/12/12

 

 

(did Christ, too,

those three days

in the tomb?)

 

conceiving

in impossible darkness

the sheer

inevitability

of wings.

 


Autobiography 1994

Last night in black woods

you closed your eyes

and let your body

find the path.

 

Today

you must open them

and leave it.

 

This is the place

where all the paths

you thought would bring you home

converge and fall away

 

and you must stand still

or step back

or step off

 

into an impossible wilderness

where the only voice

is your own voice

or there is no voice at all.

 

And the tide of habit draws you back

to the path that is already pressed in the void

that measures the dark

and feels like home

 

but now you are homeless

and crave the dark

 

out of whose black clay

words form

that have never been spoken

from flesh and breath

that is only yours.

 

There is no direction here

and none allowed

 

Only the steady throb

of something wild and hungry

inside you

 

and the next breath.            –Kim Rosen
I know the truth, give up all other truths!

No need for anyone on earth to struggle.

Look — its evening.  Look — its nearly night.

What are you talking about – Poets, Lovers, Generals?

 

The wind is level now, the earth is wet with dew.

The storm of stars in the sky will turn to quiet.

And soon all of us will sleep under the earth,

we who never let each other sleep above it.

 

–Marina Tsvetaeva

 

 

I know the truth! All other truths are through!

People on earth don’t have to fight one another.

Come, look at the evening. Come look! Soon it will be night.

What is the problem – poets, lovers, Generals?

 

Already the wind is quiet, already the earth is dressed in dew,

The storm of stars in the sky will soon be still,

And we’ll all sleep together under the earth,

We who never let each other sleep above it.

 

 

Marina Tsvetaeva                October 3, 1915

Translation by Sonja Franeta and Kim Rosen

 


FIRE IN THE EARTH

 

And we know, when Moses was told

in the way he was told,

“Take off your shoes”, he grew pale from that simple

 

reminder of fire in the dusty earth.

He never recovered

his complicated way of loving again

 

and was free to love in the same way

the fire licking at his heels loved him.

As if the lion earth could roar

 

and take him in one movement.

Every step he took

from there was carefully placed.

 

Everything he said mattered as if he knew

the constant witness of the ground

and remembered his own face in the dust

 

the moment before revelation.

Since then thousands have felt

the same immobile tongue with which he tried to speak.

 

Like the moment you too saw, for the first time,

your own house turned to ashes.

Everything consumed so the road could open again.

 

Your entire presence in your eyes

and the world turning slowly

into a single branch of flame.

 

— David Whyte
SAY YES QUICKLY

 

Forget your life!  Say, God is great. Get up.

You think you know what time it is.  It’s time to pray.

You’ve carved so many little figurines, too many!

Don’t knock on any random door like a beggar.

Reach your long hand out to another door, beyond where you go

on the street, the street where everyone says, “How are you?”

And no one says, “How aren’t you?”

 

Tomorrow you’ll see what you’ve broken and torn tonight

thrashing in the dark.  Inside you there is an artist

you don’t know about, and she’s not interested

in how things look different in moonlight.

 

If you are with us unfaithfully,

you are doing terrible damage.

If you’ve opened your love to God’s love

you’re helping people you don’t know

and have never seen.

 

Is what I say true?  Say yes quickly, if you know it,

if you’ve known it since before the beginning of the universe.

 

 

–Rumi
From “Dying”

by Rumi, tr. by Coleman Barks

 

…The prophet Muhammed was asked, “How long

does it take to be born again?”

 

He would answer without speaking,

with the eloquence of his inner state,

Die before you die.

 

Until you become a rebirth,

you won’t know what that is.

 

It is the same with anything.

You don’t understand until you are

what you are trying to understand.

 

Become reason and you’ll know its perfectly.

Become love and be a burning wick

at the center of yourself.

 

…Everybody in the world is dying.

Everybody is in a death agony.

 

Listen to what anyone says

as though it were the last words

of a father to his son.

 

Listen with that much compassion,

and you’ll never feel jealousy

or anger again.

 

They say, “Everything that’s coming will come.”

Understand, its here right now!

 

The friend you’re talking to is speaking

through his death-rattle, this moment.

 

If you’re too self-absorbed for this kind of listening,

remember there is a Great Incapacitator.

 

God gave you this inability for some reason.

Ask why.  Say, “I have tried,

but I’m in a losing business.

 

I did what you warned me not to.

I claimed not to love the world’s images,

but I’ve been worshipping them.

 

Should I think more about death

than about God?”

 

In autumn, the source of the dead leaves

is the buried, live root.

O Origin of Dead Leaves, for years

you’ve beat the drum to tell me.

 

Only now that I’m dying

do I realize that I’m going to die!

 

Death’s throat is raw and exhausted

with shouting at me.  The dead-drum

is split and broken from being struck

with such astounding force.

 

I’ve been so woven into the mesh

of my trivial errands, that only now

do I begin to hear the mystery

of dying everywhere.
I talk to my inner lover and I say why

such a rush?

We know there is some sort of spirit that loves

the birds and the animals and the ants

perhaps the same one that gave radiance to you

in your mother’s womb.

Is it logical you should be walking around entirely

orphaned now?

The truth is you turned away yourself

and decided to go into the dark alone.

Now you are tangled up in others and have forgotten

what you once knew.

That is why everything you do has some weird failure in it.

–Kabir, translated by Robert Bly

____________________

 

Are you looking for me?  I am in the next seat.

My shoulder is against yours.

 

You will not find me in stupas nor in indian shrine rooms,

not in synagogues nor in cathedrals,

not in kirtans, nor masses nor in winding your own legs around your neck nor in eating nothing but vegetables.

When you really look for me, you will see me instantly.

You will find me in the tiniest house of time.

 

Kabir says: Student, what is God?

He is the breath inside the breath.

–Kabir translated by Robert Bly

 

____________________

 

I don’t know what sort of God we have been talking about.

The caller calls out in a loud voice to the Holy One at dusk.

Why?  Surely the Holy one is not deaf!

He hears the delicate anklets that ring on the feet of an insect as it walks.

 

Go over and over your beads.

Paint weird designs on your forehead.

Wear your hair matted, long and ostentatious.

 

But when deep inside you there is a loaded gun,

how can you have God?

 

–Kabir translated by Robert Bly


I said to the wanting creature inside me, what is this river

you want to cross?

There is no one on the river road, and no road.

Do you see anyone moving about on that bank, or resting?

There is no river at all, and no boat and no boatman!

There is no tow rope and no one to pull it.

 

And there is no earth, no sky, no time, no bank and no ford!

And there is no body and no mind!

 

Do you really believe there is some place that will

make the soul less thirsty?

In that great absence, you will find nothing.

 

Be strong then and enter into your own body.

There you have a solid place

for your feet.

Think about it carefully!

Don’t go off someplace else!

 

Kabir says this:  Just throw away all thoughts

of imaginary things

and stand firm in that which you are.

 

–Kabir


Maybe

by Mary Oliver

 

Sweet Jesus, talking

his melancholy madness

stood up in the boat and the sea lay down

 

silky and sorry.  So everybody

was saved that night.

But you know how it is

 

when something different

crosses the threshold.  The uncles

mutter together.  The women

 

walk away.  The younger brother

sharpens his knife.

Nobody knows what the soul is.

 

It comes and goes

like the wind over the water.

Sometimes, for days, you don’t think about it.

 

Maybe after the sermon,

after the multitude was fed,

one or two of them felt the soul slip forth

 

like a shimmer of pure sunlight

before exhaustion

that wants to swallow everything

 

gripped their bones and left them

sleepy and discontent

like they are now

 

forgetting how the wind tore

at the sails before he rose

and spoke to it

 

tender and luminous and demanding

as he always was, a thousand times

more terrifying than the killer sea.
Love Dogs

 

One night a man was crying

“Allah, Allah!”

His lips grew sweet with the praising

until a cynic said,

“So!  I have heard you

calling out, but have you ever

gotten any response?”

 

The man had no answer to that.

He quit praising and fell into a confused sleep.

 

He dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of souls,

in a thick, green foliage.

“Why did you stop praising?”

“Because I’ve never heard anything back.”

“This longing

you express is the return message.”

 

The grief you cry out from

draws you toward union.

 

Your pure sadness

that wants help

is the secret cup.

 

Listen to the moan of a dog for its master.

That whining is the connection.

 

There are love-dogs

no one knows the names of.

 

Give your life

to be one of them.

 

–Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks
There is a community of the Spirit.

Join it, and feel the delight

of walking in the noisy street,

and being the noise.

 

Drink all your passion

and be a disgrace.

 

Close both eyes

to see with the Other Eye.

 

Open your hands,

if you want to be held.

 

Consider what you’ve been doing!

Why do you stay

with such a mean-spirited

and dangerous partner?

 

For the security of having food, admit it!

Here’s a better arrangement:

Give up this life,

and get a hundred new lives.

 

Quit acting like a wolf, and feel

the Shepherd’s Love filling you.

 

At night, your Beloved wanders.

Don’t take pain-killers.

 

Tonight, no consolations.

And don’t eat.

 

Close your mouth against food.

Taste the Lover’s mouth in yours.

 

You moan, “But she left me.  He left me.”

Twenty more will come.

 

Be empty of worrying.

Think of Who Created Thought!

 

Why do you stay in prison

when the door is so wide open?

 

Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.

Live in Silence.

 

Flow down and down in always

widening rings of Being.

 

–Rumi

translated by Coleman Barks


A Mouse and a Frog

 

A mouse and a Frog meet every morning on the riverbank.

They sit in a nook of the ground and talk.

 

Each morning, the second they see each other,

they open easily, telling stories and dreams and secrets,

empty of any fear or suspicious holding back.

 

To watch and listen to those two

is to understand how, as it’s written,

sometimes when two beings come together,

Christ becomes visible.

 

The mouse starts laughing out a story he hasn’t thought of

in five years, and the telling of it might take five years!

There’s no blocking the speechflow-river-running-

all-carrying momentum that true intimacy is.

 

Bitterness doesn’t have a chance

with those two.

 

The God-messenger, Khidr, touches a roasted fish.

It leaps off the grill back into the water.

 

Friend sits by Friend, and the tablets appear.

They read the mysteries

off each others foreheads.

 

But one day the mouse complains,  “There are times

when I want sohbet, and you’re out in the water,

jumping around where you can’t hear me.

 

We meet at this appointed time,

but the text says, Lovers pray constantly.

 

Once a day, once a week, five times an hour

is not enough.  Fish like we are

need the ocean around us!”

 

Do camel bell say, Let’s meet back here Thursday night?

Rediculous.  They jingle

together continuously

talking as the camel walks.

 

Do you pay regular visits to yourself?

Don’t argue or answer rationally.

 

Let us die,

and dying, reply.

–Rumi, tr. Coleman Barks
Cry Out in Your Weakness

 

A dragon was pulling a bear into its terrible mouth.

A courageous man went and rescued the bear.

There are such helpers in the world, who rush to save

anyone who creies out.  Like Mercy itself,

they run toward the screaming.

 

And they can’t be bought off.

If you were to say to one of those, “Why did you come

so quickly?” he or she would say, “Because I heard

your helplessness.

Where lowland is,

that’s where water goes.  All medicine wants

is pain to cure.

And don’t just ask for one mercy.

Let them flood in.  Let the sky open under your feet.

Take the cotton out of your ears, the cotton

of consolations, so you can hear the sphere-music.

 

Push the hair out of your eyes.

Blow the phlegm from you nose

and from your brain.

 

Let the wind breeze through.

Leave no residue in yourself from that bilious fever.

Take the cure for impotence,

that your manhood may shoot forth

and a hundred new beings come of your coming.

 

Tear the binding from around the foot

of your soul, and let it race around the track

in front of the crowd.  Loosen the know of greed

so tight on your neck.  Accept your new good luck.

 

Give your weakness

to one who helps.

 

Crying out loud and weeping are great resources.

A nursing mother, all she does

is wait to hear her child.

 

Just a little beginning-whimper,

and she’s there.

God created the child, that is, your wanting,

So that it might cry out, so that milk might come.

 

Cry out!  Don’t be stolid and silent

with your pain.  Lament!  And let the milk

of loving flow into you.

 

The hard rain and wind

are the ways the cloud has

of taking care of us.

 

Be patient.

Respond to every call

that excites your spirit.

 

Ignore those that make you fearful

and sad, that degrade you

back toward disease and death.

–Rumi, tr. Coleman Barks
Birdwings

 

Your grief for what you’ve lost lifts a mirror

up to wear you’re bravely working.

 

Expecting the worst, you look, and instead

here’s the face you’ve been wanting to see.

 

Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.

If it were always a fist or always stretched open,

you would be paralysed.

 

Your deepest presence is in every small contracting

and expanding,

the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated

as birdwings.

 

–Rumi, tr. Coleman Barks


Love after Love

 

The time will come

when, with elation,

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door,

in your own mirror,

and each will smile at the other’s welcome

and say, sit here.  Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine.  Give bread.

Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

 

all your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

 

the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit.  Feast on your life.

–Derek Walcott
Friend, please tell me what I can do about this world

I hold to, and keep spinning out!

 

I gave up sewn clothes, and wore a robe,

but I noticed on day the cloth was well woven.

 

So I bought some burlap, but I still

throw it elegantly over my left shoulder.

 

I pulled back my sexual longings,

and now I discover that I’m angry a lot.

 

I gave up rage, and now I notice

that I am greedy all day.

 

I worked hard at

dissolving the greed,

and now I am proud of  myself.

 

When the mind wants to break its link with the world

it still holds on to one thing.

 

Kabir says:  Listen my friend,

there are very few that find the path!

Crazy Jane Talks to the Bishop

 

I met the bishop on the road

and much said he and I:

“Those breasts are flat and fallen now,

those veins will soon be dry —

live in a heavenly kingdom

not in some foul sty!”

 

“Fair and foul are near of kin

and fair needs foul,” I cried.

“My friends are gone

but that’s a truth that bed

nor grave denied,

learned in bodily lowliness

and in the heart’s pride.

 

A woman can be proud and stiff

when on love intent

but love has pitched its mansion

in the place of excrement

for nothing can be whole or soul

that has not been rent.”

 

–Yeats

Roses

 

The last dollar went, then the last dime.  Then I went out into the dunes behind the harbor, where the roses cover the berms and also grow thickly and randomly on the slopes of pale sand, and are lively with bees, and a deep honey-smell, and I lay down.

 

I could see the ocean.  Far out it was shaking with light, and boats with their white sails full of the invisible wind moved back and forth.  All along the shore the water rolled and rolled its bales of silver.

 

After a while I got up, as from the dead — it was that wonderful to be, at last, entirely poor, and happy.

 

I found some weeds I could eat.  I found some wild washed boards, could they not make a simple house?

 

Some laughing gulls flew by, with their perfect black faces, their coral-colored legs.

 

In a sudden crease of hills there was a green place, like a salad.  At its center a little freshwater pond, from which I drank.

 

The sun shone.

 

*

Oh Jesus, poor boy, when was it you saw, clearly and irrevocably, just where you were headed?

 

— Mary Oliver–Mary Oliver

 

 

I have lived on the lip

of insanity, wanting to know reasons,

knocking on a door.  It opens.

I’ve been knocking from the inside!

–Rumi

 

The Guest House

 

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

 

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

 

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

 

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

 

–Rumi, tr. Coleman Barks
Listen to the story told by the reed

of being separated:

Since I was cut from the reed-bed

I have made this crying sound.

Anyone separated from someone he loves

understands what I say.

Anyone pulled from a source

longs to go back.

At any gathering I am there,

mingling in the laughing and the grieving

a friend to each.

But few will hear the secrets

hidden within the notes –

no ears for that.

Body flowing out of spirit,

spirit, flowing from body

No concealing that mixing.

But its not given us to see the soul.

The reed flute is fire

not wind.

Be that empty.

Hear the love-fire tangled in the notes

as bewilderment melts into wine.

The reed is a friend to all

who want the fabric torn

and drawn away.

The reed is hurt and salve

combining

intimacy and longing for intimacy

one song

a disastrous surrender

and a fine love

together.

The one who secretly hears this is senseless.

A tone has one customer:

the ear.

If a sugarcane flute had no effect

it would not have been able to make sugar

in the reed-bed.

Whatever sound it makes is for everyone.

Days full of wanting

let them go by

without worrying that they do.

Stay where you are

inside this pure hollow note.

–Rumi


Dance, when you’re broken open.

Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off.

Dance, in the middle of the fighting.

Dance, in your blood.

Dance, when you’re perfectly free.

 

Struck, the dancers hear a tambourine inside them

as a wave turns to foam at its very top.

 

Begin.

 

Maybe you don’t hear that tambourine

or the tree leaves clapping time.

 

Close the ears on your head

that listen mostly to lies and cynical jokes.

There are other things to see and hear.

Dance music

and a brilliant city inside the soul.

 

God said of Muhammed:

He is an ear.  He was wholly

ear and eye.  And we are refreshed

and fed by that

as an infant boy is

at his mother’s breast.

 

–Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

 

 

 

I called through your door,

“The mystics are gathering

in the street.  Come out!”

 

“Leave me alone.

I’m sick.”

 

“I don’t care if you’re dead!

Jesus is here and he wants

to resurrect somebody!”

 

–Rumi, tr. Coleman Barks


The Core of Masculinity

 

The core of masculinity does not derive

from being male,

nor friendliness from those who console.

 

Your old grandmother says, “Maybe you shouldn’t

go to school.  You look a little pale.”

 

Run when you hear that.

A father’s stern slaps are better.

 

Your bodily soul wants comforting.

The severe father wants spiritual clarity.

 

He scolds but eventually

leads you into the open.

 

Pray for a tough instructor

to hear and act and stay within you.

 

We have been busy accumulating solace.

Make us afraid of how we were.

 

–Rumi (trans. Coleman Barks)

 

 


A Homecoming

 

One faith is bondage. Two

are free.  In the trust

of old love cultivation shows

a dark and graceful wilderness

at it’s heart.  Wild

in that wilderness, we roam

the distance of our faith;

safe beyond the bounds

of what we know.  O love

open.  Show me

my country.  Take me home.

-Wendell Berry

 


Creation started — if it ever started, and of course it never started; so when I say started, it is again squeezing a concept into human language for which there is no other word.  Try to feel this truth!  Creation “started” with the Divine Spark.  The Spark may have been tiny in an immense vacuum.  Yet in this tiny Spark was the utmost of Divine Reality, comprising everything of consciousness, the most powerful creative energy, the most incredible wisdom and love.  The infinite goodness of the Divine Creator made it his aim or plan to gradually fill this vacuum, a vacuum of nothingness, the Spark being the All.  Gradually the Spark began to spread and slowly interpenetrated the vacuum:  the vacuum in its darkness and nothingness; the Spark in its incredible light, its glowing aliveness and allness; the vacuum an infinity in the outer regions, the Spark an infinity of the inner regions…

The Eternal Spark, its inner infinite regions, spreads and spreads inexorably.  Perhaps you can visualize a form, a picture:  a thick golden sparkling “liquid”, teeming with energy and glorious creative potentials, all seeds contained it, brilliant, effervescent, alive, intensely conscious endowed with every conceivable and inconceivable power to create worlds, beings — slowly spreading and spreading, aiming to fill the apparently infinite nothingness.  Yet this is the All, in its infinity and eternality, filling this vacuum inexorably.

Since the All is such vibrant consciousness and powerful energy and aliveness, it must be the ultimate that cannot help but penetrate the entire vacuum, until there is no longer a vacuum.  The outer region will be entirely filled with the inner world of light and life… (p. 2-3, lecture #203)

 


i thank You God for most this amazing

day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees

and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything

which is natural which is infinite which is yes

 

(i who have died am alive again today,

and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth

day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay

great happening illimitably earth)

 

how should tasting touching hearing seeing

breathing any – lifted from the no

of all nothing – human merely being

doubt unimaginable You?

