Monday, December 29, 2014
A child unborn, the coming year
Grows big within us, dangerous,
And yet we hunger as we fear
For its increase: the blunted bud
To free the leaf to have its day,
The unborn to be born. The ones
Who are to come are on their way,
And though we stand in mortal good
Among our dead, we turn in doom
In joy to welcome them, stirred by
That Ghost who stirs in seed and tomb,
Who brings the stones to parenthood.
~ Wendell Berry
from This Day - Collected and New Sabbath Poems
In a crease of the hill
under the light,
out of the wind,
as warmth, bloom, and song
return, lady, I think of you,
and myself with you.
What are we but forms
light that brings us
warmth and song from time
to time? Lip and flower,
hand and leaf, tongue
and song, what are we but welcomers
of that ancient joy, always
coming, always passing?
out of old time, leaves
folded down around
the stems, as if for flight,
flower bud folded in
unfolding leaves, what
are we but hosts
of times, of all
the Sabbath morning shows,
the light that finds it good.
~ Wendell Berry
from This Day - Collected and New Sabbath Poems
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
English and German troops together, Christmas 1914
It was on this day in 1914 that the last known Christmas truce occurred along the Western Front during World War I. In the week leading up to Christmas, soldiers all over the battlefields had been decorating their trenches with candles and makeshift trimmings when groups of German and British soldiers began shouting seasonal greetings and singing songs to each other. On occasion, a soldier or two would even cross the battlefield to take gifts to the enemy. Then, on Christmas Eve, the men of the Western Front put the war on hold and many soldiers from both sides left their trenches to meet in No Man's Land, where they mingled and exchanged tobacco, chocolate, and sometimes even the buttons from their own uniforms as souvenirs. They played games of football, sang carols, and buried fallen comrades together as the unofficial truce lasted through the night.
The most remarkable group is the group of soldiers who, after having met the enemy between the trenches, started thinking about all they had read and heard about them.
For many, the former hatred was vanished. They now recognized the soldiers from the other side of the trenches as human as themselves. They were not mercenaries, no inhuman monsters eager for war, just humans. The stereotypes they knew from the time before the war and before they met their enemies did not fit after meeting their enemies. Not all Germans acted like it was described in the newspaper and were not as arrogant as the German Kaiser. On the other hand not all the English soldiers were mercenaries fighting for material well-being.
These soldiers started to reflect their own experiences and started to compare their experiences with what they knew before about their enemies. The conclusion they made was that their prefabricated picture and the experiences they gained did not fit together. It was hard for the soldiers, faced with the reality of the war, to keep the black and white picture. The reality they saw was a grey picture with blurry boundaries.
with thanks to the heritage of the great war
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Monday, December 22, 2014
one of the leading poets of the San Francisco Renaissance, and he was considered a sort of father of the Beat movement, although he responded to this label by saying: "An entomologist is not a bug." He said of San Francisco "It is the only city in the United States which was not settled overland by the westward-spreading puritan tradition, or by the Walter Scott, fake-cavalier tradition of the South. It had been settled, mostly, in spite of all the romances of the overland migration, by gamblers, prostitutes, rascals and fortune seekers who came across the Isthmus and around the Horn. They had their faults, but they were not influenced by Cotton Mather."
he loved California summer in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and almost every summer after that for the next 40 years. He said: "I have always felt I was most myself in the mountains. There I have done the bulk of what is called my creative work. At least it is in the mountains that I write most of my poetry. Life in the city in the winter seems too full of distractions and busy work. Who said poetry was emotion recollected in tranquility? I don't know about others, but I find most tranquility camped by a mountain lake at timber line.
Lying under the stars,
In the summer night,
Late while the autumn
Constellations climb the sky,
As the Cluster of Hercules
Falls down the west
I put the telescope by
And watch Deneb
Move towards the zenith
My body is asleep. Only
My eyes and brain are awake.
The stars stand around me
Like gold eyes. I can no longer
Tell where I begin and leave off.
The faint breeze in the dark pines,
And the invisible grass,
The tipping earth, the swarming stars
Have an eye that sees itself.
~ Kenneth Rexroth
The Earth will be going on a long time
Before it finally freezes;
Men will be on it; they will take names,
Give their deeds reasons.
We will be here only
As chemical constituents—
A small franchise indeed.
