Monday, December 31, 2012

imagine





Imagine if all the tumult of the body were to quiet down, 
along with our busy thoughts. 
Imagine if all things that are perishable grew still. 
And imagine if that moment were to go on and on, 
leaving behind all other sights and sounds 
but this one vision 
which ravishes and absorbs 
and fixes the beholder in joy, 
so that the rest of eternal life were like 
that moment of illumination which leaves us breathless. 




~ Saint Augustine




Friday, December 28, 2012

childhood






It would be good to give much thought, before
you try to find words for something so lost,
for those long childhood afternoons you knew
that vanished so completely - and why?

We're still reminded - : sometimes by a rain,
but we can no longer say what it means;
life was never again so filled with meeting,
with reunion and with passing on

as back then, when nothing happened to us
except what happens to things and creatures:
we lived their world as something human,
and became filled to the brim with figures.

And became as lonely as a sheperd
and as overburdened by vast distances,
and summoned and stirred as from far away,
and slowly, like a long new thread,
introduced into that picture-sequence
where now having to go on bewilders us. 




~ Rainer Maria Rilke
photo by kathleen connally


Thursday, December 27, 2012

every atom babbles the mystery






Love plays its lute behind the screen -
where is a lover to listen to its tune?

With every breath a new song,
each split second a new string plucked.

The world has spilled Love's secret -
when could music ever hold its tongue?

Every atom babbles the mystery -
Listen yourself, for I'm no tattletale!




~ Fakhruddin Iraqi
from Divine Flashes 
translation by William Chittick and Peter Lamborn Wilson
art by van gogh



Sunday, December 23, 2012

a christmas poem





Christmas is a place, like Jackson Hole, where all agree
To meet once a year. It has water, and grass for horses;
All the fur traders can come in. We visited the place
As children, but we never heard the good stories.

Those stories only get told in the big tents, late
At night, when a trapper who has been caught
In his own trap, held down in icy water, talks; and a man
With a ponytail and a limp comes in from the edge of the fire.

As children we knew there was more to it—
Why some men got drunk on Christmas Eve
Wasn't explained, nor why we were so often 
Near tears nor why the stars came down so close,
Why so much was lost. Those men and women
Who had died in wars started by others,
Did they come that night? Is that why the Christmas tree
Trembled just before we opened the presents?

There was something about angels. Angels we
Have heard on high Sweetly singing o'er 
The plain. The angels were certain. But we could not
Be certain whether our family was worthy tonight.


~ Robert Bly
from Morning Poems



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

two water-sellers





A man who lived by selling water found
He'd very little left; he looked around
And saw another water-seller there -
"Have you got any water you could spare?"
He asked.  "No, fool, I certainly have not,"
The other snapped; "make do with what you've got!"
"Oh, give me some," the man began to plead;
"I'm sick of what I have; it's yours I need."
When Adam's heart grew tired of all he knew,
He yearned for wheat, a substance strange and new -
He gave up all he owned for one small grain,
And naked suffered love's relentless pain;
He disappeared in love's intensity -
The old and new were gone and so was he;
He was annihilated, lost, made naught -
Nothingness swallowed all his hands had sought.
To turn from what we are, to yearn and die
Is not for us to choose or to deny."




~ Farid Attar
from The Conference of Birds
art by Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velazquez


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

change?







If something has an essence -
How can it ever change
Into anything else?

A thing doesn't change into something else -
Youth does not age,
Age does not age.

If something changed into something else -
Milk would be butter
Or butter would not be milk.

Were there a trace of something,
There would be a trace of emptiness.
Were there no trace of anything,
There would be no trace of emptiness.

Buddhas say emptiness
Is relinquishing opinions.
Believers in emptiness
Are incurable. 






~ Nagarjuna
from Verses from the Center: A Buddhist Vision of the Sublime
translated by Stephen Batchelor 
art by klimt






Saturday, December 15, 2012

the answer




Then what is the answer?—Not to be deluded by dreams. 
To know the great civilizations have broken down into violence, 
and their tyrants come, many times before. 
When open violence appears, to avoid it with honor or choose 
the least ugly faction; these evils are essential. 
To keep one’s own integrity, be merciful and uncorrupted and not 
wish for evil; and not be duped 
By dreams of universal justice or happiness. These dreams will 
not be fulfilled. 
To know this, and know that however ugly the parts appear 
the whole remains beautiful. A severed hand 
Is an ugly thing, and man dissevered from the earth and stars and 
his history...for contemplation or in fact... 
Often appears atrociously ugly. Integrity is wholeness, 
the greatest beauty is 
Organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, 
the divine beauty of the universe. Love that, not man 
Apart from that, or else you will share man’s pitiful confusions, 
or drown in despair when his days darken.




~ Robinson Jeffers
with thanks to http://themarkonthewall.blogspot.com/





Friday, December 14, 2012

on grief and loss










~ Dr. Geoff Warburton




by looking tirelessly





By looking tirelessly, I became quite empty 
and with that emptiness all came back to me except the mind. 
I find I have lost the mind irretrievably. 
I am neither conscious nor unconscious, 
I am beyond the mind and its various states and conditions.
Distinctions are created by the mind and apply to the mind only. 
I am pure Consciousness itself, unbroken awareness of all that is. 
I am in a more real state than yours. 
I am undistracted by the distinctions and separations which constitute a person. 

As long as the body lasts, it has its needs like any other, 
but my mental process has come to an end. 
My thinking, like my digestion, is unconscious and purposeful. 
I am not a person in your sense of the word, 
though I may appear a person to you. 

I am that infinite ocean of consciousness in which all happens. 
I am also beyond all existence and cognition, pure bliss of being. 
There is nothing I feel separate from, hence I am all. 
No thing is me, so I am nothing. 

Life will escape, the body will die, but it will not affect me in the least. 
Beyond space and time I am, uncaused, uncausing, yet the very matrix of existence.





~ Nisargadatta Maharaj
with thanks to http://ashramof1.tumblr.com/
photo by Bea Garth



handy guide





Avoid adjectives of scale.
Dandelion broth instead of duck soup.
Don’t even think you've seen a meadow, ever.
The minor adjustments in our equations
still indicate the universe is insane,
when it laughs a silk dress comes out its mouth
but we never put it on. Put it on.
Cry often and while asleep.
If it’s raw, forge it in fire.
That’s not a mountain, that’s crumble.
If it’s fire, swallow.
The heart of a scarecrow isn't geometrical.
That’s not a diamond, it’s salt.
That’s not the sky but it’s not your fault.
My dragon may be your neurotoxin.
Your electrocardiogram may be my fortune cookie.
Once an angel has made an annunciation,
it’s impossible to tell him he has the wrong address.
Moonlight has its own befuddlements.
The rest of us can wear the wolf mask if we want
or look like reflections wandered off.
Eventually armor, eventually sunk.
You wanted love and expected what?
A parachute? Morphine? A gold sticker star?
The moment you were born—
you have to trust others because you weren't there.
Ditto death.
The strongest gift I was ever given
was made of twigs.
It didn't matter which way it broke.





~ Dean Young
from Poetry, Nov. 2011
art by van gogh



Wednesday, December 5, 2012

like two negative numbers multiplied by rain





Lie down, you are horizontal.
Stand up, you are not.

I wanted my fate to be human.

Like a perfume
that does not choose the direction it travels,
that cannot be straight or crooked, kept out or kept.

Yes, No, Or
—a day, a life, slips through them,
taking off the third skin,
taking off the fourth.

And the logic of shoes becomes at last simple,
an animal question, scuffing.

Old shoes, old roads—
the questions keep being new ones.
Like two negative numbers multiplied by rain
into oranges and olives.



~ Jane Hirshfield
from September 2012 issue of Poetry magazine




Monday, December 3, 2012

known and unknown, intensity, surprise, and disorder





I think I’m allergic to fixed ritual, when it comes to poetry—writing, for me, both needs and constellates big doses of freedom. I do have one habit: somewhere along the way, I developed a liking for writing on the back of torn-in-half sheets of already-used paper. There’s always a little stack by the bed. Even before that, it was always loose paper, not notebooks. My one requirement for writing has always been solitude, and I think it is somehow connected to a sense of privacy from childhood. I've always wanted the freedom to throw things away. A notebook feels to me like a little society, not a scattering of hermits. For me, it’s too self-aware of its own formal purpose, like a graveyard: a good place for the finished, not for conception. This feeling about notebooks is also somehow a metonym for my whole relationship to the act of writing. Creativity comes from some mixture of known and unknown, intensity, surprise, and disorder. The disorderliness makes the intensity permeable to the surprise.



~ Jane Hirshfield
 from Attention, Solitude, and First Books: 
Jane Hirshfield in Conversation



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

astir with the harvest of night





May morning be astir with the harvest of night;
Your mind quickening to the eros of a new question,
Your eyes seduced by some unintended glimpse
That cut right through the surface to a source.

May this be a morning of innocent beginning,
When the gift within you slips clear
Of the sticky web of the personal
With its hurt and its hauntings,
And fixed fortress corners,

A Morning when you become a pure vessel
For what wants to ascend from silence,

May your imagination know
The grace of perfect danger,

To reach beyond imitation,
And the wheel of repetition,

Deep into the call of all
The unfinished and unsolved

Until the veil of the unknown yields
And something original begins
To stir toward your senses
And grow stronger in your heart

In order to come to birth
In a clean line of form,
That claims from time
A rhythm not yet heard,
That calls space to
A different shape.

May it be its own force field
And dwell uniquely
Between the heart and the light

To surprise the hungry eye
By how deftly it fits
About its secret loss.




~ John O'Donohue



Monday, November 19, 2012

revenge












At times ... I wish
I could meet in a duel
the man who killed my father
and razed our home,
expelling me
into a narrow country.
And if he killed me,
I'd rest at last
and if I were ready -
I would take my revenge!

But if it came to light,
when my rival appeared,
that he had a mother
waiting for him,
or a father who'd put
his right hand over
the heart's place in his chest
whenever his son was late
even by just a quarter-hour
for a meeting they'd set -
then I would not kill him,
even if I could.

Likewise ... I
would not murder him
if it were soon made clear
that he had a brother or sisters
who loved him and constantly longed to see him.
Or if he had a wife to greet him
and children who
couldn't bear his absence
and who his presents thrilled.

Or if he had
friends or companions,
neighbors he knew
or allies from prison
or a hospital room,
or classmates from his school...
asking about him
and sending him regards.

But if he turned
out to be on his own -
cut off like a branch from a tree -
without mother or father,
with neither a brother nor sister,
wifeless, without a child,
and without kin or neighbors or friends,
colleagues or companions,
then I'd add not a thing to his pain
within that aloneness -
nor the torment of death,
and not the sorrow of passing away.
Instead I'd be content
to ignore him when I passed him by
on the street - as I
convinced myself
that paying him no attention
in itself was a kind of revenge.



~  Taha Muhammad Ali
with thanks to rebel girl at
http://themarkonthewall.blogspot.com/




Friday, November 16, 2012

I am the pause





Between going and staying the day wavers, 
in love with its own transparency. 
The circular afternoon is now a bay 
where the world in stillness rocks. 

All is visible and all elusive, 
all is near and can't be touched. 

Paper, book, pencil, glass, 
rest in the shade of their names. 

Time throbbing in my temples repeats 
the same unchanging syllable of blood. 

The light turns the indifferent wall 
into a ghostly theater of reflections. 

I find myself in the middle of an eye, 
watching myself in its blank stare. 

The moment scatters. Motionless, 
I stay and go: I am a pause.



~ Octavio Paz
photo by David Orndorf



Monday, November 12, 2012

farming for life











~ Wendell Berry



Sunday, November 11, 2012

supposing





supposing i dreamed this)
only imagine,when day has thrilled
you are a house around which
i am a wind-

your walls will not reckon how
strangely my life is curved
since the best he can do
is to peer through windows,unobserved

-listen,for(out of all
things)dream is noone's fool;
if this wind who i am prowls
carefully around this house of you

love being such,or such,
the normal corners of your heart
will never guess how much
my wonderful jealousy is dark

if light should flower:
or laughing sparkle from
the shut house(around and around
which a poor wind will roam




~ e.e. cummings



Saturday, November 10, 2012

quenching darkness






God
pours light
into every cup,
quenching darkness.

The proudly pious
stuff their cups with parchment
and critique the taste of ink

while God pours light

and the trees lift their limbs
without worry of redemption,
every blossom a chalice.

