Wednesday, December 30, 2015

the cocktail party








Unidentified Guest:

Ah, but we die to each other daily. 
What we know of other people is only our memory 
of the moments during which we knew them. 
And they have changed since then. 
To pretend that they and we are the same is a 
useful and convenient social convention 
which must sometimes be broken. 
We must also remember that at every meeting 
we are meeting a stranger. 

Edward:

So you want me to greet my wife as a stranger?
That will not be easy.

Unidentified Guest:

It is very difficult.
But it is perhaps still more difficult
To keep up the pretense that you are not strangers.
The affectionate ghosts: the grandmother,
The lively bachelor uncle at the Christmas party,
The beloved nursemaid - those who enfold
Your childhood years in comfort, mirth, security-
If they returned, would it not be embarrassing?
What would you say to them, or they to you
After the first ten minutes? You would find it difficult
To treat them as strangers, but still more difficult
To pretend that you are not strange to each other.


Edward:

You can hardly expect me to obliterate the last five years.


Unidentified Guest:

I ask you to forget nothing.  To try to forget
is to try to conceal.

Edward:

There are certainly things I should like to forget.


Unidentified Guest:

And persons also, but you must not forget them. You must
face them all, but meet them as strangers.  

Edward:

Then I myself must also be a stranger.


Unidentified Guest:

And to you as well, but remember
When you see your wife, you must ask no questions 
and give no explanations. I have said the same to her.
Do not strangle each other with knotted memories.
Now I shall go.




~ T. S. Eliot
excerpt from The Cocktail Party,
The Complete Poem and Plays
1909-1950
art by Teresa Bingham
with thanks to Death Deconstructed


Thursday, December 24, 2015

nothing I can give you which you have not





Most Noble Contessina:

I salute you. I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep.

There is nothing I can give you which you have not. 
But there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take. 
No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. 
Take heaven! 

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. 
Take peace! 

The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. 
Take Joy! 

There is radiance and glory in darkness, could we but see.
 And to see, we have only to look. I beseech you to look!

Life is so generous a giver. But we, judging its gifts by their covering, 
cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard. Remove the covering, 
and you will find beneath it a living splendor, 
woven of love by wisdom, with power. 

Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the angel's hand that brings it to you. 
Everything we call a trial, a sorrow or a duty, believe me, 
that angel's hand is there.

The gift is there and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. 
Your joys, too, be not content with them as joys. 
They, too, conceal diviner gifts.

Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty beneath its covering, 
that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven. 
Courage then to claim it; that is all! 
But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are pilgrims together, 
wending through unknown country home.


And so, at this time, I greet you, not quite as the world sends greetings, 
but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you, 
now and forever, the day breaks and shadows flee away.


your servant,
 Fra Giovanni


~ Ernest Temple Hargrove

The name of a certain "16th century monk" is familiar now to millions of people but, he never lived; he was created by an English barrister, Ernest Temple Hargrove.  With the arrival of Christmas season each year, the monk, Fra Giovanni, becomes better known, and his creator drifts farther into obscurity.  This is the way Mr. Hargrove wanted it.  Hargrove was born into a distinguished English family, came to the United States as a young man and spent many years in religious endeavors, particularly in the field of writing.

Before his death in 1939 Hargrove composed a Christmas greeting to a friend, writing in literary style that gave a medieval  flavor to his message.  The greeting took the form of a letter from a monk to an Italian countess.  According to a close friend, G.M.W. Kobbe of New York, Hargrove secured no copyright, feeling that if his greeting carried a real message there should be no impediment to it's circulation. With the passage of years, the letter is now thought of as the perfect Christmas card by a great host of appreciative readers, many of whom believe Fra Giovanni was a real person.

The monk is imaginary but the letter and the message are real.

~ Max L. Christensen - 1997

Ernest Temple Hargrove, of England, married to Amy Virginia Tehula Neresheimer, the daughter of Emil August Neresheimer, NYC diamond broker, on Tuesday, January 18, 1899, Church of the Holy Apostles, NYC.They had at least two children, William A, born in about 1902, and a daughter Joan, born about 1905.Hargrove was a prominent figure in the NY Theosophical Society, and later in life was known to have resided as a caretaker of the Chapel of the Comforter, located at 10 Horation St. in NYC.he eventually died in 1939.


Monday, December 14, 2015

singing image of fire

.


.
A hand moves, and the fire's whirling takes different shapes:
All things change when we do.
The first word, "Ah," blossoms into all others.
Each of them true.

.
~ Kukai (774-835)
translation by Jane Hirshfield

.


no words







People come a long way to reach Parrot Lake
anxious to ask about practice
this old monk tells them the truth
the gatha that frees you has no words


~ Stonehouse
from The Zen Works of Stonehouse
Poems and Talks of a 14th Century Chinese Hermit
translated by Red Pine


Sunday, December 13, 2015

behind the word consciousness








~ Mauro Bergonzi

companion of my heart








You are the companion of my heart
Though my body I offer to those who desire it.

My body is friendly to guests

But you the companion of my heart
Are the guest of my soul.


~ Rabia

(712 - 801)
After a life of hardship, she spontaneously achieved a state of self-realization. 
When asked by Shaikh Hasan al-Basri how she discovered the secret, she responded by stating:

"You know of the how, but I know of the how-less."


a blessing






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.



~ James Wright
from Above the River







Monday, December 7, 2015

the present has abated its urgencies






For people who live in the country there is a charming freedom in such days. One is free of obligations to the ground.  There is no outside work that one ought to do, simply because, with the ground frozen deep and covered with snow, no such work is possible.  Growth has stopped; there is plenty of hay and grain in the barn; the present has abated its urgencies.  The mind may again turn freely to the past and look back on the way it has come.

This morning has been bearing down out of the future toward this bit of riverbank forever. And for perhaps as long, in a sense, my life has been approaching from the opposite direction. The approach of a man's life out of the past is history, and the approach of time out of the future is mystery. Their meeting is the present, and it is consciousness, the only time life is alive. The endless wonder of this meeting is what causes the mind, in its inward liberty of a frozen morning, to turn back and question and remember. The world is full of places. Why is it that I am here?




- Wendell Berry
from The Long-Legged House
photo by Harry Callahan
with thanks to whiskey river


Saturday, December 5, 2015

be foolishly in love.







A spirit that lives in this world
and does not wear the shirt of love,
such an existence is a deep disgrace.
Be foolishly in love,
because love is all there is.

There is no way into presence
except through a love exchange.
If someone asks, But what is love?
answer, Dissolving the will.

True freedom comes to those
who have escaped the questions
of freewill and fate.
Love is an emperor.
The two worlds play across him.
He barely notices their tumbling game.

Love and lover live in eternity.
Other desires are substitutes
for that way of being.
How long do you lay embracing a corpse?
Love rather the soul, which cannot be held.

Anything born in spring dies in the fall,
but love is not seasonal.
With wine pressed from grapes,
expect a hangover.
But this love path has no expectations.

You are uneasy riding the body?
Dismount. Travel lighter.
Wings will be given.
Be clear like a mirror
reflecting nothing.

Be clean of pictures and the worry
that comes with images.
Gaze into what is not ashamed
or afraid of any truth.
Contain all human faces in your own
without any judgment of them.

Be pure emptiness.
What is inside that? you ask.
Silence is all I can say.
Lovers have some secrets
That they keep.





~ Rumi
art by van gogh




Friday, December 4, 2015

a star on the horizon of my heart







Ever in my life have I sought thee with my songs. 
It was they who led me from door to door, 
and with them have I felt about me, 
searching and touching my world.

It was my songs that taught me all the lessons I ever learnt; 
they showed me secret paths, 
they brought before my sight many a star on the horizon of my heart.

They guided me all the day long to the mysteries of the country of pleasure and pain, 
and, at last, 
to what palace gate have they brought me in the evening at the end of my journey?




~ Rabindranath Tagore
art by van gogh
with thanks to Poetry Chaikhana


Saturday, November 21, 2015

are animals thinking and feeling?










~ Carl Safina

Thursday, November 19, 2015

the black figure below the boat





We hear phrases: "He made me do it."
"I never wanted that."  The boy's boat gets
Pushed out on the sea, and before long the tidal
Currents guide it from beneath.  He goes to sleep.