 

(now the ears of my ears awake and

the eyes of my eyes are opened)

- e.e. cummings
I go among trees and sit still.

All my stirring becomes quiet

around me like circles on water.

My tasks lie in their places

where I left them, asleep like cattle.

 

Then what is afraid of me comes

and lives a while in my sight.

What it fears in me leaves me,

and the fear of me leaves it.

It sings, and I hear its song.

 

Then what I am afraid of comes.

I live for a while in its sight.

What I fear in it leaves it,

and the fear of it leaves me.

It sings, and I hear its song.

 

After days of labor,

mute in my consternations,

I hear my song at last,

and I sing it.  As we sing

the day turns, the trees move.

 

from Sabbaths by Wendell Berry


King of the River

by Stanley Kunitz

 

If the water were clear enough,

if the water were still,

but the water is not clear,

the water is not still,

you would see yourself,

slipped out of your skin,

nosing upstream,

slapping, thrashing,

tumbling over the rocks

till you paint them

with your belly’s blood:

Finned Ego,

yard of muscle that coils,

uncoils.

 

If the knowledge were given you,

but it is not given,

for the membrane is clouded

with self-deceptions

and the iridescent image swims

through a mirror that flows,

you would surprise yourself

in that other flesh,

heavy with milt,

bruised, battering toward the dam

that lips the orgiastic pool.

 

Come.  Bathe in these waters.

Increase and die.

 

If the power were granted you

to break out of your cells,

but the imagination fails

and the doors of the senses close

on the child within,

you would dare to be changed,

as you are changing now,

into the shape you dread

beyond the merely human.

A dry fire eats you.

Fat drips from your bones.

The flutes of your gills discolor.

You have become a ship for parasites.
The great clock of your life

is slowing down,

and the small clocks run wild.

For this you were born.

You have cried to the wind

and heard the wind’s reply:

“I did not choose the way,

the way chose me.”

You have tasted the fire on your tongue

till it is swollen black

with a prophetic joy:

“Burn with me!

The only music is time,

The only dance is love.”

 

If the heart were pure enough,

but it is not pure,

you would admit

that nothing compels you

any more, nothing

at all abides,

but nostalgia and desire,

that two way ladder

between heaven and hell.

On the threshold

of the last mystery,

at the brute absolute hour,

you have looked into the eyes

of your creature self,

which are glazed with madness,

and you say

he is not broken but endures,

limber and firm

in the state of his shining,

forever inheriting his salt kingdom,

from which he is banished

forever.


One Art

by Elizabeth Bishop

 

The art of losing isn’t hard to master:

so many things seem filled with the intent

to be lost that their loss is not disaster.

 

Lose something everyday.  Accept the fluster

of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

 

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:

places, and names, and where it was you meant

to travel.  None of these will bring disaster.

 

I lost my mother’s watch.  And look!  my last, or

next-to-last, of three loved houses went.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

 

I lost two cities, lovely ones.  And, vaster,

some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.

I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

 

–Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture

I love) I shan’t have lied.  It’s evident

the art of losing’s not too hard to master

though it may look like (Write it!) a disaster.
The First Elegy

from Duino Elegies by Rilke, trans. Stephen Mitchell

 

Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels’

heirarchies?  And even if one of them pressed me

suddenly against his heart:  I would be consumed

in that overwhelming existence.  For beauty is nothing

but the beginning of terror, which we still are just able to endure,

and we are so awed because it serenely disdains

to annihilate us.  Every angel is terrifying.

And so I hold myself back and swallow the call-note

of my dark sobbing.  Ah, whom can we ever turn to

in our need?  Not angels, not humans,

and already the knowing animals are aware

that we are not really at home in

our interpreted world.  Perhaps there remains for us

some tree on a hillside, which every day we cant take

into our vision; there remains for us yesterday’s street

and the loyalty of a habit so much at ease

when it stayed with us that it moved in and never left.

Oh and night.  There is night when a wind full of infinite space

gnaws at our faces.  Whom would it not remain for — that longed-after

mildly disillusioning presence, which the solitary heart

meets so painfully.  Is it any less difficult for lovers?

But they keep on using each other to hide their fate.

Dont you know yet?  Fling the emptiness out of your arms

into the spaces we breathe; perhaps the birds

will feel the expanded air with more passionate flying.

 

Yes — the springtimes needed you.  Often a star

was waiting for you to notice it.  A wave rolled towards you

out of the distant past, or as you walked

under an open window, a violin

yielded itself to your hearing.  All this was mission.

But could you accomplish it?  Weren’t you always

distracted by expectation, as if every event

announced a beloved?  (Where can you find a place

to keep her, with all the huge strange thoughts inside you

coming and going and often staying all night.)

 

But when you feel longing, sing of women in love;

for their famous passion is still not immortal.

Sing of women abandoned and desolate (you envy them, almost)

who could love so much more purely than those who were gratified.

Begin again and again with the never-attainable praising;

remember:  the hero lives on; even his downfall was

merely a pretext for achieving his final birth.

But Nature, spent and exhausted, takes lovers back

into herself, as if there were not enough strength

to create them a second time.  Have you imagined

Gaspara Stampa intensely enough so that any girl

deserted by her lover might be inspired

by that fierce example of soaring, objectless love

and might say to herself, “Perhaps I can be like her”?

Shouldn’t this most ancient of sufferings finally grow

fruitful for us?  Isn’t it time we lovingly

freed ourselves of the beloved and, quivering, endured:

as the arrow endures the bowstring’s tension, so that

gathered in the snap of release, it can be more than

itself.  For there is no place we can remain.

 

Voices.  Voices.  Listen, my soul, as only

the saints have listened:  until the gigantic call lifted them

off the ground; yet they kept on, impossibly,

kneeling and didn’t notice at all:

so complete was their listening.  Not that you could endure

God’s voice — far from it.  But listen to the voice of the wind

and the ceaseless message that forms itself out of silence.

It is murmuring towards you now from those who died young.

Didn’t their fate, whenever you stepped into a church

in Naples or Rome, quietly come to address you?

Or high up, some eulogy entrusted you with a mission,

as, last year, on the plaque in Santa Maria Formosa.

What they ask of me is that I gently remove the appearance

of injustice about their death — which at times

slightly hinders their souls from proceeding onward.

 

Of course it is strange to inhabit the earth no longer,

to give up customs one barely had time to learn,

not to see roses and other promising Things

in terms of a human future; no longer to be

who one was in infinitely anxious hands; to leave

even one’s own first name behind, forgetting it

as easily as a child abandons a broken toy.

Strange to no longer desire one’s desires.  Strange

to see meanings that clung together once, floating away

in every direction.  And being dead is hard work

and full of retrieval before one can gradually feel

a trace of eternity.  — Though the living are wrong to believe

in the too-sharp distinctions which they themselves have created.

Angels (they say) do not know whether it is the living

they are moving among, or the dead.  The eternal torrent

whirls all ages along in it, through both realms,

forever, and their voices are drowned out in its thunderous roar.

 

In the end, those who were carried off early no longer need us:

they are weaned from earth’s sorrows and joys, as gently as children

outgrow the soft breasts of their mothers.  But we, who do need

such great mysteries, we for whom grief is so often

the source of our spirit’s growth–:  could we exist without them?

Is the legend meaningless that tells how, in the lament for Linus,

the daring first notes of song pierced through the barren numbness;

and then in the startled space which a youth as lovely as a god

had suddenly left forever, the Void felt for the first time

that harmony which now enraptures and comforts and helps us.
Prayer

by Marie Howe

 

Someone or something is leaning close to me now

trying to tell me the one true story of my life:

 

one note,

low as a bass drum, beaten over and over:

 

It’s beginning summer,

and the man I love has forgotten my smell

 

the cries I made when he touched me, and my laughter

when he picked me up

 

and carried me, still laughing, and laid me down,

among the scattered daffodils on the dining room table.

 

And Jane is dead,

and I want to go where she went,

where my brother went,

 

and whoever it is that whispered to me

 

when I was a child in my father’s bed is come back now:

and I can’t stop hearing:

This is the way it is,

the way it always was and will be —

 

beaten over and over — panicking on street corners,

or crouched in the back of taxicabs,

 

afraid I’ll cry out in jammed traffic, and no one will know me or

know where to bring me.

There is, I almost remember,

another story:

 

It runs alongside this one like a brook beside a train.

The sparrows know it; the grass rises with it.

 

The wind moves through the highest tree branches without

seeming to hurt them.

 

Tell me.

Who was I when I used to call your name?
The Sonnets to Orpheus I,3

 

A god can do it. But, tell me, how can a human

follow him through the lyre’s narrow strings?

Our mind is split.  And where two roads

intersect inside us, there stands no temple for contemplation.

 

Singing, as we learn from you, is not desiring,

not striving towards something that can be achieved.

Singing is being.  Simple for a god.

But when do we simply be? And when does he

 

pour through us the earth and the stars?

It is not in your passion, young one, though the voice

in your mouth is unstoppable — learn

 

to forget that outbreak of song.  It doesn’t last.

Real singing is a different breath.

A breath out of nothing. The air inside a god. A wind.

 

–Rainer Maria Rilke, version by  Kim Rosen
The Summer Day

 

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean —

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

 

–Mary Oliver


Oceans

 

I have a feeling that my boat

has struck, down there in the depths,

against a great thing.

And nothing

happens!  Nothing . . . Silence . . . Waves . . .

 

— Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,

and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?

 

— Juan R. Jiminez

translated by Robert Bly
The Gate

 

I had no idea that the gate I would step through

to finally enter this world

 

would be the space my brother’s body made.  He was

a little taller than me:  a young man

 

but grown, himself by then,

done at twenty-eight, having folded every sheet,

 

rinsed every glass he would ever rinse under the cold

and running water.

 

This is what you have been waiting for, he used to say to me.

And I’d say, What?

 

And he’d say, This — holding up my cheese and mustard sandwich.

And I’d say, What?

 

And he’d say, This, sort of looking around.

 

—Marie Howe
Undressing

 

Learn the alchemy

true human beings know.

The moment you accept what troubles you’ve been given,

the door will open.

 

Welcome difficulty as a familiar comrad.

Joke with torment brought by the Friend.

Sorrows are the rags of old clothes and jackets

that serve to cover, then are taken off.

 

That undressing

and the beautiful naked body underneath,

is the sweetness that comes after grief.

The hurt you embrace

becomes joy.

Call it to your arms where it can change.

 

–Rumi/Coleman Barks

 

The Silkworm

 

A silk worm eating leaves makes a cocoon.

Each of us weaves a chamber of leaves and sticks.

Silk worms begin to truly exist

as they disappear inside that room.

 

Without legs we fly.

 

When I stop speaking,

this poem will close

and open its silent wings.

 

–Rumi/Coleman Barks
The Idea of Order at Key West

 

She sang beyond the genius of the sea.

The water never formed to mind or voice,

Like a body wholly body, fluttering

Its empty sleeves; and yet its mimic motion

Made constant cry, caused constantly a cry,

That was not ours although we understood,

Inhuman, of the veritable ocean.

 

The sea was not a mask.  No more was she.

The song and water were not medleyed sound

Even if what she sang was what she heard,

Since what she sang was uttered word by word.

It may be that in all her phrases stirred

The grinding water and the gasping wind;

But it was she and not the sea we heard.

 

For she was the maker of the song she sang.

The ever-hooded tragic gestured sea

Was merely a place by which she walked to sing.

Whose spirit is this? we said, because we knew

It was the spirit that we sought and knew

That we should ask this often as she sang.

 

If it was only the dark voice of the sea

That rose, or even colored by many waves;

If it was only the outer voice of sky

And cloud, of the sunken coral water-walled,

However clear, it would have been deep air,

The heaving speech of air, a summer sound

Repeated in a summer without end

Ande sound alone.  But it was more than that,

More even than her voice, and ours, among

The meaningles plungings of water and the wind,

Theatrical distances, bronze shadows heaped

On high horizons, mountainous atmospheres

Of sky and sea.

It was her voice that made

The sky acutest at its vanishing.

She measured to the hour its solitude.

She was the single artificer of the world

In which she sang.  And wehn she sang, the sea,

Whatever self it had, became the self

That was her song, for she was the maker.  Then we,

As we beheld her striding there alone,

Knew that there never was a world for her

Except the one she sang and, singing, made.

 

Ramon Fernandez, tell me, if you know,

Why, when the singing ended and we turned

Toward the town, tell why the glassy lights,

The lights in the fishing boats at anchor there,

As the night descended, tiliting in the air,

Mastered the night and portioned out the sea,

Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles

Arranging, deepinging, enchanting night.

 

Oh!  Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon,

The maker’s rage to order words of the sea,

Words of the fragrant portals, dimly starred,

And of ourselves and of our origins,

In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.

–Wallace Stevens
For who in his own back yard

Has not seen a smiling secret

He cannot quote.  For the bard

Was sober when he wrote:

This world of fact we love

Is unsubstantial stuff.

All the rest is silence

On the other side of the wall.

And the silence, ripeness.

And the ripeness, all.

 

Shakespeare????

 


Psalm 1

 

Blessed are the man and women

who have grown beyond their greed

and have found a way through their hatred

and no longer nourish illusions.

But they delight in the way things are

so their hearts are open day and night.

 

They are like trees planted near flowing rivers,

which bear fruit when they are ready.

Their leaves will not fall or wither.

Everything they do will succeed.

from The Enlightened Heart

translated by Stephen Mitchell

(with a little help from Kim)
Dark August

 

So much rain, so much life like the swollen sky

on this black August.  My sister, the sun,

broods in her yellow room and won’t come out.

 

Everything goes to hell; the mountains fume

like a kettle, rivers overrun; still,

she will not rise and turn off the rain.

 

She’s in her room, fondling old things,

my poems, turning her album.  Even if thunder falls

like a crash of plates from the sky,

 

she does not come out.

Don’t you know I love you but am hopeless

at fixing the rain?  But I am learning slowly

 

to love the dark days, the steaming hills,

the air with gossiping mosquitoes,

and to sip the medicine of bitterness,

 

so that when you emerge, my sister,

parting the beads of the rain,

with your forehead of flowers and eyes of forgiveness,

 

all will not be as it was, but it will be true

(you see they will not let me love

as I want), because, my sister, then

 

I would have learnt to love black days like bright ones,

the black rain, the white hills, when once

I loved only my happiness and you.

 

–Derek Walcott

 

Through the gateway of feeling your weakness lies your strength;

Through the gateway of feeling  your pain lies your pleasure and joy;

Through the gateway of feeling your fear lies your security and safety;

Through the gateway of feeling your loneliness lies

your capacity to have fulfillment, love and companionship;

Through the gateway of feeling your hate lies your capacity to love;

Through the gateway of feeling your hopelessness lies

your true and justified hope;

Through the gateway of accepting the lacks of your childhood

lies your fulfillment now.

– Pathwork Lecture # 190
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;

 

As tumbled over rim in roundy wells

 

Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s

 

Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;

 

Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:

 

Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;

 

Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,

 

Crying What I do is me:  for that I came.

 

 

I say more:  the just man justices;

 

Keeps grace:  that keeps all his goings graces;

 

Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —

 

Christ.  For Christ plays in ten thousand places,

 

Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his

 

To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

 

–Gerard Manley Hopkins
God’s Grandeur

Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

It will flame out, like a shining from shook foil;

It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil

Crushed.  Why do men then now not wreck his rod?

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;

And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell:  the soil

Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

 

And for all this, nature is never spent;

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;

And though the last lights off the black West went

Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Quietness

Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

 

 

Inside this new love, die.

Your way begins on the other side.

Become the sky.

Take an ax to the prison wall.

Escape.

Walk out like somebody suddenly born

into color .

Do it now.

You’re covered with thick cloud.

Slide out the side.  Die,

and be quiet.  Quietness is the surest sign

that you’ve died.

Your old life was a frantic running

from silence.

 

The speechless full moon

comes out now.
WHY CLING

Rumi

 

Why cling to one life

till it is soiled and ragged?

 

The sun dies and dies

squandering a hundred lives

every instant

 

God has decreed life for you

and He will give

another and another and another.


The Panther

 

From seeing and seeing the seeing has become so exhausted

it no longer sees anything anymore.

The world is made of bars, a hundred thousand

bars, and behind the bars, nothing.

 

The lithe swinging of that rhythmical easy stride

that slowly circles down to a single point

is like a dance of energy around a hub,

in which a great will stands stunned and numbed.

 

At times the curtains of the eye lift

without a sound — then a shape enters,

slips through the tightened silence of the shoulders,

reaches the heart and dies.

 

Rilke, tr. Robert Bly
With the drawing of this love and the voice of this calling

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

Through the unknown, remembered gate

When the last of earth left to discover

Is that which was the beginning;

At the source of the longest river

The voice of the hidden waterfall

And the children in the apple tree

Not seen because not looked for

But heard, half-heard in the stillness

Between two waves of the sea.

Quick now, here, now, always —

A condition of complete simplicity

(Costing not less than everything).

And all shall be well and

All manner of things shall be well

When the tongues of flame are in-folded

Into the crowned knot of fire

And the fire and the rose are one.

 

— T.S. Eliot

from “Little Gidding”

 

 

All your anxiety comes from your desire for harmony.

Seek disharmony and you will gain peace.

–Rumi

 

 

 

 

Don’t surrender your lonliness so quickly

Let it cut more deep

Let it ferment and season you as few human

or even divine ingredients can.

 

Something missing in my heart tonight

has made my eyes so soft, my voice so tender,

my need for God absolutely clear.

 

Hafiz/Landinski

 

 

Which is worth more, a crowd of thousands,

or your own genuine solitude?

Freedom, or power over an entire nation?

 

A little while alone in your room

will prove more valuable than anything else

that could ever be given you.

 

Rumi/Barks


Zero Circle

 

Be helpless, dumbfounded,

unable to say yes or no.

 

Then a stretcher will come from Grace

to gather us up.

 

We are too dull-eyed to see that beauty.

If we say we can, we’re lying.

 

If we say No, we don’t see it,

that No will behead us

and shut tight our window onto spirit.

 

So let us rather not be sure of anything,

beside ourselves, and only that, so

miraculous beings come running to help.

 

Crazed, lying in a zero circle, mute,

we shall be saying finally,

with tremendous eloquence, Lead us.

 

When we have totally surrendered to that beauty,

we shall be a mighty kindness.

 

Rumi/Barks

 


 

This We Have Now

 

This we have now

is not imagination.

 

This is not

grief or joy.

 

Not a judging state,

or an elation,

or sadness.

 

Those come

and go.

 

This is the presence

that doesn’t.

 

It’s dawn, Husam,

here in the splendor of coral,

inside the Friend, the simple truth

of what Hallaj said.

 

What else could human beings want?

 

When grapes turn to wine,

they’re wanting

this.

 

When the nightsky pours by,

it’s really acrowd of beggars

and they all want some of this!

 

This that we are now

created the body, cell by cell,

like bees building a honeycomb.

 

The human body and the universe

grew from this, not this

from the universe and the human body.

 


No Flag

 

I used to want buyers for my words.

Now I wish someone would buy me away from words.

 

I’ve made alot of charmingly profound images,

scenes with Abraham and Abraham’s father, Azar,

who was also famous for icons.

 

I’m so tired of what I’ve been doing.

 

Then one image without form came,

and I quit.

 

Look for someone else to tend the shop.

I’m out of the image making business.

 

Finally I know the freedom

of madness.

 

A random image arrives.  I scream,

“Get out!”  It disintegrates.

 

Only love.

Only the holder the flag fits into,

and wind.  No flag.

 

Rumi/Barks

 

 


from Proverbs and Tiny Songs   

by Antonio Machado/tr. Robert Bly

 

1

Why should we call

these accidental furrows roads?…

Everyone who moves on, walks

like Jesus on the sea.

 

6

You walking, your footsteps are

the road, and nothing else;

there is no road, walker,

you make the road by walking.

By walking you make the road,

and when you look backward,

you see the path that you

never will step on again.

Walker, there is no road.

Only wind trails in the sea.

 

7

I love Jesus who to us said

Heaven and earth will pass away.

When Heaven and earth have passed away,

my word will still remain.

What was your word, Jesus?

Love?  Forgiveness?  Affection?

All your words were

one word:  wakeup.

 

11

All things die and all things live forever;

But our task is to die,

to die making roads,

roads over the sea.

 

12

To die…  To fall like a drop

of sea-water into the immense sea?

Or to be what I have never been:

one man without shadow, without dream,

a man all alone, walking

with no road, with no mirror?


I’m Nobody!  Who are you?

Are you — Nobody — Too?

Then there’s a pair of us!

Don’t tell!  they’d advertise — you know!

 

How dreary — to be — Somebody!

How public — like a Frog —

To tell one’s name — the livelong June —

To an admiring Bog!

 

–Emily Dickinson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birth

 

When they were wild,

when they were not yet human,

when they could have been anything —

I was on the other side, ready with milk to lure them,

and their father, too, each name a net in his hands.

 

—Louise Erdich

 


St.  Francis and the Sow

 

The bud

stands for all things,

even for those things that don’t flower,

because everything flowers, from within, of self blessing,

though sometimes it is necessary

to reteach a thing its loveliness

to put a hand on its brow

of the flower

and retell it in words and in touch

it is lovely

until it flowers again

from within of self-blessing

as St. Francis

put his hand on the creased forehead

of the sow, and told her in words and in touch

blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow

began remembering all down her thick length,

from the earthen snout all the way

through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,

from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine

down through the great broken heart

through the sheer blue milken dreaminess spirting and shuttering

from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing              beneath beneath them:

the long perfect loveliness of sow.

 

–Galway Kinnell
Between

 

But its the cave I want to know.

Not how He left, rose, became a something

again.  But what happens in the cave?

 

Not blood, not flesh, not wine stamped with the memory

of blood, but the space between breath

and breath where we are nowhere

 

to be found.

Someone weeps outside.  Someone tugs at the boulder.

Someone clings to a torn lock of His hair.

 

And inside, in the still, lightless air

the turning back

into everything.

 

–Kim Rosen

 


All the Fruit

 

All the fruit is ripe, plunged in fire, cooked,

And they have passed their test on earth, and one law is this:

That everything curls inward, like snakes,

Prophetic, dreaming on

The hills of heaven.  And many things

Have to stay on the shoulders like a load

of failure.  However the roads

Are bad.  For the chained elements,

Like horses, are going off to the side

And the old

Laws of the earth.  And a longing

For disintegration constantly comes.  Many things however

Have to stay on the shoulders.  Steadiness is essential.

Forwards, however, or backwards we will

Not look.  Let us learn to live swaying

As in a rocking boat on the sea.

 

–FRIEDRICH HODERLIN

 


I am not I

 

I am not I.

I am this one

Walking beside me whom I do not see,

Whom at times I manage to visit,

And whom at other times I forget;

The one who remains silent when I talk,

The one who forgives, sweet, when I hate,

The one who takes a walk where I am not,

The one who will remain standing when I die.

 

–JUAN RAMON JIMENEZ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Taste of Morning

 

Time’s knife slides from the sheath,

as a fish from where it swims.

 

Being closer and closer is the desire

of the body.  Don’t wish for union!

 

There’s a closeness beyond that.  Why

would God want a second God?  Fall in

 

love in such a way that it frees you

from any connecting.  Love is the soul’s

 

light, the taste of morning, no me, no

we, no claim of being.  These words

 

are the smoke the fire gives off as it

absolves its defects, as eyes in silence,

 

tears, face.  Love cannot be said.

 

–Rumi/Barks

 


Listening

 

What is the deep listening?  Sama is

a greeting from the secret ones

 

inside the heart, a letter.  The branches of

your intelligence grow new leaves in

 

the wind of this listening.  The body

reaches a peace.  Rooster sound comes,

 

reminding you of your love for dawn.

The reed flute and the singers lips:

 

The knack of how spirit breathes into

us becomes as simple and ordinary as

 

eating and drinking.  The dead rise with

the pleasure of listening.  If someone

 

can’t hear a trumpet melody, sprinkle

dirt on his head and declare him dead.

 

Listen, and feel the beauty of your

separation, the unsayable absence.

 

There’s a moon inside every human being.

Learn to be companions with it.  Give

 

more of your life to this listening.  As

brightness is to time, so you are to

 

the one who talks to the deep ear in

your chest.  I should sell my tongue

 

and buy a thousand ears when that

one steps near and begins to speak.

 

Rumi/Barks

 

 


            It doesn’t matter now if the golden wine

floats abundantly in your crystal cup,

or if the bitter juice clouds the pure glass…

 

You know the secret passageways

of the soul, the roads that dreams take,

and the calm evening

where they go to die…  There the good and silent spirits

 

of life are waiting for you,

and someday they will carry you

to a garden of eternal spring.

 

Machado/Bly

 

 

 


A Smile and A Gentleness

 

There is a smile and a gentleness

inside.  When I learned the name

 

and address of that, I went to where

you sell perfume.  I begged you not

 

to trouble me so with longing.  Come

out and play!  Flirt more naturally.

 

Teach me how to kiss.  On the ground

a spread blanket, flame that’s caught

 

and burning well, cumin seeds browning.

I am inside all this with my soul.

 

Rumi/Barks

 

 

 


A Voice through the Door

 

Sometimes you hear a voice through

the door calling you, as fish out of

 

water hear the waves or a hunting

falcon hears the drum’s come back.

 

This turning toward what you deeply

love saves you.  Children fill their

 

shirts with rocks and carry them

around.  We’re not children anymore.

 

Read the book of your life which has

been given you.  A voice comes to

 

your soul saying, Lift your foot;

cross over; move into the emptiness

 

of question and answer and question.

 

Rumi/Barks

 

 

 


The Snow Man

 

One must have a mind of winter

To regard the frost and the boughs

Of the pine trees crusted in snow,

 

And have been cold a long time

To behold the junipers shagged with ice,

The spruces rough in the distant glitter

 

Of the January sun, and not to think

Of any misery in the sound of the wind,

In the sound of a few leaves,

 

Which is the sound of the land

Full of the same wind

That is blowing in the same bare place

 

For the listener, who listens in the snow,

And, nothing himself, beholds

Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

 

Wallace Stevens

 

 

 


Only Breath

 

Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu,

Buddhist, sufi, or zen.  Not any religion

 

or cultural system.  I am not from the East

or the West, not out of the ocean or up

 

from the ground, not natural or ethereal, not

composed of elements at all.  I do not exist,

 

am not an entity in this world or the next

did not descend from Adam and Eve or any

 

origin story.  My place is the placeless, a trace

of the traceless.  Neither body or soul.

 

I belong to the beloved, have seen the two

worlds as one and that one call to and know,

 

first, last, outer, inner, only that

breath breathing human being.

 

Rumi/Barks

 


Journey of the Magi  – T.S. Eliot

“A cold coming we had of it,

Just the worst time of the year

For a journey, and such a long journey:

The ways deep and the weather sharp,

The very dead of winter.”

And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,

Lying down in the melting snow.

There were times we regretted

The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,

And the silken girls bringing sherbet.

Then the camel men cursing and grumbling

And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,

And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,

And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly

And the villages dirty and charging high prices:

A hard time we had of it.

At the end we preferred to travel all night,

Sleeping in snatches,

With the voices singing in our ears, saying

That this was all folly.

 

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,

Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegitation:

With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,

And three trees on a low sky,

And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.

Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,

Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,

And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.

But there was no information, and so we continued

And arrived at evening, not a moment to soon

Finding the place;  it was (you may say) satisfactory.

 

All this was a long time ago, I remember,

And I would do it again, but set down

This set down

This:  were we led all that way for

Birth or Death?  There was a Birth, certainly;

We had evidence and no doubt.  I had seen birth and death,

But had thought they were different;  this Birth was

Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.

We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,

But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,

With an alien people clutching their gods.

I should be glad of another death.
From East Coker, III

by T. S. Eliot

 

O dark dark dark.  They all go into the dark,

The vacant interstellar spaces, the vacant into the vacant,

The captains, merchant bankers, emminant men of letters,

Generous patrons of art, the rulers and the statesmen,

Distinguished civil servants, chairmen of many committees,

Industrial lords and petty contractors, all go into the dark.

And dark the Sun and Moon, and the Almanach de Gotha,

And the Stock Exchange gazette, and the Directory of Directors,

And cold the sense and lost the motive of action.

And we all go with them, into the silent funeral,

Nobody’s funeral, for there is no one to bury.

I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you

Which shall be the darkness of God.  As, in a theatre,

The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed

With a hollow rumble of wings, with a movement of darkness on darkness,

And we know that the hills and the trees, the distant panarama

And the bold imposing facade are all being rolled away —

Or as, when an underground train, in the tube, stops too long between             stations

And the conversation rises and slowly fades into silence

And you see behind each face the mental emptiness deepen

Leaving only the growing terror of nothing to think about;

Or when, under ether, the mind is conscious but conscious of nothing —

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope

For hope would be for the wrong thing; wait without love

For love would be of the wrong thing; there is yet faith

But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.

Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:

So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.

The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,

The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy

Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony

Of death and birth.

You say I am repeating

Something I have said before.  I shall say it again.

Shall I say it again?  In order to arrive there,

To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,

You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.

In order to arrive at what you do not know

You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.

In order to possess what you do not possess

You must go by the way of dispossession.

In order to arrive at what you are not

You must go through the way in which you are not.

And what you do not know is the only thing you know

And what you own is what you do not own

And where you are is where you are not.

 

East Coker, IV

 

The wounded surgeon plies the steel

That questions the distempered part;

Beneath the bleeding hand we feel

The sharp compassion of the healer’s art

Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

 

Our only health is the disease

If we obey the dying nurse

Whose constant care is not to please

But to remind us of our, and Adam’s curse,

And that, to be restored our sickness must get worse.

 

The whole earth is our hospital

Endowed by the ruined millionaire

Wherein, if we do well, we shall

Die of the absolute paternal care

That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

 

The chill ascends from feet to knees,

The fever sings in mental wires.

If to be warmed, then I must freeze

And quake in frigid purgatorial fires

Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.

 

The dripping blood our only drink,

The bloody flesh our only food’

In spite of which we like to think

That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood…

Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.
From Little Gidding, I

by T. S. Eliot

 

If you came this way,

Taking the route you would be likely to take

From the place you would be likely to come from,

If you came this way in may time, you would find the hedges

White again, in May, with voluptuary sweetness.

It would be the same at the end of the journey,

If you came at night like a broken king,

If you came by day not knowing what you came for,

It would be the same, when you leave the rough road

And turn behind the pig-sty to the dull facade

And the tombstone.  And what you thought you came for

Is only a shell, a husk of meaning

From which the purpose breaks only when it is fulfilled

If at all.  Either you had no purpose

Or the purpose is beyond the end you figured

And is altered in fulfillment.  There are other places

Which also are the world’s end, some at the sea jaws,

Or over a dark lake, in a desert or city —

But this is the nearest, in place and time,

Now and in England.

 

If you came this way,

Taking any route, starting from anywhere,

At any time or at any season,

It would always be the same:  you would have to put off

Sense and notion.  You are not here to verify,

Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity

Or carry report.  You are here to kneel

Where prayer has been valid.  And prayer is more

Than an order of words, the conscious occupation

Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.

And what the dead had no speech for, when living,

They can tell you, being dead:  the communication

Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.

Here, the intersection of the timeless moment

Is England and nowhere.  Never and always.


No Man Believes

 

No man believes who, when a star falls shot,

Cries not aloud blind as a bat,

Cries not in terror when a bird is drawn

Into the quicksand, feathers down,

Who does not make a wound in faith

When any light goes out and life is death.

 

No man believes who cries not, God is not,

Who feels not coldness in the heat,

In the breasted summer lings not for spring,

No breasted girl, no man who, young

And green, sneers not at the old sky.

No man believes who does not wonder why.

 

Believe and be saved.  No man believes

Who cursed not what makes and saves,

No man upon this cyst of earth

Believes who does not lance his faith,

No man, no man, no man.

 

And this is true.  No man can live

Who does not bury God in a deep grave

And then raise up the skeleton again,

No man who dares not break and make

Who in the bones finds not new faith,

Lends not flesh to ribs and neck

Who does not break and make his final faith.

 

Dylan Thomas
You darkness that I come from

I love you more than the flame

that confines the world.

For flame only shines a circle

so those inside are blind beyond the light.

 

But the darkness welcomes everything.

Shapes and flames, animals and me,

how it swallows them,

people and powers –

 

And I have the feeling some vast presence

is stirring all around me.

 

I have faith in nights.

 

R. M. Rilke, translation by Kim Rosen and Maria Krekeler


from The Thunder:  Perfect Mind

Gnostic Gospel:  Nag Hammadi Library, version by Jane Hirschfield

 

Sent from the Power,

I have come

to those who reflect upon me,

and I have been found among those who seek me.

Look upon me,

you who meditate,

and hearers, hear.

Whoever is waiting for me,

take me into yourselves.

Do not drive me

out of your eyes,

or out of your voice,

or out of your ears.

Observe.  Do not forget who I am.

 

For I am the first, and the last.

I am the honored one, and the scorned.

I am the whore and the holy one.

I am the wife and the virgin.

I am the mother, the daughter

and every part of both.

I am the barren one who has borne many sons.

I am she whose wedding is great

and I have not accepted a husband.

I am the midwife and the childless one,

the easing of my own labor.

I am the bride and the bridegroom

and my husband is my father.

I am the mother of my father,

the sister of my husband;

my husband is my child.

My offspring are my own birth,

the source of my power,

what happens to me is their wish.

 

I am the incomprehensible silence

and the memory that will not be forgotten.

I am the voice whose sound is everywhere

and the speech that appears in many forms.

I am the utterance of my own name.

 

Why, you who hate me, do you love me,

and hate those who love me?

You who tell the truth about me, lie,

and you who have lied, now tell the truth.

You who know me, be ignorant,

and you who have not known me, know.

 

For I am knowledge and ignorance.

I am modesty and boldness.

I am shameless, I am ashamed.

I am strength and I am fear.

I am peace and all war comes from me.

 

Give heed to me,

the one who has been everywhere hated

and the one who is everywhere loved.

I am the one they call Life,

the one you call Death.

I am the one they call Law,

the one you call Lawless.

I am the one you have scattered,

and you have gathered me together.

I am godless, and I am the one

whose God is great.

I am the one whom you have reflected upon

and the one you have scorned.

I am unlearned,

and from me all people learn.

I am the one from whom you have hidden

and the one to whom you reveal yourself.

Yet wherever you hide, I appear,

And wherever you reveal yourself,

there I will vanish.

 

Those who are close to me

have failed to know me,

and those who are far from me know me.

On the day when I am close to you,

that day you are far from me;

on the day when I am far from you,

that day I am close.

 

I am the joining and the dissolving.

I am what lasts and what goes.

I am the one going down,

and the one toward whom they ascend.

I am the condemnation and the acquittal.

For myself, I am sinless,

and the roots of sin grow in my being.

I am the desire of the outer

and control of the inner.

I am the hearing in everyone’s ears,

I am the speech which cannot be heard.

I am the mute who is speechless,

great are the multitudes of my words.

 

Hear me in softness,

and learn me in roughness.

I am she who cries out,

and I am cast forth upon the face of the earth.

I prepare the bread and my mind within.

I am called truth.

 

You praise me and you whisper against me.

You who have been defeated

judge before you are judged:

the judge and all judging exist inside you.

For what is inside you is what is outside you,

and the one who formed you on the outside

is the one who shaped you within.

 

And what you see outside you, you see within.

It is visible and it is your garment.

 

Give heed then, you hearers,

and you also, angels and those who have been sent,

and you spirits risen now from the dead.

I am the one who alone exists,

there is no one to judge me.

For though there is much sweetness

in passionate life, in transient pleasure,

finally soberness comes

and people flee to their place of rest.

There they will find me,

and live, and not die again.


Dissolutio

 

 

That night the other face pressed through mine

the nerve net igniting fists thighs on the soft body

beside me ramming and ramming the wrists

in my craving for something to crack

 

could I have been the soldier digging the broom handle

all the way in til you could hear the girl tear

or the third or fourth or twelfth in line for the nine year old the sixteen year old

the sixty-five year old there on the gymnasium floor

 

could mine have been the husband’s fist

in Westchester Harlem Mexico City

or the back of my own mother’s hand making marks

on the wet cheeks of her daughter

 

do they wait inside me who loves God to break through

my fist my face in the right combination of element flame and flask?

 

 

 

Kim Rosen

 

 


untitled 1

 

no evil, no other

so name this small boat goodness

and put any why you want

in the bow

and tell any tale at all

of the waves and their swingings

towards you, against you
NYC, September, 2001

(for Ariel)

 

You are breathing the dust

of three thousand lives.

 

In the night you wakes

to cough a path of air

 

down your throat between

their body motes.

 

in the day you walk streets

fluttered with the xeroxed faces they once wore

 

and flags.  Grief-

cry, battle-cry, wind.

 

**

 

Their ashes

line your lungs now,

 

stir on your air,

sting in your bloodshot eyes.

 

You drink the tea

they make of your tears,

 

serve it to others

whose names you do not know.

 

***

 

In your dream, death is finally worn

on the surface.  A small black square

 

above each head and to the right:

undeniable.

 

***

 

You wakes to clear your throat in the night.

Death is inside you now,

 


released

from its long exile in the grave.

 

Your body is the charnel ground,

your breath the white white vulture

 

churning ash into bread

bread into touch

 

touch passed from stranger

to stranger

 

through the dust

of fallen walls.

 

–Kim Rosen

 


somewhere i have never traveled,gladly beyond

any experience,your eyes have their silence:

in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,

or which i cannot touch because they are too near

 

your slightest look easily will unclose me

though I have closed myself as fingers,

you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens

(touching skillfully,mysteriously) her first rose

 

or if your wish be to close me,i and

my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly,

as when the heart of this flower imagines

the snow carefully everywhere descending;

 

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals

the power of your intense fragility:whose texture

compels me with the colors of its countries,

rendering death and forever with each breathing

 

(i do not know what it is about you that closes

and opens;only something in me understands

the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)

nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

 

ee cummings 
Fearful, always-moving mind

the One who has no beginning

is thinking of how hunger

may fall away from you.

 

No ritual,

no religion

is needed.

 

Just cry out one

unobstructed cry.

 

Lalla, tr. Barks

 

 

Invocation

 

Some of us spend our lifetimes

searching our bodies

for the letters of flame.

 

When they arise

some of us burn

and some of us set fires.

 

Deena Metzger

 

 

 

Again and again some people in the crowd wake up.

The have no ground in the crowd

and they emerge according to much broader laws.

They carry strange customs with them

and demand room for bold gestures.

 

The future speaks ruthlessly

through them.

 

Rilke

 


Hummingbird Pauses at the Trumpet Vine

Mary Oliver

Who doesn’t love

roses, and who

doesn’t love the lilies

of the black ponds

 

floating like flocks

of tiny swans,

and of course the flaming

trumpet vine

 

where the hummingbird comes

like a small green angel, to soak

his dark tongue

in happiness —

 

and who doesn’t want

to live with the brisk

motor of his heart

singing

 

like a Schubert

and his eyes

working and working like those days of rapture,

by van Gogh, in Arles?

