Thursday, September 29, 2011



Some listening were certain they could hear
through the notes summoned from the strings one more
following at a distance low but clear
a resonance never part of the score
not noticed during the rehearsals nor
prayed into the performance and yet here
with the first note it had been waiting for
holding silent the iced minors of fear
the key of grief the mourning from before
the names were read of those no longer there
that sound of what made no sound any more
made up the cords that in a later year
some still believed that they could overhear
echoing music played during a war

~ W.S. Merwin
from The Pupil

the pear


November. One pear
sways on the tree past leaves, past reason.
In the nursing home, my friend has fallen.
Chased, he said, from the freckled woods
by angry Thoreau, Coleridge, and Beaumarchais.
Delusion too, it seems, can be well-read.
He is courteous, well-spoken even in dread.
The old fineness in him hangs on
for dear life. "My mind now?
A small ship under the wake of a large.
They force you to walk on your heels here,
the angles matter.  Four or five degrees,
and you're lost." Life is dear to him yet,
though he believes it his own fault he grieves,
his own fault his old friends have turned against him
like crows against an injured of their kind.
There is no kindness here, no flint of mercy.
Descend, descend,
some voice must urge, inside the pear-stem.
The argument goes on, he cannot outrun it.
Dawnlight to dawnlight, I look: it is still there.

~ Jane Hirshfield 
from Come, Thief
art by janis zroback

only a state of being


There is in fact only one state, 
not two states such as the conscious and the unconscious there is only a state of being, 
which is consciousness, 
though you may divide it as the conscious and the unconscious. 
But that consciousness is always of the past, never of the present; 
you are conscious only of things that are over. 
You are conscious of what I am trying to convey the second afterwards, are you not? 
You understand it a moment later. 
You are never conscious or aware of the now. 
Watch your own hearts and minds and you will see that 
consciousness is functioning between the past and the future 
and that the present is merely a passage of the past to the future.

If you watch your own mind at work, 
you will see that the movement to the past and to the future is a process in which the present is not. 
Either the past is a means of escape from the present, which may be unpleasant, 
or the future is a hope away from the present. 

So the mind is occupied with the past or with the future and sloughs off the present. 
It either condemns and rejects the fact or accepts and identifies itself with the fact. 
Such a mind is obviously not capable of seeing any fact as a fact. 
That is our state of consciousness, which is conditioned by the past and our thought, 
is the conditioned response to the challenge of a fact; 
the more you respond according to the conditioning of belief, of the past, 
the more there is strengthening of the past.

That strengthening of the past is obviously the continuity of itself, which it calls the future. 
So that is the state of our mind, 
of our consciousness;a pendulum swinging backwards and forwards between the past and the future.

~ J. Krishnamurti
from The Book of Life

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

look at love


look at love
how it tangles
with the one fallen in love

look at spirit
how it fuses with earth
giving it new life
why are you so busy
with this or that or good or bad
pay attention to how things blend

why talk about all
the known and the unknown
see how the unknown merges into the known

why think separately
of this life and the next
when one is born from the last

look at your heart and tongue
one feels but deaf and dumb
the other speaks in words and signs

look at water and fire
earth and wind
enemies and friends all at once

the wolf and the lamb
the lion and the deer
far away yet together

look at the unity of this
spring and winter
manifested in the equinox

you too must mingle my friends
since the earth and the sky
are mingled just for you and me

be like sugarcane
sweet yet silent
don't get mixed up with bitter words

my beloved grows right out of my own heart
how much more union can there be

~ Rumi
from Fountain of Fire
translated by Nader Khalili
art by klimt

Monday, September 26, 2011

no entity


There is no entity separate from craving; there is only craving, there is no one who craves. 
Craving takes on different masks at different times, depending on its interests.

The memory of these varying interests meets the new, which brings about conflict, 
and so the chooser is born, 
establishing himself as an entity separate and distinct from craving.

But the entity is not different from its qualities. 
The entity who tries to fill or run away from emptiness, incompleteness, loneliness, 
is not different from that which he is avoiding; he is it. 

He cannot run away from himself; all that he can do is to understand himself. 
He is his loneliness, his emptiness; 
and as long as he regards it as something separate from himself;
 he will be in illusion and endless conflict. 
When he directly experiences that he is his own loneliness, 
then only can there be freedom from fear. 

Fear exists only in relationship to an idea, and idea is the response of memory as thought. 
Thought is the result of experience; and though it can ponder over emptiness,
 have sensations with regard to it, it cannot know emptiness directly. 