He meets a woman, and marries her even though
He doesn't want to.  He says, "It was the current."
But some tiny black figure swims below the boat,
Pushing it.  This man or god works all night.

Then what?  Months go by, years, twenty years.
A lot of water.  The boat hits gravel.
It's an island - the kind where giants live.
"Don't say you didn't want it.  Just get ready."



~ Robert Bly
from Morning Poems






Wednesday, November 18, 2015

the green cookstove







A lonely man once sat on a large flat stone.
When he lifted it, he saw a kitchen: a green
Enamel range with big claw feet, familiar.
Someone lives in that room, cooking and cackling.

"I saw her once," Virgil said. "She was Helen's
Younger sister."  Helen's betrayed husband
Sits by the window, peeling garlic cloves,
And throwing crusts to Plymouth Rocks.

We'll never understand this, Somewhere below
The flat stone of the skull, a carnivorous couple
Lives and plans future wars.  Are we innocent?
These wars don't happen by accident - they occur

Too regularly. How often do we lift the plate
At the bottom of our brain and throw some garlic
And grain down to the kitchen?  "Keep cooking,
My dears," "Something good will come of this."



~ Robert Bly
from Morning Poems


who one is






One never knows who one is. 
The others tell you who you are, 
don't they? 

And as you're told so a million times 
if you live a long life, in the end you don't know at all 
who you are. Everyone says something different. 
You yourself also say something 
different each new moment.




~  Thomas Bernhard




Monday, November 16, 2015

out of my deeper heart






Out of my deeper heart a bird rose and flew skyward.
Higher and higher did it rise, yet larger and larger did it grow.
At first it was but like a swallow, then a lark, then an eagle, then as vast as a spring cloud, and then it filled the starry heavens.
Out of my heart a bird flew skyward. And it waxed larger as it flew.  Yet it left not my heart.



~ Kahlil Gibran
from The Forerunner, His Parables and Poems
drawing: Veiled Face, by the author





the taste of sorrow









When young, I did not know the taste of sorrow.
I went up the tower.
I went up the tower

to write a poem on pretended sorrow.

By now I’ve completely tasted sorrow, but already
I do not want to speak about it.
I do not want to speak about it,
I only say: what a beautiful, cold autumn.



~   Xing Qijia

Monday, November 9, 2015

I found





My dear,
In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.
In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.
In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.
I realized, through it all, that…
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, 
within me, there’s something stronger – 
something better, pushing right back.

Truly yours,
Albert Camus




from Retour à Tipasa, 1952 
(Return to Tipasa, 1952)
with thanks to whiskey river


Sunday, November 8, 2015

first step







The first step in love
is losing your head.

After the petty ego
you then give up your life
and bear the calamity.

With this behind you, proceed:
Polish the ego's rust
from the mirror
of your self



~ Fakhr al-Din Iraqi
from Love's Alchemy
translations by David and Sabrineh Fideler




Saturday, November 7, 2015

listen








listen

hiding in this cage
of visible matter

is the invisible
lifebird

pay attention
to her

she is singing
your song




~ Kabir
Sushil Rao translation


our group identities







When you seek to affirm your unity by denying that you have anything to do with anyone else, by negating everyone else in the universe until you come down to you: what is there left to affirm? 

 The true way is just the opposite: the more I am able to affirm others, to say “yes” to them in myself, by discovering them in myself and myself in them, the more real I am. I am fully real if my own heart says “yes” to everyone.

 I will be a better Catholic, not if I can refute every shade of Protestantism, but if I can affirm the truth in it and still go further. So, too, with the Muslims, the Hindus, the Buddhists, etc. . If I affirm myself as a Catholic merely by denying all that is Muslim, Jewish, Protestant, Hindu, Buddhist, etc., in the end I will find that there is not much left for me to affirm as a Catholic: and certainly no breath of the Spirit with which to affirm it.





~ Thomas Merton
from Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander


Thursday, November 5, 2015

the heart's value







On God's pathway
there are two Ka'bas.

