Saturday, July 31, 2010

not moving even one step

The rain falling too lightly to shape
an audible house, and audible tree,
blind, soaking, the old horse waits in his pasture.

He knows the field for exactly what it is:
his limitless mare, his beloved.
Even the mallards sleep in her red body maned
in thistles, hooved in the new green shallows of spring.

Slow rain streams from fetlocks, hips, the lowered head,
while she stands in the place beside him that no one sees.

The muzzles almost touch.
How silently the heart pivots on its hinge.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from The Lives of the Heart

Friday, July 30, 2010


What is the deep listening?  Sama is
a greeting from the secret ones inside
the heart, a letter.  The branches of 
your intelligence grow new leaves in
the wind of this listening.  The body
reaches a peace.  Rooster sound comes,
reminding you of your love for dawn.
The reed flute and the singer's lips:
the knack of how spirit breathes into
us becomes as simple and ordinary as
eating and drinking.  The dead rise with 
the pleasure of listening.  If someone
can't hear a trumpet melody, sprinkle
dirt on his head and declare him dead.
Listen, and feel the beauty of your
separation, the unsayable absence.
There's a moon inside every human being.
Learn to be companions with it.  Give
more of your life to this listening.  As
brightness is to time, so you are to
the one who talks to the deep ear in
your chest.  I should sell my tongue
and buy a thousand ears when that
one steps near and begins to speak.
~ Rumi
from The Glance
translated by Coleman Barks

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

When the Cat Stole the Milk

Well there it is.  There's nothing to do.
The cat steals the milk and it's gone.
Then the cat steals you, and you're found
Days later, with milk on your face.
That implies that you become whoever
Steals you.  The trees steal a man,
And an old birch becomes his wife
And they live together in the woods.
Some of us have always wanted
God to steal us.  Then our friends
Would call each other, and print
Posters, and we would never be found.
~ Robert Bly

Monday, July 26, 2010

People Like Us

There are more like us. All over the world
There are confused people, who can't remember
The name of their dog when they wake up, and people
Who love God but can't remember where
He was when they went to sleep.  It's
All right.  The world cleanses itself this way.
A wrong number occurs to you in the middle
Of the night, you dial it, it rings just in time
To save the house.  And the second-story man
Gets the wrong address, where the insomniac lives,
And he's lonely, and they talk, and the thief
Goes back to college.  Even in graduate school,
You can wander into the wrong classroom,
And hear great poems lovingly spoken
By the wrong professor.  And you find your soul,
And greatness has a defender, and even in death
you're safe.
Robert Bly
for James Wright

Words the Dreamer Spoke to my Father in Maine

Ocean light as we wake reminds us how dark
Our old house is.  That's home.  Like Hamlet,
One visit to Wittenberg is enough, and we'll soon be
Back in crazy Denmark.  I dreamt I stood
In a machine shop; my dead father stands beside me.
We talk, but his eyes remain on my chest.
I say to him for the first him:"Oh look at me
When we talk." I could see cubbyholes
With dark tools, and a rough floor stained with oil.
Clotted windows, cobwebs, a black vise.
But sunlight outside our windows speaks of ocean
Light, bone light, Labrador light, prairie light.
It's the same light that glints off swords, and shines
From Idaho rivers some days, and from the thin
Face just before death. I say to my father,
"We could be there if we could lift our eyes."
~ Robert Bly
from Morning Poems
photo by Kathleen Connally

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Dark Night (excerpt)

In the delicious night,
In privacy, where no one saw me,
Nor did I see one thing,
I had no light or guide
But the fire that burned inside my chest.
That fire showed me
The way more clearly that the blaze of noon
To where, waiting for me,
Was the One I knew so well,
In that place where no one ever is.
I stood still; I forgot who I was,
My face leaning against Him,
Everything stopped, abandoned me,
My being was gone, forgotten
Among the white lilies.
~ Saint John of the Cross

But the silence in the mind

But the silence in the mind
is when we live best, within
listening distance of the silence
we call God.  This is the deep 
calling to deep of the psalm-
writer, the bottomless ocean
We launch the armada of
our thoughts on, never arriving.

It is a presence, then,
whose margins are our margins;
that calls us out over our 
own fathoms.  What to do
but draw a little nearer to
such ubiquity by remaining still?