Hafiz, seduce those withered souls
with words that wet their parched lips

as light
pours like rain
into every empty cup
set adrift on the Infinite Ocean.


~ Hafiz




The solitary is one who is aware of solitude in himself as a basic and inevitable human reality, not just as something which affects him as an isolated individual. Hence his solitude is the foundation of a deep, pure and gentle sympathy with all other men, whether or not they are capable of realizing the tragedy of their plight. More - it is the doorway by which he enters into the mystery of God, and brings others into that mystery by the power of his love and his humility.



- Thomas Merton
  from Disputed Questions
Notes for a Philosophy of Solitude
with thanks to http://fatherlouie.blogspot.com/




photo by Thomas Merton


What the solitary renounces is not his union with other men, but rather the deceptive fictions and inadequate symbols which tend to take the place of genuine social unity - to produce a facade of apparent unity without really uniting men on a deep level.  We are all alike in our aloneness at the deepest level, yet most of us try to distract ourselves from awareness of this in the ways Pascal called "divertissement," the "occupations and recreations so mercifully provided by society, which enable a man to avoid his own company for twenty-four hours a day."


~ John Barbour
from The Value of Solitude
here quoting Thomas Merton





A human being is part of the whole, called by us “universe,” 
a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, 
as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. 
This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires 
and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. 

Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison 
by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures 
and the whole of nature in its beauty.

~ Albert Einstein




Thursday, November 8, 2012

Ghazal the Rain - 02 Dawn











Kayhan Kalhor and Shujaat Husain Kahn
with thanks to catherine willis

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

a story about Alexander the great







When Alexander, that unconquered lord,
Who subjugated empires with his sword,
Required a lengthy message to be sent
He dressed up as the messenger and went.
"The king gives such an order," he would say,
And none of those who hurried to obey
Once guessed this messenger's identity -
They had no knowledge of such majesty,
And even if he said:  "I am your lord,"
The claim was thought preposterous and ignored.
Deluded natures cannot recognize
The royal way that stands before their eyes.




~ Farid Attar
from The Conference of Birds
translation by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis



Sunday, November 4, 2012

a dimension called love





So when you ask what love is, you may be too frightened to see the answer. It may mean complete upheaval; it may break up the family; you may discover that you do not love your wife or husband or children—do you?—you may have to shatter the house you have built, you may never go back to the temple. 
But if you still want to find out, you will see that fear is not love, dependence is not love, jealousy is not love, possessiveness and domination are not love, responsibility and duty are not love, self-pity is not love, the agony of not being loved is not love, love is not the opposite of hate any more than humility is the opposite of vanity. 
So if you eliminate all these, not by forcing them but by washing them away as the rain washes the dust of many days from a leaf, then perhaps you will come upon this strange flower, which man always hungers after. 
If you have not got love—not just in little drops but in abundance—if you are not filled with it, the world will go to disaster. You know intellectually that the unity of mankind is essential and that love is the only way, but who is going to teach you how to love? 
Will any authority, any method, any system, tell you how to love? If anyone tells you, it is not love. Can you say, “I will practice love. I will sit down day after day and think about it. I will practice being kind and gentle and force myself to pay attention to others”? 
Do you mean that you can discipline yourself to love, exercise the will to love? When you exercise discipline and will to love, love goes out the window. By practicing some method or system of loving you may become extraordinarily clever or more kindly or get into a state of nonviolence, but that has nothing whatsoever to do with love. 
In this torn desert world there is no love because pleasure and desire play the greatest roles, yet without love your daily life has no meaning. And you cannot have love if there is no beauty. Beauty is not something you see—not a beautiful tree, a beautiful picture, a beautiful building, or a beautiful woman. There is beauty only when your heart and mind know what love is. 
Without love and that sense of beauty there is no virtue, and you know very well that, do what you will—improve society, feed the poor—you will only be creating more mischief, for without love there is only ugliness and poverty in your own heart and mind. 
But when there is love and beauty, whatever you do is right, whatever you do is in order. If you know how to love, then you can do what you like because it will solve all other problems.
So we reach the point: Can the mind come upon love without discipline, without thought, without enforcement, without any book, any teacher or leader—come upon it as one comes upon a lovely sunset? It seems to me that one thing is absolutely necessary and that is passion without motive—passion that is not the result of some commitment or attachment, passion that is not lust. A man who does not know what passion is will never know love because love can only come into being when there is total self-abandonment. 
A mind that is seeking is not a passionate mind and to come upon love without seeking it is the only way to find it—to come upon it unknowingly and not as the result of any effort or experience. Such a love, you will find, is not of time; such a love is both personal and impersonal, is both the one and the many. 
Like a flower that has a perfume, you can smell it or pass it by. That flower is for everybody and for the one who takes the trouble to breath it deeply and to look at it with delight. Whether one is very near in the garden or very far away, it is the same to the flower because it is full of that perfume and, therefore, it is sharing with everybody. 
Love is something that is new, fresh, alive. It has no yesterday and no tomorrow. It is beyond the turmoil of thought. It is only the innocent mind which knows what love is, and the innocent mind can live in the world, which is not innocent. 
To find this extraordinary thing which man has sought endlessly through sacrifice, through worship, through relationship, through sex, through every form of pleasure and pain, is only possible when thought comes to understand itself and comes naturally to an end. Then love has no opposite, then love has no conflict. 
You may ask, “If I find such love, what happens to my wife, my children, my family? They must have security.” When you put such a question you have never been outside the field of thought, the field of consciousness. When once you have been outside that field you will never ask such a question because then you will know what love is in which there is no thought and therefore, no time. You may read this mesmerized and enchanted, but actually to go beyond thought and time—which means going beyond sorrow—is to be aware that there is a different dimension called love. 
But you don’t know how to come upon this extraordinary fount, so what do you do? If you don’t know what to do, you do nothing, don’t you? Absolutely nothing. Then inwardly you are completely silent. Do you understand what that means? It means you are not seeking, not wanting, not pursuing; there is no center at all. Then there is love.




