Tuesday, February 28, 2012

a community of protozoa


My friend, this body is made of bone and excited protozoa and it is with my body that I love the fields. How do I know what I feel but what the body tells me? Erasmus thinking in the snow, translators of Virgil who burn up the whole room, the man in furs reading the Arabic astrologer falls off his three-legged stool in astonishment, this is the body, so beautifully carved inside, with the curves of the inner ear, and the husk so rough, knuckle-brown.

As we walk, we enter the fields of other bodies, and every smell we take in the communities of protozoa see, and a being inside leaps up toward it, as a horse rears at the starting gate. When we come near each other, we are drawn down into the sweetest pools of slowly circling smells . . . slowly circling energies . . . The protozoa know there are odors the shape of oranges, of tornadoes, of octopses . . .

The sunlight lay itself down before every protozoa, 
the night opens itself out behind it, 
and inside its own energy it lives!

So the space between two people diminishes, it grows less and less, no one to weep, they merge at last. The sound that pours from the fingertips awakens clouds of cells far inside the body, and beings unknown to us start out in a pilgrimage to their Saviour, to their holy place. Their holy place is a small black stone, that they remember from Protozoic times, when it was rolled away from a door . . . and it was after that they found their friends, who helped them to digest the hard grains of this world . . . The cloud of cells awakens, intensifies, swarms . . . the beings dance inside beams of sunlight so thin we cannot see them . . . to them each ray is a vast palace, with thousands of rooms. From the dance of the cells praise sentences rise to the voice of the man praying and singing alone in his room. He lets his arms climb above his head, and says, “Now do you still say cannot choose the road?”

~ Robert Bly
(for Lewis Thomas, and his The Lives of the Cell)
taken here from The News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness 
photo: red amoeba

the story of moths

One night, moths, who were driven by desire,
Met together to discuss their obsession
To see if it was one and the same.  They enquired:
'How can we know?'  Truth was their possession,
They thought, and sent forth one of their number to bring
Any information he could to feed their yearning.
He fluttered to and fro between the curtains of night
Till he spied a candle spluttering in a castle tower,
Then he reported back the wonder he saw on his flight.
But one amongst his friends whose knowledge gave him power
Said this messenger understood nothing at all about the candle.
So another moth was sent, he saw and touched the flame
With the tip of his wing, but his report had no handle
On the truth since the heat drove him off, he had no claim.
A third went forth, was so intoxicated with love 
He threw himself on the fire and was consumed.
The wise moth seeing how the flame fitted like a glove
The moth's glowing body, said when he resumed
His place amongst his peers: 'That moth now knows
What he can never utter nor any language ever disclose.'

~ Farid ud-Din Attar
from The Conference of the Birds

Monday, February 27, 2012

axioms for wildness

Alive to the thrill
Of the wild.

Meet the dawn
On a mountain.

Wash you face
In the morning dew.

Feel the favor of the earth.

Go out naked in the wind,
Your skin
Almost Aeolian.

With the music inside,
Dance like there is no outside.

Become subtle enough
To hear a tree breathe.

Sleep by the ocean,
Letting yourself unfurl
Like the reeds that swirl
Gradually on the sea floor.

Try to watch a painting from within:
How it holds what it never shows.

The mystery of your face,
Showing what you never see.

See your imagination dawn
Around the rim of your world.

Feel the seamless silk of the ocean
Worm you in ancient buoyancy.

Feel the wild imprint of surprise
When you are taken in by your lover's eyes.

Succumb to warmth in the heart
Where divine fire glows.

~ John O'Donohue
from To Bless the space Between Us

Friday, February 24, 2012

complete unknowing

Happy Birthday, Jane

Awareness and self-consciousness are delicate matters. Trying to examine more deeply what poems are and how they work has informed my life and brought me great joy. I don't think that attentiveness ever diminishes experience. There are times, however, when you don't want to be self-conscious. One is while writing the first draft of a new poem. At that stage too much consciousness is limiting and therefore damaging. It can wall off the permeable, the mysterious, everything you don't already know. When I write, I don't know what is going to emerge. I begin in a condition of complete unknowing, an utter nakedness of concept or goal. A word appears, another word appears, an image. It is a moving into mystery. Everything I am and know and have lived goes into a poem. I hope I'll never be governed by theoretical knowledge when I set out to write. Poems are born in part from the history and culture of other poems, but in writing I hope to learn a new thing, something fresh about what's going on in that moment, in my own life and in the world. Craft consciousness is essential to the finished poem, but comes later.

