Saturday, April 30, 2011

grasp you with my heart

Put out my eyes, and I can see you still;
slam my ears to, and I can hear you yet;
and without any feet can go to you;
and tongueless, I can conjure you at will.
Break off my arms, I shall take hold of you
and grasp you with my heart as with a hand;
arrest my heart, my brain will beat as true;
and if you set this brain of mine afire,
upon my blood I then will carry you.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from The Book of Hours

the supple deer



The quiet opening
between fence strands
perhaps eighteen inches.

Antlers to hind hooves,
four feet off the ground,
the deer poured through.

No tuft of the coarse white belly hair left behind.

I don't know how a stag turns
into a stream, an arc of water.
I have never felt such accurate envy.

Not of the deer:

To be that porous, to have such largeness pass through me.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from Come, Thief
to be published this summer


Friday, April 29, 2011

fragment from lost days

...Like birds that get used to walking
and grow heavier and heavier, as in falling:
the earth sucks out of their long claws
the brave memory of all
the great things that happen high up,
and makes them almost into leaves that cling
tightly to the ground, -
like plants which,
scarcely growing upward, creep into the earth,
sink lightly and softly and damply
into black clods and sicken there lifelessly, -
like mad children, - like a face
in a coffin, - like happy hands that 
grow hesitant, because in the full goblet
things are mirrored that are not near, -
like calls for help which in the evening wind
collide with many dark huge chimes, -
like house plants that have dried for days,
like streets that are ill-framed, - like bright curls
within which jewels have grown blind, -
like early morning in April
facing the hospital's many windows:
the sick press up against the hall's seam
and look: the grace of a new light 
makes all the streets seem vernal and wide;
they see only the bright majesty
that makes the houses young and laughing,
and don't know that all night long
a storm ripped the garments from the sky,
a storm of waters, where the world still freezes,
a storm which this very moment roars through the streets
and takes all burdens
off the shoulder of each thing, -

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
art by Dali

to sing



To sing is to begin a sentence
like "I want to get well.
I am not born for nothing
and neither are you:
Heaven never wept
over nothing."

~ Thomas Merton
from an untitled poem
thanks to whiskey river




As you set out for Ithaka hope your road is a long one, full of adventure, full of discovery. Laistrygonians, Cyclops, angry Poseidon—don't be afraid of them: you'll never find things like that on your way as long as you keep your thoughts raised high, as long as a rare excitement stirs your spirit and your body. Laistrygonians, Cyclops, wild Poseidon—you won't encounter them unless you bring them along inside your soul, unless your soul sets them up in front of you. Hope your road is a long one. May there be many summer mornings when, with what pleasure, what joy, you enter harbors you're seeing for the first time; may you stop at Phoenician trading stations to buy fine things, mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony, sensual perfume of every kind— as many sensual perfumes as you can; and may you visit many Egyptian cities to learn and go on learning from their scholars. Keep Ithaka always in your mind. Arriving there is what you're destined for. But don't hurry the journey at all. Better if it lasts for years, so you're old by the time you reach the island, wealthy with all you've gained on the way, not expecting Ithaka to make you rich. Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey. Without her you wouldn't have set out. She has nothing left to give you now. And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you. Wise as you will have become, so full of experience, you'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean. 

~ C.P. Cavafy
translated by Edmund Keeley

his birthday is today

Constantine Cavafy was born Konstantínos Pétrou Kaváfis in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1863, the ninth child of Constantinopolitan parents. His father died in 1870, leaving the family poor. Cavafy's mother moved her children to England, where the two eldest sons took over their father's business. Their inexperience caused the ruin of the family fortunes, so they returned to a life of genteel poverty in Alexandria. The seven years that Constantine Cavafy spent in England—from age nine to sixteen—were important to the shaping of his poetic sensibility: he became so comfortable with English that he wrote his first verse in his second language.

After a brief education in London and Alexandria, he moved with his mother to Constantinople, where they stayed with his grandfather and two brothers. Although living in great poverty and discomfort, Cavafy wrote his first poems during this period, and had his first love affairs with other men. After briefly working for the Alexandrian newspaper and the Egyptian Stock exchange, at the age of twenty-nine Cavafy took up an appointment as a special clerk in the Irrigation Service of the Ministry of Public Works—an appointment he held for the next thirty years. Much of his ambition during these years was devoted to writing poems and prose essays.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

ignorant of their ignorance

Ignorant of their ignorance, yet wise
In their own esteem, those deluded men
Proud of their vain learning go round and round
Like the blind led by the blind.  Far beyond
Their eyes, hypnotized by the world of sense,
Opens the way to immortality.
"I am my body; when my body dies,
I die." Living in this superstition,
They fall life after life under my sway.

It is but few who hear about the Self.
Fewer still dedicate their lives to its
Realization.  Wonderful is the one
Who speaks about the Self.  Rare are they
Who make it the supreme goal of their lives.

