Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dissolver of sugar, dissolve me


Dissolver of sugar, dissolve me,
if this is the time.
Do it gently with a touch of a hand,  or a look.
Every morning I wait at dawn.  That's when
it's happened before.  Or do it suddenly
like an execution.  How else
can I get ready for death?
~ Rumi

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Love flows from God to man,
Like a bird
Who rivers the air
Without moving her wings.
Thus we move in His world
One in body and soul,
Though outwardly separate in form.
As the Source strikes the note,
Humanity sings -
The Holy Spirit is our harpist,
And all the strings
Which are touched in Love
Must sound.

~ Mechtild of Magdeburg

I Am But a Traveler In This Land & Know Little of Its Ways


Is everything a field of energy caused
by human projection? From the crib bars
hang the teething tools. Above the finger-drummed 
desk, a bit lip. The cyclone fence of buts
surrounds the soccer field of what if.
Sometimes it seems like a world where no one 
knows what he or she is doing, eight lanes 
both directions. How about a polymer
that contracts in response to electrical
charge? A swimming pool on the 18th floor? 
King Lear done by sock puppets? Anyone
who has traveled here knows the discrepancies
between idea and fact. The idea is the worm 
in the tequila and the next day is the fact. 
In between may be the sacred—real blood 
from the wooden virgin’s eyes, and the hoax—
landing sites in cornfields. Maybe ideas
are best sprung from actions like the children 
of Zeus. One gives us elastic and the omelette, 
another nightmares and SUVs. There’s considerable
wobble in the system, and the fan belt screams, 
waking the baby. Swaying in the darkened 
nursery, kissing the baby-smelling head: 
good idea! But also sadness looking at the sea.
The stranded whale, guided out of the cove 
by tugboats, turns and swims back in. 
The violinist will not let go her violin 
which is 200 years old and still on the train
thus she is dragged down the track. 
By what manner is the soul joined to the body? 
Answer: an arm connecting a violin
to a violinist. According to Freud,
there are no accidents. Astrologists
and Presbyterians agree for different reasons. 
You fall down the stairs with a birthday cake. 
You try to fit a blunderbuss into a laptop.
Human consciousness: is it the projector
or the screen? They come in orange jumpsuits 
and spray the grass so everything dies
but the grass. It is too late to ask Kafka
what he thinks. Sometimes they give you 
a box of ash, a handshake, and the rest 
is your problem. In one version,
the beggar turns out to be a king and grants
the poor couple a castle and a moat and two 
silver horses said to be sired by the wind.
That was before dentistry, which might have been 
a better gift. You did not want to get sick 
in the 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th or 18th centuries.
So too the 19th and 20th were to be avoided
but the doctor coming to bleed you is the master 
of the short story. After the kiss from whom 
he will never know, the lieutenant, going home,
touches a bush in which birds are singing.

~ Dean Young
from Skid

As you may know, Dean is in need of a heart transplant.

Over the past 10 or 15 years, Dean has lived with a degenerative heart condition--congestive heart failure due to idiopathic hypotropic cardiomyopathy. After periods of more-or-less remission, in which his heart was stabilized and improved with the help of medications, the function of his heart has worsened. Now, radically.
a video by D.J. Dolack of the recent benefit reading for dean Young at the National Arts Club in Manhattan.
Readers include Robert N. Casper, Joe Di Prisco, Matthea Harvey, Edward Hirsch, Mary Karr, Matthew Rohrer, Gerald Stern and Dara Wier.
...and Dean Young on the telephone.

To make an online donation, please visit Dean Young's page at the National Foundation for Transplants.

thanks to Rebel Girl for the update


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

returning to the source is tranquility

If you can empty your mind of all thoughts
your heart will embrace the tranquility of peace.
Watch the workings of all of creation,
but contemplate their return to the source.

All creatures in the universe
return to the point where they began.
Returning to the source is tranquility
because we submit to Heaven's mandate.