 

Look!  for most of the world

is waiting

or remembering —

most of the world is time

 

when we’re not here,

not born yet, or died —

a slow fire

under the earth with all

 

our dumb wild blind cousins

who also

can’t even remember anymore

their own happiness —

 

Look!  and then we will be

like the pale cool

stones, that last almost

forever.
Autumn Rose Elegy

 

You’ve gone to the secret world.

Which way is it?  You broke the cage

 

and flew.  You heard the drum that

calls you home.  You left this hu-

 

miliating shelf, this disorienting

desert where we’re given wrong

 

directions.  What use now a crown?

You’ve become the sun.  Not need for

 

a belt:  You’ve slipped out of your

waist!  I have heard that near the

 

end you were eyes looking at soul.

No looking now.  You live inside

 

the soul.  You’re the strange autumn

rose that led the winter wind in

 

by withering.  You’re rain soaking

everywhere from cloud to ground.  No

 

bother of talking.  Flowing silence

and sweet sleep beside the Friend.

 

–Rumi, tr.  Coleman Barks
 Don’t worry about saving these songs!

And if one of our instruments breaks,

it doesn’t matter.

 

We have fallen into the place

where everything is music.

 

The strumming and the flute notes

rise into the atmosphere,

and even if the whole world’s harp

should burn up, there will still be

hidden instruments playing.

 

So the candle flickers and goes out.

We have a piece of flint and a spark.

 

This singing-art is sea foam.

The graceful movements come from a pearl

somewhere on the ocean floor.

 

Poems reach up like the edge of driftwood

along the beach, wanting and wanting!

 

They derive

from a slow and powerful root

that we can’t see.

 

Stop the words now.

Open the window in the center of your chest,

and let the spirits fly in and out.

 

Rumi/Barks
If you are lucky in this life . . .

 

A window will appear between two armies on a battlefield.  Instead of seeing their enemies in the window they see themselves as children.  They stop fighting and go home and sleep.  When they wake up, the land is well again.

 

–Cameron C. Penny, 4th Grade

Written the week before 9/11/01

(teacher:  John Rybicki, jjrybick@yahoo.com)

 

 

 

 

“In the fearful years of the Yezhov Terror I spent seventeen months in prison queues in Leningrad.  One day somebody ‘identified’ me.  Beside me, in the queue, there was a woman with blue lips.  She had, of course, never heard of me; but she suddenly came out of that trance so common to us all and whispered in my ear (everybody spoke in whispers there):  ‘Can you describe this?’  And I said: ‘Yes, I can.’  and then something like the shadow of a smile crossed what had once been her face.”

–Anna Akhmatova

trans. by D.M. Thomas

 

I have faith in all that is not yet spoken.

I want to set free my innermost feelings.

What no one has dared to long for

will spring through me spontaneously.

 

Is that too bold? then, my God, forgive me.

But I want to say just this to you:

my true power should come like a shoot, a force of nature,

no pushing, no holding back;

the way the children love you.

 

With this tide, these mouths

opening their deltas into the open sea,

these waves of return,

I want to reveal you, I want to announce you,

as no one else has.

 

And if that is arrogant, then let me be arrogant

for this, my prayer

that stands, so earnest and alone,

before the clouds that shroud your face.

.

 

–R. M. Rilke, Translation by Kim Rosen, Bettina Peterseil, Karin Aarons

 

 


You see, I want a lot.

Perhaps I want everything:

the darkness that comes with every infinite fall

and the shivering blaze of every step up.

 

So many live on and want nothing,

and are raised to the rank of prince

by the slippery ease of their light judgements.

 

But what truly thrills you is each face

That works and thirsts.

 

And most of all those who need you

like they need a crowbar.

 

You are not cold yet and it is not too late

to dive into your increasing depths

where life calmly gives out its own secret.

 

Rilke

Tr. Rosen, Aarons, Bly

 

A Song on the End of the World

 

On the day the world ends

A bee circles a clover,

A fisherman mends a glimmering net.

Happy porpoises jump in the sea,

By the rainspout young sparrows are playing

And the snake is gold skinned as it should always be.

 

On the day the world ends

Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,

A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,

Vegetable peddlers shout in the street

And a yellow sailed boat comes nearer the island,

The voice of a violin lasts in the air

And leads into a starry night.

 

And those who expected lightning and thunder

Are disappointed.

And those who expected signs and archangel’s trumps

Do not believe it is happening now.

As long as the sun and the moon are above,

As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,

As long as rosy infants are born

No on believes it is happening now.

 

Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet

Yet is not a prophet, for he’s much too busy,

Repeats  while he binds his tomatoes:

There will be no other end of the world,

There will be no other end of the world.

 

Czeslaw Milosz, tr by A.M. from Selected Poems, Ecco Press


Poetry by Pablo Neruda

 

And it was at that age … Poetry arrived

in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where

it came from, from winter or a river.

I don’t know how or when,

no, they were not voices, they were not

words, nor silence,

but from a street I was summoned,

from the branches of night,

abruptly from others,

among violent fires

or returning alone,

there I was without a face

and it touched me.

 

I did not know what to say, my mouth

had no way

with names,

my eyes were blind,

and something started in my soul,

fever or forgotten wings,

and I made my own way,

deciphering

that fire,

and I wrote the first faint line,

faint, without substance, pure

nonsense,

pure wisdom

of someone who knows nothing,

and suddenly I saw

the heavens

unfastened

and open,

planets,

palpitating plantations,

shadow perforated,

riddled

with arrows, fire and flowers,

the winding night, the universe.

 

And I, infitesimal being,

drunk with the great starry

void,

likeness, image of

mystery,

felt myself a pure part of the abyss,

I wheeled with the stars,

my heart broke loose on the wind.

 

(Translated form the Spanish by Alastair Reid)


Old friend, you may kneel as you read this.  For now I come to the sweet burden of my argument.  I did not know what I had to tell you, but now I know.  I did not know what I wanted to proclaim, but now I am sure.  All my speeches were but preface to this.  All my exercises but a clearing of my throat.  I confess I tortured you, but only to draw your attention to this.  I confess I betrayed you, but only to tap your shoulder.  In our kisses and sucks, this, ancient darling, I meant to whisper.

 

God is alive.  Magic is afoot.  God is alive.  Magic is afoot.  God is afoot.  Magic is alive.  Alive is afoot.  Magic never died.  God never sickened.  Many poor men lied.  Many sick men lied.  Magic never weakened.  Magic never hid.  Magic always ruled.  God is afoot.  God never died.  God was ruler, though his funeral lengthened.  Though his mourners thickened, magic never fled.  Though his shrouds were hoisted, the naked god did live.  Though his words were twisted, the naked magic thrived.  Though his death was published round and round the world, the heard would not believe.  Many hurt men wondered.  Many struck men bled.  Magic never faltered.  Magic always led.  Many stones were rolled, but god would not lie down.  Many wild men lied.  Many fat men listened.  Though they offered stones, magic still was fed.  Though the locked their coffers, god was always served.  Magic is afoot.  God rules.  Alive is afoot.  Alive is in command.  Many weak men hungered.  Many strong men thrived.  Though they boasted solitude, god was at their side.   Nor the dreamer in his cell, nor the captain on the hill.  Magic is alive.   Though his death was pardoned round and round the world, the heart would not believe.  Though laws were carved in marble, they could not shelter men.  Though altars built in parliaments, they could not order men.  Police arrested magic and magic went with them.  For magic loves the hungry.  But magic would not tarry.  It moves from arm to arm.  Magic is afoot.  It cannot come to harm.  It rests in an empty palm.  It spawns in an empty mind.  But magic is no instrument.  Magic is the end.  Many men drove magic but magic stayed behind.  Many strong men lied.  They only passed through magic and out the other side.  Many weak men lied.  They came to god in secret and though they left him nourished they would not say who healed.  Though mountains danced before them they said that god was dead.  Though his shrouds were hoisted, the naked god did live.  This I mean to whisper to my mind.  This I mean to laugh with in my mind.  This I mean my mind to serve till service is but magic moving through the world. And mind itself is magic coursing through the flesh.  And flesh itself is magic dancing on a clock.  And time itself the magic length of god.

 

Leonard Cohen


Call and Answer

by Robert Bly.

 

 

Tell me why it is we don’t lift our voices these days

And cry over what is happening. Have you noticed

The plans are made for Iraq and the ice cap is melting?

 

 

I say to myself: “Go on, cry. What’s the sense

Of being an adult and having no voice? Cry out!

See who will answer! This is Call and Answer!”

 

 

We will have to call especially loud to reach

Our angels, who are hard of hearing; they are hiding

In the jugs of silence filled during our wars.

 

 

Have we agreed to so many wars that we can’t

Escape from silence? If we don’t lift our voices, we allow

Others (who are ourselves) to rob the house.

 

 

How come we’ve listened to the great criers-Neruda,

Akhmatova, Thoreau, Frederick Douglas-and now

We’re silent as sparrows in the little bushes?

 

 

Some masters say our life lasts only seven days.

Where are we in the week? Is it Thursday yet?

Hurry, cry now! Soon Sunday night will come.


Quiet friend, who has come so far,

feel how your breathing widens the space around you.

Let this darkness be a bell tower,

and you the bell. As you ring,

 

what batters you becomes your strength.

Move back and forth into the change.

What is it like, such intensity of pain?

If the cup tastes bitter, turn yourself to wine.

 

In this uncontainable night, be the mystery

at the crossroads of your senses.

Be the meaning revealed there.

 

And if the world has ceased to hear you,

say to the silent Earth, I flow.

To the rushing water speak, I am.

 

–Rilke, translated by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows


Wait

 

Wait, for now.

Distrust everything if you have to.

But trust the hours.  Haven’t they

carried you everywhere, up to now?

Personal events will become interesting again.

Hair will become interesting.

Pain will become interesting.

Buds that open out of season will become interesting.

Second-hand gloves will become lovely again;

their memories are what give them

the need for other hands.  And the desolation

of lovers is the same:  that enormous emptiness

carved out of such tiny beings as we are

asks to be filled; the need

for the new love is faithfulness to the old.

 

Wait.

Don’t go too early.

You’re tired.  But everyone’s tired.

But no one is tired enough.

Only wait a little and listen:

music of hair,

music of pain,

music of looms weaving all our loves again.

Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,

most of all to hear

the flute of your whole existence,

rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.

 

–Galway Kinnell, from Selected Poems


from Leaf and Cloud

            by Mary Oliver

 

4.

Nothing is so delicate or so finely hinged as the wings

of the green moth

against the lantern

against its heat

against the beak of the crow

in the early morning.

 

Yet the moth has trim, and feistiness, and not a drop

of self-pity.

 

Not in this world.

 

5.

My mother

was the blue wisteria,

my mother

was the mossy stream out behind the house,

my mother, alas, alas,

did not always love her life,

heavier than iron it was

as she carried it in her arms, from room to room,

oh, unforgettable!

 

I bury her

in a box

in the earth

and turn away.

 

My father

was a demon of frustrated dreams,

was a breaker of trust,

was a poor, thin boy with bad luck.

He followed God, there being no one else

he could talk to;

he swaggered before God, there being no one else

who would listen.

 

Listen,

this was his life.

I bury it in the earth.

I sweep the closets.

I leave the house.

 

6.

I mention them now,

I will not mention them again.

 

It is not lack of love

nor lack of sorrow.

But the iron thing they carried, I will not carry.

 

I give them — one, two, three, four — the kiss of courtesy,

of sweet thanks,

of anger, of good luck in the deep earth.

May they sleep well.  May they soften.

 

But I will not give them the kiss of complicity.

I will not give them the responsibility for my life.

 

9.

The voice of the child crying out of the mouth of the

grown woman

is a misery and a disappointment.

The voice of the child howling out of the tall, bearded,

muscular man

is a misery, and a terror.

 

10.

Therefore, tell me:

what will engage you?

What will open the dark fields of your mind,

like a lover

at first touching?

 

12.

When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields, consider

the orderliness of the world.  Notice

something you have never noticed before,

 

like the tambourine sound of the snow-cricket

whose pale green body is no longer than your thumb.

 

Stare hard at the hummingbird, in the summer rain,

shaking the water-sparks from its wings.

 

Let grief be your sister, she will whether or no.

Rise up from the stump of sorrow, and be green also,

like the diligent leaves.

 

A lifetime isn’t long enough for the beauty of this world

and the responsibilities of your life.

 

Scatter your flowers over the graves, and walk away.

Be good-natured and untidy in your exuberance.

 

In the glare of your mind, be modest.

And beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling.

Live with the beetle, and the wind.

 

This is the dark bread of the poem.

This is the dark and nourishing bread of the poem.


From Rain

by Mary Oliver

 

7.  The Forest

 

At night

under the trees

the black snake

jellies forth

rubbing

roughly

the stems of the bloodroot,

the yellow leaves,

little boulders of bark,

to take off

the old life.

I don’t know

if he knows

what is happening.

I don’t know

if he knows

it will work.

In the distance

the moon and the stars

give a little light.

In the distance

the owl cries out.

 

In the distance

the owl cries out.

The snake knows

these are the owl’s woods.

these are the woods of death,

these are the woods of hardship

where you crawl and crawl

where you live in the husks of trees,

where you lie on the wild twigs

and they cannot bear your weight,

where life has no purpose

and is neither civil nor intelligent.

 

Where life has no purpose

and is neither civil nor intelligent

it begins

to rain,

it begins

to smell like the bodies

of flowers.

At the back of the neck

the old skin splits.

The snake shivers

but does not hesitate.

He inches forward.

He begins to bleed through

like satin.


“A world without violence is what lives after the pain has left, and we sit in the utter emptiness, and we stop creeping around the hole but fall into it – and it is not what we thought.  It is the opposite.”  Eve Ensler

 

Keeping Quiet

by Pablo Neruda

 

Now we will count to twelve

and we will all keep still

for once on the face of the earth,

let’s not speak in any language;

let’s stop for a second,

and not move our arms so much.

 

It would be an exotic moment

without rush, without engines;

we would all be together

in a sudden strangeness.

 

Fishermen in the cold sea

would not harm whales

and the man gathering salt

would not look at his hurt hands.

 

Those who prepare green wars,

wars with gas, wars with fire,

victories with no survivors,

would put on clean clothes

and walk about with their brothers

in the shade, doing nothing.

 

What I want should not be confused

with total inactivity.

 

Life is what it is about

I want no truck with death!

 

If we were not so single-minded

about keeping our lives moving,

and for once could do nothing,

perhaps a huge silence

might interrupt this sadness

of never understanding ourselves

and of threatening ourselves with

death. Perhaps the earth can teach us

as when everything seems dead in winter

and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve

and you keep quiet and I will go.
A Blessing

by James Wright

 

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,

Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.

And the eyes of those two Indian ponies

Darken with kindness.

They have come gladly out of the willows

To welcome my friend and me.

We step over the barbed wire into the pasture

Where they have been grazing all day, alone.

They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness

That we have come.

They bow shyly as wet swans.  They love each other.

There is no loneliness like theirs.

At home once more,

They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.

I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,

For she has walked over to me

And nuzzled my left hand.

She is black and white,

Her mane falls wild on her forehead,

And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear

That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.

Suddenly I realize

That if I stepped out of my body I would break

into blossom.


Today I Was Happy So I Made This Poem

by James Wright

 

As the plump squirrel scampers

Across the roof of the corncrib,

The moon suddenly stands up in the darkness,

And I know it is impossible to die.

Each moment of time is a mountain.

An eagle rejoices in the oak trees of heaven

Crying

This is what I wanted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Greatest Love

            by Anna Swir

 

She is sixty.  She lives

the greatest love of her life.

 

She walks arm-in-arm with her dear one,

her hair streams in the wind.

Her dear one says:

“You have hair like pearls.”

 

Her children say:

“Old fool.”

 

–translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Nathan

 

 

 


Holy Spirit

by Hildegard of Bingen

 

Holy Spirit,

giving life to all life,

moving all creatures

root of all things,

washing them clean,

wiping out their mistakes,

healing their wounds,

you are our true life,

luminous, wonderful,

awakening the heart

from its ancient sleep.

 

— translated by Stephen Mitchell


I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.

I learn by going where I have to go.

 

We think by feeling.   What is there to know?

I hear my being dance from ear to ear.

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

 

Of those so close beside me, which are you?

God bless the Ground!  I shall walk softly there

And learn by going where I have to go.

 

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?

The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

 

Great Nature has another thing to do

To you and me; so take the lively air,

And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

 

This shaking keeps me steady.  I should know.

What falls away is always.  And is near.

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

I learn by going where I have to go.

 

–Theodore Roethke


Song of Wandering Aengus

W. B. Yeats

 

I went out to the hazel wood,

Because a fire was in my head,

And cut and peeled a hazel wand,

And hooked a berry to a thread;

And when white moths were on the wing,

And moth-like stars were flickering out,

I dropped the berry in a stream

And caught a little silver trout.

 

When I had laid it on the floor

I went to blow the fire aflame,

But something rustled on the floor,

And some one called me by my name:

It had become a glimmering girl

With apple blossom in her hair

Who called me by my name and ran

And faded through the brightening air.

 

Though I am old with wandering

Through hollow lands and hilly lands,

I will find out where she has gone,

And kiss her lips and take her hands;

??And walk through long and dappled grass

And pluck till time and times are done

The silver apples of the moon,

The golden apples of the sun.


V-World is in the center of us. It is longing, and it is remembering. V-World is what it smells like when they let you go, when you’re not waiting to be hit, when you perspire from the sun instead of from worry.

 

V-World is the 20 year old suicide bomber who turns back. It is the video camera the Afghan woman in the stadium hides under her burqa to document the execution of a woman accused of flirting.

 

V-World is the utter gentleness I see on the aged faces of those who had been “comfort women” during World War II, when they were forced into sexual slavery and raped repeatedly by Japanese soldiers. It’s the one egg the starving Bosnian woman gives me as a present as I am leaving.

 

It’s the lives our mothers never got to live.

 

V-World is unfolding between your legs. It is urgent and slow. It’s the joke the woman tells the soldier that makes him laugh and lower the gun he was pointing in her face and the dresses the young girls from Srebrenica wear, and the way they fix their hair to go to hear about their men, even though they know they have all been murdered.

 

V-World is the lipstick a woman wears during the shelling of Sarajevo, the high heels she refuses to take off even though the snipers are firing on her city from above. V-World is the empty breasts she keeps offering the baby who sucks and sucks, knee deep in mud in the Afghan refugee camp.

 

V-World is a state of mind. It is the place you could never touch in me, no matter how many times you banged my head or whipped my legs. V-World is the garden where the missing girls appear, their mothers and fathers waiting for them. V-World is the clitoral cut that doesn’t happen.

 

V-World is what lives after the pain has left, and we sit in the utter emptiness, and we stop creeping around the hole but fall into it and it is not what we thought. It is the opposite.

 

V-World is borderless and groundless. It is the armor we finally take off. There is nothing to defend.