~ R. S. Thomas

calmly and smoothly

The soul, then, being thus inwardly recollected in God or before God,
 now and then becomes so sweetly attentive to the goodness of her well-beloved,
that her attention seems not to her to be attention, so purely and delicately is it exercised;
 as it happens to certain rivers, which glide so calmly and smoothly 
that beholders and such as float upon them, seem neither to see nor feel any motion,
 because the waters are not seen to ripple or flow at all.
~ Saint Francis de Sales
from An Introduction to the Devout Life

Friday, July 23, 2010

The spring woods hastening now

The spring woods hastening now
To overshadow him,
He's passing in to where
He can't see out.  It charms
Mere eyesight to believe
The nearest thing not trees
Is the sky, into which 
The trees reach, opening
Their luminous new leaves.
Burdened only by 
A weightless shawl of shade
The lighted leaves let fall,
He seems to move within
A form unpatterned to 
His eye or mind, design
Betokened to his thought
By leafshapes tossed about.
Ways untranslatable
To human tongue or hand
Seem tangled here, and yet
Are brought to light, are brought
To life, and thought finds rest
Beneath a brightened tree
In which, unseen, a warbler
Feeds and sins.  His song's
Small shapely melody
Comes down irregularly,
As all light's givings come.
~ Wendell Berry
photo by Kathleen Connally

the light changes

Can I see the buds that are swelling 
in the woods on the slopes
on the far side of the valley? I can't,
of course, nor can I see 
the twinleafs and anemones
that are blooming over there
bright-scattered above the dead
leaves.  But the swelling buds
and little blossoms make
a new softness in the light
that is visible all the way here.
The trees, the hills that were stark
in the old cold become now
tender, and the light changes.
~ Wendell Berry

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Song of the Barren Orange Tree


Cut my shadow from me.
Free me from the torment 
of seeing myself without fruit.

Why was I born among mirrors?
The day walks in circles around me,
and the night copies me
in all its stars.

I want to live without seeing myself.
And I will dream that ants
and thistleburrs are my
leaves and my birds.

Cut my shadow from me.
Free me from the torment
of seeing myself without fruit.

~ Federico Garcia Lorca
from The Selected Poems of Federico Garcia Lorca
translated by W.S. Merwin

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Things to Think

Think in ways you've never thought before.
If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message
Larger than anything you've ever heard,
Vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats.
Think that someone may bring a bear to your door,
Maybe wounded and deranged; or think that a moose
Has risen out of the lake, and he's carrying on his antlers
A child of your own whom you've never seen.
When someone knocks on the door, think that he's about
To give you something large: tell you you're forgiven,
Or that it's not necessary to work all the time, or that it's
Been decided that if you lie down no one will die.
~ Robert Bly
from Morning Poems

the essence of beauty

You know when you see something like a marvelous mountain against the blue sky, the vivid, bright, clear, unpolluted snow, the majesty of it drives all your thoughts, your concerns, your problems away.  Have you noticed that?  You say, 'How beautiful it is', and for two seconds perhaps, or for even a minute, you are absolutely silent.  The grandeur of it drives away for that second, the pettiness of ourselves.  So that immensity has taken us over.  Like a child occupied with an intricate toy for an hour; he won't talk, he won't make any noise, he is completely absorbed in that.  The toy has absorbed him.  So the mountain absorbs you and therefore for the second, or the minute, you are absolutely quiet, which means there is no self.  Now, without being absorbed by something - either a toy, a mountain, a face, or an idea - to be completely without the me in oneself, is the essence of beauty.

J. Krishnamurti
from a talk in Saanen, July 18th 1978

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My Doubts on Going to Visit a New Friend

I'm glad that a white horse grazes in that meadow
Outside your kitchen window; even when it rains
There's still someone there.  And it rains often
In the mountains.

I have to ask myself what kind of friend I can be.
You'll want to know whether I do dishes,
Or know my share of stories, or any Wallace
Stevens poems be heart.

I know that I won't talk all the time, or steal
Money, or complain about my room,
Or undermine you, or speak disparagingly
Of your family.

I am afraid there'll be a moment when 
I fail you, friend; I will turn slightly
Away, our eyes will not meet, and out in the field
There will be no one.

Robert Bly


There's something dangerous
In being with good talkers.

The fly's stories of his ancestors
Don't mean much to the frog.

I can't be the noisy person I am
If you don't stop talking.

Some people talk so brilliantly
That we get small and vanish.

The shadows near that Dutch woman
Tell you that Rembrandt is a good listener.

Robert Bly

Visiting Sand Island

Somebody showed off and tried to tell the truth
And drank wine and went to bed.  Someone 
Woke in the night and wanted his children
To walk in the grass on this island under the stars.
Someone was lucky.  Someone had eyes and found
Stars.  Someone had feet and found grass.
Someone loved thought, and knew things to learn.
Someone could turn in the river and go up or down.
Someone thought he was unlucky, thought he didn't try
To tell the truth.  Someone thought his head was dark.
Someone tried to feel as bad as others did; someone
Flapped along the ground to draw the fox to him.
Tell him, friends, that the nest is now gone;
Tell him the little twigs are all dispersed.
Tell him all he has to do is walk under stars.
Tell him the fox has long since eaten his dinner.
Robert Bly

For Ruth

There's a graceful way of doing things. Birch branches
Curve slightly upward; or the wind brings a few
snowflakes down, and then joins the night;
Or you leave me a sprig of chervil and no more.

Each morning we have this new chance.  We can walk
A few steps behind the others down the mountain;
We can enter a conversation as if we were blessed,
Not insisting on our old way of gaining pity.

There's a way you have of knowing what another
May need ahead of time, before the party
Begins, as smoke sometimes disappears
Downward among branches.  And I've learned

From you this new way of letting a poem be.

Robert Bly
from Morning Poems

Friday, July 16, 2010

detachment from the world

Confusion arises because certain spiritual teachings say that detachment from the world is necessary for enlightenment.  The concept of detachment can be confused with release from pain, a way of numbing so that you don't have to experience the pains of life.  If you are not willing to fully experience the pains of love, the pains of the heart breaking open, then you close your heart in the name of comfort and control, even in the name of enlightenment.
Give up every idea of detachment, and experience your detachment fully.  Experience the pain and the beauty of attachment, and the grief as what you are attached to is ripped away.  Then you will recognize what can never be detached, what is not some stoic, unfeeling, unemotional, inhuman existence, but what is freely and consciously all of it.
~ Gangaji
from: the Diamond in your Pocket

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

to spareness


You lean toward nonexistence,
but have not yet become it entirely.
For this reason, you can still be praised.

The tree unleafing enters your dominion.
An early snowfall shows you abide in all things.

Your two dimensions are line and inclination.
Therefore desire,
though is incinders each mote of its object, itself is spare.

The late paintings of Turner
prove your slender depths without limit.
The beauty too of shakuhachi and cello.

"Winter darkness. Rain. No crickets singing."
-You are there, pulling hard on the rope-end.

Remembering you, I remember also compassion.
I cannot explain this.
Nor how you live in a teabowl
or in a stone that has spent a long time in a river.
Nor the way you at times can signal your own contradiction,
meaning extra, but not by much-
"Brother, can you spare a dime," one thin man asks another.

Any room, however cluttered, gestures toward you,
"Here lives this, not that."
In mathematics, the modest "<" sign gestures toward you.

Your season is surely November,
your fruit, persimmons ripening by coldness.

Your sound a crow cry, a bus idling at night by roadside.

Without apparent effect,
and so you remind of starlight on the colors of a cow's hide.

Your proposition, like you, is simple, of interest only to the human soul:
vast reach of all that is not, and still something is.

~ Jane Hirshfield

Monday, July 12, 2010

One of the Butterflies

The trouble with pleasure is the timing
it can overtake me without warning
and be gone before I know it is here
it can stand facing me unrecognized
while I am remembering somewhere else
in another age or someone not seen
for years and never to be seen again
in this world and it seems that I cherish
only now a joy I was not aware of
when it was here although it remains
out of reach and will not be caught or named
or called back and if I could make it stay
as I want to it would turn into pain
W.S. Merwin
from: The Shadow of Sirius

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Long before daybreak
none of the birds awake
rain comes down with the sound
of a huge wind rushing
through the valley trees
it comes down around us
all at the same time
and beyond it there is nothing
it falls without hearing itself
without knowing
there is anyone here
without seeing where it is
or where it is going
like a moment of great 
happiness of our own
that we cannot remember
coasting with the lights off
W.S. Merwin

a momentary creed

I believe in the ordinary day
that is here at this moment and is me

I do not see it going its own way
but I never saw how it came to me

It extends beyond whatever I may
think I know and all that is real to me

it is the present that it bears away
where has it gone when it has gone from me

there is no place I know outside today
except for the unknown all around me

the only presence that appears to stay 
everything that I call mine it lent me

even the way that I believe the day
for as long as it is here and is me

~ W.S. Merwin
from:  The Shadow of Sirius


That sounds wonderful

Good poetry
Makes a beautiful naked woman
Materialize from
Who then says,
With a sword precariously waving
In her hands,
"If you look at my loins
I will cut off your head,
And reach down and grab your spirit
By its private parts,
And carry you off to heaven
Squealing in joy."
Hafiz says,
"That sounds wonderful, just
Someone please - start writing
Some great
- Hafiz
from: The subject tonight is love - versions by Daniel Ladinsky

Friday, July 9, 2010

what the bird with the human head knew

I went to the bird
with the human head,
and asked,
Please Sir,
where is God?

God is too busy
to be here on earth,
His angels are like one thousand geese assembled
and always flapping.
But I can tell you where the well of God is.

Is it on earth?
I asked.
He replied,
Yes. It was dragged down
from paradise by one of the geese.

I walked many days,
past witches that eat grandmothers knitting booties
as if they were collecting a debt.
Then, in the middle of the desert
I found the well,
it bubbled up and down like a litter of cats
and there was water,
and I drank,
and there was water,
and I drank.

Then the well spoke to me.

It said: Abundance is scooped from abundance,
yet abundance remains.

Then I knew.

~ Anne Sexton
(Few established poets nowadays have a background as non-spectacular as that of Anne Sexton (1928-1974), a mediocre student who neither went to college nor formally studied literature. For a time she worked as a fashion model. Emotional, impetuous, she even eloped at the age of 19.
Anne Sexton began falling to pieces in her early 20’s after the births of her two daughters. Her psychiatrist recommended writing poetry as a form of therapy; she took to the typewriter at the age of 26 and never looked back.)

what's that

Before it came inside
I had watched it from my kitchen window,
watched it swell like a new balloon,
watched it slump and then divide,
like something I know I know —
a broken pear or two halves of the moon,
or round white plates floating nowhere
or fat hands waving in the summer air
until they fold together like a fist or a knee.
After that it came to my door. Now it lives here.
And of course: it is a soft sound, soft as a seal’s ear,
that was caught between a shape and a shape and then returned to me.
You know how parents call
from sweet beaches anywhere, come in come in
and how you sank under water to put out
the sound, or how one of them touched in the hall
at night: the rustle and the skin
you couldn’t know, but heard, the stout
slap of tides and the dog snoring. It’s here
now, caught back from time in my adult year —
the image we did forget: the crackling shells on our feet
or the swing of the spoon in soup. It is as real
as splinters stuck in your ear. The noise we steal
is half a bell. And outside cars whisk by on the suburban street
and are there and are true.
What else is this, this intricate shape of air?
calling me, calling you.
~ Anne Sexton

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The divine will

The divine will
is a deep abyss
of which the present 
moment is the entrance.
If you plunge
into this abyss
you will find it
infinitely more vast
than your
~ Jean Pierre de Caussade
(French Jesuit who in the 18th century coined the phrase
"the sacrament of the present moment."  
He said,
"It is necessary to disengage from all we feel and do
in order to walk with God in the duty of the present moment...")

The Pentecost Castle (excerpt)


I shall go down
to the lovers' well
and wash this wound
that will not heal

beloved soul
what shall you see
nothing at all
yet eye to eye

depths of non-being
perhaps too clear
my desire dying
as I desire

~ Geoffrey Hill

You who want

You who want
seek the Oneness
There you
will find
the clear mirror
already waiting
~ Hadewijch II
art by Picasso


to nothing
the circle
that is
the world's things.
Then the Naked
can grow wide,
embracing all
~ Hadewijch II

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Blessing

May the light of your soul guide you.
May the light of your soul bless the work you do 
with the secret love and warmth of your heart.
May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul.
May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light, 
and renewal to those who work with you 
and to those who see and receive your work.
May your work never weary you.
May it release within you wellsprings of refreshment,
 inspiration, and excitement.
May you be present in what you do.
May you never become lost in the bland absences.
May the day never burden.
May dawn find you awake and alert, 
approaching your new day with dreams, possibilities, and promises.
May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.
May you go into the night blessed, sheltered. and protected.
May your soul calm, console, and renew you.

~ John O'Donohue
(John said, "the soul is not in the body;
 rather the body is to be found in the soul.)