Returning to Heaven's mandate is called being constant.
Knowing the constant is called 'enlightenment'.
Not knowing the constant is the source of evil deeds
because we have no roots.
By knowing the constant we can accept things as they are.
By accepting things as they are, we become impartial.
By being impartial, we become one with Heaven.
By being one with Heaven, we become one with Tao.
Being one with Tao, we are no longer concerned about
losing our life because we know the Tao is constant
and we are one with Tao.

~ Lao Tzu
from the Tao Te Ching
translated by j. h. mcdonald
cave art: chauvet-pont-d'arc


Unto this Darkness


Unto this Darkness which is
beyond Light
we pray that we may come, and 
may attain unto vision through
the loss of sight and knowledge,
and that in ceasing thus to see or
to know
we may learn to know that which 
is beyond all perception and 
(for this emptying of
our faculties
is true sight and knowledge).

~ Pseudo-Dionysius
Dionysius the Areopagite called Pseudo - to differentiate him from the Dionysius mentioned by Paul in Acts.  He lived in the 6th Century and has had a profound impact on Christian mystics.



desert places



Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast
In a field I looked into going past,
And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
But a few weeds and stubble showing last.
The woods around it have it--it is theirs.
All animals are smothered in their lairs.
I am too absent-spirited to count;
The loneliness includes me unawares.
And lonely as it is that loneliness
Will be more lonely ere it will be less--
A blanker whiteness of benighted snow
With no expression, nothing to express.
They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars--on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.
~ Robert Frost


Monday, January 24, 2011

walk in the dark

If a man
wishes to be sure
of the road he travels on,
he must close his eyes 
and walk in the dark.

~ Saint John of the Cross

seeing for oneself, the value and the limitations of the knowing, and understanding of the mind 
can allow the faith to step boldly into the unknowing of silence, of darkness,
 and find ourselves within the unspeakable.


I believe that the root of evil,
in everybody perhaps,
but, certainly in those whom
affliction has touched,
is daydreaming.
It is the sole consolation,
the unique resource of the afflicted;
the one solace that helps them bear
the fearful burden to time;
and a very innocent one,
besides being indispensable.
So how could it be possible to renounce it?
It has only one disadvantage,
which is that it is unreal.
To renounce it for the love of truth
is really to abandon all one's possessions
in a mad excess of love and follow Him
who is the personification of Truth.
And it is really to bear the cross;
because time is the cross.
In all its forms without exception,
daydreaming is falsehood.
It excludes love. Love is real.

~ Simone Weil
from for lovers of god everywhere
poems of the Christian mystics
by roger housden
art by picasso

  Daydreaming - not the activity of having thoughts, 
but allowing one's attention to get lost in them -
 is an obstacle to presence, an obstacle to love 
which exists only in presence, an obstacle to
 our embrace of the fullness of life,  and to 
contemplative practices in all traditions..


When we are weak

When we are weak, we are
strong.  When our eyes close
on the world, then somewhere
within us the bush
burns.  When we are poor
and aware of the inadequacy
of our table, it is to that 
uninvited the guest comes.
~ R. S. Thomas

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I am blind


I am blind and do not see the things of this world; 
but when the Light comes from above, it enlightens my Heart, 
and I can see, for the Eye of my Heart sees everything.
The Heart is a sanctuary of the Center in which there is a little space 
wherein the Great Spirit dwells, and this is the Eye. 
This is the Eye of Wakentaka by which he sees all things,
and through which we see Him.

~  Black Elk


Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Night Abraham Called to the Stars


Do you remember the night Abraham first saw
The stars? He cried to Saturn: "You are my Lord!"
How happy he was! When he saw the Dawn Star,
He cried, ""You are my Lord!" How destroyed he was
When he watched them set. Friends, he is like us:
We take as our Lord the stars that go down.
We are faithful companions to the unfaithful stars.
We are diggers, like badgers; we love to feel
The dirt flying out from behind our back claws.
And no one can convince us that mud is not 
Beautiful. It is our badger soul that thinks so.
We are ready to spend the rest of our life
Walking with muddy shoes in the wet fields.
We resemble exiles in the kingdom of the serpent.
We stand in the onion fields looking up at the night.
My heart is a calm potato by day, and a weeping
Abandoned woman by night. Friend, tell me what to do,
Since I am a man in love with the setting stars.