The word loneliness, with its memories of pain and fear, prevents the experiencing of it afresh. 
The word is memory, and when the word is no longer significant,
then the relationship between the experiencer and the experienced is wholly different; 
then that relationship is direct and not through a word, through memory; 
then the experiencer is the experience, 
which alone brings freedom from fear.

~ J. Krishnamurti
from The Book of Life

Sunday, September 18, 2011

nothing to gain


There is nothing to gain. 
Abandon all imaginings and know yourself as you are. 

All craving is due to a sense of insufficiency. 
When you know that you lack nothing, 
that all there is, is you and yours, desire ceases.

~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

Saturday, September 17, 2011

like water


The best, like water, 
Benefit all and do not compete. 
They dwell in lowly spots that everyone else scorns. 
Putting others before themselves, 
They find themselves in the foremost place 
And come very near to the Tao. 

~  Lao Tzu



Out through the fields and the woods
And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it is ended.

The leaves are all dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
When others are sleeping.

And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
The flowers of the witch-hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question 'Whither?'

Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,

And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?

~ Robert Frost
with thanks to writers almanac

Friday, September 16, 2011

all things are empty


All things are empty: 
Nothing is born, nothing dies, 
nothing is pure, 
nothing is stained, 
nothing increases and nothing decreases. 

So, in emptiness, there is no form, no feeling, no thought, no will, no consciousness. 
There are no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind.
 There is no seeing, no hearing, no smelling, no tasting, no touching, no imagining. 
No plane of sight, no plane of thought. There is no ignorance, and no end to ignorance. 
There is no old age and death, and no end to old age and death. 
There is no suffering, no cause of suffering, no end to suffering, no path to suffering. 
There is no attainment of wisdom, and no wisdom to attain.

~ the heart sutra

Thursday, September 15, 2011



A red horse crops grass,
A black crow 
delves bugs from a dirt pile.
A woman watches in envy what is so simple.

~ Jane Hirshfield

philosophy and religion


...he who defines his conduct by ethics
imprisons his song-bird in a cage.
The freest song comes not through bars and wires. 

...he to whom worshiping is a window, to open but also to shut, 
has not yet visited the house of his soul whose windows are from dawn to dawn.

...if you would know God be not a solver of riddles.
Rather look about you and you shall see Him playing with your children.

...look into space; you shall see Him walking in the cloud, 
outstretching His arms in the lightning and descending in rain.

...see Him smiling in flowers, and then rising and waving His hands in trees.

~ Kahlil Gibran
from The Prophet

Wednesday, September 14, 2011



Let us look for secret things
somewhere in the world,
on the blue shore of silence
or where the storm has passed,
rampaging like a train.
There the faint signs are left,
coins of time and water,
debris, celestial ash
and the irreplaceable rapture
of sharing in the labour
of solitude and the sand.

~ Pablo Neruda
excerpt from On the Blue Shores of Silence

Tuesday, September 13, 2011



When a fine old carpet
is eaten by mice,
the colors and patterns
of what’s left behind
do not change.
As bedrock, tilted,
stays bedrock,
its purple and red striations unbroken.
Unstrippable birthright grandeur.
“How are you,” I asked,
not knowing what to expect.
“Contrary to Keatsian joy,” he replied.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from Come, Thief
art by Camille Pissarro, 1877

the cloudy vase


Past time,
I threw the flowers out,
washed out
the cloudy vase.

How easily
the old clearness
like a practiced tiger,
back inside it.

~ Jane Hirshfield
art by leonardo da vinci, 
 Galleria Nazionale, Parma, Italy.

Monday, September 12, 2011

the boundaries of my being had disappeared

I looked for my self, but my self was gone.
The boundaries of my being
had disappeared in the sea.
Waves broke. Awareness rose again.
And a voice returned me to myself.
It always happens like this.
Sea turns on itself and foams,
and with every foaming bit
another body, another being takes form.
And when the sea sends word,
each foaming body
melts back to ocean-breath.

 ~ Rumi 
translation by Coleman Barks
art by van gogh

call and answer


Tell me why it is we don’t lift our voices these days
And cry over what is happening. Have you noticed
The plans are made for Iraq and the ice cap is melting?

I say to myself: “Go on, cry. What’s the sense
Of being an adult and having no voice? Cry out!
See who will answer! This is Call and Answer!”

We will have to call especially loud to reach
Our angels, who are hard of hearing; they are hiding
In the jugs of silence filled during our wars.

Have we agreed to so many wars that we can’t
Escape from silence? If we don’t lift our voices, we allow
Others (who are ourselves) to rob the house.

How come we've listened to the great criers—Neruda,
Akhmatova, Thoreau, Frederick Douglass—and now
We’re silent as sparrows in the little bushes?

Some masters say our life lasts only seven days.
Where are we in the week? Is it Thursday yet?
Hurry, cry now! Soon Sunday night will come.

~ Robert Bly

Saturday, September 10, 2011

opening the hands between here and here

On the dark road, only the weight of the rope.
Yet the horse is there.

~ Jane Hirshfield

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Suite of Appearances


In another time, we will want to know how the earth looked
then, and were people the way we are now. In another time,
the records they left will convince us that we are unchanged
and could be at ease in the past, and not alone in the present.
And we shall be pleased. But beyond all that, what cannot
be seen or explained will always be elsewhere, always supposed,
invisible even beneath the signs – the beautiful surface,
the uncommon knowledge – that point its way. In another time,
what cannot be seen will define us, and we shall be prompted
to say that language is error, and all things are wronged
by representation. The self, we shall say, can never be
seen with a disguise, and never be seen without one.

~ Mark Strand
with thanks to whiskey river

birds nest

Birds nest in my arms,
on my shoulders, behind my knees,
between my breasts there are quails,
they must think I'm a tree.
The swans think I'm a fountain,
they all come down and drink when I talk.
When sheep pass, they pass over me,
and perched on my fingers, the sparrows eat,
the ants think I'm earth,
and men think I'm nothing.

~ Gloria Fuertes
translated by Philip Levine
sketch by van gogh

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

the holy longing

Tell a wise person, or else keep silent,
because the massman will mock it right away.
I  praise what is truly alive,
what longs to flame to death.

In the calm water of the love-nights
where you were begotten,  where you have begotten,
a strange feeling comes over you
when you see the silent candle burning..

Now you are no longer caught
in the obsession with darkness,
and a desire for higher love-making
sweeps you upward.

Distance does not make you falter,
now, arriving in magic, flying,
and finally, insane for the light
you are the butterfly and you are gone.

And so long as you haven't experienced
this: to die and so to grow,
you are only a troubled guest
on the dark earth.

~ Goethe
translation by Robert Bly
art by van gogh



You should try to hear the name the Holy One has for things.
There is something in the phrase: "The Holy One taught him names."
We name everything according to the number of legs it has;
The holy one names it according to what is inside.
Moses waved his stick; he thought it was a "rod."
But inside its name was "dragonish snake."
We thought the name of Umar meant: "agitator against priests;"
But in eternity his name is "the one who believes."
No one knows our name until our last breath goes out.

~ Rumi
version by Robert Bly

the teaching

Enlightenment absorbs this universe of qualities.
When that merging occurs, there is nothing
but God. This is the only doctrine. 

There is no word for it, no mind
to understand it with, no categories
of transcendence or non-transcendence,
no vow of silence, no mystical attitude. 

There is no Shiva and no Shakti
in enlightenment, and if there is something
that remains, that whatever-it-is
is the only teaching. 

~ Lalla

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

across the swamp

It is the roots from all the trees that have died
out here, that's how you can walk
safely over the soft places.
Roots like these keep their firmness, it's possible
they've lain here centuries.
And there is still some dark remains
of them under the moss.
They are still in the world and hold
you up so you can make it over.
And when you push out into the mountain lake, high
up, you feel how the memory
of that cold person
who drowned himself here once
helps hold up your frail boat.
He, really crazy, trusted his life
to water and eternity.

~ Olav H. Hauge
translated by Robert Bly
photo by Jay Sturdevant

knowing nothing

Knowing nothing shuts the iron gates;
the new love opens them.

The sound of the gates opening wakes the beautiful woman asleep.

Kabir says:   Fantastic!  Don't let a chance like this go by!

~ Kabir
version by Robert Bly

Friday, September 2, 2011

the threshers

There's no use whining over lost worlds.
The old chicken never picks up the last grains,
And the threshers usually go home when night comes.

Have we thanked the sun for shining so well?
Have we blessed the clouds for their thoughtfulness?
Have we thanked the rain that falls on the fields?

It would be good to go back a hundred years,
And recite some of Wordsworth's sonnets to him.
But it's probable best to let him go on walking.

Let's just agree we're on our own now,
And that we have to wash our own pajamas,
And figure out some way to get home.

We can still tell stories about the Dillinger boys,
And we can still buy balloons for our children,
But it will be hard to make up The Book of Hours.

We know that most lost fathers never return,
And the clocks run only one way,
And the threshers always go home when night comes.

~ Robert Bly
from Talking into the Ear of a Donkey
art by van gogh