Thursday, March 31, 2011

the in-turning flower of the fig


Within her dark robes
the nun is silent,
passion kept
between herself
and the largeness.
She moves
no differently
down granite stairs,
continues to sew poorly.
she would deny all.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from The Lives of the Heart




It is less the medicine than the doctor that cures.
It is less the doctor than the organic consciousness that heals.
Always the organic consciousness is responsible for illness and for its cure.
The doctor inspires, gives the impulsion that leads to health, 
the medicine helps or hinders locally to that end.
Medicine-only is an attempt at healing despite the organic consciousness.

~ Wei Wu Wei
from Fingers Pointing Towards the Moon


Vincent Willem van Gogh

Born March 30, 1853 in Groot-Zundert (today Zundert) in Breda, the Netherlands, 
Died, 29 July 1890 in Auvers-sur-Oise, France,
is one of the founders of modern painting. 

He left (according to current knowledge) 864 paintings and 1000 drawings,
which are all done in the last decade of his life. 
His major work is stylistically Post-Impressionism
exerted strong influence on later artists, particularly the Fauves and Expressionists. 

During his lifetime he sold only a few images, 

Belinda Thomson: Van Gogh - Paintings - The Masterpieces, p. 84

Some quotes by Vincent van Gogh:

.The more you love,
the more active you will be ....

Many a man has a big fire in his soul;
and no one comes to warm up to it ....

I want to flush, easily, seriously;
I want more soul and more love and more heart ....

Conversion is necessary
as the renewal of the leaves in the spring ....


with thanks to Semsakrebsler


lost in thought


is the beginning 
of misery

~ Benjamin Dean
more at zen poems


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

when love itself comes to kiss you

When love itself comes to kiss you,
don't hold back!  When the king

goes hunting, the forest smiles.
Now the king has become the place

and all the players, prey, bystander,
bow, arrow, hand and release.  How

does that feel?  Last night's dream
enters these open eyes.  When we die

and turn to dust, each particle will
be the whole.  You hear a mote whirl

taking form?  My music.  Love, calm,
patient.  The Friend has waded down

into existence, gotten stuck, and 
will not be seen again outside of

this.  We sometimes make spiderwebs
of smoke and saliva, fragile thought -

packets.  Leave thinking to the one
who gave intelligence .  In silence

there is eloquence.  Stop weaving,
and watch how the pattern improves.

~ Rumi
from the soul of Rumi
translations by Coleman Barks
photo by elliot erwitt

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

only the lowest servant of the kingdom, is worthy to become its ruler

Water is the softest and most yielding substance.
Yet nothing is better than water,
for overcoming the hard and rigid,
because nothing can compete with it.

Everyone knows that the soft and yielding
overcomes the rigid and hard,
but few can put this knowledge into practice.

Therefore the Master says:
"Only he who is the lowest servant of the kingdom,
is worthy to become its ruler.
He who is willing to tackle the most unpleasant tasks,
is the best ruler in the world."

True sayings seem contradictory.

~ Lao Tzu
from the Tao Te Ching

lingering in happiness


After rain after many days without rain,
it stays cool, private and cleansed, under the trees,
and the dampness there, married now to gravity,
falls branch to branch, leaf to leaf, down to the ground
where it will disappear - but not, of course, vanish
except to our eyes.  The roots of the oaks will have their share,
and the white threads of the grasses, and the cushion of moss;
a few drops, round as pearls, will enter the mole's tunnel;
and soon so many small stones, buried for a thousand years,
will feel themselves being touched.

~ Mary Oliver
from Why I wake early


If only for once it were still

If only for once it were still.
If the not quite right and the why this
could be muted, and the neighbor's laughter,
and the static my senses make -
if all of it didn't keep me from coming awake -

Then in one vast thousandfold thought
I could think you up to where thinking ends.

I could possess you,
even for the brevity of a smile,
to offer you 
to all that lives,
in gladness.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from The Book of Monastic Life, I,7

Sunday, March 27, 2011

the great longing

Here I sit between my brother the mountain and my sister the sea.

We three are one in loneliness, and the love that binds us together
 is deep and strong and strange.  Nay, it is deeper than my sister's depth
 and stronger than my brother's strength,
 and stranger than the strangeness of my madness.

Aeons upon aeons have passed since the first grey dawn made us
 visible to one another; and though we have seen the birth and the fullness
 and the death of many world, we are still eager and young.

We are  young and eager and yet we are mateless and unvisited, 
and though we lie in unbroken half embrace, we are uncomforted. 
 And what comfort is there for controlled desire and unspent passion?  
Whence shall come the flaming god to warm my sister's bed?  
And what she-torrent shall quench my brother's fire? 
And who is the woman that shall command my heart?

In the stillness of the night my sister murmurs in her sleep
 the fire-god's unknown name, and my brother call 
afar upon the cool and distant goddess. 
 But upon whom I call in my sleep I know not

Here I sit between my brother the mountain and my sister the sea. 
 We three are one in loneliness, and the love 
that binds us together is deep and strong and strange.

~ Kahlil Gibran
from Poems, Parables and Drawings
drawing by the author

for a time of change

The mind of time is hard to read.
We can never predict what it will bring,
Nor even from all that is already gone
Can we say what form it finally takes;
For time gathers its moments secretly.
Often we only know it's time to change
When a force has built inside the heart
That leaves us uneasy as we are.

Perhaps the work we do has lost its soul
Or the love where we once belonged
Calls nothing alive in us anymore.

We drift through this gray, increasing nowhere
Until we stand before a threshold we know
We have to cross to come alive once more.

May we have the courage to take the step
Into the unknown that beckons us;
Trust that a richer life awaits us there,
That we will lose nothing
But what has already died;
Feel the deeper knowing in us sure
Of all that is about to be born beyond
The pale frames where we stayed confined,
Not realizing how such vacant endurance
Was bleaching our soul's desire.

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

the remains



I empty myself of the names of others.
I empty my pockets, I empty my shoes and leave them beside
the road. At night I turn back the clocks; I open the family
album and look at myself as a boy.
What good does it do? The hours have done their job.
I say my own name. I say goodbye.
The words follow each other downwind.
I love my wife but send her away.
My parents rise out of their thrones
into the milky rooms of clouds. How can I sing?
Time tells me what I am. I change and I am the same.
I empty myself of my life and my life remains.

~ Mark Strand
with thanks to melancholynotes


Saturday, March 26, 2011

a man receives only what he is ready to receive


A man receives only what he is ready to receive,
whether physically or intellectually or morally,
as animals conceive at certain seasons their kind only.
We hear and apprehend only what we already half know.

~ Henry David Thoreau
from a journal entry, 1860
art by Roderick Maclver
from Thoreau and the Art of Life


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

pure no-thing

God is pure no-thing,
concealed in now and here:
the less you reach for him,
the more he will appear.

~ Angelus Silesius



For the raindrop, joy is in entering the river


For the raindrop, joy is in entering the river -
Unbearable pain becomes its own cure.

Travel far enough into sorrow, tears turn to sighing;
In this way we learn how water can die into air.

When, after heavy rain, the stormclouds disperse,
Is it not that they've wept themselves clear to the end?

If you want to know a miracle, how wind can polish a mirror,
Look: the shining glass grows green in spring.

It's the rose's unfolding, Ghalib, that creates the desire to see -
In every color and circumstance, may the eyes be open for what comes.

~ Ghalib (1797-1869)

Monday, March 21, 2011

so many skins

A human being has so many skins inside, 
covering the depths of the heart. 
We know so many things, but we don’t know ourselves! 
Why, thirty or forty skins or hides,
as thick and hard as an ox’s or a bear’s, 
cover the soul. 
Go into your own ground and learn to know yourself there. 

~ Meister Eckhart

ecstasy: Czechoslovakia, 1933

The actress was only seventeen
and so the director arranged
to have her pricked lightly with pins
at the needed moments.

~ Jane Hirshfield

I write these words to delay

What can I do with these thoughts,
given me as a dog is given her flock?
Or perhaps it is the reverse -
my life the unruly sheep, being herded.
At night,
all lie down on the mountain grasses,
while mirror sheep, a mirror guard-dog
follow one another through rock outcrops,
across narrow streams.  The drink and graze by starlight.
This morning, waking to unaccustomed calmness,
I write these words to stay in that silent, unfevered existence,
to delay the other words that are waiting.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from After

Sunday, March 20, 2011

his name is God-with-them

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth ...
Here God lives among men.
He will make his home among them; 
they shall be his people and he will be their God;
his name is God-with-them.
He will wipe away all tears from their eyes;
there will be no more death, and no more mourning and sadness. 
 The world of the past has gone.
Then the One sitting on the throne spoke:
Now I am making the whole of creation new...

~ Revelations 21: 1-5


the longing for beauty

For beauty is the cause of harmony, of sympathy, of community.
Beauty unites all things and is the source of all things. 
It is the great creating cause which bestirs the world 
and holds all things in existence by the longing inside them to have beauty.  
And there it is ahead of all as...the Beloved ...toward which all things move, 
since it is the longing for beauty which actually brings them into being.

~ Pseudo-Dionysius
from The Divine Names

Saturday, March 19, 2011

to finding again


Everything else must have changed
must be different
by the time you appear
more than ever the same
taking me by surprise
in my difference
my age
long after I had come 
to the end 
of believing in you
to the end of hope
which was not even 
the first of the changes
when I imagined 
that I was forgetting you
you did not even need memory
to remain there
letting the years vanish
the miles depart
nothing surprising in that
even longing
does not need memory
to know what to reach for 
and nothing surprises you
who were always there
wherever it was
beyond belief

~ W.S. Merwin
from Present Company


secret places


Lovers find secret places inside this violent world
where they make transactions with beauty.
Reason says, Nonsense.
I have walked and measured the walls here.
There are no places like that.
Love says, There are.
Reason set up a market and begins doing business.
Love has more hidden work.
Hallaj steps away from the pulpit
and climbs the stairs of the gallows.
Lovers feel a truth inside themselves
that rational people keep denying.
It is reasonable to say, Surrender is just an idea
that keeps people from living their lives.
Love responds, No.
This thinking is what is dangerous.
Using language obscures what Shams came to give.
out of low word-clouds into burning silence.

~ Rumi
from The Big Red Book
translations by Coleman Barks

the adamantine perfection of desire

Nothing more strong 
than to be helpless before desire.

No reason,
the simplified heart whispers,
the argument over,
only This.

No longer choosing anything but assent.

Its bowl scraped clean to the bottom,
the skull-bone cup no longer horrifies,
but, rimmed in silver, shines.

A spotted dog follows a bitch in heat.
Gray geese flying past us, crying.
The living cannot help but love the world.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from Each Happiness Ringed by Lions

beauty is integral to being


Part of what it means to be, 
is to be beautiful.  

Beauty is not super-added to things: it is one of the springs of their reality.  
It is not that which effects a luscious response in perceivers;
 it is the interior geometry of things, making them perceptible as forms.

~ Francesca Aran Murphy
photo by albert koetsier 


wonderment and a delicious trouble


This is the spirit that Beauty must ever induce, wonderment and a delicious trouble, longing and love and a trembling that is all delight.  For the unseen all this may be felt as for the seen;  and this is the Soul's feel for it, every Soul in some degree, but those the more deeply that are the more truly apt to this higher love - just as all take delight in the beauty of the body but all are not stung as sharply , and those only that feel the keener wound are known as Lovers.  These Lovers, then, lovers of the beauty outside of sense, must be made to declare themselves.

~ Plotinus
from the Enneads 
woodcut by Harlan Hubbard



beautiful beyond being

That, beautiful beyond being, is said to be Beauty - for
It gives beauty from itself in a manner appropriate to each,
It causes the consonance and splendour of all,
It flashes forth upon all, after the manner of light , the
Beauty producing gifts of its flowing ray,
It calls to itself,
When it is called beauty.

~ Pseudo-Dionysius
from The Divine Names


Thursday, March 17, 2011

to being late

Again again you are
the right time after all
not according to 
however we planned it
unforeseen and yet
only too well known
mislaid horizon
where we come to ourselves
as though we had been expected
you are where it appears now
and will stay from now on 
in its own good time
it was you we came to 
in the first place
hearing voices around us
before we knew what they said
but you always surprise us 
it is you that we 
hurry to
while you go on waiting
to the end of space
and when we get to you
we stop and listen
trying to hear whether
you are still there

~ W.S. Merwin
from Present Company



You who worry with travel plans,
read again the place in the Qur'an
where Moses is taking the Jewish nation out of slavery.

You so frantic to have more money,
recall what they abandoned to wander in the wilderness.

You who feel hurt by some neglect,
remember the pavilions and houses they left behind.

You that lead the community through difficulties,
read about the abundant fountains
they walked away from to have freedom.

You who dress in clothes that appear to have elegant meaning,
you with so much charm,
remember how your face will decay to dirt.

You with lots of property, read again,
They left their gardens and the quietly running streams.

You who smile at a funerals going by,
you that love language, measure the wind in stanzas,
and recall the exodus, the wandering forty-year sacrifice.
Remember Egypt.

~ Rumi
from The Big Red Book
translations by Coleman Barks

like a holy face held in my dark hands

Lord, the great cities are lost and rotting.
Their time is running out...
The people there live harsh and heavy,
crowded together, weary of their own routines.

Beyond them waits and breathes your earth,
but where they are it cannot reach them.

Their children waste their days
on doorsteps, always in the same shadow.
They don't know that somewhere 
wind is blowing through a field of flowers.

The young girls have only strangers to parade before,
and no one sees them truly;
so, chilled,
they close.

And in back rooms they live out the nagging years 
of disappointed motherhood.  Their dying is long
and hard to finish:  hard to surrender
what you never received.

Their exit has no grace or mystery.
It's a little death, hanging dry and measly
like a fruit inside them that never ripened.

III, 4/5

God, give us each our own death,
the dying that proceeds 
from each of our lives:
the way we loved,
the meanings we made,
our need.

III, 6

For we are only the rind and the leaf.

The great death, that each of us carries inside,
is the fruit.

Everything enfolds it.


I thank you, deep power
that works me ever more lightly
in ways I can't make out.
The day's labor grows simple now,
and like a holy face
held in my dark hands.

I, 62

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
excerpts from The Book of Poverty and Death
translation by anita barrows and joanna macy