Saturday, July 31, 2010

not moving even one step

The rain falling too lightly to shape
an audible house, and audible tree,
blind, soaking, the old horse waits in his pasture.

He knows the field for exactly what it is:
his limitless mare, his beloved.
Even the mallards sleep in her red body maned
in thistles, hooved in the new green shallows of spring.

Slow rain streams from fetlocks, hips, the lowered head,
while she stands in the place beside him that no one sees.

The muzzles almost touch.
How silently the heart pivots on its hinge.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from The Lives of the Heart

Friday, July 30, 2010


What is the deep listening?  Sama is
a greeting from the secret ones inside
the heart, a letter.  The branches of 
your intelligence grow new leaves in
the wind of this listening.  The body
reaches a peace.  Rooster sound comes,
reminding you of your love for dawn.
The reed flute and the singer's lips:
the knack of how spirit breathes into
us becomes as simple and ordinary as
eating and drinking.  The dead rise with 
the pleasure of listening.  If someone
can't hear a trumpet melody, sprinkle
dirt on his head and declare him dead.
Listen, and feel the beauty of your
separation, the unsayable absence.
There's a moon inside every human being.
Learn to be companions with it.  Give
more of your life to this listening.  As
brightness is to time, so you are to
the one who talks to the deep ear in
your chest.  I should sell my tongue
and buy a thousand ears when that
one steps near and begins to speak.
~ Rumi
from The Glance
translated by Coleman Barks

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

When the Cat Stole the Milk

Well there it is.  There's nothing to do.
The cat steals the milk and it's gone.
Then the cat steals you, and you're found
Days later, with milk on your face.
That implies that you become whoever
Steals you.  The trees steal a man,
And an old birch becomes his wife
And they live together in the woods.
Some of us have always wanted
God to steal us.  Then our friends
Would call each other, and print
Posters, and we would never be found.
~ Robert Bly

Monday, July 26, 2010

People Like Us

There are more like us. All over the world
There are confused people, who can't remember
The name of their dog when they wake up, and people
Who love God but can't remember where
He was when they went to sleep.  It's
All right.  The world cleanses itself this way.
A wrong number occurs to you in the middle
Of the night, you dial it, it rings just in time
To save the house.  And the second-story man
Gets the wrong address, where the insomniac lives,
And he's lonely, and they talk, and the thief
Goes back to college.  Even in graduate school,
You can wander into the wrong classroom,
And hear great poems lovingly spoken
By the wrong professor.  And you find your soul,
And greatness has a defender, and even in death
you're safe.
Robert Bly
for James Wright

Words the Dreamer Spoke to my Father in Maine

Ocean light as we wake reminds us how dark
Our old house is.  That's home.  Like Hamlet,
One visit to Wittenberg is enough, and we'll soon be
Back in crazy Denmark.  I dreamt I stood
In a machine shop; my dead father stands beside me.
We talk, but his eyes remain on my chest.
I say to him for the first him:"Oh look at me
When we talk." I could see cubbyholes
With dark tools, and a rough floor stained with oil.
Clotted windows, cobwebs, a black vise.
But sunlight outside our windows speaks of ocean
Light, bone light, Labrador light, prairie light.
It's the same light that glints off swords, and shines
From Idaho rivers some days, and from the thin
Face just before death. I say to my father,
"We could be there if we could lift our eyes."
~ Robert Bly
from Morning Poems
photo by Kathleen Connally

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Dark Night (excerpt)

In the delicious night,
In privacy, where no one saw me,
Nor did I see one thing,
I had no light or guide
But the fire that burned inside my chest.
That fire showed me
The way more clearly that the blaze of noon
To where, waiting for me,
Was the One I knew so well,
In that place where no one ever is.
I stood still; I forgot who I was,
My face leaning against Him,
Everything stopped, abandoned me,
My being was gone, forgotten
Among the white lilies.
~ Saint John of the Cross

But the silence in the mind

But the silence in the mind
is when we live best, within
listening distance of the silence
we call God.  This is the deep 
calling to deep of the psalm-
writer, the bottomless ocean
We launch the armada of
our thoughts on, never arriving.

It is a presence, then,
whose margins are our margins;
that calls us out over our 
own fathoms.  What to do
but draw a little nearer to
such ubiquity by remaining still?