~ Katha Upanishad
death as teacher
translated by Eknath Easwaran

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

the divine faculty of the seer


We begin to die, not in our senses or extremities, but in our divine faculties.  
Our members may be sound, our sight and hearing perfect, 
but our genius and imagination betray signs of decay.  
You tell me that you are growing old and are troubled to see without glasses, 
but this is unimportant if the divine faculty of the seer shows no signs of decay.

~  Henry David Thoreau
from his journal, 1854
art by Roderick Maclver

'we must die because we have known them'


(Papyrus Prisse.  From the sayings of Ptah-hotep, manuscript from ca. 2000 B.C.)


'We must die because we have known them.'  Die
of their smile's unsayable flower.  Die
of their delicate hands.  Die
of woman.

Let the young man sing of them, praise
these death-bringers, when they move through his heart-space,
high overhead.  From his blossoming breast
let him sing to them:
unattainable!  Ah, how distant they are.
Over the peaks
of his feeling, they float and pour down 
sweetly transfigured night into the abandoned
valley of his arms.  The wind
of their rising rustles in the leaves of his body.  His brooks run
sparkling into the distance.

But the grown man
shudders and is silent.  The man who 
has wandered pathless at night
in the mountain-range of his feelings:
is silent.

As the old sailor is silent,
and the terrors that he has endured
play inside him as though in quivering cages.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from Uncollected Poems

Monday, April 25, 2011

be helpless, dumbfounded


Be helpless, dumbfounded, 
Unable to say yes or no. 
Then a stretcher will come from grace to gather us up. 

We are too dull-eyed to see that beauty. 
If we say we can, we're lying. 
If we say No, we don't see it, 
That No will behead us 
And shut tight our window onto spirit. 

So let us rather not be sure of anything, 
Beside ourselves, and only that, so 
Miraculous beings come running to help. 
Crazed, lying in a zero circle, mute, 
We shall be saying finally, 
With tremendous eloquence, Lead us. 
When we have totally surrendered to that beauty, 
We shall be a mighty kindness.

~ Rumi

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

sawing firewood


Probably no moon has furnished me with as much light as this one,  in this clear weather.  Now it is past full, and I can arise before daybreak and see my way about, sawing firewood.  One feels alone on the earth, no sounds, no lights, anywhere, unless a boat passes.  In a light fog, as this morning, the isolation is even more strongly felt.  It brings peace, contentment and a sure faith that all is well.

~ Harlan Hubbard
from his journal, Dec. 28th, 1958
woodcut by the author


the monk stood beside a wheelbarrow


The monk stood beside a wheelbarrow, weeping.

God or Buddha nowhere to be seen-
these tears were fully human,
bitter, broken,
falling onto the wheel barrow's rusty side.

They gathered at its bottom,
where the metal drank them in to make more rust.

You cannot know what you do in this life, what you have done.

The monk stood weeping.
I knew I also had a place on this hard earth.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from After

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

when you see

When you see yourself
and someone else
as one being,

when you know the most joyful day
and the most terrible night
as one moment, then

awareness is alone
with its Lord.

~ Lalla
art by Klimt

Monday, April 18, 2011

what is precious



What is precious
inside us does not
care to be known
by the mind
in ways that diminish
its presence.

What we strive for
in perfection
is not what turns us
into the lit angel
we desire.

what disturbs
and then nourishes
has everything
we need.

What we hate in ourselves
is what we cannot know
in ourselves but
what is true to the pattern
does not need
to be explained.

Inside everyone
is a great shout of joy
waiting to be born.

~ David Whyte
from the house of belonging
art by Klimt
thanks to  moment by moment

Sunday, April 17, 2011

the new silence

There are times
when the heart closes down,
the metal grate drawn
and padlocked,
the owner's footprints covered by snow.

Someone may come to peer through the glass,
but soon leaves.
Someone may come to clean, but turns away.

What is still inside
settles down for the darkness: clocks stop,
newspapers pass out of date.

The new silence goes unheard
under so many grindings of engines,
so many sounds of construction.

Only three pigeons, 
refusing to eat,
lower their heads and grieve.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from Lives of the Heart

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Mondays are meshed with Tuesdays
and the week with the whole year.
Time cannot be cut
with your weary scissors,
and all the names of the day
are washed out by the waters of night.
No one can claim the name of Pedro,
nobody is Rosa or Maria,
all of us are dust or sand,
all of us are rain under rain.
They have spoken to me of Venezuelas,
of Chiles and of Paraguays;
I have no idea what they are saying.
I know only the skin of the earth
and I know it is without a name.
When I lived amongst the roots
they pleased me more than flowers did,
and when I spoke to a stone
it rang like a bell.
It is so long, the spring
which goes on all winter.
Time lost its shoes.
A year is four centuries.
When I sleep every night,
what am I called or not called?
And when I wake, who am I
if I was not while I slept?
This means to say that scarcely
have we landed into life
than we come as if new-born;
let us not fill our mouths
with so many faltering names,
with so many sad formalities,
with so many pompous letters,
with so much of yours and mine,
with so much of signing of papers.
I have a mind to confuse things,
unite them, bring them to birth,
mix them up, undress them,
until the light of the world
has the oneness of the ocean,
a generous, vast wholeness,
a crepitant fragrance. 