~ Jane Hirshfield
 from a 1997 Atlantic Monthly interview

straw dogs

Heaven and Earth are impartial;
they treat all of creation as straw dogs.
The Master doesn't take sides;
she treats everyone like a straw dog.

The space between Heaven and Earth is like a bellows;
it is empty, yet has not lost its power.
The more it is used, the more it produces;
the more you talk of it, the less you comprehend.

It is better not to speak of things you do not understand.

~ Lao Tzu
from the Tao Te Ching
translation by j.h.mcdonald
art by van gogh

in the flow

The man of earth abides in the flow.
The ground moves beneath him, and he knows
it moves.  His house is his vessel, afloat
only for a while.  He moves, willing,
through a thousand phases of the sun,
changing as the day changes, and the year.
His mind is like the dirt, lightened
by bloom, weighted by rain.


The fragment of the earth
that is now me is only on its way 
through me.  It is on its way 
from having been a tree,
a school of fish, a terrapin,
a flock of birds.  It will pass
through all those forms again.

~ Wendell Berry
from Farming Poems

Thursday, February 23, 2012

how surely gravity's law (II, 16)

How surely gravity's law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of even the strongest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.

Each thing -
each stone, blossom, child -
is held in place.
Only we, in our arrogance,
push out beyond what we belong to
for some empty freedom.

If we surrendered
to earth's intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.

Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.

So, like children, we begin again
to learn from the things,
because they are in God's heart;
they have never left him.

This is what the things can teach us:
to fall,
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God
translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

death and deepening

When the body is in the grave, dead and buried, or when there is a death of ego and its perspectives during one's lifetime, then a deeper spirit or soul can come to be.  A deepening of historical being occurs by way of an under-the-worldly point of view.  The descent into the underworld of souls (psychai, animae) is a descent into a soul-perspective or depth-perspective concerning history.  One might say that the descent into hell is actually the ascent of soul.  It brings a sense of soul into ascendancy in life, and it gives the human ego a perspective from a soulful point of view.  The descent is itself a resurrection.

In-fero means  "to carry inward," "to gather in."  Therefore... the descensus may be read as referring, not to some actual physical place, but rather to a "journey to the interior."  The descensus is ad inferos.  It is a "carrying inward."  Hell is a descensus, and encountering it is a "deepening." 

Tradition imagines the descent into hell as a descent into "darkness," or into a "hole," or into a "pit," or into "invisibility" (Hades' name means "invisible"), then no matter how a person may feel about such experiences of being in the "dark," in a "hole," in the "pits," or "invisible" to others, that person is encouraged to search such deep moments for their disclosures and expressions of profound "soul."

~ David Leroy Miller
from Hells and Holy Ghosts: 
A Theopoetics of Christian Belief

words do not come

words do not come
there is no need for profound utterances or
deep truths
here is an ordinary evening
why spoil it with dramatic overstatement

the silence amidst the noise
the gem at the core 
of every experience
is polished by simple attention
into shining magnificence

~ Nirmala
from Gifts with no Giver: A Love affair with Truth

the tower of spirit

The spirit has an impregnable tower
Which no danger can disturb
As long as the tower is guarded
By the invisible Protector
Who acts unconsciously, and whose actions
Go astray when they become deliberate,
Reflexive, and intentional.

The unconsciousness
And entire sincerity of Tao
Are disturbed by any effort
At self-conscious demonstration.
All such demonstrations
Are lies.

When one displays himself
In this ambiguous way
The world outside storms in 
And imprisons him.

He is no longer protected 
By the sincerity of Tao.
Each now act
Is a new failure.

If his acts are done in public, 
In broad daylight,
He will be punished by men.
If they are done in private
And in secret,
They will be punished
By spirits.

Let each one understand 
The meaning of sincerity
And guard against display!

He will be at peace
With men and spirits
And will act rightly, unseen,
In his own solitude,
In the tower of his spirit.

~ Chuang Tzu
translation by Thomas Merton
sketch by Thomas Merton

the frontiers of language

Where can I find a man who has forgotten words? 
He is the one I would like to talk to. 

~ Chuang Tzu

But before we come to that which is unspeakable and unthinkable, 
the spirit hovers on the frontiers of language, 
wondering whether or not to stay on its own side of the border, 
in order to have something to bring back to other men. 
This is the test of those who wish to cross the frontier. 
If they are not ready to leave their own ideas and their own words behind them, 
they cannot travel further. 

~ Thomas Merton
from No Man is an Island

The unconsciousness
And entire sincerity of Tao
Are disturbed by any effort
At self-conscious demonstration. 

~ Chuang Tzu

In The Way of Chuang Tzu, Merton is communicating his own joy from his spirit’s tower. He has found a new friend who has taught him the irony of words as well as the value of irony. Like the best of Merton’s words, The Way of Chuang Tzu points to an experience of contemplation, while it reverently and wisely backs away from providing or insisting upon such an experience. Just as Merton kicks away Chuang Tzu like a ladder after experiencing the unknowing Chuang Tzu describes, Merton invites us to climb his own words and to forget them as well. 

~ commentary from slow reads

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

my own being is often hidden

The deep secrecy of my own being is often hidden from me by my own estimate of what I am. 
My idea of what I am is falsified by my admiration for what I do. 

And my illusions about myself are bred by contagion from the illusions of other men. 
We all seek to imitate one another’s imagined greatness.
If I do not know who I am, it is because 
I think I am the sort of person everyone around me wants to be. 

Perhaps I have never asked myself whether I really wanted to become 
what everybody else seems to want to become. 
Perhaps if I only realized that I do not admire what everyone seems to admire, 
I would really begin to live after all. 
I would be liberated from the painful duty of saying what I really do not think 
and of acting in a way that betrays God’s truth and the integrity of my own soul.

~ Thomas Merton
 from No Man is an Island


Gods are everywhere:
war between Koshi and Izumo
tribes still rages.

The all of All, the One
ends distinctions.

The three thousand worlds
are in that plum blossom.
The smell is God.

~ Shinkichi Takahashi
translation by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto
from  Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter
art by Zheng Faxiang


The universe is forever falling apart --
No need to push the button,
It collapses at a finger's touch:
Why, it barely hangs on the tail of a sparrow's eye.

The universe is so much eye secretion,
Hordes leap from the tips
Of your nostril hairs. Lift your right hand:
It's in your palm. There's room enough
On the sparrow's eyelash for the whole.

A paltry thing, the universe:
Here is all the strength, here the greatest strength.
You and the sparrow are one
And, should he wish, he can crush you.
The universe trembles before him.

~ Shinkichi Takahashi
translation by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto
with thanks to poetry chaikhana

Anouar Brahem

أنــور ابـراهــيــم Anouar Brahem (oud) • Klaus Gesing (bass clarinet) • Björn Meyer (bass) • Khaled Yassine (darbouka, bendir)

with thanks to Chemin faisant

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Your mind is an instrument, a tool. 
It is there to be used for a specific task, 
and when the task is completed, you lay it down. 

As it is, I would say about 80 to 90 percent 
of most people's thinking is not only repetitive and useless, 
but because of its dysfunctional and often negative nature, 
much of it is also harmful.
Observe your mind and you will find this to be true. 
It causes a serious leakage of vital energy.

~ Eckhart Tolle
art by van gogh

Monday, February 20, 2012

spanish guitar

Vlatko Stefanovski & Miroslav Tadic - Jovano Jovanke
Live in Zagreb 2007

Sunday, February 19, 2012

the greek ships

When the water holes go, and the fish flop about
In the mud, they can moisten each other faintly,
But it's best if they lose themselves in the river.

You know how many Greek ships went down
With their cargoes of wine.  If we can't get
To port, perhaps it's best to head for the bottom.

I've heard that the mourning dove never says
What she means.  Those of us who make up poems
Have agreed not to say what the pain is.

Eliot wrote his poems for years standing under
A bare light-bulb.  He knew he was a murderer,
And he accepted his punishment at birth.

The sitar player is searching: now in the back yard,
Now in the old dishes left behind on the table,
Now for the suffering on the underside of a leaf.

Go ahead, throw your good name into the water.
All those who have ruined their lives for love
Are calling to us from a hundred sunken ships.

~ Robert Bly
from My Sentence was a Thousand Years of Joy

Saturday, February 18, 2012

the need to win

When the archer is shooting for nothing
He has all his skill.
If he shoots for a brass buckle
He is already nervous.
If he shoots for a prize of gold
He goes blind
Or see two targets -
He is out of his mind!
His skill has not changed.  But the prize
Divides him.  He cares.
He thinks more of winning
Than of shooting -
And the need to win 
Drains him of power.

~ Chuang Tzu
translation by Thomas Merton
sculpture by Antoine Bourdelle

a voice of love

Every second a voice of love 
comes from every side. 
Who needs to go sightseeing? 

We came from a majesty, 
and we go back there.

~ Rumi
translation by Coleman Barks
from Rumi - Bridge to the Soul

the dean of western writers

Wallace Stegner was born on February 18, 1909 in Lake Mills, Iowa.
He was an American historian,novelist, short story writer, and environmentalist,
often called "The Dean of Western Writers". He won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1972.

"In fiction I think we should have no agenda but to tell the truth."

"'You don't go there to find something,' he once said about wilderness, 'you go there to disappear.'"

Wallace Stegner wrote about the need to preserve the West, and he also fought for it. He became involved with the conservation movement in the 1950's while fighting the construction of dam on the Green River at Dinosaur National Monument. In 1960 he wrote his famous Wilderness Letter on the importance of federal protection of wild places. This letter was used to introduce the bill that established the National Wilderness Preservation System in 1964. 

"Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed; if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books and plastic cigarette cases; if we drive the few remaining members of the wild species into zoos or to extinction; if we pollute the last clear air and dirty the last clean streams and push our paved roads through the last of the silence, so that never again will Americans be free in their own country from the noise, the exhausts, the stinks of human and automotive waste. And so that never again can we have the chance to see ourselves single, separate, vertical and individual in the world, part of the environment of trees and rocks and soil, brother to the other animals, part of the natural world and competent to belong in it. Without any remaining wilderness we are committed wholly, without chance for even momentary reflection and rest, to a headlong drive into our technological termite-life, the Brave New World of a completely man-controlled environment. We need wilderness preserved--as much of it as is still left, and as many kinds--because it was the challenge against which our character as a people was formed. The reminder and the reassurance that it is still there is good for our spiritual health even if we never once in ten years set foot in it. It is good for us when we are young, because of the incomparable sanity it can bring briefly, as vacation and rest, into our insane lives. It is important to us when we are old simply because it is there--important, that is, simply as an idea."

In 1964 Stegner started the Creative Writing Program at Stanford University, where he served on the faculty until 1971. He also taught at University of Utah, University of Wisconsin, and Harvard University. His students include: Wendell Berry, Larry McMurtry, Thomas McGuane, Ernest Gaines, John Daniel, Raymond Carver, Edward Abbey, and Poet Laureate of the United States, Robert Haas.

He wrote in The Sound of Mountain Water, "We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be…a part of the geography of hope,"

Mr. Stegner died at 84, on April 13, 1993 following an auto accident in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He left a legacy as writer, professor, and environmentalist that once moved Edward Abbey to pronounce him "the only living American writer worthy of the Nobel." Indeed, Stegner was one of the American West's preeminent historians and arguably the most important of its novelists.

commentary by
James Hepworth and

Thursday, February 16, 2012


虚空(高画質版) koku (High Quality)
眞玉 和司 matama kazushi, 尺八 shakuhachi
2008/02/11 四季の音50回 shikino-ne 50

snowed in again

Snow has been falling for three days.  The horses stay in the barn.   At four I leave the house, sinking to my waist in snow, and push open the door of my writing shack.  Snow falls in.  At the desk there is a plant in blossom.

The plant faces the window where snow sweeps past at forty miles an hour.  So the snow and the flowers are a little like each other.  In both there is the same receiving, the longing to circle slowly upward or sink down toward roots.  Perhaps the snow and the orangey blossoms are both the same flow, that starts out close to the soil, close to the floor, and needs no commandments, no civilizations, no drawing room lifted on the labor of the claw hammer, but is at home where one or two are present.

The two people sit quietly near each other.  In the storm, millions of years come close behind us.  Nothing is lost, nothing is rejected.  The body is ready to sing all night, and be entered by whatever wishes to enter the human body singing.

~ Robert Bly
from Reaching out to the World
New and Selected Prose Poems
art by Daoji, c.1695, Qing dynasty


I looked into my brother’s eye
and saw a tree there waving. 
I passed beyond a garden gate 
and heard a mountain calling. 
I walked a long a stony path 
and tasted waves a–spraying. 
I looked into my brother’s eye 
and felt a fire – burning. 

Deep beyond the black, black sky, 
I looked into my brother’s eyes 
and saw myself there waving.

~ John Lavan
more at Real Poems

Elizabeth Peratrovich Day

Civil Rights Leader
Elizabeth Peratrovich


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is remembered as the great civil rights movement leader during the 1960s. Elizabeth Jean Wanamaker Peratrovich is remembered as Alaska's great equal rights campaign leader for Alaska Natives in the 1940s. Elizabeth's moving and dramatic presentation before the Alaska Territorial Legislature on February 8, 1945, was responsible for changing the views of biased senators on the "Equal Rights" bill. The bill passed and immediately became law, thus beginning a new era in Alaska's racial relations.

Forty-seven years ago, Elizabeth Peratrovich championed the cause of civil rights in Alaska and silenced the voices of prejudice and discrimination.

It was February, 1945. The Territorial Senate met as a Committee of the Whole to discuss the equal rights issue and a bill prohibiting racial discrimination in Alaska.

The bill was assailed as a "lawyer's dream" which would create hard feelings between Natives and whites. Many senators stood in turn to speak against equal rights. Their arguments are, by now, familiar ones in this country.

-- They said the bill would aggravate the already hard feelings between Natives and whites.

-- They said the bill was unnecessary -- that Natives had made great progress in the 10 centuries since contact with white civilization.

-- They said the real answer was in the separation of the races.

Those are the ideas we have come to recognize in the last 20 years as the public face of private injustice. The opponents of racial equality have always refused to recognize the problem. Refused to recognize the injury done. Refused to recognize the jobs lost, the poverty incurred, the blows to self-esteem sustained every day by those who have done nothing to merit such injury.

Those voices of prejudice were reduced to a whisper, 47 years ago, by a woman who spoke from the heart.

According to the legislative custom of the time, an opportunity was offered to anyone present who wished to speak on the bill. Elizabeth Peratrovich was the final speaker on that day in 1945. After the long speeches and logical arguments were over, Elizabeth rose to tell the truth about prejudice.

"I would not have expected," she said "that I, who am barely out of savagery, would have to remind gentlemen with five thousand years of recorded civilization behind them of our Bill of Rights."

She talked about herself, her friends, her children, and the cruel treatment that consigned Alaska Natives to a second class existence.

She described to the Senate what it means to be unable to buy a house in a decent neighborhood because Natives aren't allowed to live there.

She described how children feel when they are refused entrance into movie theaters, or see signs in shop windows that read "No dogs or Natives allowed."

She closed her testimony with a biting condemnation of the "Super race" attitude responsible for such cruelty. Following her speech, there was a wild burst of applause from the Gallery, and the Senate proceeded to pass the Alaska Civil Rights Act by a vote of 11–5.

On that day in 1945, Elizabeth Peratrovich represented her people as the Grand President of the Alaska Native Sisterhood. She was a champion of Alaska Natives and of all people who suffered from discrimination.

In the years since Alaska statehood, we have had too few women and minorities elected to office. But their presence has been felt, just as Elizabeth Peratrovich's presence was felt that day in 1945. In naming Gallery B for Elizabeth, we honor her today for her vision, her wisdom, and her courage in speaking out for what she believed to be right. She symbolizes the role the gallery plays in the legislature and the importance of public opinion in the legislative process. She reminds us that a single person, speaking from the heart, can affect the future of all.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


The one close to me now,
even my own body -
these too
will soon become clouds,
floating in different directions.

~ Izumi Shikibu
from The Ink Dark Moon
translations by Jane Hirshfield and Mariko Aratani

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

the inner law

He whose law is within himself
Walks in hiddenness.
His acts are not influenced
By approval or disapproval.
He whose law is outside himself
Directs his will to what is 
Beyond his control
And seeks
To extend his power
Over objects.

He who walks in hiddenness
Has light to guide him
In all his acts.
He who seeks to extend his control
Is nothing but an operator.
While he thinks he is 
Surpassing others,
Others see him merely
Straining, stretching,
To stand on tiptoe.

When he tries to extend his power
Over objects,
Those objects gain control
Of him.

He who is controlled by objects
Loses possession of his inner self:
If he no longer values himself,
How can he value others?
If he no longer values others,
He is abandoned.
He has nothing left!

There is no deadlier weapon than the will!
The sharpest sword
Is not equal to it!
There is no robber so dangerous
As Nature (Yang and Yin).
Yet it is not nature
That does the damage:
It is man's own will!

~ Chuang Tzu
translation by Thomas Merton