~ R. S. Thomas

calmly and smoothly

The soul, then, being thus inwardly recollected in God or before God,
 now and then becomes so sweetly attentive to the goodness of her well-beloved,
that her attention seems not to her to be attention, so purely and delicately is it exercised;
 as it happens to certain rivers, which glide so calmly and smoothly 
that beholders and such as float upon them, seem neither to see nor feel any motion,
 because the waters are not seen to ripple or flow at all.
~ Saint Francis de Sales
from An Introduction to the Devout Life

Friday, July 23, 2010

The spring woods hastening now

The spring woods hastening now
To overshadow him,
He's passing in to where
He can't see out.  It charms
Mere eyesight to believe
The nearest thing not trees
Is the sky, into which 
The trees reach, opening
Their luminous new leaves.
Burdened only by 
A weightless shawl of shade
The lighted leaves let fall,
He seems to move within
A form unpatterned to 
His eye or mind, design
Betokened to his thought
By leafshapes tossed about.
Ways untranslatable
To human tongue or hand
Seem tangled here, and yet
Are brought to light, are brought
To life, and thought finds rest
Beneath a brightened tree
In which, unseen, a warbler
Feeds and sins.  His song's
Small shapely melody
Comes down irregularly,
As all light's givings come.
~ Wendell Berry
photo by Kathleen Connally

the light changes

Can I see the buds that are swelling 
in the woods on the slopes
on the far side of the valley? I can't,
of course, nor can I see 
the twinleafs and anemones
that are blooming over there
bright-scattered above the dead
leaves.  But the swelling buds
and little blossoms make
a new softness in the light
that is visible all the way here.
The trees, the hills that were stark
in the old cold become now
tender, and the light changes.
~ Wendell Berry

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Song of the Barren Orange Tree


Cut my shadow from me.
Free me from the torment 
of seeing myself without fruit.

Why was I born among mirrors?
The day walks in circles around me,
and the night copies me
in all its stars.

I want to live without seeing myself.
And I will dream that ants
and thistleburrs are my
leaves and my birds.

Cut my shadow from me.
Free me from the torment
of seeing myself without fruit.

~ Federico Garcia Lorca
from The Selected Poems of Federico Garcia Lorca
translated by W.S. Merwin

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Things to Think

Think in ways you've never thought before.
If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message
Larger than anything you've ever heard,
Vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats.
Think that someone may bring a bear to your door,
Maybe wounded and deranged; or think that a moose
Has risen out of the lake, and he's carrying on his antlers
A child of your own whom you've never seen.
When someone knocks on the door, think that he's about
To give you something large: tell you you're forgiven,
Or that it's not necessary to work all the time, or that it's
Been decided that if you lie down no one will die.
~ Robert Bly
from Morning Poems

the essence of beauty

You know when you see something like a marvelous mountain against the blue sky, the vivid, bright, clear, unpolluted snow, the majesty of it drives all your thoughts, your concerns, your problems away.  Have you noticed that?  You say, 'How beautiful it is', and for two seconds perhaps, or for even a minute, you are absolutely silent.  The grandeur of it drives away for that second, the pettiness of ourselves.  So that immensity has taken us over.  Like a child occupied with an intricate toy for an hour; he won't talk, he won't make any noise, he is completely absorbed in that.  The toy has absorbed him.  So the mountain absorbs you and therefore for the second, or the minute, you are absolutely quiet, which means there is no self.  Now, without being absorbed by something - either a toy, a mountain, a face, or an idea - to be completely without the me in oneself, is the essence of beauty.

J. Krishnamurti
from a talk in Saanen, July 18th 1978

Conversation with the Soul

The soul said, "Give me something to look at."
So I gave her a farm.  She said,
"It's too large."  So I gave her a field.
The two of us sat down.
Sometimes I would fall in love with a lake
Or a pine cone.  But I liked her
Most.  She knew it.
"Keep writing," she said.
So I did.  Each time the new snow fell,
We would be married again.
The holy dead sat down by our bed.
This went on for years.
"This field is getting too small," she said.
"Don't you know anyone else
To fall in love with?"
What would you have said to Her?
~ Robert Bly


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My Doubts on Going to Visit a New Friend

I'm glad that a white horse grazes in that meadow
Outside your kitchen window; even when it rains
There's still someone there.  And it rains often
In the mountains.

I have to ask myself what kind of friend I can be.
You'll want to know whether I do dishes,
Or know my share of stories, or any Wallace
Stevens poems be heart.

I know that I won't talk all the time, or steal
Money, or complain about my room,
Or undermine you, or speak disparagingly
Of your family.

I am afraid there'll be a moment when 
I fail you, friend; I will turn slightly
Away, our eyes will not meet, and out in the field
There will be no one.

Robert Bly