~ J. Krishnamurti 
from Freedom from the Known



Friday, November 2, 2012

planting trees





In the mating of trees,
the pollen grain entering invisible
the domed room of the winds, survives
the ghost of the old forest
that was here when we came. The ground
invites it, and it will not be gone.
I become the familiar of that ghost
and its ally, carrying in a bucket
twenty trees smaller than weeds,
and I plant them along the way
of the departure of the ancient host.
I return to the ground its original music.
It will rise out of the horizon
of the grass, and over the heads
of weeds, and it will rise over
the horizon of men’s heads. As I age
in the world it will rise and spread,
and be for this place horizon
and orison, the voice of its winds.
I have made myself a dream to dream
of its rising, that has gentled my nights.
Let me desire and wish well the life
these trees may live when I
no longer rise in the mornings
to be pleased by the green of them
shining, and their shadows on the ground,
and the sound of the wind in them.



~ Wendell Berry
from The Country of Marriage




Tuesday, October 30, 2012

at last to the dark






We come at last to the dark
and enter in.  We are given bodies
newly made out of their absence
from one another in the light
of the ordinary day.  We come
to the space between ourselves,
the narrow doorway, and pass through
into the land of the wholly loved.




~ Wendell Berry
 from Sabbaths 2002,
Given

Sunday, October 28, 2012

waiting for the barbarians





What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

The barbarians are due here today.

Why isn't anything going on in the senate?
Why are the senators sitting there without legislating?

Because the barbarians are coming today.
What's the point of senators making laws now?
Once the barbarians are here, they'll do the legislating.

Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting enthroned at the city's main gate,
in state, wearing the crown?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and the emperor's waiting to receive their leader.
He's even got a scroll to give him,
loaded with titles, with imposing names.

Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying elegant canes
beautifully worked in silver and gold?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and things like that dazzle the barbarians

Why don't our distinguished orators turn up as usual
to make their speeches, say what they have to say?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and they're bored by rhetoric and public speaking.

Why this sudden bewilderment, this confusion?
(How serious people's faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home lost in thought?

Because night has fallen and the barbarians haven't come.
And some of our men just in from the border say
there are no barbarians any longer.

Now what's going to happen to us without barbarians?
Those people were a kind of solution.






~ Constantine Cavafy
translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

Cavafy understood the word "barbarian" in its original Greek meaning, as applied to all those who are outside and have, instead of human speech, incoherent gibberish.  His intuition allowed him to capture a centuries-old opposition between the inside and the outside.

~ comment by Czeslaw Milosz