 

–eve ensler

from an article in Marie Claire

 

Take the matter of being born.  What does being born mean to mostpeople?  Catastrophe unmitigated.   Socialrevolution.  The cultured aristocrat yanked out of his hyperexclusively ultravoluptuous super palazzo,and dumped into an incredibly vulgar detentioncamp swarming with every conceivable species of undesirable organism.  Mostpeople fancy a guaranteed birthproof safetysuit of nondestructible selflessness.  If mostpeople were to be born twice they’d improbably call it dying —

 

you and I are not snobs.  We can never be born enough.  We are human beings;for whom birth is a supremely welcome mystery,the mystery of growing:the mystery which happens only and whenever we are faithful to ourselves.  You and I wear the dangerous looseness of doom and find it becoming.  Life,for eternal us,is now;and now is much too busy being a little more than everything to seem anything,catastrophic included…

 

Miracles are to come.  With you I leave a remembrance of miracles:they are by somebody who can love and who shall be continually reborn, a human being;someone who said to those near him,when his fingers would not hold a brush “tie it into my hand” —

 

nothing proving or sick or partial.  Nothing false,nothing difficult or easy or small or colossal.  Nothing ordinary or extraordinary,nothing emptied or filled,real or unreal;nothing feeble and known or clumsy and guessed.  Everywhere tints childrening,innocent spontaneous,true.  Nowhere possibly what flesh and impossibly such a garden,but actually flowers which breasts are among the very mouths of light.  Nothing believed or doubted;brain over heart, surface:nowhere hating or to fear;shadow,mind without soul.  Only how measureless cool flames of making; only each other building always distinct selves of mutual entirely opening:only alive.  Never the murdered finalities of wherewhen and yesno, impotent nongames of wrongright and rightwrong;never to gain or pause,never the soft adventure of undoom,greedy anguishes and cringing ecstasies of inexistence;never to rest and never to have:only to grow.

 

Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question

 

 

—e.e. cummings, from the introduction to Collected Poems

 


Dare you see a Soul at the White Heat?

Then crouch within the door –

Re – is the Fire’s common tint –

But when the vivid Ore

Has vanquished Flame’s conditions,

It quivers from the Forge

Without a color, but the light

Of unanointed Blaze.

Least Village has its Blacksmith

Whose Anvil’s even ring

Stands symbol for the finer Forge

That soundless tugs – within –

Refining these impatient Ores

With Hammer, and with Blaze

Until the Designated Light

Repudiate the Forge –

 

Emily Dickinson


There are those who want to set fire to the world.

We are in danger.

There is time only to work slowly.

There is no time not to love.

 

Deena Metzger


The Art of Disappearing

Naomi Shihab Nye

 

When they say Don’t I know you?

say no.

 

When they invite you to the party

remember what parties are like

before answering.

 

Someone telling you in a loud voice

they once wrote a poem.

Greasy sausages on a paper plate.

Then reply.

 

If they say We should get together

say Why?

 

It’s not that you don’t love them anymore.

You’re trying to remember something

too important to forget.

Trees. The monastery bell at twilight.

Tell them you have a new project.

It will never be finished.

 

When someone recognizes you in a grocery store

nod briefly and become a cabbage.

When someone you haven’t seen in ten years

appears at the door,

don’t start singing him all your new songs.

You will never catch up.

 

Walk around feeling like a leaf.

Know you could tumble any second.

Then decide what to do with your time.


We awaken in Christ’s body

as Christ awakens our bodies,

and my poor hand is Christ, He enters

my foot, and is infinitely me.

 

I move my hand, and wonderfully

my hand becomes Christ, becomes all of Him

(for God is indivisibly

whole, seamless in His Godhood).

 

I move my foot, and at once

He appears like a flash of lightning.

Do my words seem blasphemous? – Then

open your heart to Him

 

and let yourself receive the one

who is opening to you so deeply.

For if we genuinely love Him,

we wake up inside Christ’s body

 

where all our body, all over,

every most hidden part of it,

is realized in joy as Him,

and He makes us, utterly, real,

 

and everything that is hurt, everything

that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,

maimed, ugly, irreparably

damaged, is in Him transformed

 

and recognised as whole, as lovely,

and radiant in His light

we awaken as the Beloved

in every last part of our body.

-Symeon the New Theologian


Virgin

 

This is not a poem about the red scars

on the sheets or how he couldn’t  find the hole

or how I bit the pillow to keep from screaming

when he did.

 

It is not about how I came anyway

even though it was the first time and so did he,

or how – even though it was the first time –

we got pregnant.

 

It is not about how I decided

I didn’t need him

at the abortion

and he decided he didn’t need to be there.

 

And it is definitely not about the thick tangle of scars

that harden around the wound

or overcoming or healing or

understanding any of it.

 

This is a poem about new sex

and lying alone in the warm breath of the August night

and the mess inside when the hard scab of despair splits open and the longing  falls out.

 

It is about walking open to the world

like a wide gash of vaginal wilderness

as unchartable as they were afraid of.

 

It is about hunger and timing

and the now finally ripe cells of my nipples

standing upright in the bright air.

 

It is about  the warm earth softening at last

around a long and flaccid dream of hibernation

and the dark tongue of my pussy rising

 

like a snake’s head in spring, red with the scent of July,

my new opening, younger than it ever was;

finally engorged with virginity and ready to conceive.

Kim Rosen, Omega, 6/22/95

 

The first time my blood does not come

 

I’m eating lunch outside the deli

by myself eavesdropping on  a woman

and her cell phone.  She is saying

“So take the car keys from him! Or take

away his computer.  We’re the parents.  We

set the rules…”  And some small boy with his perfect

new lips and his practically see-through face is pulling

on his mother’s sleeve and his father’s

to get them to look up from their matching

dixie cups of purple ice cream but they won’t

and he runs away all the way

to the far side of the courtyard and hides.

Then I’m walking up the hill from Joe’s

with Marie and we meet two friends of hers,

Will and Henry, when a man and a woman

push a two seat stroller practically into us

with its cargo of two sleeping baby boys,

their heads swinging like tetherballs.

And I’d like to say that these children

are children, not symbols of never.  I’d like

to say that the plush of the pond’s swallow

this afternoon is enough just the way it is,

the way the water pleats, folds

around my pressing in, my breast-

stroke opening and opening out

beyond the din of the daughters and fathers

and mothers and sons making patterns

on the beach.

And what will you tell them, the fleet

of the unborn who meet you at the exit ramp?

 

There is a silence in the middle of the pond;

a perfect, see-through silence like the pupil of an eye;

a silence like the dish of my floating pelvis now

holding its edgeless sky  —

 

–Kim Rosen
Your Voice

 

Swelling over the rolling tip of your tongue,

between tooth and lip through air

on breath still moist with the scent under your skin,

your voice pours

 

from the inside of your body

into the inside of mine.

 

The shape of what is open within you

trembles on invisible strings:

presses with fingers of sound

into the soft clay of me

 

and I know you

from the inside out:

 

your bloodrush and heartpound,

your marrow and bone;

your quiver of first touch and echo of last,

your hungry unspeakables hidden in stone

 

where the fingers

of your breath cannot go.

 

 

And so I float without skin

on long slivers of sound:

eyes closed, hands outstretched before me,

clutching the braille of  your voice

 

like a letter from home.

–Kim Rosen


Feral

 

When she was nine

she couldn’t sleep

 

if the papers on her desk

were touching.

 

In her closet, she hung her obedient dresses

on their separate hangers

 

with measured air

between them.

 

Even the skin on the sides of her fingers

made her nervous:

 

fingers rubbing against fingers

the way they do

 

just before they slide below vigilance

down to her dark fantastic gash,

 

its damp petals oozing

in the moist drape of the night

 

when feral sheets of homework reach

to rub their words together

 

and in the closet, behind closed doors,

the dresses lift their skirts

 

in wonder.

 

–Kim Rosen


Foghorn   

 

Could it turn out to be my last?

The night beach at Bandon, the fog-

horn crying out the distances, the way

the waves swished over my screams, turning

them into more fretful, anonymous sea-sound

in the unbridgeable air.  My last attempt

to muscle oneness out of the distances

of this world.  Her athletic fingers.  The clutch

of airport goodbyes.  The way we cut

our nails short to touch deep.

The way I still broke her skin,

trying to get in.  And those distances,

what do they want of us anyway, what

are they trying to tell us?  My tongue pressing

against hers.  Or thrashing up her salt canal

below while she winced out her pleasure

all the way at the other end of her spine.

The granules of dawn on her cheek

exposing the secret openings in flesh.

Will it always be like that?  The ache

from space between bodies, between lip

and lip where the mouth, slick

with primordial fluid, sounds the hollow

of  before form, after form;  the summons

from the stillpoint inside desire; the cry

to keep your distance –

 

And in the place where I wanted fusion:

dissolutio, nigredo  —

tide opening in,

life of hunger undesigned,

holy day of defeat.


Poison Ivy

 

We discovered it by accident:

Amy Wilson and I,

playing father and mother

in our secret spot in the woods.

 

Usually it was a fort,

but on that April day

it was a house, not unlike the one

that really stands there now,

 

with its three little boys

and their pretty young parents,

the Land Rover

in the drive.

 

I was the mother.

Father and I were going out for dinner.

I applied my make-up carefully:

made of the crimson haunches

 

of leaves new sprung from the earth.

The flat of the leaf

for eye-lid and cheek,

leaves squished into a point for the lips,

 

and just the juice dabbed onto wrists and neck,

for perfume.  When the poison

blossomed out of me,  I knew

where it came from.

 

Eyes swollen shut,

face round as a Downes child,

I was kept home from school.

That was the week I discovered my mother.

 

It was an era

when the sound of her car

coming up the gravel

would freeze the breath

 

in our fresh bodies .

It was the year she’d thrown

a record at me, missed,

and slit the wall behind.

 

The flat of her hand,

or the back of a brush,

or a slung book grazing the shoulder

made patterns in our cells.

 

But that week:  Cold washcloths,

Calamine, and Cambell’s Chicken Soup.

Scrabble, when I could see again.

And through them, her touch.

 

So every April after that,

when the womb of the dirt opened

and spurted out the ivy,

I pulled the red medicine from the stalks,

 

rubbed the baby leaves

against eyes and cheeks and mouth

and later, over my buttocks, and later,

inside the still naked lips of my vagina,

 

and waited

in the arms of its spell

for the rippling red to bloom into me,

for the pain to finally break out of me;

 

to balloon my face

into something ugly and holy

and so helpless

my frightened mother might dare to touch me.

 


Innocence

 

I have come to believe

my mother is innocent.

 

I know this

because of my own innocence.

 

The tiny hook-shaped scar remains

where last year my nail

clawed open

the arm of my lover.

 

I have come to know

my mother is sweet.

 

I was alone once, too,

beside a lover who had turned cold.

I had no daughter

so I sliced open

myself: little streams

that mixed with the bleedings

of beets from the garden.

 

 

Kim Rosen
Evolutions

 

It should have been easy to stop

being a something;  to fall out of this loose nest

of cells into the space between shapes.

It should have been easy to stop

straining to make out one single name, yours,

tangled in the eyes of others:  The Favorite

or The Blamed One or The Secret Lover or The Saint.

After all:  the god of shapes found yours

inside the thousand others now honed into your flesh–

fish in the jawbone snake in the spine.

You are not alone in there, admit it. Even your breath

is courtesy of the grass and the pine.  Turn

your body upside down.  Shake out

the shapes inside it.  Breathe fire on the lines

that form your name.  Melt them to

snake in the jawbone fish in the spine.

After all:  you began that,  remember?  Your gills,

webbed toes, your scales and fur:  changing

and changing – fish frog lizard bear–

in a soup of cells before you broke the air.

But tremble at the brink of fish-jaw, snake-spine,

your skin salt with scales, mouth to mouth

with the oak and the elm  — and those lines

thicken, don’t they?  strive to matter,

as if matter was what you loved when you swam

through fish frog lizard bear to get inside

the shape you wear, for a moment, now.

 

 

–Kim Rosen

 

 

,


 SONG OF A MAN WHO HAS COME THROUGH

 

By D. H. Lawrence ( The Complete Poems of DH Lawrence. Ed. V.de Sola Pinto and F. Warren Roberts. Viking Press NY 1964 )

 

Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me!

A fine wind is blowing the new direction of Time.

If only I let it bear me, carry me, if only it carry me!

If only I am sensitive, subtle, oh, delicate, a winged gift!

If only, most lovely of all, I yield myself and am borrowed

By the fine, fine wind that takes its course through the

chaos of the world

Like a fine, an exquisite chisel, a wedge-blade inserted;

If only I am keen and hard like the sheer tip of a wedge

Driven by invisible blows,

The rock will split, we shall come at the wonder, we shall

find the Hesperides.

 

Oh, for the wonder that bubbles into my soul,

I would be a good fountain, a good well-head,

Would blur no whisper, spoil no expression.

 

What is the knocking?

What is the knocking at the door in the night?

It is somebody wants to do us harm.

 

No, no, it is the three strange angels.

Admit them, admit them.

 


Renascence

Edna St. Vincent Millay

 

All I could see from where I stood

Was three long mountains and a wood;

I turned and looked another way

And saw three islands and a bay.

So with my eyes I traced the line

Of the horizon, thin and fine,

Straight around till I had come

Back to where I started from;

And all I saw from where I stood

Was three long mountains and a wood.

 

Over these things I could not see:

These were the things that bounded me.

And I could touch them with my hand,

Almost, I thought, from where I stand!

And all at once things seemed so small

My breath came short and scarce at all.

But, sure, the sky is big, I said:

Miles and miles above my head.

So here upon my back I’ll lie

And look my fill into the sky.

And so I looked and after all

The sky was not so very tall.

The sky, I said, must somewhere stop…

And – sure enough! – I see the top!

The sky, I thought, is not so grand;

I ‘most could touch it with my hand!

And reaching up my hand to try,

I screamed, to feel it touch the sky!

 

I screamed, and – lo! – Infinity

Came down and settled over me;

Forced back my scream into my chest;

Bent back my arm upon my breast;

And, pressing of the Undefined

The definition on my mind,

Held up before my eyes a glass

Through which my shrinking sight did pass

Until it seemed I must behold

Immensity made manifold;

Whispered to me a word whose sound

Deafened the air for worlds around,

And brought unmuffled to my ears

The gossiping of friendly spheres,

The creaking of the tented sky,

The ticking of Eternity.

 

I saw and heard and knew at last

The How and Why of all things past

And present and forevermore.

The universe, cleft to the core,

Lay open to my probing sense,

That, sickening, I would fain pluck thence

But could not, — nay! but needs must suck

At the great wound, and could not pluck

My lips away till I had drawn

All venom out.  – Ah, fearful pawn:

For my omniscience paid I toll

In infinite remorse of soul.

 

All sin was of my sinning, all

Atoning mine, and mine the gall

Of all regret.  Mine was the weight

Of every brooded wrong, the hate

That stood behind each envious thrust,

Mine every greed, mine every lust.

 

And all the while, for every grief,

Each suffering, I craved relief

With individual desire;

Craved all in vain! And felt fierce fire

About a thousand people crawl,

Perished with each, — then mourned for all!

 

A man was starving in Capri;

He moved his eyes and looked at me;

I felt his gaze, I heard his moan,

And knew his hunger as my own.

I saw at sea a great cloud bank

Between two ships which struck and sank;

A thousand screams the heavens smote;

And every scream tore through my throat.

 

No hurt I did not feel, no death

That was not mine, mine each last breath

That, crying, met an answering cry

From the compassion that was I.

All suffering mine, and mine its rod;

Mine, pity like the pity of God.

Ah, awful weight! Infinity

Pressed down upon the finite Me!

My anguished spirit, like a bird,

Beating against my lips I heard;

Yet lay the weight so close about

There was no room for it without.

And so beneath the weight lay I

And suffered death, but could not die.

 

Long had I lain thus, craving death,

When quietly the earth beneath

Gave way, and inch by inch, so great

At last had grown the crushing weight,

Into the earth I sank till I

Full six feet under ground did lie,

And sank no more, — there is not weight

Can follow here, however great.

From off my breast I felt it roll,

And as it went my tortured soul

Burst forth and fled in such a gust

That all about me swirled the dust.

 

Deep in the earth I rested now.

Cool is its hand upon the brow

And soft its breast beneath the head

Of one who is so gladly dead.

And all at once, and over all

The pitying rain began to fall;

I lay and heard each pattering hoof

Upon my lowly, thatched roof,

And seemed to love the sound far more

Than ever I had done before.

For rain it hath a friendly sound

To one who’s six feet under ground;

And scarce the friendly voice or face,

A grave is such a quiet place.

The rain, I said, is kind to come

And speak to me in my new home.

I would I were alive again

To kiss the fingers of the rain,

To drink into my eyes the shine

Of every slanting silver line,

To catch the freshened, fragrant breeze

From drenched and dripping apple-trees.

For soon the shower will be done

And then the broad face of the sun

Will laugh above the rain-soaked earth

Until the world with answering mirth

Shakes joyously, and each round drop

Rolls, twinkling, from its grass-blade top.

How can I bear it buried here,

While overhead the sky grows clear

And blue again after the storm?

O, multi-colored, multi-form,

Beloved beauty over me,

 

That I shall never, never see

Again!  Spring-silver, autumn-gold,

That I shall never more behold! –

Sleeping your myriad magic through,

Close-sepulchred away from you!

O God, I cried, give me new birth,

And put me back upon the earth!

Upset each cloud’s gigantic gourd

And let the heavy rain, down-poured

In one big torrent, set me free,

Washing my grave away from me!

 

I ceased and through the breathless hush

That answered me, the far-off rush

Of angel’s wings came whispering

Like music down the vibrant string

Of my ascending prayer, and – crash!

Before the wild wind’s whistling lash

The startled storm clouds reared on high

And plunged in terror down the sky!

And the big rain in one black wave

Fell from the sky and struck my grave.

 

I know not how such things can be;

I only know there came to me

A fragrance such as never clings

To ought but happy, living things;

A sound as of some joyous elf

Singing sweet songs to please himself,

And, through and over everything,

A sense of glad awakening.

The grass, a-tiptoe at my ear,

Whispering to me I could hear;

I felt the rain’s cool finger-tips

Brushed tenderly across my lips,

Laid gently on my sealed sight,

And all at once the heavy night

Fell from my eyes and I could see! –

A drenched and dripping apple tree,

A last long line of silver rain,

A sky grown clear and blue again.

And as I looked a quickening gust

Of wind blew up to me and thrust

Into my face a miracle

Of orchard breath, and with the smell, —

I know not how such things can be! –

I breathed my soul back into me.

 

Ah!  Up then from the ground sprang I

And hailed the earth with such a cry

As is not heard save from a man

Who has been dead, and lives again.

About the trees my arms I wound;

Like one gone mad I kissed the ground;

I raised my quivering arms on high;

I laughed and laughed into the sky;

Till at my throat a strangling sob

Caught fiercely and a great heart-throb

Sent instant tears into my eyes:

Oh God, I cried, no dark disguise

Will e’er hereafter hide from me

Thy radiant identity!

Thou canst not move across the grass

But my quick eyes will see thee pass,

Nor speak, however silently,

But my hushed voice will answer Thee.

I know the path that tells Thy way

Through the cool eve of every day;

God, I can push the grass apart

And lay my finger on Thy heart!

 

The world stands out on either side

No wider than the heart is wide;

Above the earth is stretched the sky, —

No higher than the soul is high.

The heart can push the sea and land

Farther apart on either hand;

The soul can split the sky in two,

And let the face of God shine through.

But east and west will pinch the heart

That cannot keep them pressed apart;

And he whose soul is flat – the sky

Will cave in on him by and by.


When Death Comes

Mary Oliver

 

When death comes

like the hungry bear in autumn;

when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

 

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;

when death comes

like the measle-pox;

 

when death comes

like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

 

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:

what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

 

And therefore I look upon everything

as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,

and I look upon time as no more than an idea,

and I consider eternity as another possibility,

 

and I think of each life as a flower, as common

as a field daisy, and as singular,

 

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,

ending, as all music does, towards silence,

 

and each body a lion of courage, and something

precious to the earth.

 

When its over, I want to say:  all my life

I was a bride married to amazement.

I was the bridegroom taking the world into my arms.

 

When its over, I don’t want to wonder

if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,

or full of argument.

 

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.