~ Pablo Neruda

122nd birthday


Charles Spencer Chaplin was born in London, England, on April 16th 1889. His father was a versatile vocalist and actor; and his mother, known under the stage name of Lily Harley, was an attractive actress and singer, who gained a reputation for her work in the light opera field.

Charlie was thrown on his own resources before he reached the age of ten as the early death of his father and the subsequent illness of his mother made it necessary for Charlie and his brother, Sydney, to fend for themselves.

Having inherited natural talents from their parents, the youngsters took to the stage as the best opportunity for a career. Charlie made his professional debut as a member of a juvenile group called "The Eight Lancashire Lads" and rapidly won popular favor as an outstanding tap dancer.


Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself.

~ Charlie Chaplin
thanks to  charlie chaplin


Friday, April 15, 2011

scarecrow on fire



We all think about suddenly disappearing.
The train tracks lead there, into the woods.
Even in the financial district: wooden doors
in alleyways. First I want to put something small
into your hand, a button or river stone or
key I don’t know to what. I don’t
have that house anymore across from the graveyard
and its black angel. What counts as a proper
goodbye? My last winter in Iowa there was always
a ladybug or two in the kitchen for cheer
even when it was ten below. We all feel
suspended over a drop into nothingness.
Once you get close enough, you see what
one is stitching is a human heart. Another
is vomiting wings. Hell, even now I love life.
Whenever you put your feet on the floor
in the morning, whatever the nightmare,
it’s a miracle or fantastic illusion:
the solidity of the boards, the steadiness
coming into the legs. Where did we get
the idea when we were kids to rub dirt
into the wound or was that just in Pennsylvania?
Maybe poems are made of breath, the way water,
cajoled to boil, says, This is my soul, freed.

~ Dean Young
from Fall Higher

Word comes that a heart has been found for Dean Young and surgery is proceeding. 
The heart is beating. Gratitude to the donor whose gift is making such a difference.

thanks to rebel girl for the update!


only that breath



not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu
Buddhist, sufi, or zen. Not any religion

or cultural system. I am not from the East
or the West, not out of the ocean or up

from the ground, not natural or ethereal, not
composed of elements at all. I do not exist,

am not an entity in this world or in the next,
did not descend from Adam and Eve or any

origin story. My place is placeless, a trace
of the traceless. Neither body or soul.

I belong to the beloved, have seen the two
worlds as one and that one call to and know,

first, last, outer, inner, only that
breath breathing human being.


There is a way between voice and presence
where information flows.

In disciplined silence it opens.
With wandering talk it closes.


~ Rumi
translation by Coleman Barks


gazed--and gazed--but little thought



I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

~ William Wordsworth
thanks to writers almanac


Leonardo da Vinci



Leonardo da Vinci
Born: 15 April 1452 in Anchiano in Vinci,
Died:  2 May 1519 at Schloss Clos Lucé Amboise,
Leonardo di ser Piero actually,  
Leonardo, was a painter, sculptor, architect, anatomist, mechanic, engineer and natural philosopher. 

His name suffix "da Vinci" is not a family name, but means from Vinci. 
The birthplace Vinci is a fort or fortified hilltop village,
 located in the Florentine territory, about 30 km west of Florence, near Empoli.

He learned painting from the painter and sculptor Andrea del Verrocchio in Florence where da Vinci later worked independently, before he entered the service in 1482 the Count of Milan. In his time in Milan, da Vinci painted a mural of the Last Supper, and also accomplished much of his scientific work. He returned to Florence in 1503, here he painted the portrait of "Mona Lisa".   His "Last Supper" and "Mona Lisa" are among the most famous and influential paintings of the Renaissance. 




more on Leonardo:

thanks to Semsakrebsler


Thursday, April 14, 2011

annulment of all laws


The infinite bustle of Nature on a summer's noon,  
or her infinite silence of a summer's night, 
gives utterance to no dogma.  

They do not say to us even with a seer's assurance, 
that this or that law is immutable and so ever and only can the universe exist.  

But they are the indifferent occasion for all things and the annulment of all laws.

~ Henry David Thoreau
from his journal, 1840
art by roderick maclver

film by an Afghan - American woman



The Black Tulip (2010) [ behind the scene promo ]
The film depicts the fictional Mansouri family who start a restaurant in Kabul named The Poet’s Corner, where artists and writers meet.The story centers on Farishta (Cole), a woman who runs the cafe, where they serve wine in teapots and have poetry readings by locals and members of the U.S. military. This ultimately angers the Taliban who begin kidnapping and assassinating family and friends of the cafe

with thanks to everything Afghanistan


the best


When Banzan was walking through a market he over heard a conversation between a butcher and his customer.

"Give me the best piece of meat you have," said the customer.

"Everything in my shop is the best," replied the butcher. 
 "You cannot find here any piece of meat that is not the best."

At these words Banzan became enlightened.


from Zen Flesh Zen Bones
compiled by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki