Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Love letters

Every day, priests minutely examine the Law
And endlessly chant complicated sutras.
Before doing that, though, they should learn
How to read the love letters sent by the wind
and rain, the snow and moon.
~ Ikkyu
(Ikkyu and the Crazy Cloud Anthology,
 trans. by Sonya Arutzen)

from: Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias. 

Say that your main crop is the forest 
that you did not plant, 
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns. 
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees 
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion -- put your ear 
close, and hear the faint chattering 
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful 
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child? 
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields. 
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is highest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn't go.
Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction. 
Practice resurrection.

~ Wendell Berry
from Collected Poems

Look it Over

I leave behind even
my walking stick.  My knife
is in my pocket, but that
I have forgot.  I bring
no car, no cell phone,
no computer, no camera,
no CD player, no fax, no
TV, not even a book. I go
into the woods.  I sit on
a log provided at no cost.
It is the earth I've come to,
the earth itself, sadly
abused by the stupidity
only humans are capable of
but, as ever, itself. Free.
A bargain!  Get it while it lasts.
~ Wendell Berry

Friday, June 25, 2010

As a caterpillar

As a caterpillar, having come to the end of 
one blade of grass, draws itself together and 
reaches out for the next, so the Self, having 
come to the end of one life and dispelled 
all ignorance, gathers in his faculties and 
reaches out from the old body to a new.
~ The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

Always in the distance

Always in the distance
the sound of cars is passing
on the road, that simplest form
going only two ways,
both ways away.  And I 
have been there in that going.
But now I rest and am 
apart, a part of the form
of the woods always arriving
from all directions home,
this cell of wild sound,
the hush of the trees, singers
hidden among the leaves -
a form whose history is old,
needful, unknown, and bright
as the history of the stars
that tremble in the sky at night
like leaves of a great tree.
~ Wendell Berry
(A Timbered Choir)

The world of machines

The world of machines is running
Beyond the world of trees
Where only a leaf is turning
In a small high breeze.
~ Wendell Berry
(A Timbered Choir)
photo by: Kathleen Connally

Thursday, June 24, 2010

the smallest word

Of all that God has shown me
I can speak just the smallest word,
Not more than a honey bee
Takes on his foot
From an overspilling jar.

~ Mechtild of Magdeburg

in every moment

True love in every moment praises God.
Longing love brings a sorrow sweet to the pure.
Seeking love belongs to itself alone.
Understanding love gives itself equally to all.
Enlightened love is mingled with the sadness of the world.
But selfless love bears an effortless fruit,
Working so quietly even the body cannot say how it comes and goes.

~ Mechtild of Magdeburg

Sunday, June 20, 2010

They come singly

They come singly, the little streams,
Out of their solitude.  They bear
In their rough fall a spate of gleams
That glance and dance in morning air.
They com singly, and coming go
Ever downward toward the river
Into whose dark abiding flow
They come, now quieted, together.
In dark they mingle and are made
At one with light in highest flood
Embodied and inhabited,
The budded branch as red as blood.
~ Wendell Berry 

Things will go where they're supposed to go

Things will go where they're supposed to go 
if you just let them take their natural course. 
Despite your best efforts, people are going to be hurt 
when it's time for them to be hurt. 
Life is like that. 
I know I sound like I'm preaching from a podium, 
but it's about time for you to learn to live like this. 
You try too hard to make life fit your way of doing things. 
If you don't want to spend time in an insane asylum, 
you have to open up a little more 
and let yourself go with life's natural flow.
~ Haruki Murakami
(Norwegian Wood)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

at night

at night,
deep in the mountains,
I breathe...
everything is still,
all thoughts emptied
into the night.
my robe has become
a garment of frost.
suddenly, above the
highest peak,
the full moon appears.
~ Ryokan

Friday, June 18, 2010

Eating Together

In the steamer is the trout
seasoned with slivers of ginger,
two sprigs of green onion, and sesame oil.
We shall eat it with rice for lunch,
brothers, sister, my mother who will
taste the sweetest meat of the head,
holding it between her fingers
deftly, the way my father did
weeks ago. Then he lay down
to sleep like a snow-covered road
winding through pines older than him,
without any travelers, and lonely for no one.
~ Li-Young Lee

The Hammock

When I lay my head in my mother's lap
I think how day hides the stars,
the way I lay hidden once, waiting
inside my mother's singing to herself. And I remember 
how she carried me on her back
between home and the kindergarten,
once each morning and once each afternoon.