Right now we have lives,
Corpuscles, Ambitions, Caresses,
Like everybody had once—
Here at the year's end, at the feast
Of birth, let us bring to each other
The gifts brought once west through deserts—
The precious metal of our mingled hair,
The frankincense of enraptured arms and legs,
The myrrh of desperate, invincible kisses—
Let us celebrate the daily
Recurrent nativity of love,
The endless epiphany of our fluent selves,
While the earth rolls away under us
Into unknown snows and summers,
Into untraveled spaces of the stars.
~ Kenneth Rexroth
from Sacramental Acts
from Sacramental Acts
Saturday, December 20, 2014
There is a brokenness out of which comes the unbroken,
a shatteredness out of which blooms the unshatterable.
There is a sorrow beyond grief which leads to joy
and a fragility out of whose depths emerges strength.
There is a hollow space too vast for words
through which we pass with each loss,
out of whose darkness we are sanctioned into being.
There is a cry deeper than all sound
whose serrated edges cut the heart as we break open
to the place inside which is unbreakable and whole,
while learning to sing.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
The country seems bigger, for you can see through the bare trees. There are times when the woods is absolutely still and quiet. The house holds warmth. A wet snow comes in the night and covers the ground and clings to the trees, making the whole world white. For a while in the morning the world is perfect and beautiful. You think you will never forget.
You think you will never forget any of this, you will remember it always just the way it was. But you can't remember it the way it was. To know it, you have to be living in the presence of it right as it is happening. It can return only by surprise. Speaking of these things tells you that there are no words for them that are equal to them or that can restore them to your mind. And so you have a life that you are living only now, now and now and now, gone before you can speak of it, and you must be thankful for living day by day, moment by moment, in this presence.
But you have a life too that you remember. It stays with you. You have lived a life in the breath and pulse and living light of the present, and your memories of it, remember now, are of a different life in a different world and time. When you remember the past, you are not remembering it as it was. You are remembering it as it is. It is a vision or a dream, present with you in the present, alive with you in the only time you are alive.
~ Wendell Berry
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Sunday, December 14, 2014
When I am not present to myself,
then I am only aware of that half of me,
that mode of my being which turns outward to created things.
And then it is possible for me to lose myself among them.
Then I no longer feel the deep secret pull
of the gravitation of love which draws my inward self toward God.
My will and my intelligence lose their command of the other faculties.
My senses, my imagination, my emotions,
scatter to pursue their various quarries all over the face of the earth.
Recollection brings them home.
It brings the outward self into line with the inward spirit,
and makes my whole being answer the deep pull of love
that reaches down into the mystery of God.
~ Thomas Merton
from No Man is an Island
sketch by the author
From the beginning
the flying birds have left
no footprints on the blue sky
~ Miso Soseki
translated by W.S. Merwin
Muso Soseki first practiced Zen under the guidance of a Chinese teacher but he "failed miserably." He later studied with the Japanese Zen master Koho Kennichi and soon began to unfold into profound awakening, receiving inka or certification of enlightenment in 1339.
Muso Soseki went on to teach large numbers of students and, like many Zen practitioners, write poetry. He also became an advisor to the first Ashikaga Shogun and helped to re-establish trade and communications between Japan and China.
Soseki is perhaps most famous, however, for his profound influence in the art of Zen gardening as spaces to cultivate awareness.
comments from Poetry Chaikhana
Saturday, December 13, 2014
Thursday, December 11, 2014
What is, simply is,
And "I" am nowhere to be found.
Far from the village,
Road vanished into path,
Path vanished into hillside,
Hillside vanished into Vastness,
The Known vanished into Wonder,
the 13th Century Indian
a 13th century saint who, although he lived only twenty-two years, left a profound impact on Hindu spirituality. In Jnaneshwar's writings, Shiva is the formless, unmanifest Absolute, and Shakti is manifest form. Shiva is "That", and Shakti is "This" – all that arises in and as That. But the most precious gift of Jnaneshwar is his communication in words of the inexpressible truth that Shiva and Shakti are One. Shakti is merely Shiva – unmanifest, objectless, unmoving – moving into and as form. Jnaneshwar brilliantly communicates this inexpressible truth through verse, in which "He" is Shiva, and "She" is Shakti.
commentary by Chuck Surface
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
The wind blows where it likes: that is what
Everyone is like who is born from the wind.
Oh now it’s getting serious. We are the ones
Born from the wind that blows along the plains
And over the sea where no one has a home.
And that Upsetting Rabbi, didn't he say:
‘Take nothing with you, no blanket, no bread.
When evening comes, sleep wherever you are.
And if the owners say no, shake out the dust
From your sandals; leave the dust on their doorstep.’
Don’t hope for what will never come. Give up hope,
Dear friends, the joists of life are laid on the winds
~ Robert Bly
from Eating The Honey of Words. New and Selected Poems
Tuesday, December 9, 2014
My heart, sit only with those
who know and understand you.
Sit only under a tree
that is full of blossoms.
In the bazaar of herbs and potions
don't wander aimlessly,
find the shop with a potion that is sweet.
If you don't have a measure
people will rob you in no time.
You will take counterfeit coins
thinking they are real.
Don't fill your bowl with food from
every boiling pot you see.
Not every joke is humorous, so don't search
for meaning where there isn't one.
Not every eye can see,
not every sea is full of pearls.
My heart, sing the song of longing
The sound of your voice casts a spell
on every stone, on every thorn.
First, lay down your head,
then one by one
let go of all distractions.
Embrace the light and let it guide you
beyond the winds of desire.
There you will find a spring and
nourished by its sweet waters
like a tree you will bear fruit forever.
from Divan-e Shams,
translation by Kolin and Mafi
and Professor Arberry
Sunday, December 7, 2014
~ Thandie Newton
Friday, December 5, 2014
was not searching for the sunrise:
almost eternal on its branch,
it was searching for something else.
was not searching for darkness or science:
borderline of flesh and dream,
it was searching for something else.
was not searching for the rose.
Motionless in the sky
it was searching for something else.
~ Federico Garcia Lorca
translation by Robert Bly
Friday, November 21, 2014
Ah life! Does no one answer?
His words rolled, bolts of lightning etched
in years that were boulders and now are mist.
Life never answers.
It has no ears and doesn't hear us;
it doesn't speak, it has no tongue.
It neither goes nor stays:
we are the ones who speak,
the ones who go,
while we hear from echo to echo, year to year,
our words rolling through a tunnel with no end.
That which we call life
hears itself within us, speaks with our tongues,
and through us, knows itself.
As we portray it, we become its mirror, we invent it.
An invention of an invention: it creates us
without knowing what it has created,
we are an accident that thinks.
It is a creature of reflections
we create by thinking,
and it hurls into fictitious abysses.
The depths, the transparencies
where it floats or sinks: not life, its idea.
It is always on the other side and is always other,
has a thousand bodies and none,
never moves and never stops,
it is born to die, and is born at death.
Is life immortal? Don't ask life,
for it doesn't even know what life is.
We are the ones who know
that one day it too must die and return
to the beginning, the inertia of the origin.
The end of yesterday, today, and tomorrow,
the dissipation of time
and of nothing, its opposite.
Then--will there be a then?
will the primogenious spark light
the matrix of the worlds,
a perpetual re-beginning of a senseless whirling?
No one answers, no one knows.
We only know that to live is to live for.
Sudden spring, a girl who wakes
on a green bed guarded by thorns;
tree of noon, heavy with oranges:
your tiny suns, fruits of cool fire,
summer gathers them in transparent baskets;
the fall is severe, its cold light
sharpens its knife against the red maples;
Januaries and Februaries: their beards are ice,
and their eyes sapphires that April liquefies,
the wave that rises, the wave that stretches out,
on the circular road of the year
All that we see, all that we forget,
the harp of the rain, the inscription of the lightning,
the hurried thoughts, reflections turned to birds,
the doubts of the path as it meanders,
the wailing of the wind
as it carves the faces of the mountains,
the moon on tiptoe over the lake,
the breezes in gardens, the throbbing of night,
the camps of stars on the burnt field,
the battle of reflections on the white salt flats,
the fountain and its monologue,
the held breath of outstretched night
and the river that entwines it, the pine under the evening star
and the waves, instant statues, on the sea,
the flock of clouds that the wind herds
through drowsy valleys, the peaks, the chasms,
time turned to rock, frozen eras,
time maker of roses and plutonium,
time that makes as it razes.
The ant, the elephant, the spider, and the sheep,
our strange world of terrestrial creatures
that are born, eat, kill, sleep, play, couple,
and somehow know that they die;
our world of humanity, far and near,
the animal with eyes in its hands
that tunnels through the past and examines the future,
with its histories and uncertainties,
the ecstasy of the saint, the sophisms of the evil,
the elation of lovers, their meetings, their contentions,
the insomnia of the old man counting his mistakes,
the criminal and the just, a double enigma,
the Father of the People, his crematory parks,
his forests of gallows and obelisks of skulls,
the victorious and the defeated,
the long sufferings and the one happy moment,
the builder of houses and the one who destroys them,
this paper where I write, letter by letter,
which you glance at with distracted eyes,
all of them and all of it, all
is the work of time that begins and ends.
From birth to death time surrounds us
with its intangible walls.
We fall with the centuries, the years, the minutes.
Is time only a falling, only a wall?
For a moment, sometimes, we see
--not with our eyes but with our thoughts--
time resting in a pause.
The world half-opens and we glimpse
the immaculate kingdom,
the pure forms, presences
on the hour, a river stopped:
truth, beauty, numbers, ideas
--and goodness, a word buried
in our century.
A moment without weight or duration,
a moment outside the moment:
thought sees, our eyes think.
Triangles, cubes, the sphere, the pyramid
and the other geometrical figures
thought and drawn by mortal eyes
but which have been here since the beginning,
are, still legible, the world, its secret writing,
the reason and the origin of the turning of things,
the axis of the changes, the unsupported pivot
that rests on itself, a reality without a shadow.
The poem, the piece of music, the theorem,
unpolluted presences born from the void,
are delicate structures
built over an abyss:
infinities fit into their finite forms,
and chaos too is ruled by their hidden symmetry.
Because we know it, we are not an accident:
chance, redeemed, returns to order.
Tied to the earth and to time,
a light and weightless ether,
thought supports the worlds and their weight,
whirlwinds of suns turned
into a handful of signs
on a random piece of paper.
of transparent evidence
where the eyes of understanding
drink a water simple as water.
The universe rhymes with itself,
it unfolds and is two and is many
without ceasing to be one.
Motion, a river that runs endlessly
with open eyes through the countries of vertigo
--there is no above nor below, what is near is far--
returns to itself
--without returning, now turned
into a fountain of stillness.
Tree of blood, man feels, thinks, flowers,
and bears strange fruits: words.
What is thought and what is felt entwine,
we touch ideas: they are bodies and they are numbers.
And while I say what I say
time and space fall dizzyingly,
restlessly. They fall in themselves.
Man and the galaxy return to silence.
Does it matter? Yes--but it doesn't matter:
we know that silence is music and that
we are a chord in this concert.
awarded the 1990 Nobel Prize for literature.
Response and Reconciliation was the last poem he published
before his death on April 19,1998
translated by Eliot Weinberger
with thanks to http://deathdeconstructed.blogspot.com/
Saturday, November 15, 2014
We were thrilled anew by the expanse of swift water that was the Mississippi. Drifting was becoming a passion. Though there was nothing new, nothing changed, we looked around each succeeding bend with undiminished interest. No prospect was quite like any we had seen before; no landing was like another, each afforded new problems handling the boat; and when on shore, we climbed the bank or threaded the woods with keen expectation - of what, we could not say, but our zest for new shores and reaches of river was sharp as ever. The details of drifting and landing, of each shore we explored, of towns, boats, people, even of the weather, remain vivid in our minds.
~ Harlan Hubbard
from Shantyboat Journal
edited by Don Wallis
Sunday, November 9, 2014
Friday, November 7, 2014
In reality there is only the source, dark in itself,
making everything shine.
Unperceived, it causes perception.
Unfelt, it causes feeling.
Unthinkable, it causes thought.
Non-being, it gives birth to being.
It is the immovable background of motion.
Once you are there, you are at home everywhere.
from I am That
translated by Maurice Frydman
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
A hand is shaped for what it holds or makes.
Time takes what's handed to it then - warm bread, a stone,
a child whose fingers touch the page to keep her place.
Beloved, grown old separately, your face
shows me the changes on my own.
I see the histories it holds, the argument it makes
against the thresh of trees, the racing clouds, the race
of birds and sky birds always lose:
the lines have ranged, but not the cheek's strong bone.
My finger touching there recall that place.
Once we were one. Then what time did, and hands, erased
us from the future we had owned.
For some, the future holds what hands release, not made.
We make a bridge. We walked it. Laced
night's sounds with passion.
Owls' pennywhistles, after, took our place.
Wasps leave their nest. Wind takes the papery case.
Our wooden house, less easily undone,
now houses others. A life is shaped by what it holds or makes.
I make these words for what they can't replace.
~ Jane Hirshfield
from Come, Thief