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

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..


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


Friday, January 21, 2011

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


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

The world rests


The world rests in the night. Trees, mountains, fields, and faces are released from the prison of shape and the burden of exposure. Each thing creeps back into its own nature within the shelter of the dark. Darkness is the ancient womb. Nighttime is womb-time. Our souls come out to play. The darkness absolves everything; the struggle for identity and impression falls away. We rest in the night.


~ John O'Donohue
from Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom


the way it is with children


I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for
may for once spring clear
without my contriving.
If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.
Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,
streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from Rilke's Book of Hours
translation by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

Friday, January 14, 2011

for a new home


May this house shelter your life.
When you come in home here,
May all the weight of the world
Fall from your shoulders.
May your heart be tranquil here,
Blessed by peace the world can not give.
May this home be a lucky place,
Where the graces your life desires
Always find the pathway to your door.
May nothing destructive
Ever cross your threshold.
May this be a safe place
Full of understanding and acceptance,
Where you can be as you are,
Without the need of any mask
Of pretense or image.
May this home be a place of discovery,
Where the possibilities that sleep
In the clay of your soul can emerge
To deepen and refine your vision
For all that is yet to come to birth.

~ John O'Donohue
from To Bless the Space Between Us


hidden but always present


The Tao is like an empty container:
it can never be emptied and can never be filled.
Infinitely deep, it is the source of all things.
It dulls the sharp, unties the knotted,
shades the lighted, and unites all of creation with dust.
It is hidden but always present.
I don't know who gave birth to it.
It is older than the concept of God.

~ Tao Te Ching
translation by j. h. mcdonald


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Who has been lived all these years


This which seeks is That which is sought; 
That which is sought is This which seeks.

There is no seeker, and no thing sought.
The functioning of "seeking" in whole-mind 
is conceptualized by split-mind as Seeker and Sought.

From the beginning not a thing is. 

~ Hui Neng

This which I am is That (which I am not),
That which I am not is This (which I am).
There is neither This or That.
I neither am nor am not 
(there is neither an I which is nor an I which is not)
There is neither whole-mind nor split-mind.
There is nothing to function, and no functioning.
There is no absence and no presence.

There still remains spontaneous immediacy?

It, also, neither is nor is not.
Now do you understand that there is not a thing to be understood?
Who has understood,  What has not understood?
Who has been lived all these years,  What has suffered?

~ Wei Wu Wei
from All Else is Bondage

As you once found me


As you once found me,
I was small, so small
yet blooms appeared
Just be quiet within yourself.
I was a nameless and small
and longed  so deeply
until you said that I am too big
for any name:
For, it seems,  I am one
with myth, with May, and with the sea,
and like the living fragrance of the wine
that strengthens the soul ...

Rainer Maria Rilke 
from The Early Poems