Monday, December 29, 2014

to Mary






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



welcomers of that ancient joy








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
of self-acknowledging
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?
Mayapples rising
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

for those with eyes to see






The Angel Standing in the Sun
~ J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851)
from The Tate Gallery, London




their prefabricated picture




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.










Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Hallelujah








Monday, December 22, 2014

remembering rexroth







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


Saturday, December 20, 2014

there is a brokenness






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. 




~ Rashani


Thursday, December 18, 2014

no words for them that are equal to them






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




the skinny birds of non-existence









~ Robert Bly



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

trees in winter








All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.







~ William Carlos Williams
photo by Callahan








Sunday, December 14, 2014

the deep pull of love






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








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


one loss





One loss
folds itself inside another.
It is like the origami
held inside a plain sheet of paper
Not creased yet.
Not yet more heavy.
The hand stays steady.





~ Jane Hirshfield
from Come Thief

kind









I hadn't noticed
till a death took me outside
and left me there
that grass lifts so quietly
to catch everything
we drop and we drop 
everything.



~ Leonard Nathan



Saturday, December 13, 2014

a "real you?"









~ Julian Baggini


Thursday, December 11, 2014

vanished into wonder





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,

Look!


~ Jnaneshwar
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

what Jesus said








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

don't wander aimlessly





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
like nightingale.

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.




~ Rumi
Ghazal 563 
from Divan-e Shams
translation by Kolin and Mafi
and Professor Arberry



Sunday, December 7, 2014

embracing otherness, embracing self,








~ Thandie Newton


Friday, December 5, 2014

casida of the rose

     .


The rose
was not searching for the sunrise:
almost eternal on its branch,
it was searching for something else.

The rose
was not searching for darkness or science:
borderline of flesh and dream,
it was searching for something else.

The rose
was not searching for the rose.
Motionless in the sky
it was searching for something else.





~ Federico Garcia Lorca
translation by Robert Bly