Monday, December 29, 2014

to Mary






A child unborn, the coming year
Grows big within us, dangerous,
And yet we hunger as we fear
For its increase: the blunted bud

To free the leaf to have its day,
The unborn to be born.  The ones
Who are to come are on their way,
And though we stand in mortal good

Among our dead, we turn in doom
In joy to welcome them, stirred by 
That Ghost who stirs in seed and tomb,
Who brings the stones to parenthood.



~ Wendell Berry
from This Day - Collected and New Sabbath Poems



welcomers of that ancient joy








In a crease of the hill
under the light,
out of the wind,
as warmth, bloom, and song
return, lady, I think of you,
and myself with you.
What are we but forms
of self-acknowledging
light that brings us
warmth and song from time
to time? Lip and flower,
hand and leaf, tongue
and song, what are we but welcomers
of that ancient joy, always
coming, always passing?
Mayapples rising
out of old time, leaves
folded down around
the stems, as if for flight,
flower bud folded in 
unfolding leaves, what
are we but hosts
of times, of all
the Sabbath morning shows,
the light that finds it good.



~ Wendell Berry
from This Day - Collected and New Sabbath Poems



Wednesday, December 24, 2014

for those with eyes to see






The Angel Standing in the Sun
~ J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851)
from The Tate Gallery, London




their prefabricated picture




English and German troops together, Christmas 1914



It was on this day in 1914 that the last known Christmas truce occurred along the Western Front during World War I. In the week leading up to Christmas, soldiers all over the battlefields had been decorating their trenches with candles and makeshift trimmings when groups of German and British soldiers began shouting seasonal greetings and singing songs to each other. On occasion, a soldier or two would even cross the battlefield to take gifts to the enemy. Then, on Christmas Eve, the men of the Western Front put the war on hold and many soldiers from both sides left their trenches to meet in No Man's Land, where they mingled and exchanged tobacco, chocolate, and sometimes even the buttons from their own uniforms as souvenirs. They played games of football, sang carols, and buried fallen comrades together as the unofficial truce lasted through the night.


The most remarkable group is the group of soldiers who, after having met the enemy between the trenches, started thinking about all they had read and heard about them.

For many, the former hatred was vanished. They now recognized the soldiers from the other side of the trenches as human as themselves. They were not mercenaries, no inhuman monsters eager for war, just humans. The stereotypes they knew from the time before the war and before they met their enemies did not fit after meeting their enemies. Not all Germans acted like it was described in the newspaper and were not as arrogant as the German Kaiser. On the other hand not all the English soldiers were mercenaries fighting for material well-being.

These soldiers started to reflect their own experiences and started to compare their experiences with what they knew before about their enemies. The conclusion they made was that their prefabricated picture and the experiences they gained did not fit together. It was hard for the soldiers, faced with the reality of the war, to keep the black and white picture. The reality they saw was a grey picture with blurry boundaries.










Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Hallelujah








Monday, December 22, 2014

remembering rexroth







one of the leading poets of the San Francisco Renaissance, and he was considered a sort of father of the Beat movement, although he responded to this label by saying: "An entomologist is not a bug."  He said of San Francisco "It is the only city in the United States which was not settled overland by the westward-spreading puritan tradition, or by the Walter Scott, fake-cavalier tradition of the South. It had been settled, mostly, in spite of all the romances of the overland migration, by gamblers, prostitutes, rascals and fortune seekers who came across the Isthmus and around the Horn. They had their faults, but they were not influenced by Cotton Mather."

he loved California summer in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and almost every summer after that for the next 40 years. He said: "I have always felt I was most myself in the mountains. There I have done the bulk of what is called my creative work. At least it is in the mountains that I write most of my poetry. Life in the city in the winter seems too full of distractions and busy work. Who said poetry was emotion recollected in tranquility? I don't know about others, but I find most tranquility camped by a mountain lake at timber line.





Lying under the stars,
In the summer night,
Late while the autumn
Constellations climb the sky,
As the Cluster of Hercules
Falls down the west
I put the telescope by 
And watch Deneb
Move towards the zenith
My body is asleep. Only
My eyes and brain are awake.
The stars stand around me
Like gold eyes. I can no longer
Tell where I begin and leave off.
The faint breeze in the dark pines,
And the invisible grass,
The tipping earth, the swarming stars
Have an eye that sees itself.




~ Kenneth Rexroth



The Earth will be going on a long time
Before it finally freezes;
Men will be on it; they will take names,
Give their deeds reasons.
We will be here only
As chemical constituents—
A small franchise indeed.
Right now we have lives,
Corpuscles, Ambitions, Caresses,
Like everybody had once—

Here at the year's end, at the feast
Of birth, let us bring to each other
The gifts brought once west through deserts—
The precious metal of our mingled hair,
The frankincense of enraptured arms and legs,
The myrrh of desperate, invincible kisses—
Let us celebrate the daily
Recurrent nativity of love,
The endless epiphany of our fluent selves,
While the earth rolls away under us
Into unknown snows and summers,
Into untraveled spaces of the stars.



~ Kenneth Rexroth
from Sacramental Acts


Saturday, December 20, 2014

there is a brokenness






There is a brokenness out of which comes the unbroken, 
a shatteredness out of which blooms the unshatterable. 
There is a sorrow beyond grief which leads to joy 
and a fragility out of whose depths emerges strength. 
There is a hollow space too vast for words 
through which we pass with each loss, 
out of whose darkness we are sanctioned into being. 
There is a cry deeper than all sound 
whose serrated edges cut the heart as we break open 
to the place inside which is unbreakable and whole, 
while learning to sing. 




~ Rashani


Thursday, December 18, 2014

the skinny birds of non-existence









~ Robert Bly



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

trees in winter








All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.







~ William Carlos Williams
photo by Callahan








Sunday, December 14, 2014

one loss





One loss
folds itself inside another.
It is like the origami
held inside a plain sheet of paper
Not creased yet.
Not yet more heavy.
The hand stays steady.





~ Jane Hirshfield
from Come Thief

Saturday, December 13, 2014

a "real you?"









~ Julian Baggini


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

what Jesus said








The wind blows where it likes: that is what
Everyone is like who is born from the wind.
Oh now it’s getting serious. We are the ones
Born from the wind that blows along the plains
And over the sea where no one has a home.
And that Upsetting Rabbi, didn't he say:
‘Take nothing with you, no blanket, no bread.
When evening comes, sleep wherever you are.
And if the owners say no, shake out the dust
From your sandals; leave the dust on their doorstep.’
Don’t hope for what will never come. Give up hope,
Dear friends, the joists of life are laid on the winds





~ Robert Bly
from Eating The Honey of Words. New and Selected Poems



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

don't wander aimlessly





My heart, sit only with those
who know and understand you.

Sit only under a tree
that is full of blossoms.

In the bazaar of herbs and potions
don't wander aimlessly,
find the shop with a potion that is sweet.

If you don't have a measure
people will rob you in no time.

You will take counterfeit coins
thinking they are real.

Don't fill your bowl with food from
every boiling pot you see.

Not every joke is humorous, so don't search
for meaning where there isn't one.

Not every eye can see,
not every sea is full of pearls.

My heart, sing the song of longing
like nightingale.

The sound of your voice casts a spell
on every stone, on every thorn.

First, lay down your head,
then one by one
let go of all distractions.

Embrace the light and let it guide you
beyond the winds of desire.

There you will find a spring and 
nourished by its sweet waters
like a tree you will bear fruit forever.




~ Rumi
Ghazal 563 
from Divan-e Shams
translation by Kolin and Mafi
and Professor Arberry



Sunday, December 7, 2014

embracing otherness, embracing self,








~ Thandie Newton


Friday, December 5, 2014

casida of the rose

     .


The rose
was not searching for the sunrise:
almost eternal on its branch,
it was searching for something else.

The rose
was not searching for darkness or science:
borderline of flesh and dream,
it was searching for something else.

The rose
was not searching for the rose.
Motionless in the sky
it was searching for something else.





~ Federico Garcia Lorca
translation by Robert Bly



Saturday, November 15, 2014

drifting was becoming a passion





.

We were thrilled anew by the expanse of swift water that was the Mississippi.  Drifting was becoming a passion. Though there was nothing new, nothing changed, we looked around each succeeding bend with undiminished interest.  No prospect was quite like any we had seen before; no landing was like another, each afforded new problems handling the boat; and when on shore, we climbed the bank or threaded the woods with keen expectation - of what, we could not say, but our zest for new shores and reaches of river was sharp as ever.  The details of drifting and landing, of each shore we explored, of towns, boats, people, even of the weather, remain vivid in our minds.





~ Harlan Hubbard
from Shantyboat Journal
edited by Don Wallis




Sunday, November 9, 2014

compassion







Joan Halifax

Friday, November 7, 2014

at home everywhere






In reality there is only the source, dark in itself,
making everything shine. 
Unperceived, it causes perception. 
Unfelt, it causes feeling. 
Unthinkable, it causes thought. 
Non-being, it gives birth to being. 

It is the immovable background of motion. 

Once you are there, you are at home everywhere.




–Nisargadatta Maharaj
from I am That
translated by Maurice Frydman



Saturday, November 1, 2014

no longer any shore







I do not cease swimming in the seas of love,
rising with the wave, then descending;
now the wave sustains me, and then I sink beneath it;
love bears me away where there is no longer any shore.


~ Al Hallaj
from Diwan al-Hallaj



Wednesday, October 29, 2014

memories








~ Maya Beiser

middle of the way






1

I wake in the night,
An old ache in the shoulder blades.
I lie amazed under the trees
That creak a little in the dark,
The giant trees of the world.

I lie on earth the way
Flames lie in the woodpile,
Or as an imprint, in sperm or egg, of what is to be.
I love the earth, and always
In its darkness I am a stranger.

2

6 A.M. Water frozen again. Melted it and made tea. Ate a raw egg and the last orange. Refreshed by a long sleep. the trail practically indistinguishable under 8" of snow. 9:30 A.M. Snow up to my knees in places. Sweat begins freezing under my shirt when I stop to rest. The woods are filled, anyway, with the windy noise of the first streams. 10:30 A.M. the sun at last. The snow starts to melt off the boughs at once, falling with little ticking sounds. Mist clouds are lying in the valleys. 11:45 A.M. Slow, glittering breakers roll in on the beaches ten miles away, very blue and calm. 12 noon. An inexplicable sense of joy, as if some happy news had been transmitted to me directly, by-passing the brain. 2 P.M. From the top of Gauldy I looked back into Hebo valley. Castle Rock sticks into a cloud. A cool breeze comes up from the valley, it is a fresh, earthly wind and tastes of snow and trees. It is not like those transcendental breezes that make the heart ache. It bring happiness. 2:30 P.M. Lost the trail. A woodpecker watches me wade about through the snow trying to locate it. The sun has gone back of the trees. 3:10 P.M. Still hunting for the trail. Getting cold. From an elevation I have an open view to the SE, a world of timberless, white hills, rolling, weirdly wrinkled. Above them a pale half moon. 3:45 P.M. Going on by map and compass. A minute ago a deer fled touching down every fifteen feet or so. 7:30 P.M. Made camp near the heart of Alder Creek. Trampled a bed into the snow and filled it with boughs. Concocted a little fire in the darkness. Ate pork and beans. A slug or two of whiskey burnt my throat. The night very clear. Very cold. That half moon is up there and a lot of stars have come out among the treetops. The fire has fallen to coals.


3

The coals go out,
The last smoke weaves up
Losing itself in the stars.
This is my first night to lie
In the uncreating dark.

In the heart of a man
There sleeps a green worm
That has spun the heart about itself,
And that shall dream itself black wings
One day to break free into the beautiful black sky.

I leave my eyes open,
I lie here and forget our life,
All I see is we float out
Into the emptiness, among the great stars,’
On this little vessel without lights.

I know that I love the day,
The sun on the mountain, the Pacific
Shiny and accomplishing itself in breakers,
But I know I live half alive in the world,
Half my life belongs to the wild darkness.




~ Galway Kinnell
who died today, at home in Sheffield, Vt. at age 87.


Monday, October 27, 2014

be the mystery






Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.






~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from Sonnets of Orpheus II, 29
translation by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows







Friday, October 10, 2014

to the happy few






Do you know who you are 

O you forever listed
under some other heading
when you are listed at all 

you whose addresses
when you have them
are never sold except
for another reason
something else that is
supposed to identify you 

who carry no card
stating that you are—
what would it say you were
to someone turning it over
looking perhaps for
a date or for
anything to go by 

you with no secret handshake
no proof of membership
no way to prove such a thing
even to yourselves 

you without a word
of explanation
and only yourselves
as evidence



~ W.S. Merwin
 from Collected Poems
photo by ansel adams






Tuesday, September 30, 2014

still morning








It appears now that there is only one
age and it knows
nothing of age as the flying birds know
nothing of the air they are flying through
or of the day that bears them up
through themselves
and I am a child before there are words
arms are holding me up in a shadow
voices murmur in a shadow
as I watch one patch of sunlight moving
across the green carpet
in a building
gone long ago and all the voices
silent and each word they said in that time
silent now
while I go on seeing that patch of sunlight



~ W. S. Merwin
from Collected Poems (1996 - 2011)
art by emile claus


Saturday, September 13, 2014

imagination, paths of spirit







~ John O'Donohue



Wednesday, August 27, 2014

one light






‘I’ and ‘you’ are but the lattices,
in the niches of a lamp,
through which the One Light shines.
‘I’ and ‘you’ are the veil
between heaven and earth;
lift this veil and you will see
no longer the bonds of sects and creeds.
When ‘I’ and ‘you’ do not exist,
what is mosque, what is synagogue?
What is the Temple of Fire?



~ Mahmud Shabistari




Mahmud Shabistari was one of Sufi’s greatest poets of the 14th Century. Like Rumi, Shabistari lived in turbulent times. This period was often fraught with dangers, in particular the Mongol invasions brought much devastation. However Shabistari was able to write much poetry and synthesise much of the Sufi wisdom. He had a style similar to Ibn Arabi and expressed Sufi philosophy in a moving and simple language. As David Fieldler says of Shabistari

“ Shabistari possessed a unique genius for summarizing the profound and often complex teachings of Sufism in a beautiful, aphoristic, and concise fashion, which often leaves the reader speechless when the deeper meanings of his verse are grasped. “


The Secret Rose Garden by Shabistari Shabistari (1317 A.D.) must be reckoned among the greatest mystical poetry of any time or land. Treating such themes as the Self and the One, The Spiritual Journey, Time and this Dream-World, and the ecstasy of Divine Inebriation, Shabistari’s work is a perennial witness to the capabilities and destiny of humanity. Stressing the One Light that exists at the heart of all religious traditions, Shabistari's work is one of the clearest and most concise guides to the inner meaning of Sufism, and offers a stunningly direct exposition of Sufi mystical thought in poetic form.

~ Comments from Poet Seers



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

it takes so long to finish a poem







My hand remembers stroking a sleek bird years ago, 
one which was crouching under my fingers, 
longing for the sky roof on top of the cabin roof, 
the forgiveness high in the air.  

As for me, I have given so many hours to the ecstasy of detail, 
the shadow of the closing door, 
the final syllable of that poem which is already gone, 
looking back over its shoulder.  

Well, well... sometimes in our slow hours a child climbs down into this world.




~ Robert Bly
from Reaching Out to the World -
 New & Selected Prose Poems




Monday, June 30, 2014

reply to a letter







In the bottom drawer I find a letter which arrived for the first time twenty- six years ago. A letter written in panic, which continues to breathe when it arrives for the second time.
A house has five windows; through four of them daylight shines clear and still. The fifth window faces a dark sky, thunder and storm. I stand by the fifth window. The letter.
Sometimes a wide abyss separates Tuesday from Wednesday, but twenty-six years may pass in a moment. Time is no straight line. but rather a labyrinth. and if you press yourself against the wall, at the right spot, you can hear the hurrying steps and the voices, you can hear yourself walking past on the other side.
Was that letter ever answered? l don't remember, it was a long time ago. The innumerable thresholds of the sea continued to wander. The heart continued to leap from second to second, like the toad in the wet grass of a night in August.
The unanswered letters gather up above, like cirrostratus clouds foreboding a storm. They dim the rays of the sun. One day l shall reply. One day when I am dead and at last free to collect my thoughts. Or at least so far away from here that l can rediscover myself. When recently arrived I walk in the great city. On 25th Street, on the windy streets of dancing garbage. I who love to stroll and merge with the crowd, a capital letter T in the infinite body of text.





~ Tomas Tranströmer
translated by Göran Malmqvist
from The Blue House
art by emile claus



Sunday, June 29, 2014

eyes are blind




‘People where you live,” the little prince said, “grow five thousand roses in one garden… yet they don’t find what they’re looking for…”

“They don’t find it,” I answered.

“And yet what they’re looking for could be found in a single rose, or a little water…”

“Of course,” I answered.

And the little prince added, “But eyes are blind. You have to look with the heart.’




~  Antoine de Saint-Exupery
from The Little Prince


born in Lyon in 1900. He was rather a poor student, and he failed his entrance exam to the naval academy, but he joined the French army in 1921, and that's where he flew his first plane. He left the military five years later and began flying airmail routes into the Sahara Desert, eventually becoming the director of a remote airfield in Rio de Oro. Living conditions were Spartan, but he said, "I have never loved my house more than when I lived in the desert." He wrote his first novel, Southern Mail (1929), in the Sahara and never lost his love for the desert.

In 1929, he moved to South America to fly the mail through the Andes, and he later returned to carry the post between Casablanca and Port-étienne. He worked as a test pilot and a journalist throughout the 1930s, and survived several plane crashes. He also got married in 1931, to Consuelo Gómez Carrillo. She wrote of him in her memoir, "He wasn't like other people, but like a child or an angel who has fallen down from the sky."

He rejoined the French army upon the outbreak of World War II, but when the Nazis invaded France in 1940, he fled to the United States, hoping to serve the U.S. forces as a fighter pilot. He was turned down because of his age, and, homesick and discouraged, he began his best-known book, The Little Prince (1943). The following year, he returned to North Africa to fly a warplane for France. He took off on a mission on July 31, 1944, and was never heard from again.



Saturday, June 28, 2014

tribute








~ Jane Goodall

the immense expanse beyond








The search for reason ends at the known; on the immense expanse beyond it only the sense of the ineffable can glide. It alone knows the route to that which is remote from experience and understanding. Neither of them is amphibious: reason cannot go beyond the shore, and the sense of the ineffable is out of place where we measure, where we weigh. We do not leave the shore of the known in search of adventure or suspense or because of the failure of reason to answer our questions. We sail because our mind is like a fantastic seashell, and when applying our ear to its lips we hear a perpetual murmur from the waves beyond the shore. Citizens of two realms, we all must sustain a dual allegiance: we sense the ineffable in one realm, we name and exploit reality in another. Between the two we set up a system of references, but we can never fill the gap. They are as far and as close to each other as time and calendar, as violin and melody, as life and what lies beyond the last breath.




~ Abraham Joshua Heschel
from Man Is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion
photo by Ansel Adams
with thanks to whiskey river


Thursday, June 26, 2014

the blue house






It is night with glaring sunshine. I stand in the woods and look towards my house with its misty blue walls. As though I were recently dead and saw the house from a new angle.

It has stood for more than eighty summers. Its timber has been impregnated, four times with joy and three times with sorrow. When someone who has lived in the house dies it is repainted. The dead person paints it himself, without a brush, from the inside.

On the other side is open terrain. Formerly a garden, now wilderness. A still surf of weed, pagodas of weed, an unfurling body of text, Upanishads of weed, a Viking fleet of weed, dragon heads, lances, an empire of weed.

Above the overgrown garden flutters the shadow of a boomerang, thrown again and again. It is related to someone who lived in the house long before my time. Almost a child. An impulse issues from him, a thought, a thought of will: “create. . .draw. ..” In order to escape his destiny in time.

The house resembles a child’s drawing. A deputizing childishness which grew forth because someone prematurely renounced the charge of being a child. Open the doors, enter! Inside unrest dwells in the ceiling and peace in the walls. Above the bed there hangs an amateur painting representing a ship with seventeen sails, rough sea and a wind which the gilded frame cannot subdue.

It is always so early in here, it is before the crossroads, before the irrevocable choices. I am grateful for this life! And yet I miss the alternatives. All sketches wish to be real.

A motor far out on the water extends the horizon of the summer night. Both joy and sorrow swell in the magnifying glass of the dew. We do not actually know it, but we sense it: our life has a sister vessel which plies an entirely different route. While the sun burns behind the islands.





~ Tomas Tranströmer
translated by Göran Malmqvist