Saturday, July 4, 2020

cummings and chopin

~ art by e.e. cummings

Friday, July 3, 2020

the skinny birds of non-existence

~ Robert Bly

during a storm

You too are a tree. During a storm of emotions, 
you should not stay at the level of the head or the heart,
 which are like the top of the tree.
 You have to leave the heart, the eye of the storm,
 and come back to the trunk of the tree. 
Your trunk is one centimeter below your navel.
 Focus there, paying attention only to the movement 
of your abdomen, and continue to breathe.

—Thích Nhất Hạnh
 with thanks to love is a place

still morning

It appears now that there is only one
age and it knows
nothing of age as the flying birds know
nothing of the air they are flying through
or of the day that bears them up
through themselves
and I am a child before there are words
arms are holding me up in a shadow
voices murmur in a shadow
as I watch one patch of sunlight moving
across the green carpet
in a building
gone long ago and all the voices
silent and each word they said in that time
silent now
while I go on seeing that patch of sunlight

~ W. S. Merwin
from Collected Poems (1996 - 2011)
art by emile claus

Wednesday, July 1, 2020


Forgiveness is the answer to a child’s dream of a miracle
 by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is made clean.
 The dream explains why we need to be forgiven, and why we must forgive.
 In the presence of God, nothing stands between Him and us - we are forgiven.
 But we cannot feel His presence if anything is allowed
 to stand between ourselves and others.

~ Dag Hammarskjöld 
from Markings
translated by Leif Sjoberg and W.H. Auden.

Hammarskjöld was the second Secretary General of the United Nations, serving from 1953 until his death in a plane crash in 1961. He is the only person to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize posthumously. Markings, a sort of diary of poetry and meditations, was found in his office after his death, along with a letter to Swedish Permanent Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs Leif Sjoberg, explaining that it may be published if Mr. Sjoberg felt it worth publishing.

from Martin Luther King Jr.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
 only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate;
 only love can do that. 

Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world
 that we must love our enemies - or else? 
The chain reaction of evil - hate begetting hate,
 wars producing more wars - must be broken,
 or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation. 

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love
 will have the final word in reality. This is why right,
 temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant. 

I have decided to stick with love.
 Hate is too great a burden to bear. 

Love is the only force capable of transforming
 an enemy into friend. 

We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive.
 He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid 
of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us
 and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this,
 we are less prone to hate our enemies. 

~ Martin Luther King Jr.

my apologies

My apologies to chance for calling it necessity. 
 My apologies to necessity in case I'm mistaken. 
 Don't be angry, happiness, that I take you for my own. 
 May the dead forgive me that their memory's but a flicker. 
 My apologies to time for the quantity of world overlooked per second. 
 My apologies to an old love for treating a new one as the first. 
 Forgive me, far-off wars, for carrying my flowers home. 
 Forgive me, open wounds, for pricking my finger. 
 My apologies for the minuet record, to those calling out from the abyss. 
 My apologies to those in train stations for sleeping soundly at five in the morning. 
 Pardon me, hounded hope, for laughing sometimes. 
 Pardon me, deserts, for not rushing in with a spoonful of water. 
 And you, O hawk, the same bird for years in the same cage, 
staring, motionless, always at the same spot, 
 absolve me even if you happen to be stuffed. 
 My apologies to the tree felled for four table legs. 
 My apologies to large questions for small answers. 
 Truth, do not pay me too much attention. 
 Solemnity, be magnanimous toward me. 
 Bear with me, O mystery of being, for pulling threads from your veil. 
 Soul, don't blame me that I've got you so seldom. 
My apologies to everything that I can't be everywhere. 
 My apologies to all for not knowing how to be every man and woman. 
 I know that as long as I live nothing can excuse me, since I am my own obstacle. 
 Do not hold it against me, O speech, that I borrow weighty words, and then labor to make them light. 

~ Wislawa Szymborska
translated by Joanna Trzeciak
photo by agencja gazeta

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

on the value of not-knowing

All sorts of torturers, dictators, fanatics, and demagogues struggling for power

 by way of a few loudly shouted slogans also enjoy their jobs, 
and they too perform their duties with inventive fervor. Well, yes,
 but they “know.” They know, and whatever they know is enough for them
 once and for all. They don’t want to find out about anything else,
 since that might diminish their arguments’ force. And any knowledge
 that doesn’t lead to new questions quickly dies out: it fails to maintain
 the temperature required for sustaining life. In the most extreme cases,
 cases well known from ancient and modern history, 
it even poses a lethal threat to society.

This is why I value that little phrase “I don’t know” so highly. 

It’s small, but it flies on mighty wings. It expands our lives to include 
the spaces within us as well as those outer expanses in which our tiny Earth 
hangs suspended. If Isaac Newton had never said to himself “I don’t know,” 
the apples in his little orchard might have dropped to the ground 
like hailstones and at best he would have stooped to pick them up 
and gobble them with gusto. Had my compatriot Marie Sklodowska-Curie
 never said to herself “I don’t know”, she probably would have wound up
 teaching chemistry at some private high school for young ladies from good families,
 and would have ended her days performing this otherwise perfectly respectable job.
 But she kept on saying “I don’t know,” and these words led her, 
not just once but twice, to Stockholm, where restless, questing spirits
 are occasionally rewarded with the Nobel Prize.

The world — whatever we might think when terrified by its vastness 

and our own impotence, or embittered by its indifference to individual suffering,
 of people, animals, and perhaps even plants, for why are we so sure
 that plants feel no pain; whatever we might think of its expanses
 pierced by the rays of stars surrounded by planets we’ve just begun
 to discover, planets already dead? still dead? we just don’t know;
 whatever we might think of this measureless theater to which we’ve got 
reserved tickets, but tickets whose lifespan is laughably short,
 bounded as it is by two arbitrary dates; whatever else
 we might think of this world — it is astonishing.

But “astonishing” is an epithet concealing a logical trap. We’re astonished, 

after all, by things that deviate from some well-known and universally 
acknowledged norm, from an obviousness we’ve grown accustomed to. 
Now the point is, there is no such obvious world. Our astonishment exists per se 
and isn’t based on comparison with something else.

Granted, in daily speech, where we don’t stop to consider every word, 

we all use phrases like “the ordinary world,” “ordinary life,” “the ordinary
 course of events” … But in the language of poetry, where every word is weighed,
 nothing is usual or normal. Not a single stone and not a single cloud above it.
 Not a single day and not a single night after it. And above all, 
not a single existence, not anyone’s existence in this world.

 ~  Wisława Szymborska
 art by Salvador Dalí from a rare edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland


Monday, June 29, 2020

so much of Everything

Reality demands
we also state the following:
life goes on.
At Cannae and Borodino.
at Kosovo Polje and in Guernica.

There is a gas station 
in a small plaza in Jericho,
and freshly painted
benches near Bila Hora.
Letters travel
between Pearl Harbor and Hastings,
a furniture truck passes
before the eyes of the lion of Chaeronea,
and only an atmospheric front advances
toward the blossoming orchards near Verdun.

There is so much of Everything,
that Nothing is quite well concealed,
Music flows
from yachts at Actium
and on board couples dance in the sun.

So much keeps happening, 
that it must be happening everywhere.
Where not a stone is left standing,
there is an ice-cream truck
besieged by children.

Where Hiroshima had been,
Hiroshima is again
manufacturing products
for everyday use.

Not without its draws is this terrible world,
not without its draws
worth our waking.

In the fields of Maciejowice
the grass is green
and on the grass is - you know how grass is -
transparent dew,

Maybe there are no fields but battlefields,
those still remembered,
and those long forgotten,
birch groves and cedar groves,
snows and sands, iridescent swamps,
and ravines of dark defeat
where today, in sudden need,
you squat behind a bush.

What moral flows from this? Probably none.
But what really flows is quickly drying blood,
and as always, some rivers and clouds.

On the tragic mountain passes
the wind blows hats off heads
and we cannot help-
but laugh.

~ Wislawa Szymborska
from miracle fair
translated by Joanna Trzeciak


living in two worlds

~ Miriam Rose Ungunmerr-Bauman

Sunday, June 28, 2020

water and ice

~ Joseph Goldstein


like a creek

The way the soul is with the senses
and the mind, is like a creek.

When desire-weeds grow thick,
your intelligence cannot flow,
and soul-creatures stay hidden.

But sometimes a flooding comes
that runs so strong
it clears the clogged stream,
as though with God’s hand.

No longer weeping and frustrated,
your being grows as powerful
as your wantings were before.

Laughing and satisfied,
that masterful current
lets soul-creatures appear.

You look down,
and it’s lucid dreaming.
The gates made of light
swing open. 
You see in.

~ Rumi
from A Year with Rumi
translation by Coleman Barks
photo by ansel adams

not yet discouraged

By plucking her petals, you do not
gather the beauty of the flower.

Clouds come floating into my life,
no longer to carry rain or usher storm,
but to add colour to my sunset sky.

Death is not extinguishing the light;
it is only putting out the lamp
because the dawn has come.

Do not say, ‘It is morning,’
and dismiss it with a name of yesterday.
See it for the first time
as a newborn child that has no name.

Don’t limit a child to your own learning,
for he was born in another time.

Emancipation from the bondage of the soil
is no freedom for the tree.

Every child comes with the message
that God is not yet discouraged of man.

Every difficulty slurred over
will be a ghost to disturb your repose later on.

Everything comes to us that belongs to us
if we create the capacity to receive it.

Faith is the bird that feels the light
when the dawn is still dark.

From the solemn gloom of the temple
children run out to sit in the dust,
God watches them play and forgets the priest.

I have become my own version of an optimist.
If I can’t make it through one door,
I’ll go through another door - or I’ll make a door.
Something terrific will come
no matter how dark the present.

~ Rabindranath Tagore

Friday, June 26, 2020

Dadirri - the practise of deep inner listening and quiet still awareness

Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Bauman 

the storm


We lay in our bed as in a tomb
awakened by thunder to the dark
in which our house was one with night,
and then light came as if the black
roof of the world had cracked open,
as if the night of all time had broken,
and out our window we glimpsed the world
birthwet and shining, as even
the sun at noon had never made it shine.

~ Wendell Berry