I don't know what my mother's thinking.

When my son lays his head in my lap, I wonder:
Do his father's kisses keep his father's worries
from becoming his? I think, Dear God, and remember
there are stars we haven't heard from yet:
They have so far to arrive. Amen,
I think, and I feel almost comforted.

I've no idea what my child is thinking.

Between two unknowns, I live my life.
Between my mother's hopes, older than I am
by coming before me, and my child's wishes, older than I am
by outliving me. And what's it like?
Is it a door, and good-bye on either side?
A window, and eternity on either side?
Yes, and a little singing between two great rests.

~ Li-Young Lee
(Book of My Nights)

We were standing by the road


We were standing by the road,
seven of us and a small boy.
We had just rescued a yellow swallowtail
disabled on the pavement when a car
approached too fast.  I turned to make sure
of the boy, and my old border collie
Nell, too slow coming across,
was hit, broken all to pieces, and died
at once, while the car sped on.
And I cried, not thinking what
I meant, "God damn!" And I wish
all automobiles in Hell,
where perhaps they already are.
Nell's small grave, opening
at the garden's edge to receive her
out of this world's sight forever,
reopens many graves.  Digging,
the old man grieves for his old dog
with all the grief he knows,
which seems again to be approaching
enough, though he knows there is more.
How simple to be dead! - the only
simplification there is, in fact, Thoreau
to the contrary notwithstanding.
Nell lay in her grave utterly still
under the falling earth, the world
all astir above, a million leaves
alive in the wind, and what do we know?
~ Wendell Berry
(Leavings, Sabbaths, 2005)

The Man with the Blue Guitar


The man bent over his guitar, 
A shearsman of sorts. The day was green.

They said, "You have a blue guitar, 
You do not play things as they are."

The man replied, "Things as they are 
Are changed upon the blue guitar."

And they said then, "But play, you must, 
A tune beyond us, yet ourselves,

A tune upon the blue guitar 
Of things exactly as they are."


I cannot bring a world quite round, 
Although I patch it as I can.

I sing a hero'd head, large eye 
And bearded bronze, but not a man,

Although I patch him as I can 
And reach through him almost to man.

If to serenade almost to man 
Is to miss, by that, things as they are,

Say that it is the serenade 
Of a man that plays a blue guitar.


Ah, but to play man number one, 
To drive the dagger in his heart,

To lay his brain upon the board 
And pick the acrid colors out,

To nail his thought across the door, 
Its wings spread wide to rain and snow,

To strike his living hi and ho, 
To tick it, tock it, turn it true,

To bang it from a savage blue, 
Jangling the metal of the strings...


So that's life, then: things are they are? 
It picks its way on the blue guitar.

A million people on one string? 
And all their manner in the thing,

And all their manner, right and wrong, 
And all their manner, weak and strong?

And that's life, then" things as they are, 
This buzzing of the blue guitar.


Do not speak to us of the greatness of poetry, 
Of the torches wisping in the underground,

Of the structure of vaults upon a point of light. 
There are no shadows in our sun,

Day is desire and night is sleep. 
There are no shadows anywhere.

The earth, for us, is flat and bare. 
There are no shadows. Poetry

Exceeding music must take the place 
Of empty heaven and its hymns,

Ourselves in poetry must take their place, 
Even in the chattering of your guitar.


A tune beyond us as we are, 
Yet nothing changed by the blue guitar;

Ourselves in the tune as if in space, 
Yet nothing changed, except the place

Of things as they are and only the place 
As you play them, on the blue guitar,

Placed so, beyond the compass of change, 
Perceived in a final atmosphere;

For a moment final, in the way 
The thinking of art seems final when

The thinking of god is smoky dew. 
The tune is space. The blue guitar

Becomes the place of things as they are, 
A composing of senses of the guitar.


It is the sun that shares our works. 
The moon shares nothing. It is a sea.

When shall I come to say of the sun, 
It is a sea; it shares nothing;

The sun no longer shares our works 
And the earth is alive with creeping men,

Mechanical beetles never quite warm? 
And shall I then stand in the sun, as now

I stand in the moon, and call it good, 
the immaculate, the merciful good,

Detached from us, from things as they are? 
Not to be part of the sun? To stand

Remote and call it merciful? 
The strings are cold on the blue guitar.


The vivid, florid, turgid sky, 
The drenching thunder rolling by,

The morning deluged still by night, 
The clouds tumultuously bright

And the feeling heavy in cold chords 
Struggling toward impassioned choirs,

Crying among the clouds, enraged 
By gold antagonists in air--

I know my lazy, leaden twang 
Is like the reason in a storm;

And yet it brings the storm to bear. 
I twang it out and leave it there.


And the color, the overcast blue 
Of the air, in which the blue guitar

Is a form, described but difficult, 
And I am merely a shadow hunched

Above the arrowy, still string, 
The maker of a thing yet to be made;

The color like a thought that grows 
Out of a mood, the tragic robe

Of the actor, half his gesture, half 
His speech, the dress of his meaning, silk

Sodden with his melancholy words, 
The weather of his stage, himself.


Raise reddest columns. Toll a bell 
And clap the hollows full of tin.

Throw papers in the streets, the wills 
Of the dead, majestic in their seals.

And the beautiful trombones--behold 
The approach of him whom none believes,

Whom all believe that all believe, 
A pagan in a varnished car.

Roll a drum upon the blue guitar. 
Lean from the steeple. Cry aloud,

"Here am I, my adversary, that 
Confront you, hoo-ing the slick trombones,

Yet with a petty misery 
At heart, a petty misery,

Ever the prelude to your end, 
The touch that topples men and rock."


Slowly the ivy on the stones 
Becomes the stones. Women become

The cities, children become the fields 
And men in waves become the sea.

It is the chord that flasifies. 
The sea returns upon the men,

The fields entrap the children, brick 
Is a weed and all the flies are caught,

Wingless and withered, but living alive. 
The discord merely magnified.

Deeper within the belly's dark 
Of time, time grows upon the rock.


Tom-tom, c'est moi. the blue guitar 
And I are one. The orchestra

Fills the high hall with shuffling men 
High as the hall. The whirling noise

Of a multitude dwindles, all said, 
To his breath that lies awake at night.

I know that timid breathing. Where 
Do I begin and end? And where,

As I strum the thing, do I pick up 
That which momentously declares

Itself not to be I and yet 
Must be. It could be nothing else.


The pale intrusions into blue 
Are corrupting pallors...ay di mi,

Blue buds of pitchy blooms. Be content-- 
Expansions, diffusions--content to be

The unspotted imbecile revery, 
The heraldic center of the world

Of blue, blue sleek with a hundred chins, 
The amorist Adjective aflame...


First one beam, then another, then 
A thousand are radiant in the sky.

Each is both star and orb; and day 
Is the riches of their atmosphere.

The sea appends its tattery hues. 
The shores are banks of muffling mist.

One says a German chandelier-- 
A candle is enough to light the world.

It makes it clear. Even at noon 
It glistens in essential dark.

At night, it lights the fruit and wine, 
The book and bread, things as they are,

In a chiaroscuro where 
One sits and plays the blue guitar.


Is this picture of Picasso's, this "hoard 
Of destructions," a picture of ourselves,

Now, an image of our society? 
Do I sit, deformed, a naked egg,

Catching at Good-bye, harvest moon, 
Without seeing the harvest or the moon?

Things as they are have been destroyed. 
Have I? Am I a man that is dead

At a table on which the food is cold? 
Is my thought a memory, not alive?

Is the spot on the floor, there, wine or blood 
And whichever it may be, is it mine?


The earth is not earth but a stone, 
Not the mother that held men as they fell

But stone, but like a stone, no: not 
The mother, but an oppressor, but like

An oppressor that grudges them their death, 
As it grudges the living that they live.

To live in war, to live at war, 
To chop the sullen psaltery,

To improve the sewers in Jerusalem, 
To electrify the nimbuses--

Place honey on the altars and die, 
You lovers that are bitter at heart.


The person has a mould. But not 
Its animal. The angelic ones

Speak of the soul, the mind. It is 
An animal The blue guitar--

On that its claws propound, its fangs 
Articulate its desert days.

The blue guitar a mould? That shell? 
Well, after all, the north wind blows

A horn, on which its victory 
Is a worm composing on a straw.


A dream (to call it a dream) in which 
I can believe, in face of the object,

A dream no longer a dream, a thing, 
Of things as they are, as the blue guitar

After long strumming on certain nights 
Gives the touch of the senses, not of the hand,

But the very senses as they touch 
The wind-gloss. Or as daylight comes,

Like light in a mirroring of cliffs, 
Rising upward from a sea of ex.


That I may reduce the monster to 
Myself, and then may be myself

In face of the monster, be more than part 
Of it, more than the monstrous player of

One of its monstrous lutes, not be 
Alone, but reduce the monster and be,

Two things, the two together as one, 
And play of the monster and of myself,

Or better not of myself at all, 
But of that as its intelligence,

Being the lion in the lute 
Before the lion locked in stone.


What is there in life except one's ideas. 
Good air, good friend, what is there in life?

Is it ideas that I believe? 
Good air, my only friend, believe,

Believe would be a brother full 
Of love, believe would be a friend

Friendlier than my only friend, 
Good air. Poor pale, poor pale guitar...


A substitute for all the gods: 
This self, not that gold self aloft,

Alone, one's shadow magnified, 
Lord of the body, looking down,

As now and called most high, 
The shadow of Chocorua

In an immenser heaven, aloft, 
Alone, lord of the land and lord

Of the men that live in the land, high lord. 
One's self and the mountains of one's land,

Without shadows, without magnificence, 
The flesh, the bone, the dirt, the stone.


Poetry is the subject of the poem, 
From this the poem issues and

To this returns. Between the two, 
Between issue and return, there is

An absence in reality, 
Things as they are. Or so we say.

But are these separate? Is it 
An absence for the poem, which acquires

Its true appearances there, sun's green, 
Cloud's red, earth feeling, sky that thinks?

From these it takes. Perhaps it gives, 
In the universal intercourse.


A few final solutions, like a duet 
With the undertaker: a voice in the clouds,

Another on earth, the one a voice 
Of ether, the other smelling of drink.

The voice of ether prevailing, the swell 
Of the undertaker's song in the snow

Apostrophizing wreaths, the voice 
In the clouds serene and final, next

The grunted breath serene and final, 
The imagined and the real, thought

And the truth, Dichtung und Wahrheit, all 
Confusion solved, as in a refrain

One keeps on playing year by year, 
Concerning the nature of things as they are.


A poem like a missal found 
In the mud, a missal for that young man,

That scholar hungriest for that book, 
The very book, or, less, a page

Or, at the least, a phrase, that phrase, 
A hawk of life, that latined phrase:

To know; a missal for brooding-sight. 
To meet that hawk's eye and to flinch

Not a the eye but at the joy of it. 
I play. But this is what I think.


He held the world upon his nose 
And this-a-way he gave a fling.

His robes and symbols, ai-yi-yi-- 
And that-a-way he twirled the thing.

Sombre as fir-trees, liquid cats 
Moved in the grass without a sound.

They did not know the grass went round. 
The cats had cats and the grass turned gray

And the world had worlds, ai, this-a-way: 
The grass turned green and the grass turned gray.

And the nose is eternal, that-a-way. 
Things as they were, things as they are,

Things as they will be by and by... 
A fat thumb beats out ai-yi-yi.


The world washed in his imagination, 
The world was a shore, whether sound or form

Or light, the relic of farewells, 
Rock, of valedictory echoings,

To which his imagination returned, 
From which it sped, a bar in space,

Sand heaped in the clouds, giant that fought 
Against the murderous alphabet:

The swarm of thoughts, the swarm of dreams 
Of inaccessible Utopia.

A mountainous music always seemed 
To be falling and to be passing away.


It is the sea that whitens the roof. 
The sea drifts through the winter air.

It is the sea that the north wind makes. 
The sea is in the falling snow.

This gloom is the darkness of the sea. 
Geographers and philosophers,

Regard. But for that salty cup, 
But for the icicles on the eaves--

The sea is a form of ridicule. 
The iceberg settings satirize

The demon that cannot be himself, 
That tours to shift the shifting scene.


I am a native in this world 
And think in it as a native thinks,

Gesu, not native of a mind 
Thinking the thoughts I call my own,

Native, a native in the world 
And like a native think in it.

It could not be a mind, the wave 
In which the watery grasses flow

And yet are fixed as a photograph, 
The wind in which the dead leaves blow.

Here I inhale profounder strength 
And as I am, I speak and move

And things are as I think they are 
And say they are on the blue guitar.


In the cathedral, I sat there, and read, 
Alone, a lean Review and said,

"These degustations in the vaults 
Oppose the past and the festival.

What is beyond the cathedral, outside, 
Balances with nuptial song.

So it is to sit and to balance things 
To and to and to the point of still,

To say of one mask it is like, 
To say of another it is like,

To know that the balance does not quite rest, 
That the mask is strange, however like."

The shapes are wrong and the sounds are false. 
The bells are the bellowing of bulls.

Yet Franciscan don was never more 
Himself than in this fertile glass.


From this I shall evolve a man. 
This is his essence: the old fantoche

Hanging his shawl upon the wind, 
Like something on the stage, puffed out,

His strutting studied through centuries. 
At last, in spite of his manner, his eye

A-cock at the cross-piece on a pole 
Supporting heavy cables, slung

Through Oxidia, banal suburb, 
One-half of all its installments paid.

Dew-dapper clapper-traps, blazing 
From crusty stacks above machines.

Ecce, Oxidia is the seed 
Dropped out of this amber-ember pod,

Oxidia is the soot of fire, 
Oxidia is Olympia.


How long and late the pheasant sleeps... 
The employer and employee contend,

Combat, compose their droll affair. 
The bubbling sun will bubble up,

Spring sparkle and the cock-bird shriek. 
The employer and employee will hear

And continue their affair. The shriek 
Will rack the thickets. There is no place,

Here, for the lark fixed in the mind, 
In the museum of the sky. The cock

Will claw sleep. Mourning is not sun, 
It is this posture of the nerves,

As if a blunted player clutched 
The nuances of the blue guitar.

It must be this rhapsody or none, 
The rhapsody of things as they are.


Throw away the lights, the definitions, 
And say of what you see in the dark

That it is this or that it is that, 
But do not use the rotted names.

How should you walk in that space and know 
Nothing of the madness of space,

Nothing of its jocular procreations? 
Throw the lights away. Nothing must stand

Between you and the shapes you take 
When the crust of shape has been destroyed.

You as you are? You are yourself. 
The blue guitar surprises you.


That generation's dream, availed 
In the mud, in Monday's dirty light,

That's it, the only dream they knew, 
Time in its final block, not time

To come, a wrangling of two dreams. 
Here is the bread of time to come,

Here is its actual stone. The bread 
Will be our bread, the stone will be

Our bed and we shall sleep by night. 
We shall forget by day, except

The moments when we choose to play 
The imagined pine, the imagined jay.

~ Wallace Stevens
(The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens)