Friday, November 12, 2010

stand firm

I said to the wanting-creature inside me:
What is this river you want to cross?
There are no travelers on the river-road, and no road.
Do you see anyone moving about on that bank, or nesting?
There is no river at all, and no boat, and no boatman.
There is no tow rope either, and no one to pull it.
There is no ground, no sky, no time, no bank, no ford!
And there is no body, and no mind!
Do you believe there is some place that will make the
soul less thirsty?
In that great absence you will find nothing.
Be strong then, and enter into your own body;
there you have a solid place for your feet.
Think about it carefully!
Don't go off somewhere else!
Kabir says this: just throw away all thoughts of
imaginary things,
and stand firm in that which you are. 
~ Kabir
thanks to

Thursday, November 11, 2010

When I was a boy...

When I was a boy 
a god would often rescue me 
from the shouting and violence of humans. 
Then, safe and well, I would play 
with the meadow flowers, 
and heaven's breezes 
would play with me. 
And as you delight the heart 
of plants, stretching their tender 
arms toward you, 
Father Helios, 
so you delighted my heart, 
and I was your beloved, 
holy Luna, just like Endymion!
All you faithful 
friendly gods! 
I wish you knew 
how my soul loved you!
Naturally I couldn't call you 
by name then, nor did you use 
mine, as humans do, as if 
they really knew each other.
But I was better acquainted with you 
than I ever was with humans. 
I knew the stillness of the Aether: 
I never understood the words of men.
The euphony of the rustling 
meadow was my education; 
among flowers I learned to love.
I grew up 
in the arms of the gods.
~ Friedrich Hölderlin

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

the joy that shapes dance

Sound and gesture are contemporary,
identical and indistinguishable...
Linked to its own past,
the gesture fills up with music
and becomes rounded,
like the universe...
The beauty of gesture
renders time visible.
~ Catherine David
 is the canvas 
against which movement 
can become beautiful.
~ John O'Donohue
from The Invisible Embrace, Beauty

Monday, November 8, 2010

How it Happens

The sky said I am watching
to see what you
can make out of nothing
I was looking up and I said
I thought you
were supposed to be doing that
the sky said Many
are clinging to that
I am giving you a chance
I was looking up and I said
I am the only chance I have
then the sky did not answer
and here we are
with our names for the days
the vast days that do not listen to us
~ W. S. Merwin

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Gazelle

Enchanted thing: how can two chosen words
ever attain the harmony of pure rhyme
that pulses through you as your body stirs?
Out of your forehead branch and lyre climb,
and all your features pass in simile,through
the songs of love whose words, as light as rose-
petals, rest on the face of someone who 
has put his book away and shut his eyes:
to see you: tensed, as it each leg were a gun
loaded with leaps, but  not fired while your neck
holds your head still, listening: as when,
while swimming in some isolated place,
a girl hears leaves rustle, and turns to look:
the forest pool reflected in her face.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke
edited and translated by Stephen Mitchell

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Many times loneliness
is someone else
an absence
then when loneliness is no longer
someone else many times
it is someone else's dog
that you're keeping
then when the dog disappears
and the dog's absence
you are alone at last
and loneliness many times
is yourself
that absence
but at last it may be
that you are your own dog
hungry on the way
the one sound climbing a mountain
higher than time
~ W.S. Merwin
Writings To An Unfinished Accompaniment

Lights Out

The old grieving autumn goes on calling to its summer
the valley is calling to other valleys beyond the ridge
each star is roaring alone into darkness
there is not a sound in the whole night
~ W.S. Merwin

the deep innerness of all things

You are the future, 
the red sky before sunrise
over the fields of time.

You are the cock's crow when night is done,
you are the dew and the bells of matins,
maiden, stranger, mother, death.

You create yourself in ever-changing shapes
that rise from the stuff of our days -
unsung, unmourned, undescribed,
like a forest we never know.

You are the deep innerness of all things,
the last word that can never be spoken.
To each of us you reveal yourself differently:
to the ship as coastline, to the shore as a ship.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from The Book of Pilgrimage, II,22

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

deep inside the flower


I know of a place not ruled by flatness 
Or constant risings depressions, 
 those alive are not afraid to die. 
There wild flowers come up through the leafy floor, 
 the fragrance of "I am he" floats on the wind. 
...There the love bee stays deep inside the flower 
and cares for no other thing.

~ Kabir

Monday, November 1, 2010


When all thoughts 
Are exhausted
I slip into the woods
And gather
A pile of shepherd's purse.
Like the little stream
Making its way
Through the mossy crevices
I, too, quietly
Turn clear and transparent.
~ Ryokan
photo by Jack Spencer

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Stop struggling!

Since you saw this spring, why didn't
you become water?
Since you saw the Friend near, why do
you still have love for yourself?
Since you are in the shop of the sweet-seller,
why this bitter look?
Since you are swimming in the river of life,
why are you dry and miserable?
Don't be stubborn, do not flee from happiness.
You are imprisoned in a net from which
you can't escape,
Stop struggling! Stop struggling!
~  Rumi
translated by Muriel Maufroy

Thomas Merton on becoming the poet that you were meant to become (note to self)

Many poets are not poets 
for the same reason that 
many religious men are not saints: 
they never succeed in being themselves. 
They never get around to being the particular poet 
or the particular monk they are intended to be by God. 
They never become the man or the artist who is called 
for by all the circumstances of their individual lives. 

They waste their years in vain efforts 
to be some other poet, some other saint...

They wear out their minds and bodies in a hopeless endeavor 
to have somebody else's experiences or write somebody else's poems.

There is intense egoism in following everybody else. 
People are in a hurry to magnify themselves 
by imitating what is popular--
too lazy to think of anything better.

~ Thomas Merton

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

the polished surface of our being

I have my dead, and I have let them go,
and was amazed to see them so contented,
so soon at home in being dead, so cheerful,
so unlike their reputation.  Only you
return; brush past me, loiter, try to knock
against something, so that the sound reveals
your presence.  Oh don't take from me what I 
am slowly learning.  I'm sure you have gone astray
it you are moved to homesickness for anything 
in this dimension.  We transform these Things;
they aren't real, they are only the reflections 
upon the polished surface of our being.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
excerpt from "Requiem," written on the occasion of the death 
of his friend Paula Modersohn-Becker. This is a  portrait she painted of Rilke.

Monday, October 25, 2010

the gesture which small flowers make


For the sake of a single poem, 
you must see many cities, 
many people and things, 
you must understand animals, 
must feel how birds fly, 
and know the gesture which small flowers 
make when they open in the morning.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pyracantha and Plum

Last autumn's chastened berries still on one tree,
spring blossoms tender, hopeful, on another.
The view from this window
much as it was ten years ago, fifteen. 
Yet it seems this morning
a self-portrait both clearer and darker,
as if while I slept some Rembrandt or Brueghel
had walked through the garden, looking hard.
~ Jane Hirshfield