~ Robert Bly


a turtle's pace

Consider the turtle.  A whole summer - June, July, and August - is not too good nor too much to hatch a turtle in.  Perchance you have worried yourself, despaired of the world, meditated the end of life, and all things seemed rushing to destruction; but nature has steadily and serenely advanced with a turtle's pace.

~ Henry David Thoreau
from a journal entry, 1856
art by Roderick Maclver


still playing



Mind and body dropped off; 
dropped off mind and body!
This state should be experienced by everyone;
it is like piling fruit into a basket without a bottom,
like pouring water into a bowl With a pierced hole;
However much you may pile or pour you cannot fill it up.
When this is realized the pail bottom is broken through.
But while there is still a trace of conceptualizations
which makes you say ‘I have this understanding’
or ‘I have that realization’,
you are still playing with unrealities.


~ Dogen Zenji
Dogen was born about 1200 in Kyoto, Japan,
 he was drawn to the teachings of silent meditation. 
He established his own school of zen. 


Friday, January 21, 2011

unsafe rafts


...rituals are unsafe rafts for crossing
the sea of samsara, of birth and death.
Doomed to shipwreck are those who try to cross
the sea of samsara on these poor rafts.
Ignorant of their ignorance, yet wise 
in their own esteem, these deluded ones
proud of their learning go round and round
like the blind led by the blind.
Living in darkness, immature, unaware
of any higher good or goal, they fall
again and again into the sea.

The eye cannot see it; mind cannot grasp it.
The deathless Self has neither caste nor race,
neither eyes nor ears nor hands nor feet.
As the web issues out of the spider
and is withdrawn, as plants sprout from the earth.
as hair grows from the body, even so,
the sages say, this universe springs from
the deathless Self, the source of life.
The deathless Self meditated upon 
Himself and projected the universe
As evolutionary energy.
From this energy developed life, mind,
the elements, and the world of karma,
which is enchained by cause and effect.
The lord of Love is the one Self of all.
He is detached work, spiritual wisdom,
and immortality.  Realize the Self
hidden in the heart, and cut asunder
the knot of ignorance here and now.

~ the Mundaka Upanishad
translated by Eknath Easwaran


when I detect a beauty


When I detect a beauty in any of the recesses of nature, 
I am reminded by the serene and retired spirit in which it requires to be contemplated, 
of the inexpressible privacy of life - how silent and unambitious it is.  
The beauty there in mosses will have to be considered from the holiest, quietest nook.
My truest, serenest moments are too still for emotion; they have woolen feet.  
In all our lives we live under the hill, and if we are not gone we live there still. 
To be calm, to be serene!  
There is the calmness of the lake when there is not a breath of wind;
there is the calmness of a stagnant ditch.  So is it with us.  
Sometimes we are clarified and calmed healthily, as we never were before in our lives, 
not by an opiate, but by some unconscious obedience to the all-just laws, 
so that we become like a still lake of purest crystal 
and without an effort our depths are revealed to ourselves.  
I awoke into a music which no one by me heard.
Whom shall I thank for it?  I feel my Maker blessing me.
To the sane man the world is a musical instrument.
The very touch affords an exquisite pleasure.


~ Henry David Thoreau
taken from a journal entry, June 22,1851


water lily



My whole life is mine, but whoever says so
will deprive me, for it is infinite.
The ripple of water, the shade of the sky
are mine; it is still the same, my life.

No desire opens me: I am full,
I never close myself with refusal-
in the rhythm of my daily soul
I do not desire-I am moved;

by being moved I exert my empire,
making the dreams of night real:
into my body at the bottom of the water
I attract the beyonds of mirrors...

~ Rainer Maria Rilke 
translated by A. Poulin 


you, darkness

You, darkness, that I come from
I love you more than all the fires
that fence in the world, 
for the fire makes a circle of light for everyone
and then no one outside learns of you. 

But the darkness pulls in everything-
shapes and fires, animals and myself, 
how easily it gathers them! -
powers and people-

and it is possible a great presence is moving near me. 

I have faith in nights. 

~ Rainer Maria Rilke


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

nurture the darkness of your soul


Nurture the darkness of your soul
until you become whole.
Can you do this and not fail?
Can you focus your life-breath until you become
supple as a newborn child?
While you cleanse your inner vision
will you be found without fault?
Can you love people and lead them
without forcing your will on them?
When Heaven gives and takes away
can you be content with the outcome?
When you understand all things
can you step back from your own understanding?
Giving birth and nourishing,
making without possessing,
expecting nothing in return.
To grow, yet not to control:
This is the mysterious virtue.

~ Tao Te Ching
translation by j. h. mcdonald




Sensitivity implies being vulnerable. 
One is sensitive to one's reactions, to one's hurts, one's beleaguered existence: 
that is, one is sensitive about oneself and in this vulnerable state there is really self-interest 
and therefore the capability of being hurt, of becoming neurotic. 
It is a form of resistance which is essentially concentrated on the self. 
The strength of vulnerability is not self-centred. 
It is like the young spring leaf that can withstand strong winds and flourish. 
This vulnerability is incapable of being hurt, whatever the circumstances. 
Vulnerability is without centre as the self. 
It has an extraordinary strength, vitality and beauty.

J. Krishnamurti
from Letters to the Schools Vol. 2
photo by albert koetsier




In every instant, two gates. One opens to fragrant paradise, one to hell.
Mostly we go through neither.
Mostly we nod to our neighbor,
lean down to pick up the paper,
go back into the house.
But the faint cries—ecstasy? horror?
Or did you think it the sound
of distant bees,
making only the thick honey of this good life?
~ Jane Hirshfield

Monday, January 17, 2011

to prose


Whatever you may say
whatever you pretend
you do not begin or end
when the stories do
the ones that you repeat
later starting again
or when the days that you tell
all those that never
themselves said a word
have long been utterly still
and yet you were there 
when they were 
you were heard
commenting in the unmetered
service of understanding
your description
remains current for some time
after the face has gone
even if not written down
but you are different
from what you recount
and although we know 
only scattered fragments of you
glimpses of birds in bushes
gestures in car windows 
of which we forget
at once almost everything 
you define us
we are the ones who need you
we can no longer tell
whether we believe
anything without you
or whether we can hear
all that you are not
O web of answer
sea of forgetting is it true
that you remember

~ W.S. Merwin
from Present Company


to the sorrow string

You invisible one
resounding on your own
whatever the others 
happen to be playing
source of a note
not there in the score
under whatever key
unphrased continuo
gut stretched between
the beginning and the end
what would the music
be without you
since even through
the chorus of pure joy
the tears hear you
and nothing can restrain them

~ W.S. Merwin

to the tongue


Whatever we say
we know there is another
language under this one
a word of it is always there on the tip of you
unsayable and early
O you for whom 
all languages have been named
who have none of your own
naked sleeper in the cave 
where you were born
dreamer without words
who first tasted 
a verb of the world
you who speak as though
you could see
you have not forgotten
the serpent your ancestor
its fluttering inarticulate flame
or expectation
on the way to you

~ W. S. Merwin
from Present Company


The Woodpecker Keeps Returning



The woodpecker keeps returning
to drill the house wall.
Put a pie plate over one place, he chooses another.

There is nothing good to eat there:
he has found in the house
a resonant billboard to post his intentions,
his voluble strength as provider.

But where is the female he drums for? Where?

I ask this, who am myself the ruined siding,
the handsome red-capped bird, the missing mate.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from after