One is the Ka'ba you can see;
the other, the Ka'ba of the heart.

As much as you can,
make pilgrimage to the heart -

The heart's value
is greater
than a thousands Ka'bas.



~ Awhad al-Din Kirmani
from Love's Alchemy
translations by David and Sabrineh Fideler
Kneeling "Chinese" Man, 13th-14th centuries. 
Terracotta, Brooklyn Museum





Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Bach cello Solo Nr.1, BWV 1007









glow






Not a single soul lacks
a pathway to you.

There's no stone,
no flower-
not a single piece of straw-
lacking your existence.

In every particle of the world,
the moon of your love
causes the heart
of each atom to glow.



~ Muhammad Shirin Maghribi  
from Love's Alchemy
Poems from the Sufi Tradition
translations by David and Sabrineh Fideler



Monday, November 2, 2015

a thousand years of joy - the film trailer








Sunday, November 1, 2015

bathe in its fiery waters







Sons and daughters of the earth, steep yourself in the sea of matter, bathe in its fiery waters, for it is the source of your life and your youthfulness.

You thought you could do without it because the power of thought has been kindled in you? You hoped that the more thoroughly you rejected the tangible, the closer you would be to spirit: that you would be more divine if you lived in the world of pure thought, or at least more angelic if you fled the corporeal? Well, you were like to have perished of hunger.

You must have oil for your limbs, blood for your veins, water for your soul, the world of reality for your intellect: do you not see that the very law of your own nature makes these a necessity for you?





–Pierre Teilhard de Chardin


Saturday, October 17, 2015

listening






My father could hear a little animal step,
or a moth in the dark against the screen,
and every far sound pulled the listening out
into places the rest of us had never been.

More spoke to him from the soft wild night
than came to our porch for the family on the wind;
we watched him listen, and his face go keen,
till the walls of the world flared, widened.

My father brought in so much that we still stand
inviting the quiet by turning the face,
waiting for the time when the soft wild night
will reach to us here, from that other place.





~ William Stafford 
from West of your City


what difference







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 goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.




~ William Stafford
from Ask Me


Thursday, October 15, 2015

in space







In space
(the experiment
suggested by two fifth graders),
a Canadian astronaut
wrings water out of a towel.

It stays by the towel,
horizontal
transparent isinglass,
a hyaline column.

Then begins to cover his hands,
his wrists,
stays on them
until he passes it to another towel.

On earth
some who watch this
recognize the wrung, irrational soul.

How it does not leave
but stays close,
outside the cleaning twist-fate but close--

fear  desire  anger
joy  irritation 
mourning

wet stuff
that is shining, that cannot go from us,
having nowhere other to fall.



~ Jane Hirshfield
from The Beauty



Tuesday, October 13, 2015

no one






No one home.
fallen pine needles
scattered at the door.




~ Zen Master Ryokan
from Sky Above, Great Wind 
The Life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryokan
by Kazuaki Tanahashi

Sunday, October 11, 2015

what is happening







Instant to instant
we ask, what is happening?

The sound of shattering everywhere,
is it the world, fragmenting at last,
or our own hearts cracking,
the final break-up of ice?



~ Dorothy Walters
from Marrow of Flame


how much









~  Beth Cioffoletti
 louie louie blog


this moment this love





This moment this love comes to rest in me,
many beings in one being.
In one wheat grain a thousand sheaf stacks.
Inside the needle's eye, a turning night of stars.



Listen, if you can stand to.
Union with the friend
means not being who you have been,
being instead silence, a place,
a view where language is inside seeing.



From the wet source
someone cuts a reed to make a flute
The reed sips breath like wine,
sips more, practicing. Now drunk,
it starts the high clear notes.



There is a path from me to you
that I am constantly looking for,
so I try to keep clear and still
as water does with the moon.



We do not have to follow the pressure-flow of wanting.
We can be led by the guide.
Wishes may or may not come true
in this house of disappointment.
Let's push the door open together and leave.



My essence is like the essence of a red wine.
My body is a cup that grieves because it is inside time.
Glass after glass of wine go into my head.
Finally, my head goes into the wine.




~ Rumi
translation by Coleman Barks
from The Big Red Book