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

Listening


.
.
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

A Question the Bundle Had


.
.
When summer was nearly over,
The bundles would stand in the stubble
Whispering.  One said: "For a while,
It looked like I might get away."
.
"I could have done it -
No one would have noticed.
But it was hard to know
If I should go singly, or with others."
.
Each of us resembles that
Bundle.  For years we waited
For the right moment to escape.
Perhaps it was that moment in July
.
When the thunder came.  But the next
Day it was too late.  And we
Ended up in the thresher.
Were we right to wait?
.
~ Robert Bly
an early Vincent Van Gogh
.

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
Given
.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Song of the Barren Orange Tree


.
.
Woodcutter.
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.
.
Woodcutter.
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
.


Conversation with the Soul


.
.
The soul said, "Give me something to look at."
So I gave her a farm.  She said,
"It's too large."  So I gave her a field.
The two of us sat down.
.
Sometimes I would fall in love with a lake
Or a pine cone.  But I liked her
Most.  She knew it.
"Keep writing," she said.
.
So I did.  Each time the new snow fell,
We would be married again.
The holy dead sat down by our bed.
This went on for years.
.
"This field is getting too small," she said.
"Don't you know anyone else
To fall in love with?"
What would you have said to Her?
.
~ Robert Bly
.

.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

extraordinary concentrated affection


.
.
You know, when you have a small child with you, you listen to its cries, you listen to its words, its murmurs.  You are so concerned you listen; you may be asleep, but the moment he cries you wake up.  You are attentive all the time because the child is yours, you must care for it, you must love it, you must hold it.  You are so tremendously attentive that even though you are asleep, you wake up.  Now, with that same quality of attention, affection, care, you give to every movement of that child, could you watch the mirror which is yourself?  Not me, you are not listening to me: you are listening with that extraordinary concentrated affection and care to the mirror which is yourself, and to what it is telling you.  Will you do it?
.
J. Krishnamurti
from a talk at Saanen, July 18th, 1978
.

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
.

Thoughts


.
.
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
.

Letting go of control


.
.
Letting go of control is a deeper relaxation, a floating on the ocean.  You can become aware of where you are holding on, and you can just let go and allow the ocean to hold you.  You can become aware that all your tension and clinging are unnecessary, and then relax and let yourself be supported.  In this same way you can become aware of all the mental and emotional energy that gets exerted in holding on to a particular story, and you can just let it all go.  There is a deeper intelligence than the one you use to control, and it is present to be recognized in all lives, at all moments.
.
~ Gangaji
from: the Diamond in your Pocket
.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Kindness



.

.
Briefly
We walk this earth.
We have
But a short time.
We resemble grasses;
Green in the spring,
Brown in the summer heat,
Withering in the winter wind.
Those who understand this
Put aside their useless quarrels.
The cosmos is unfathomably vast.
The human mind is very small.
An act of kindness is never wasted;
It is the gateway to the deathless and unborn,
It is the exultation of the heart.
.
~  Jim Wilson
.

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,
declaring:
"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



Daily living is the only field of action (click title to listen)




.


Daily living is the only field of action available to us. Daily living is the field of relationships, where self-discovery is possible. Self-discovery cannot take place in withdrawal. Even if you wish to look at yourself and get acquainted with the factuality of your inner life, you require the mirror of relationships. The relationships, the movement of relationships, in daily living are the mirror in which the factuality of your psychological structure gets reflected. And in that mirror, you can look at yourself.

It is only in the movement of relationships, of what you call daily living, that you can discover whether there is inner freedom OR you are bound by a number of chains: sensually, verbally, psychologically. Freedom of slavery is possible in the movement of relationships. Away from them, the word freedom has no meaning. The word peace is meaningless if you live in isolation […]

So whether you call it peace, whether you call it freedom, enlightenment – it can occur, it can happen only in the field of relationships which give you the opportunity for direct action. And understanding is the perfume of action. Freedom and peace are the perfume of the movement of relationship.

This is necessary to be clarified because spirituality, religion, spiritual inquiry are unfortunately associated with withdrawal from living. And it seems to me this withdrawal from living, this turning away from the travail of responsibilities, living with people, handling the man-made structures, etc., withdrawing from all that is a denial of inquiry. In withdrawal, in isolation, it’s like a barren field where you cannot grow.

Creativity requires the soil of relationship. The flowering of freedom requires the action and interaction between nature and yourself between non-human species and yourself, between human species and yourself. So one would like to emphasize the necessity of living with people, in society, so that the discovery can take place. Living somewhere in the monastery, in a temple, in an ashram, in the caves of the Himalayas or wherever, thought can project an idea of peace, it can project an idea of transformation, but it’s lifeless.

The friend who is sitting with you has spent months in the cave in the Himalayas, in a student life. Because there was the conditioning around her that you have to go to the Himalayas if you want inner peace, enlightenment [….] And living for months where you wouldn’t see a human being at all. And of course there was what we would call peace, but it was dead. And there was relaxation which had no dynamism. Relaxation to the extent of being sensually numbed….



Vimala Thakar



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

Falling


.
.
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
Words,
.
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
Wonderful.
.
Someone please - start writing
Some great
Lines."
.
- 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.)