Thursday, May 31, 2012


by Paul Stamets
with thanks to Chemin faisant

Monday, May 28, 2012


The presence of God.
In a tunnel of birdsong
a locked gate opens.

~ Tomas Transtromer
excerpt from Haikudikter, The Sorrow Gondola
translations by Michael McGriff and Mikaela Grassl

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

a life

That the stars are adamant
everyone understands—
but I won’t give up seeking joy on each blue wave
or peace below every gray stone.
If happiness never comes, what is a life?
A lily withers in the sand
and if its nature has failed? The tide
washes the beach at night.
What is the fly looking for on the spider’s web?
What does a dayfly make of its hours?
(Two wings creased over a hollow body.)

Black will never turn to white—
yet the perfume of our struggle lingers
as each morning fresh flowers
spring up from hell.

The day will come
when the earth is emptied, the skies collapse
and all goes still—
when nothing remains but the dayfly
folded in a leaf.
But no one knows it.

~  Edith Sodergran
translation by Averill Curdy
with thanks to it's all dhamma

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


The uniformity of the earth's life, more astonishing than its diversity, 
is accountable by the high probability that we derived, 
originally, from a single cell, fertilized in a bolt of lightning as the earth cooled. 
 It is from the progeny of this parent cell that we take our looks; 
 we still share genes around, and 
the resemblance of the enzymes of grasses to those of whales is a family resemblance.

~ Lewis Thomas
from The Lives of a Cell

Saturday, May 12, 2012

as if it never existed

As air becomes the medium for light when the sun rises,
And as wax melts from the heat of fire,
So the soul drawn to that light is resplendent,
Feels self melt away,
Its will and actions no longer its own.
So clear is the imprint of God
That the soul, conquered, is conqueror;
Annihilated, it lives in triumph.

What happens to the drop of wine
That you pour into the sea?
Does it remain itself, unchanged?
It is as if it never existed.
So it is with the soul: Love drinks it in,
It is united with Truth,
Its old nature fades away,
It is no longer master of itself.

The soul wills and yet does not will:
Its will belongs to Another.
It has eyes only for this beauty;
It no longer seeks to possess, as was its wont -
It lacks the strength to possess such sweetness.
The base of this highest of peaks
Is founded on nichil,
Shaped into nothingness, made one with the Lord.

~ Jacopone da Todi
an excerpt from Let Annihilation and Charity Lead

Jacopone Benedetti, was born into a wealthy family in the central Italian town of Todi.  As a young man, he married and started a career as a notario, combining the skills of an accountant and a lawyer.  Legend has it that when a balcony collapsed at a wedding feast, killing his wife, he abandoned his career, gave away all his possessions, and become a wandering penitent.  He eventually joined the Franciscan Order, and discovered a gift for poetry.  He was imprisoned for five years for his opposition to the election of Pope Boniface VIII, and continued to write deeply personal and mystical poetry on prison.  He was released on the death of Boniface, and retired to a hermitage near Orvieto, where he died in 1306.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

finding a box of family letters

The dead say little in their letters
they haven't said before.
We find no secrets, and yet
how different every sentence sounds
heard across the years.

My father breaks my heart
simply by being so young and handsome.
He's half my age, with jet-black hair.
Look at him in his navy uniform
grinning beside his dive-bomber.

Come back, Dad! I want to shout.
He says he misses all of us
(though I haven't yet been born).
He writes from places I never knew he saw,
and everyone he mentions now is dead.

There is a large, long photograph
curled like a diploma—a banquet sixty years ago.
My parents sit uncomfortably
among tables of dark-suited strangers.
The mildewed paper reeks of regret.

I wonder what song the band was playing,
just out of frame, as the photographer
arranged your smiles. A waltz? A foxtrot?
Get out there on the floor and dance!
You don't have forever.

What does it cost to send a postcard
to the underworld? I'll buy
a penny stamp from World War II
and mail it downtown at the old post office
just as the courthouse clock strikes twelve.

Surely the ghost of some postal worker
still makes his nightly rounds, his routine
too tedious for him to notice when it ended.
He works so slowly he moves back in time
carrying our dead letters to their lost addresses.

It's silly to get sentimental.
The dead have moved on. So should we.
But isn't it equally simpleminded to miss
the special expertise of the departed
in clarifying our long-term plans?

They never let us forget that the line
between them and us is only temporary.
Get out there and dance! the letters shout
adding, Love always. Can't wait to get home!
And soon we will be. See you there.

~ Dana Gioia
with thanks to writers almanac
photo from living solutions