SELF PORTRAIT

 

by David Whyte

 

It doesn’t interest me if there is one God

or many gods.

I want to know if you belong or feel

abandoned.

If you know despair or can see it in others.

I want to know

if you are prepared to live in the world

with its harsh need

to change you. If you can look back

with firm eyes

saying this is where I stand. I want to know

if you know

how to melt into that fierce heat of living

falling toward

the center of your longing. I want to know

if you are willing

to live, day by day, with the consequence of love

and the bitter

unwanted passion of your sure defeat.

 

I have heard, in that fierce embrace, even

The gods speak of God.


Words move, music moves

Only in time;  but that which is only living

Can only die.  Words, after speech, reach

Into the silence.  Only by the form, the pattern,

Can words or music reach

The stillness, as a Chinese jar still

Moves perpetually in its stillness.

Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,

Not that only, but the co-existence,

Or say that the end precedes the beginning,

And the end and the beginning were always there

Before the beginning and after the end.

And all is always now.  Words strain,

Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,

Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,

Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,

Will not stay still.  Shrieking voices

Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering,

Always assail them.  The Word in the desert

Is most attacked by voices of temptation,

The crying shadow in the funeral dance,

The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera.

 

The detail of the pattern is movement,

As in the figure of the ten stairs.

Desire itself is movement

Not in itself desirable;

Love is itself unmoving,

Only the cause and end of movement,

Timeless, and undesiring

Except in the aspect of time

Caught in the form of limitation

Between un-being and being.

Sudden in a shaft of sunlight

Even while the dust moves

There rises the hidden laughter

Of children in the foliage

Quick now, here, now, always –

Ridiculous the waste sad time

Stretching before and after.

 

T.S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton”, V

 


So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years –

Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l’entre deux guerres

Trying to learn to use words, and every attempt

Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure

Because one has only learnt to get the better of words

For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which

One is no longer disposed to say it.  And so each venture

Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate

With shabby equipment always deteriorating

In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,

Undisciplined squads of emotion.  And what there is to conquer

By strength and submission, has already been discovered

Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope

To emulate – but there is no competition –

There is only the fight to recover what has been lost

And found and lost again and again:  and now, under conditions

That seep unpropitious.  But perhaps neither gain nor loss.

For us there is only the trying.  The rest is not our business.

 

Home is where one starts from.  As we grow older

The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated

Of dead and living.  Not the intense moment

Isolated, with no before and after,

But a lifetime burning in every moment

And not the lifetime of one man only

But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.

There is a time for the evening under starlight,

A time for the evening under lamplight

(The evening with the photograph album).

Love is most nearly itself

When here and now cease to matter.

 

Old men ought to be explorers

Here and there does not matter

We must be still and still moving

Into another intensity

For a further union, a deeper communion

Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,

The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters

Of the petrel and the porpoise.  In my end is my beginning.

 

T.S. Eliot, from “East Coker”, V

 


Happy Birthday to You

Dr. Seuss

 

I wish we could do what they do in Katroo.

They sure know how to say “Happy Birthday to You!”

 

In Katroo, every year, on the day you were born They start the day right in the bright early morn When the Birthday Honk-Honker hikes high up Mount Zorn And lets loose a big blast on the big Birthday Horn.

And the voice of the Horn calls out loud as it plays:

“Wake up! For today is your Day of all Days!”

 

Then, the moment the Horn’s happy honk-honk is heard

Comes a fluttering flap-flap!  And then comes THE BIRD!

 

The Great Birthday Bird!  And, so far as I know,

Katroo is the only place Birthday Birds grow.

This bird has a brain.  He’s most beautifully brained

With the brainiest bird brain that’s ever been trained.

He was trained by the most famous club in this nation,

The Katroo Gappy Birthday Assoseeeyeation.

And, whether you name is Pete, Polly or Paul,

When your birthday comes round, he’s in charge of it all!

And whether your name is Nate, Nelly or ned,

He knows your address, and he heads for your bed.

You hear a soft swoosh in the brightening sky.

You’re not all awake but you open one eye.

Then over the housetops and trees of Katroo,

You see that bird coming! To you.  Just to you!

 

That bird pops right in!  You are up on your feet!

You jump to the window!  You meet and you greet

With the Secret Katroo Birthday Hi-Sign-And-Shake

That only good people with birthdays may make.

You do it just so.  With each finger and toe.

Then the Bird says, “Come on! Brush your teeth and let’s go!

It’s your Day of all Days!  It’s the Best of the Best!

So don’t waste a minute!  Hop to it!  Get dressed!

 

And five minutes later, you’re having a snack

On your way out of town on a Smorasbord’s back.

“Today,” laughs the Bird, “eat whatever you want.

Today no one tells you you cawnt and you shawnt.

And, today, you don’t have to be tidy or neat.

If you wish, you may eat with both hands and both feet.

So get in there and munch.  Have a big muncheroo!

Today is your birthday!  Today you are you!

 

If we didn’t have birthdays, you wouldn’t be you.

If you’d never been born, well then what would you do?

If you’d never been born, well then what would you be?

You might be a fish! Or a toad in a tree!

You might be a doorknob! Or three baked potatoes!

You might be a bag full of hard green tomatoes!

Or worse than all that… Why you might be a WASN’T!

A Wasn’t has no fun at all.  No, he doesn’t.

A Wasn’t just isn’t.  He just isn’t present.

But you… you ARE YOU!  And, now isn’t that pleasant!

 

So we’ll go to the top of the toppest blue space,

The Official Katroo Birthday Sounding-Off Place!

Come on! Open your mouth and sound off at the sky!

Shout loud at the top of your voice, “I AM I!

ME! I am I!  And I may not know why

But I know that I like it.  Three cheers!  I AM I!”

 

And now, on this day of all days in Katroo,

The assoseeeyeation has built just for you

A railway with very particular boats

That are pulled through the air by Funicular Goats.

These goats never trip, never slip, never bungle.

They’ll take you down fast to the Birthday Flower Jungle.

The best-sniffing flowers that anyone grows

We have grown to be sniffed by your own private nose.

 

They smell like licorice! And cheese!

Send forty Who-Bubs up the trees

To snip with snippers!  Nip with nippers!

Clip and clop with clapping clippers.

Nip and snip with clipping cloppers!

Snip and snop with snipping snoppers!

All for you the Who-Bubs clip!

Happy Birthday!  Nop and nip!

 

Then pile the wondrous smelling stacks

On fifty Hippo-Heimers’ backs!

They’ll take these flowers all home for you.

You can keep the Hippo-Heimers too.

 

While this is done, I’ve got a hunch

It’s time to eat our Birthday Lunch…

 

For Birthday Lunches as a rule

We serve hot dogs rolled on a spool.

So stuff and stuff and stuff and stuff

And stuff until you’ve had enough.

 

Now, of course, we’re all mustard, so, one of the rules

Is to wash it all of in the Mustard-Off Pools

Which are very fine warm-water mountaintop tubs

Which were built, just for this, by the Mustard-Off Clubs.

 

The, out of the water!  Sing loud while you dry!

Sing loud, “I am lucky!”  Sing loud, “I am I!”

 

If you’d never been born, then you might be an isn’t.

An isn’t has no fun at all.  No he disn’t.

He never has birthdays, and that isn’t pleasant.

You have to be born, or you don’t get a present.

 

A present!  Aha!  Now what kind shall I give?

Why the kind you’ll remember as long as you live!

 

Would you like a fine pet?  Well, that’s just what you’ll get.

I’ll get you the fanciest pet ever yet!

 

As you see we have here in the heart of our nation

The Official Katroo Birthday Pet Reservation.

From east of the eastest to west of the westest

We’ve searched the whole world just to bring you the bestest.

They come in all sizes… small, medium, tall.

If you wish, I will find you the tallest of all!

 

To find who’s the tallest, we start with the smallest…

We start with the smallest.  Then what do we do?

We line them up.  Back to back.  Two by two.

Taller and taller.  And, when we are through,

We finally will find one who’s taller than who.

 

But you have to  be smart and keep watching their feet.

Because sometimes they stand on their tiptoes and cheat.

 

And so, from the smaller, we stack them up taller

And taller and taller and taller and taller.

And now!  Here’s the one who is taller than all-er!

He’s yours!  He’s all yours.  He’s the very top tallest.

I know you’ll enjoy him, the tallest of allest.

 

I’ll have him shipped home to you Birthday Express.

That costs quite a lot but I couldn’t care less.

Today is your birthday! Today You are You!

So what if it costs me a thousand or two.

 

Today is your birthday.  You get what you wish.

You might also like a nice Time-Telling Fish.

 

So I’ll send Diver Getz and I’ll send Diver Gitz

Deep under the sea with their undersea kits.

In all the wide world there are no better pets

Than the Time-Telling Fish that Gitz gits and Getz gets.

 

But speaking of time… Why good gracious alive!

That Time-Telling Fish says it’s quarter to five!

I had no idea it was getting so late!

We’ve got to get going! We have a big date!

 

And so as the sunset burns red in the west,

Comes the night of the Day-of-the-Best-of-the-Best!

The Night-of-all-Nights-of-all-Nights in Katroo!

So, according to rule, what we usually do

Is saddle up two Hooded Klopfers named Alice

And gallop like mad to the Birthday Pal-alace.

Your Big Birthday Party soon starts to begin

In the finest Pal-alace you’ve ever been in!

 

Now this Birthday Pal-alace, as soon you will see,

Has exactly nine thousand four hundred and three

Rooms to play games in! Twelve halls for brass bands!

Not counting the fifty-three hamburger stands.

And besides all of that, there are sixty-five rooms

Just for keeping the Sweeping-Up-Afterwards-Brooms.

Because, after your party, as well you may guess,

It will take twenty days just to sweep up the mess.

 

First, we’re greeted by Drummers who drum as they come.

And next come the Strummers who strum as they come.

And the Drummers who drum and the Strummers who strum

Are followed by Zummers who come as the zum.

Just look at those Zummers!  They’re sort of like Plumbers.

They come along humming, with heads in their plumbing

And that makes the music that Zummers call zumming!

 

And all of this beautiful zumming and humming

And strumming and drumming and coming…

All of it, all of it, all is for you!

 

LOOK! Dr. Derring’s Singing Herrings!

Derring’s Singing, Spelling Herrings!

See what Derring’s Herrings do!

They sing and spell it!  All for you!

 

And here comes your cake, cooked by Snookers and Snookers,

The Official Katroo Happy Birthday Cake Cookers.

And Snookers and Snookers, I’m happy to say,

Are the only cake cookers who cook cakes today

Made of guaranteed, certified, strictly Grade A

Peppermint cucumber sausage-paste butter!

And the world’s finest cake slicers, Dutter and Dutter

And Dutter and Dutter, with hatchets a-flutter,

High up on the poop deck, stand ready to cut her.

 

Today you are you!  That is truer that true!

There is no one alive who is you-er than you!

Shout loud, “I am lucky to be what I am!

Thank goodness I’m not just a clam or a ham

Or a dusty old jar of sour gooseberry jam!

I am what I am!  That’s a great thing to be!

If I say so myself, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!”

 

Now, by Horseback and Bird-back and Hiffer-back, too,

Come your friends!  All your friends!  From all over Katroo!

And the Birthday Pal-alace heats up with hot friends

And your party goes on!  On and on till it ends.

 

And when it all ends you’re much happier, richer and fatter.

And the Bird flies you home on a very soft platter.

 

So that’s

what the Birthday Bird

does in Katroo.

 

And I wish

I could do

all these great things for you!

 


Ask Me

William Stafford

 

Some time when the river is ice ask me

mistakes I have made.  Ask me whether

what I have done is my life.  Others

have come in their slow way into

my thought, and some have tried to help

or to hurt – ask me what difference

their strongest love or hate has made.

 

I will listen to what you say.

You and I can turn and look

at the silent river and wait.  We know

the current is there, hidden;  and there

are comings and going from miles away

that hold the stillness exactly before us.

What the river says, that is what I say.

 

 


I’m ceded – I’ve stopped being Theirs –

the name They dropped upon my face

With water, in the ocuntry church

Is finished using, now,

And They can put it with my Dolls,

My childood, and the string of spools,

I’ve finished threading – too –

 

Baptized, before, without the choice,

But this time, consciously, of Grace –

Unto supremest name –

Called to my Full – The Crescent dropped –

Existence’s whole Arc, filled up,

With one small Diadem.

 

My second Rank – too small the first –

Crowned – Crowing – on my Father’s breast –

A half unconscious Queen –

But this time – Adequate – Erect,

With Will to choose, or to reject,

And I choose, just a Crown –

 

Emily Dickinson (c. 1862)

 


And the speck of my heart, in my shed of flesh

and bone, began to sing out, the way the sun

would sing if the sun could sing, if light had a

mouth and a tongue, if the sky had a throat, if

god wasn’t just an idea but shoulders and a spine,

gathered from everywhere, event the most distant

planets, blazing up.  Where am I?  Even the rough

words com to me now, quick as thistles.  Who

made your tyrant’s body, your thirst, your delv-

ing, your gladness?  Oh tiger, oh bone-breaker,

oh tree on fire!  Get away from me.  Come closer.

 

Mary Oliver

 

 


Poem for the Anniversary

 

I said the field needs burning.

I said I hunger for the taste of fallow soil.

I said no new seeds, please.

No seeds.  No water.  Nothing

that might make green.

Just sun and the silence of a seared landscape.

 

I said she was a kite, all soar

and plummet and I the foot

that held the ground that rooted the string she flew on.

I said I loved that soar and dive,

the curl of my fingers and the string cutting

into them, the way gratitude shimmered

down the cord for her big ride.

 

I said night comes in between the vacancies

in lace.  I said her black curls on my nipple

swarm like ants.  I said it was over.  I said my cells danced

in that shimmer, wetting themselves,

turning everything taut and upward

and full of direction.   I said it was over.

I said if she was ever homeless —

I said she could come in through the holes

in the lace canopy, come

into the bed my mother slept in , the bed

I sleep in now where my arms open on their own

to receive the one who cannot sleep

without my arms.  I said it was over.  I said

the turning faces of every surface, like petals,

to her smell was something like love;

and the way the hound goes

for the deep woods new felled carcass,

was the way my body was unswervable.

 

I said I would hold that string for a year

while she dove and thrilled to Pluto’s symphony.

I said that was love.

I said I was water clear and empty,

I would go where the tides called.

 

I said the madness was mine.

I had an appointment with it anyway.

I said I would hold the string no matter what —


In Blackwater Woods

 

Look, the trees

are turning

their own bodies

into pillars

 

of light,

are giving off the rich

fragrance of cinnamon

and fulfillment,

 

the long tapers

of cattails

are bursting and floating away over

the blue shoulders

 

of the ponds,

and every pond,

no matter what its

name is, is

 

nameless now.

Every year

everything

I have ever learned

 

in my lifetime

leads back to this:  the fires

and the black river of loss

whose other side

 

is salvation,

whose meaning

none of us will ever know.

To live in this world

 

you must be able

to do three things:

to love what is mortal;

to hold it

 

against your bones knowing

your own life depends on it;

and, when the time comes to let it go,

to let it go.

 

Mary Oliver


Navajo Chant

House made of dawn.

House made of evening light.

House made of the dark cloud.

House made of male rain.

House made of dark mist.

House made of female rain.

House made of pollen.

House made of grasshoppers.

 

Dark cloud is at the door.

The trail out of it is dark cloud.

The zigzag lightening stands high upon it.

An offering I make.

Restore my feet for me.

Restore my legs for me.

Restore my body for me.

Restore my mind for me.

Restore my voice for me.

This very day take out your spell for me.

 

Happily I recover.

Happily my interior becomes cool.

Happily I go forth.

My interior feeling cool, may I walk.

Nor longer sore, may I walk.

Impervious to pain, may I walk.

With lively feelings may I walk.

As it used to be long ago, may I walk.

 

Happily may I walk.

Happily, with abundant dark clouds, may I walk.

Happily, with abundant showers, may I walk.

Happily, with abundant plants, may I walk.

Happily, on a trail of pollen, may I walk.

Happily may I walk.

Being as it used to be long ago, may I walk.

 

May it be beautiful before me.

May it be beautiful behind me.

May it be beautiful below me.

May it be beautiful above me.

May it be beautiful all around me.

In beauty it is finished.

In beauty it is finished.


The Light Wraps You

 

The light wraps you in its mortal flame.

Abstracted pale mourner, standing that way

against the old propellers of the twilight

that revolves around you.

 

Speechless, my friend.

Alone in the loneliness of this hour of the dead

and filled with the lives of fire,

pure heir to the ruined day.

 

A bough of fruit falls from the sun on your dark garment.

The great roots of night

grow suddenly from your soul

and the things that hide in you come out again

so that a blue and pallid people,

your newly born, takes nourishment.

 

Oh magnificent and fecund and magnetic slave

of the circle that moves in turn through black and gold:

rise, lead and possess a creation

so rich in life that its flowers perish

and it is full of sadness.

 

–Pablo Neruda, tr. WS Merwin


Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour

 

Light the first light of evening, as in a room

In which we sit and, for small reason, think

The world imagined is the ultimate good.

 

This is, therefore, the intensest rendezvous.

It is in that thought that we collect ourselves

Out of all the indifferences, into one thing:

 

Within a single thing, a single shawl

Wrapped tightly round us, since we are poor, a warmth,

A light, a power, the miraculous influence.

 

Here, now, we forget each other and ourselves.

We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole,

A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous.

 

Within its vital boundary, in the mind.

We say God and the imagination are one…

How high that highest candle lights the dark.

 

Out of this same light, out of the central mind,

We make a dwelling in the evening air,

In which being there together is enough.

 

Wallace Stevens


How Everything Adores Being Alive

 

What

if you were

a beetle

and a soft wind

 

and a certain allowance of time

had summoned you

out of your wrappings,

and there you were,

 

so many legs

hardening

maybe even

more than one pair of eyes

 

and the whole world

in front of you?

And what if you had wings

and flew

 

into the garden,

then fell

into the uptipped

face

 

of a white flower,

and what if you had

a sort of mouth,

a lip

 

to place close

to the skim

of honey

that kept offering itself –

 

what would you think then

of the world

as, night and day,

you were kept there –

 

oh happy prisoner –

sighing, humming,

roaming

that deep cup?

 

 

Mary Oliver


Thanks

 

Listen

with the night falling we are saying thank you

we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings

we are running out of the glass rooms

with our mouths full of food to look at the sky

and say thank you

we are standing by the water thanking it

smiling by the windows looking out

in our directions

 

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging

after funerals we are saying thank you

after the news of the dead

whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

 

over telephones we are saying thank you

in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators

remembering wars and the police at the door

and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you

in the banks we are saying thank you

in the faces of the officials and the rich

and of all who will never change

we go on saying thank you thank you

 

with the animals dying around us

our lost feelings we are saying thank you

with the forests falling faster than the minutes

of our lives we are saying thank you

with the words going out like cells of a brain

with the cities growing over us

we are saying thank you faster and faster

with nobody listening we are saying thank you

we are saying thank you and waving

dark though it is

 

-W.S. Merwin


The Memory of Her Face

 

I.  Baghdad

 

When she woke up

Her face was on fire

Bombs had fallen from the sky

And her face was in flames

She couldn’t scream

The burning encircled her throat

Like a falling tower

Just as the flames were entering her eyes

She pressed her torn blanket

And it put out the flames

but stuck to the melted skin

when she pulled it off

she lost most of her cheeks,

most of her forehead and chin.

This was not a dream

There was nowhere to go

There was nothing to say

As they wandered the streets

Of Bagdhad

Her father

Unable to look at his only daughter

Oozing through

The bandages he made of white rags

Hated her looking like that

Hated whoever she had become

No longer a relative

No longer someone he knew

No longer a woman he could marry off

But still something he was responsible for

He hated the planes that dropped

Fire from the sky

Who promised

Freedom and instead destroyed

He hated those planes

But right now he hated his bandaged melted

needy daughter more.

 

II.  Islamabad

 

First time

He grabbed the closest thing

He grabbed a pot

He smashed her head

He smashed her right eye hard

The next time

He thought about it a little

And paused

Took off his belt

She had gashes inside her thighs

The third time he needed to be more

Involved in hurting her

So he beat her with his fists

He broke her nose

 

Don’t ask what she had done

It was just her face that pissed him off

Just her needy face waiting for more

The last time he

Had enough of her

He planned it out

He got the acid in advance

He poured it in a jar

She said she needed money for food for them

She looked like that.

Like that. Like that.  Like that.

Her face is gone

Totally melted off

Just eyes that all you see

That’s all

Just eyes encased in gooey flesh

I tell you this because

She’s there inside this mess

She’s there, I swear

I heard her wheeze

I heard her sigh

I heard her babble something

With what was once her mouth

I heard her. I swear

She lives in there.

 

III.  Juarez

 

Each woman is dark, particular, young.

Each woman has brown eyes. Each woman is gone.

There is one girl missing for 10 months.

She was 17 when they took her away

She worked in the Maquilladora

Four dollars a day

They paid her and bused her to the desert

to sleep in freezing shit

It must have been on the way to the bus

They took her

It must have been dark outside

It must have lasted until morning

What ever they did to her

It went on and on

You can tell from the others

who showed up without hands or nipples

It must have gone on and on.

 

When she finally reappeared

She was bone

Bone bone

No cute mole above her right eye,

No naughty smile, no wavy black hair.

 

Bone she came back as bone.

She and the others

All beautiful

All beginning

All faces

All gone

300 faces gone

300 noses

300 chins

300 dark penetrating eyes

300 smiles

300 Mulatto colored cheeks

300 hungry mouths about

to speak

about  to tell

about to scream

gone now bone.

 

***

I tried to turn away

When she took off the bandages

To proove to the soldiers how bad it was

When she lifted her chador

In the restaurant

When they raised the plastic cloth that concealed

the bone out line of her head in the morgue

I tried to turn away.

 

 

Eve Ensler

 

———-women were  burned or killed  in the Iraqi war. The United States

government   call s it collateral  damage and will not be prosecuted.

 

5000 women have been acid burned by their families  in Islamambad, Pakistan.

90 per cent of them have died. Not one person has been prosecuted.

 

300 women have disappeared in Juarez  Mexico.

90 have turned up dead in ditches, most were mutilated and raped. Not one man has

been prosecuted.

 


Leaning into the afternoons, I cast my sad nets

towards your ocean eyes.

 

There my lonliness stretches and burns

On the tallest bonfire, arms twisting like a drowning man’s.

 

I cast red signals over your absent eyes

That lap like the sea at the lighthouse shore.

 

You guard only darkness, my distant female.

Sometimes a coast of dread emerges from your stare.

 

Leaning into the afternoons, I toss my sad nets

To the sea that moves in your ocean eyes.

 

The night bird peck at the first stars

That twinkle like my soul as I love you.

 

Night gallops on her shadowy mare

Scattering blue wheat stalks over the fields.

 

–Neruda, tr.?

 


I want to know if you come with me

toward not walking and not speaking, I want

to know if we finally will reach

no communication:  finally

going with someone to see pure air,

rays of light over the daily sea

or a land bound object

and finally having nothing

to trade,  without goods to furnish

as the colonizers had,

exchanging coupons for silence.

Here, I purchase your silence.

I agree, I give you mine

with one provision:  that we do not understand each other.

 

–Pablo Neruda, tr. William O’Daly

 

 

 


The Poet with his Face in his Hands

 

You want to cry aloud for your

mistakes.  But to tell the truth the world

doesn’t need any more of that sound.

 

So if you’re going to do it and can’t

stop yourself, if your pretty mouth can’t

hold it in, at least go by yourself across

 

the forty fields and the forty dark inclines

of rocks and water to the place where

the falls are flinging out their white sheets

 

like crazy, and there is a cave behind all that

jubilation and water fun and you can

stand there, under it, and roar all you

 

want and  nothing will be disturbed; you can

drip with despair all afternoon and still,

on a green branch, its wings just lightly touched

 

by the passing foil of the water, the thrush,

puffing out its spotted breast, will sing

of the perfect, stone-hard beauty of everything.

 

Mary Oliver


WHAT I’M DOING HERE

 

I do not know if the world has lied

I have lied

I do not know if the world has conspired against love

I have conspired against love

The atmosphere of torture is no comfort

I have tortured

Even without the mushroom cloud

still I would have hated

Listen

I would have done the same things

even if there were no death

I will not be held like a drunkard

under the cold tap of facts

I refuse the universal alibi

Like an empty telephone booth passed at night

and remembered

like mirrors in a movie palace lobby consulted

only on the way out

like a nymphomaniac who binds a thousand

into strange brotherhood

I wait

for each one of you to confess

 

Leonard Cohen

 


Shadows

 

Everyone knows the great energies running amok cast

terrible shadows, that each of the so-called

senseless acts has its thread looping

back through the world and into a human heart.

And meanwhile

the gold-trimmed thunder

wanders the sky; the river

may be filling the cellars of the sleeping town.

Cyclone, fire, and their merry cousins

bring us to grief – but these are the hours

with the old wooden-god faces;

we lift them to our shoulders like so many

black coffins, we continue walking

into the future.  I don’t mean

there are no bodies in the river,

or bones broken by the wind.  I mean

everyone who has heard the lethal train-roar

of the tornado swears there was no mention ever

of any person, or reason – I mean

the waters rise without any plot upon

history, or even geography.  Whatever

power of the earth rampages, we turn to it

dazed but anonymous eyes; whatever

the name of the catastrophe, it is never

the opposite of love.

 

—Mary Oliver


It is I who must begin…

 

Once I begin, once I try—

here and now

right where I am,

not excusing myself

by saying that things

would be easier elsewhere,

without grand speeches and

ostentatious gestures,

but all the more persistently

—to live in harmony

with the “voice of Being” as I

understand it within myself

—as soon as I begin that,

I suddenly discover

to my surprise, that

I am neither the only one,

nor the first,

nor the most important one

to have set out

upon that road…

 

Whether all is really lost

or not depends entirely on

whether or not I am lost…

 

Vaclav Havel


Sunrise

 

You can

die for it–

an idea,

or the world. People

 

have done so,

brilliantly,

letting

their small bodies be bound

 

to the stake,

creating

an unforgettable

fury of light. But

 

this morning,

climbing the familiar hills

in the familiar

fabric of dawn, I thought

 

of China,

and India

and Europe, and I thought

how the sun

 

blazes

for everyone just

so joyfully

as it rises

 

under the lashes

of my own eyes, and I thought

I am so many!

What is my name?

 

What is the name

of the deep breath I would take

over and over

for all of us? Call it

 

whatever you want, it is

happiness, and it is another one

of the ways to enter

fire.

 

—Mary Oliver


Lead

 

Here is a story

to break your heart.

Are you willing?

This winter

the loons came to our harbor

and died, one by one,

of nothing we could see.

A friend told

of one on the shore

that lifted its head and opened

the strong, elegant beak

and cried out

in the long, sweet savoring of its life

which, if you have ever heard it,

you know is a sacred thing

and for which, if you have not heard it,

you had better hurry to where

they still sing.

And believe me, tell no one

just where that is.

The next morning

this loon – speckled

iridescent, with a plan

to fly home

to some hidden lake –

was dead on the shore.

I tell you this

to break your heart –

by which I mean only

that it break open

and never close again

to the rest of the world.

 

—Mary Oliver


In a dark time, the eye begins to see,

I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;

I hear my echo in the echoing wood –

A lord of nature weeping to a tree,

I live between the heron and the wren,

Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.

 

What is madness but nobility of soul

At odds with circumstance? The day’s on fire!

I know the purity of pure despair,

My shadow pinned against a sweating wall,

That place among the rocks – is it a cave,

Or winding path? The edge is what I have.

 

A steady storm of correspondences!

A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,

And in broad day the midnight come again!

A man goes far to find out what he is –

Death of the soul in a long, tearless night,

All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

 

Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.

My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,

Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?

A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.

The mind enters itself, and God the mind

And one is One, free in the tearing wind.

 

—   Theodore Roethke

 


I dwell in Possibility—

A fairer House than Prose—

More numerous of Windows—

Superior—for Doors—

Of Chambers as the Cedars—

Impregnable of Eye—

And for an Everlasting Roof

The Gambrels of the Sky—

Of Visitors—the fairest—

For Occupation—This—

The spreading wide my narrow Hands

To gather Paradise—

 

—Emily Dickinson


i carry your heart with me(i carry it in

 

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in

my heart)i am never without it(anywhere

i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done

by only me is your doing,my darling)

i fear

no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want

no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

 

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

 

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

 

ee cummings


Just Now

 

In the morning as the storm begins to blow away

the clear sky appears for a moment and it seems to me

that there has been something simpler than I could ever believe

simpler than I could have begun to find words for

not patient not even waiting no more hidden

than the air itself that became part of me for a while

with every breath and remained with me unnoticed

something that was here unnamed unknown in the days

and the nights not separate from them

not separate from them as they came and were gone

it must have been here neither early nor late then

by what name can I address it now holding out my thanks

 

WS Merwin


Waiting for the Fire

 

Not just the temples, lifting

lotuses out of the tangled trees,

not the moon on cool canals,

the profound smell of the paddies,

evening fires in open doorways,

fish and rice the perfect end of wisdom;

but the small bones, the grace, the voices like

clay bells in the wind, all wasted.

If we ever thought of the wreckage

of our unnatural acts,

we would never sleep again

without dreaming a rain of fire:

somewhere God is bargaining for Sodom,

a few good men could save the city; but

in that dirty corner of the mind

we call the soul

the only wash that purifies is tears,

and after all our body counts,

our rape, our mutilations,

nobody here is crying; people who would weep

at the death of a dog

stroll these unburned streets dry-eyed.

But forgetfulness will never walk

with innocence; we save our faces

at the risk of our lives, needing

the wisdom of losses, the gift of despair,

or we could kill again.

Somewhere God is haggling over Sodom:

for the sake of ten good people

I will spare the land.

Where are all those volunteers

to hold back the fire? Look:

when the moon rises over the sea,

no matter where you stand,

the path of the light comes to you.

 

— by Philip Appleman from New and Selected Poems, 1956-1996             (University             of Arkansas Press)


God speaks to each of us as we are made

then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words, the numinous words,

we hear before we begin:

 

You, called forth by your senses,

Reach to the edge of your Longing:

Become my body.

 

Grow like a fire behind things

so their shadows spread out

and cover me completely

 

Let everything into you: Beauty and Terror.

Keep going: remember, no feeling is forever.

 

Don’t lose touch with me.

 

Nearby is the land

they call Life.

You will recognize it

by its intensity.

 

Give me your hand.

 

R. M. Rilke, Translated by Kim Rosen and Maria Krekeler


It Was Like This: You Were Happy

 

It was like this:

you were happy, then you were sad,

then happy again, then not.

 

It went on.

You were innocent or you were guilty.

Actions were taken, or not.

 

At times you spoke, at other times you were silent.

Mostly, it seems you were silent—what could you say?

 

Now it is almost over.

 

Like a lover, your life bends down and kisses your life.

 

It does this not in forgiveness—

between you, there is nothing to forgive—

but with the simple nod of a baker at the moment

he sees the bread is finished with transformation.

 

Eating, too, is a thing now only for others.

 

It doesn’t matter what they will make of you

or your days: they will be wrong,

they will miss the wrong woman, miss the wrong man,

all the stories they tell will be tales of their own invention.

 

Your story was this: you were happy, then you were sad, you slept,

you awakened.

 

Sometimes you ate roasted chestnuts, sometimes persimmons.

 

‘It Was Like This: You Were Happy’ by Jane Hirshfield.

Reproduced with kind permission of Bloodaxe Books.’

 

 

 

 


A Ritual to Read to Each Other

 

If you don’t know the kind of person I am

and I don’t know the kind of person you are

a pattern that others made may prevail in the world

and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

 

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,

a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break

sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood

storming out to play through the broken dyke.

 

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,

but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,

I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty

to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

 

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,

a remote important region in all who talk:

though we could fool each other, we should consider–

lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

 

For it is important that awake people be awake,

or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;

the signals we give–yes or no, or maybe–

should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

 

William Stafford

 

 

How will you know the difficulties of being human

if you are always flying off to blue perfection?

Where will you plant your grief seeds?

Workers need ground to scrape and hoe,

not the sky of unspecified desire—

 

Rumi, tr. Barks
Praying

 

It doesn’t have to be

the blue iris, it could be

weeds in a vacant lot, or a few

small stones; just

pay attention, then patch

 

a few words together and don’t try

to make them elaborate, this isn’t

a contest but the doorway

 

into thanks, and a silence in which

another voice may speak.

 

 

Mary Oliver

 

 

 

 

 

 

Logos

 

Why wonder about the loaves and the fishes?

If you say the right words, the wine expands.

If you say them with love

and the felt ferocity of that love,

the fish explode into many.

Imagine him, speaking,

and don’t worry about what is reality

and what is plain and what is mysterious.

If you were there it was all those things.

If you can imagine it, it is all those things.

Eat, drink, be happy.

Accept the miracle.

Accept, too, each spoken word,

spoken with love.

 

Mary Oliver


There is some kiss we want with

our whole lives, the touch of

 

spirit on the body. Seawater

begs the pearl to break its shell.

 

And the lily, how passionately

it needs some wild darling! At

 

night, I open the window and ask

the moon to come and press its

 

face against mine. Breath into

me. Close the language-door and

 

open the love-window. The moon

won’t use the door, only the window.

 

— Rumi/translated by Coleman Barks

 

 

 

Late Fragment

by Raymond Carver

 

And did you get what

you wanted from this life, even so?

I did.

And what did you want?

To call myself beloved, to feel myself

beloved on the earth.

 

Prayer

 

Every day I want to speak with you. And every day something more important

calls for my attention—the drugstore, the beauty products, the luggage

 

I need to buy for the trip.

Even now I can hardly sit here

 

among the falling piles of paper and clothing, the garbage trucks outside

already screeching and banging.

 

The mystics say you are as close as my own breath.

Why do I flee from you?

 

My days and nights pour through me like complaints

and I become a story I forgot to tell.

 

Help me. Even as I write these words I am planning

to rise from the chair as soon as I finish this sentence.

 

 

—Marie Howe, from The Kingdom of Ordinary Time (W. W. Norton and Co., 2008)

 

 

Eternity

 

A poem written three thousand years ago

 

about a man who walks among horses

grazing on a hill under the small stars

 

comes to life on a page in a book

and the woman reading the poem

in her kitchen filled with a gold metallic light

 

finds the experience of living in that moment

 

so vividly described as to make her feel known

to another, until the woman and the poet share

 

not only their souls but the exact silence

 

between each word. And every time the poem is read,

no matter her situation or her age,

 

this is more or less what happens.

 

—Jason Schinder

 

Annunciation

 

Even if I don’t see it again—nor ever feel it

I know it is—and that if once it hailed me

it ever does—

 

and so it is myself I want to turn in that direction

not as towards a place, but it was a tilting

within myself,

 

as one turns a mirror to flash the light to where

it isn’t—I was blinded like that—and swam

in what shone at me

 

only able to endure it by being no one and so

specifically myself I thought I’d die

from being loved like that.

 

—Marie Howe

 

Escape

 

When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego,

And we escape like squirrels turning in the cages of our personality

and get into the forests again,

we shall shiver with cold and fright

but things will happen to us

so that we don’t know ourselves.

 

Cool, unlying life will rush in,

and passion will make our bodies taught with power,

we shall stamp our feet with new power

and old things will fall down,

we shall laugh, and institutions will curl up like burnt paper.

 

D.H. Lawrence

 

 

 

 

 

Crying

by Galway Kinnell

 

Crying only a little bit

is no use. You must cry

until your pillow is soaked!

Then you can get up and laugh.

Then you can jump in the shower

and splash-splash-splash!

Then you can throw open your window

and, “Ha ha! ha ha!”

And if people say, “Hey

what’s going on up there?”

“Ha ha!” sing back, “Happiness

was hiding in the last tear!

I wept it! Ha ha!”

 

Call Me by My True Names
Thich Nhat Hanh

 

Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow —

even today I am still arriving.

 

Look deeply: every second I am arriving

to be a bud on a Spring branch,

to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,

learning to sing in my new nest,

to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,

to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

 

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,

to fear and to hope.

 

The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death

of all that is alive.

 

I am the mayfly metamorphosing

on the surface of the river.

And I am the bird

that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.

 

I am the frog swimming happily

in the clear water of a pond.

And I am the grass-snake

that silently feeds itself on the frog.

 

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,

my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.

And I am the arms merchant,

selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

 

I am the twelve-year-old  girl,

refugee on a small boat,

who throws herself into the ocean

after being raped by a sea pirate.

And I am the pirate,

my heart not yet capable

of seeing and loving.

 

I am a member of the politburo,

with plenty of power in my hands.

And I am the man who has to pay

his “debt of blood” to my people

dying slowly in a forced-labor camp.

 

My joy is like Spring, so warm

it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.

My pain is like a river of tears,

so vast it fills the four oceans.

 

Please call me by my true names,

so I can hear all my cries and my laughter at once,

so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

 

Please call me by my true names,

so I can wake up,

and so the door of my heart

can be left open,

the door of compassion.

 

 

 

Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things,

feel the future dissolve in a moment

like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand,

what you counted and carefully saved,

all this must go so you know

how desolate the landscape can be

between the regions of kindness.

How you ride and ride

thinking the bus will never stop,

the passengers eating maize and chicken

will stare out the window forever.

 

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,

you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho

lies dead by the side of the road.

You must see how this could be you,

how he too was someone

who journeyed through the night with plans

and the simple breath that kept him alive.

 

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow.

You must speak to it till your voice

catches the thread of all sorrows

and you see the size of the cloth.

 

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,

only kindness that ties your shoes

and sends you out into the day to mail letters and

purchase bread,

only kindness that raises its head

from the crowd of the world to say

It is I you have been looking for,

and then goes with you everywhere

like a shadow or a friend.

 

—Naomi Shihab Nye

 

Exercise

 

First forget what time it is

for an hour

do it regularly every day

 

then forget what day of the week it is

do this regularly for a week

then forget what country you are in

and practice doing it in company

for a week

then do them together

for a week

with as few breaks as possible

 

follow these by forgetting how to add

or to subtract

it makes no difference

you can change them around

after a week

both will help you later

to forget how to count

 

forget how to count

starting with your own age

starting with how to count backward

starting with even numbers

starting with Roman numerals

starting with fractions of Roman numerals

starting with the old calendar

going on to the old alphabet

going on to the alphabet

until everything is continuous again

 

go on to forgetting elements

starting with water

proceeding to earth

rising in fire

 

forget fire

 

– W.S. Merwin

 

Body of Mist by Kim Rosen

for Apela on her 61st birthday (after Navajo Chant)

 

Body of mist

Body of flaking ash

Body of the night wind

Body of mother blood

Body of seed pods

Body of father blood

Body of honeybees

Body of shattered stars

 

night’s breath is spinning me

the way through is the breathing night

the untold stories rise up to sound me

These empty hands I raise:

 

receive this prayer from me

receive these fighting thoughts

receive this cry from me

receive this broken song

 

in time, my thoughts become still

in time, I rest

in time, my ears awaken

in time, I hear my sound

 

with my sound rushing through me, may I walk

no longer torn may I walk

with all my feelings may I walk

on a path of sacred words may I walk

 

now, my feet remember  the dirt

my arms the sky

my breath the waves

my tongue the taste of rain

 

may it be beautiful before me

may it be beautiful behind me

may it be beautiful below me

may it be beautiful above me

 

may it be beautiful all around me

In beauty it is finished.

In beauty it is finished.

In beauty it is finished.

 

What the Living Do by Marie Howe

 

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably

fell down there.

And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes

have piled up

 

waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the everyday we

spoke of.

It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep headstrong blue, and the sunlight

pours through

 

the open living room windows because the heat’s on too high in here, and

I can’t turn it off.

For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street,

the bag breaking,

 

I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying

along those

wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my

wrist and sleeve,

 

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it. 
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called

    that yearning. 



 

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to

pass. We want

whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss – we want more and more and

then more of it.

 

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the 
    window glass,

say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing

so deep

 

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m 
    speechless:

 

I am living, I remember you.

 

Beannacht

(“Blessing”)

 

On the day when

the weight deadens

on your shoulders

and you stumble,

may the clay dance

to balance you.

 

And when your eyes

freeze behind

the grey window

and the ghost of loss

gets in to you,

may a flock of colours,

indigo, red, green,

and azure blue

come to awaken in you

a meadow of delight.

 

When the canvas frays

in the currach of thought

and a stain of ocean

blackens beneath you,

may there come across the waters

a path of yellow moonlight

to bring you safely home.

 

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,

may the clarity of light be yours,

may the fluency of the ocean be yours,

may the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow

wind work these words

of love around you,

an invisible cloak

to mind your life.

 

 

~ John O’Donohue ~

 

 

I exist as I am, that is enough,

If no other in the world be aware I sit content,

And if each and all be aware I sit content.

One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is myself,

And whether I come to my own today or in ten thousand or ten million years,

I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait.

 

—Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass


There Is No Going Back

 

No, no, there is no going back.

Less and less you are

that possibility you were.

More and more you have become

those lives and deaths

that have belonged to you.

You have become a sort of grave

containing much that was

and is no more in time, beloved

then, now, and always.

And so you have become a sort of tree

standing over a grave.

Now more than ever you can be

generous toward each day

that comes, young, to disappear

forever, and yet remain

unaging in the mind.

Every day you have less reason

not to give yourself away.

 

– Wendell Berry


 

If…

Rudyard Kipling

 

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

 

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

 

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;

If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

 

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,

And stoop and build ‘em up with wornout tools:

 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

 

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;

 

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

 

 

There’s a Girl Inside

 

There is a girl inside.

She is randy as a wolf.

She will not walk away and leave these bones

to an old woman.

 

She is a green tree in a forest of kindling.

She is a greeen girl in a used poet.

 

She has waited patient as a nun

for the second coming,

when she can break through gray hairs

into blossom

 

and her lovers will harvest

honey and thyme

and the woods will be wild

with the damn wonder of it.

 

~Lucille Clifton

 

Jump Rope Rhyme

 

Tat tvam asi:

thou art that –

that leaf, that tree,

that cow, that cat,

that cloud, that sky,

that moon, that sun,

that you, that I –

for all are one.

So here you are

and there you go

and who you were

you hardly know.

 

I think this I

is only me:

a drip, a drop,

but not the sea.

Yet when I wake

from all these dreams,

 

then, like the snake,

I’ll shed what seems:

this mask, this skin,

this ball and chain.

I will begin

to fall like rain.

 

Our heart’s last home:

the wind-whipped foam,

the sweet, deep sea.

Tat tvam asi.

 

            – Tom Hansen

 

Terra Incognita

D. H. Lawrence

 

 

There are vast realms of consciousness still undreamed of

vast ranges of experience, like the humming of unseen harps,

we know nothing of, within us.

Oh when man has escaped from the barbed-wire entanglement

of his own ideas and his own mechanical devices

there is a marvelous rich world of contact and sheer fluid beauty

and fearless face-to-face awareness of now-naked life

and me, and you, and other men and women

and grapes, and ghouls, and ghosts and green moonlight

ruddy-orange limbs stirring the limbo

of the unknown air, and eyes so soft

softer than the space between the stars,

and all things, and nothing, and being and not-being

alternately palpitant,

when at last we escape the barbed-wire enclosure

of Know Thyself, knowing we can never know,

we can but touch, and wonder, and ponder, and make our effort

and dangle in a last fastidious fine delight

as the fuchsia does, dangling her reckless drop

of purple after so much putting forth

and slow mounting marvel of a little tree.

 

Marsh Languages

 

The dark soft languages are being silenced:

Mothertongue Mothertongue Mothertongue

falling one by one back into the moon.

 

Language of marshes,

languages of the roots of rushes tangled

together in the ooze,

marrow cells twinning themselves

inside the warm core of the bone:

pathways of hidden light in the body fade and wink out.

 

The sibilants and gutturals,

the cave language, the half-light

forming at the back of the throat,

the mouth’s damp velvet moulding

the lost syllable for “I” that did not mean separate,

all are becoming sounds no longer

heard because no longer spoken,

and everthing that could once be said in them has

ceased to exist.

 

The languages of the dying suns

are themselves dying,

but even the word for this has been forgotten.

The mouth against skin, vivid and fading,

can no longer speak both cherishing and farewell.

It is now only a mouth, only skin.

There is no more longing.

 

Translation was never possible.

Instead there was always only

conquest, the influx

of the language of hard nouns,

the language of metal,

the language of either/or,

the one language that has eaten all the others.

 

 

 

copyright 1995 by Margaret Atwood

 

From: Poetry as Insurgent Art

 

I am signaling you through the flames.

 

The North Pole is not where it used to be.

 

Manifest Destiny is no longer manifest.

 

Civilization self-destructs. Nemesis is knocking at the door.

 

What are poets for in such an age?

What is the use of poetry?

 

Words can save you where guns can’t.

 

You are Whitman, you are Poe, you are Mark Twain, you are Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay; you are Neruda and Mayakovsky and Pasolini, you are an American or a non-American, you can conquer the conquerors with words.

 

You can never see or hear or feel too much. If you can stand it.

 

Be a wolf in the sheepfold of silence.

 

Poems are burning bows, poems are arrows of desire, poetry gives words to the heart.

 

I am signaling you through the flames.

 

Wake up! The world is on Fire.

 

Have a nice day.

 

 

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

 

 

This is It

and I am It

and You are It

and so is That

and He is It

and She is It

and It is It

and That is That.

 

O It is This

and It is Thus

and It is Them

and It is Us

and It is Now

and here It is

and here We are

so This is It.

 

~James Broughton

 

Finding a Teacher

 

In the woods I came on an old friend fishing

and I asked him a question

and he said Wait

fish were rising in the deep stream

but his line was not stirring

but I waited

it was a question about the sun

about my two eyes

my ears my mouth

my heart the earth with its four seasons

my feet where I was standing 
where I was going

it slipped through my hands

as though it were water

into the river

it flowed under the trees

it sank under hulls far away

and was gone without me

then where I stood night fell

I no longer knew what to ask

I could tell that his line had no hook

I understood that I was to stay and eat with him

~ W.S. Merwin ~

 

 

Again, again, even if we know the countryside of love,

and the tiny churchyard with its names mourning,

and the chasm, more and more silent, terrifying, into which

 

the others dropped: we walk out together anyway

beneath the ancient trees, we lie down again,

again, among the flowers, and face the sky.

 

– Rainer Maria Rilke, tr. Robert Bly


IF YOU KNEW

 

What if you knew you’d be the last

to touch someone?

If you were taking tickets, for example,

at the theater, tearing them,

giving back the ragged stubs,

you might take care to touch that palm,

brush your fingertips

along the life line’s crease.

 

When a man pulls his wheeled suitcase

too slowly through the airport, when

the car in front of me doesn’t signal,

when the clerk at the pharmacy

won’t say Thank you, I don’t remember

they’re going to die.

 

A friend told me she’d been with her aunt.

They’d just had lunch and the waiter,

a young gay man with plum black eyes,

joked as he served the coffee, kissed

her aunt’s powdered cheek when they left.

Then they walked half a block and her aunt

dropped dead on the sidewalk.

 

How close does the dragon’s spume

have to come? How wide does the crack

in heaven have to split?

What would people look like

if we could see them as they are,

soaked in honey, stung and swollen,

reckless, pinned against time?

 

 

Ellen Bass

from The Human Line

Copper Canyon Press, 2007

 

THE LAYERS

 

I have walked through many lives,

some of them my own,

and I am not who I was,

though some principle of being

abides, from which I struggle

not to stray.

When I look behind,

as I am compelled to look

before I can gather strength

to proceed on my journey,

I see the milestones dwindling

toward the horizon

and the slow fires trailing

from the abandoned camp-sites,

over which scavenger angels

wheel on heavy wings.

Oh, I have made myself a tribe

out of my true affections,

and my tribe is scattered!

How shall the heart be reconciled

to its feast of losses?

In a rising wind

the manic dust of my friends,

those who fell along the way,

bitterly stings my face.

Yet I turn, I turn,

exulting somewhat,

with my will intact to go

wherever I need to go,

and every stone on the road

precious to me.

In my darkest night,

when the moon was covered

and I roamed through wreckage,

a nimbus-clouded voice

directed me:

“Live in the layers,

not on the litter.”

Though I lack the art

to decipher it,

no doubt the next chapter

in my book of transformations

is already written.

I am not done with my changes.

 

Stanley Kunitz

 

The Song of Amergin

 

I am the wind that breathes on the sea,

I am the ocean wave,

I am the roar of the surf in the storm,

I am the ox of the seven tines.

 

I am the vulture on the rock,

I am the light through a dewdrop

I am the fairest of flowers

I am the wild boar for valour

 

I am the salmon in a pool

I am the lake in a plain

I am the mountain in a man

I am the essence of poetry

and the tip of the sword as it goes toward battle

 

I am the God who sets a fire in your head.

Who smoothes the sides of the mountain?

Who fashions the phases of the moon?

Who announces the place where the sunset falls?

 

Who called the cattle from the house of Tethra?

On whom do those cattle smile?

Enchantment of a sword?

Enchantment of the wind?

 

Version by Kim Rosen, based on several other translations including John O’Donahue, Paddy Busche and others

 

 

 

 

 

Day Dream

 

One day people will touch and talk perhaps easily,

And loving be natural as breathing and warm as sunlight,

And people will untie themselves, as string is unknotted,

Unfold and yawn and stretch and spread their fingers,

Unfurl, uncurl like seaweed returned to the sea,

And work will be simple and swift as a seagull flying,

And play will be casual and quiet as a seagull settling,

And the clocks will stop, and no one will wonder or care or notice,

And people will smile without reason, even in winter, even in the rain.

~A. S. J. Tessimond

 

 

 

Postscript

by Seamus Heaney

 

And some time make the time to drive out west

Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore

In September or October, when the wind

And the light are working off each other

So that the ocean on one side is wild

With foam and glitter, and inland among stones

The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit

By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,

Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,

Their fully grown, headstrong-looking heads

Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.

Useless to think you’ll park and capture it

More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,

A hurry through which known and strange things pass

As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways

And find the heart unlatched and blow it open.

 

When school and mosque and minaret

get torn down, then dervishes

can begin their community.

 

Not until faithfulness turns into betrayal

and betrayal into trust

can any human being

become part of the truth.

 

Not until a person dissolves,

can he or she know

what union is.

 

There is a descent into emptiness.

A lie will not change

the truth with just

talking about it.

 

While you are still yourself,

you’re blind to both worlds.

 

That ego-drunkenness

will not let you see.

Only when you are cleansed of both,

will you cut the deep roots

of fear and anger.

 

 

 

~Rumi (Translated by Coleman Barks from The Soul of Rumi)

 

Relax by Ellen Bass

 

Bad things are going to happen.

Your tomatoes will grow a fungus

and your cat will get run over.

Someone will leave the bag with the ice cream

melting in the car and throw

your blue cashmere sweater in the drier.

Your husband will sleep

with a girl your daughter’s age, her breasts spilling

out of her blouse. Or your wife

will remember she’s a lesbian

and leave you for the woman next door. The other cat –

the one you never really liked — will contract a disease

that requires you to pry open its feverish mouth

every four hours for a month.

Your parents will die.

No matter how many vitamins you take,

how much Pilates, you’ll lose your keys,

your hair and your memory. If your daughter

doesn’t plug her heart

into every live socket she passes,

you’ll come home to find your son has emptied

your refrigerator, dragged it to the curb,

and called the used appliance store for a pick up — drug money.

There’s a Buddhist story of a woman chased by a tiger.

When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine

and climbs half way down. But there’s also a tiger below.

And two mice — one white, one black — scurry out

and begin to gnaw at the vine. At this point

she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.

She looks up, down, at the mice.

Then she eats the strawberry.

So here’s the view, the breeze, the pulse

in your throat. Your wallet will be stolen, you’ll get fat,

slip on the bathroom tiles of a foreign hotel

and crack your hip. You’ll be lonely.

Oh taste how sweet and tart

the red juice is, how the tiny seeds

crunch between your teeth.

 

Sweetness

 

Just when it has seemed I couldn’t bear one more friend

waking with a tumor, one more maniac

 

with a perfect reason, often a sweetness has come

and changed nothing in the world

 

except the way I stumbled through it, for a while lost

in the ignorance of loving

 

someone or something, the world shrunk

to mouth-size,

hand-size, and never seeming small.

 

I acknowledge there is no sweetness

that doesn’t leave a stain,

no sweetness that’s ever sufficiently sweet ….

 

Tonight a friend called to say his lover

was killed in a car

he was driving. His voice was low

 

and guttural, he repeated what he needed

to repeat, and I repeated

the one or two words we have for such grief

 

until we were speaking only in tones.

Often a sweetness comes

as if on loan, stays just long enough

 

to make sense of what it means to be alive,

then returns to its dark

source. As for me, I don’t care

 

where it’s been, or what bitter road

it’s traveled

to come so far, to taste so good.

 

 

Stephen Dunn

 

Pilgrim

 

I am the war and I am the people

and I am the tyrant who fears unity

 

I am the weapon and I am the victim

and I am the masses who long to be free

 

CHORUS: But if I go to war now

I know I’ll never come home

If I fight now,

I’ll never come home.

 

 

I am the soldier marching proud into battle

and I am the mother left weeping alone

 

I am the wounded and I am the hero

and I am the millions who never came home.

 

CHORUS

 

I am the body of Earth that they fight for

ravaged and torn when the battle is won

And I am a child naked and tear-stained

Desperately lost when the fighting is done

 

CHORUS

 

I was the last soldier to die In a field of death

‘Midst a thousand bodies ’twas I who took the last breath

 

I saw a thousand spirits awake

I saw a thousand spirits rise up

I saw a thousand spirits come Home…

 

So if I go to war now I know I’ll only come Home

If I fight now I’ll only come Home

 

I am the pilgrim that the angels behold

and I am the heart watching lifetimes unfold

I am the dying and I am the living

For I am a soul who’s a million years old

 

And if I go to war now I know I’ll only come home

If I fight now I’ll only come home.

I’ll always come home.

~Kim Rosen, 1989

 

Ah, not to be cut off,

not through the slightest partition

shut out from the law of the stars.

The inner — what is it?

if not intensified sky,

hurled through with birds and deep

with the winds of homecoming.

 

 

~Rilke, translated by Stephen Mitchell

 

 

Call You Grass 

by Leonard Cohen

 

Call you grass

call you wind-bent slender grass

say you are full of grace

and grown by the river

Say what country

say what river

say what colour

Tell where is the clock

in the rose’s face

tell where are the speared hands

bending the fences over

Call you loving in whatever room

in orchards on seas

knowing not whom you leave

whom you pass

who reaches after

Call you falling before a strange ark

beads and wedding band asunder

knowing not who watches and grieves

behind his glory wings

Claim you now

for blood for kingdom for love

Tell the collapsed belly of Mary

tell the limbs hanging so sadly over

Claim you

Claim you in my father’s name

Call you grass

 

In this passing moment

by Hogen Bays

 

“In the presence of Sangha, in the light of Dharma,

in oneness with Buddha — may my path

to complete enlightenment benefit everyone!”

 

In this passing moment karma ripens

and all things come to be.

I vow to choose what is:

If there is cost, I choose to pay.

If there is need, I choose to give.

If there is pain, I choose to feel.

If there is sorrow, I choose to grieve.

When burning — I choose heat.

When calm — I choose peace.

When starving — I choose hunger.

When happy — I choose joy.

Whom I encounter, I choose to meet.

What I shoulder, I choose to bear.

When it is my death, I choose to die.

Where this takes me, I choose to go.

Being with what is — I respond to what is.

 

This life is as real as a dream;

the one who knows it can not be found;

and, truth is not a thing — Therefore I vow

to choose THIS dharma entrance gate!

May all Buddhas and Wise Ones

help me live this vow.

 

To Posterity

 

by Bertold Brecht

(translated from German by H. R. Hays)

 

1.

Indeed I live in the dark ages!

A guileless word is an absurdity. A smooth forehead betokens

A hard heart. He who laughs

Has not yet heard

The terrible tidings.

Ah, what an age it is

When to speak of trees is almost a crime

For it is a kind of silence about injustice!

And he who walks calmly across the street,

Is he not out of reach of his friends

In trouble?

It is true: I earn my living

But, believe me, it is only an accident.

Nothing that I do entitles me to eat my fill.

By chance I was spared. (If my luck leaves me

I am lost.)

They tell me: eat and drink. Be glad you have it!

But how can I eat and drink

When my food is snatched from the hungry

And my glass of water belongs to the thirsty?

And yet I eat and drink.

I would gladly be wise.

The old books tell us what wisdom is:

Avoid the strife of the world

Live out your little time

Fearing no one

Using no violence

Returning good for evil —

Not fulfillment of desire but forgetfulness

Passes for wisdom.

I can do none of this:

Indeed I live in the dark ages!

 

2.

I came to the cities in a time of disorder

When hunger ruled.

I came among men in a time of uprising

And I revolted with them.

So the time passed away

Which on earth was given me.

I ate my food between massacres.

The shadow of murder lay upon my sleep.

And when I loved, I loved with indifference.

I looked upon nature with impatience.

So the time passed away

Which on earth was given me.

In my time streets led to the quicksand.

Speech betrayed me to the slaughterer.

There was little I could do. But without me

The rulers would have been more secure. This was my hope.

So the time passed away

Which on earth was given me.

 

3.

You, who shall emerge from the flood

In which we are sinking,

Think —

When you speak of our weaknesses,

Also of the dark time

That brought them forth.

For we went,changing our country more often than our shoes.

In the class war, despairing

When there was only injustice and no resistance.

For we knew only too well:

Even the hatred of squalor

Makes the brow grow stern.

Even anger against injustice

Makes the voice grow harsh. Alas, we

Who wished to lay the foundations of kindness

Could not ourselves be kind.

But you, when at last it comes to pass

That man can help his fellow man,

Do no judge us

Too harshly.

 

“If It Be Your Will” by Leonard Cohen

 

If it be your will

That I speak no more

And my voice be still

As it was before

I will speak no more

I shall abide until

I am spoken for

If it be your will

If it be your will

That a voice be true

From this broken hill

I will sing to you

From this broken hill

All your praises they shall ring

If it be your will

To let me sing

From this broken hill

All your praises they shall ring

If it be your will

To let me sing

 

If it be your will

If there is a choice

Let the rivers fill

Let the hills rejoice

Let your mercy spill

On all these burning hearts in hell

If it be your will

To make us well

 

And draw us near

And bind us tight

All your children here

In their rags of light

In our rags of light

All dressed to kill

And end this night

If it be your will

If it be your will.

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