Friday, January 7, 2011

Elegy on Toy Piano


You don't need a pony 
to connect you to the unseeable 
or an airplane to connect you to the sky. 

Necessary it is to love to live 
and there are many manuals 
but in all important ways 
one is on one's own. 

You need not cut off your hand. 
No need to eat a bouquet. 
Your head becomes a peach pit. 
Your tongue a honeycomb. 

Necessary it is to live to love, 
to charge into the burning tower 
then charge back out 
and necessary it is to die. 
Even for the trees, even for the pony 
connecting you to what can't be grasped. 

The injured gazelle falls behind the 
herd. One last wild enjambment. 

Because of the sores in his mouth, 
the great poet struggles with a dumpling. 
His work has enlarged the world 
but the world is about to stop including him. 
He is the tower the world runs out of. 

When something becomes ash, 
there's nothing you can do to turn it back. 
About this, even diamonds do not lie.

~ Dean Young

Wanting Sumptuous Heavens


No one grumbles among the oyster clans,
And lobsters play their bone guitars all summer.
Only we, with our opposable thumbs, want
Heaven to be, and God to come, again.
There is no end to our grumbling; we want
Comfortable earth and sumptuous Heaven.
But the heron standing on one leg in the bog
Drinks his dark rum all day, and is content.

~ Robert Bly
from The New Yorker, Nov. 5, 2007

Thursday, January 6, 2011

of beauty

And a poet said, Speak to us of Beauty.
And he answered:

Where shall you seek beauty, and how 
shall you find her unless she herself be your
way and your guide?

And how shall you speak of her except 
she be the weaver of your speech?

The aggrieved and injured say, 
"Beauty is kind and gentle."

The tired and weary say,
"Beauty is of soft whisperings
She speaks in our spirit."

In winter say the snow-bound,
"She shall come with the spring leaping upon the hills."

All these things have you said of beauty,
Yet in truth you spoke not of her but of needs unsatisfied,
And beauty is not a need but an ecstasy.
It is not a mouth thirsting nor an empty hand stretched forth,
But rather a heart inflamed and a soul enchanted.

It is not the image you would see nor the song you would hear,
But rather an image you see though you
close your eyes and a song you hear though
you shut your ears.

People of Orphalese, 
beauty is life when life unveils her holy face.
But you are life and you are the veil.
Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
But you are eternity and you are the mirror.

~ Kahlil Gibran
from The Prophet

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

eternity is not infinity

Eternity is not infinity.
It is not a long time.
It does not begin at the end of time.
It does not run parallel to time.
In its entirety it always was.
In its entirety it will always be.
It is entirely present always.

~ Wendell Berry

delight in the way things are

Blessed are the man and the woman
who have grown beyond their greed
and have put an end to their hatred
and no longer nourish illusions.
But they delight in the way things are
and keep their hearts open, day and night
They are like trees planted near flowing rivers,
which bear fruit when they are ready.
Their leaves will not fall or wither
everything they do will succeed.
Psalm 1
from The Book of Psalms


The Journey


One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

~ Mary Oliver

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

all several souls contain

If any, so by love refined, 
That he soul's language understood, 
And by good love were grown all mind, 
Within convenient distance stood, 
He—though he knew not which soul spake, 
Because both meant, both spake the same— 
Might thence a new concoction take, 
And part far purer than he came. 
This ecstasy doth unperplex 
(We said) and tell us what we love ; 
We see by this, it was not sex ; 
We see, we saw not, what did move : 
But as all several souls contain 
Mixture of things they know not what, 
Love these mix'd souls doth mix again, 
And makes both one, each this, and that. 
~ John Donne (1572-1631)
from The Ecstasy
art by Georgia O'Keefe

love song


How shall I hold my soul, that it may not 
be touching yours? How shall I lift it then
above you to where other things are waiting?
Ah, gladly would I lodge it, all-forgot,
with some lost thing the dark is isolating
on some remote and silent spot that, when 
your depths vibrate, is not itself vibrating.
You and me - all that lights upon us, though,
brings us together like a fiddle -bow
drawing one voice from two strings it glides along.
Across what instrument have we been spanned?
And what violinist holds us in his hand?
O sweetest song.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke 
March 1907, Capri 
translated by J. B. Leishman
art by klimt


a single cell
found that it was full of light
and for the first time there was seeing
I was a bird
I could see where the stars had turned
and I set out on my journey
in the head of a mountain goat
I could see across a valley
under the shining trees something moving
in the green sea
I saw the two sides of the water
and swam between them
look at you
in the first light of the morning
for as long as I can
~ W. S. Merwin

Monday, January 3, 2011

one kiss

I asked for one kiss.  You gave me six.
Who was teacher is now student.
Things good and generous take form in me,
and the air is clear.
There is a strange frenzy in my head,
of birds flying,
each particle circulating on its own.
Is the one I love everywhere?
We take long trips.
We puzzle over the meaning of a painting or a book,
when what we are wanting to see and understand in this world,
we are that.
~ Rumi
from the big red book

the secret beauty of their hearts


Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God's eyes. If only they could see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time, there would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed... I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other.
~ Thomas Merton 
photo by konrad gos


Sunday, January 2, 2011

my companion


You went away but remained in me
And thus became my peace and happiness.
In separation, separation left me
And I witnessed the Unknown.
You were the hidden secret of my longing,
Hidden deep within my conscience deeper than a dream.
You were my true friend in the day
And in darkness my companion
~ Mansur al- Hallaj

why bodhidharma went to motel 6

"Where is your home?” the interviewer asked him.


“No, no,” the interviewer said, thinking it a problem of translation,
“when you are where you actually live?”

Now it was his turn to think, Perhaps the translation?

~ Jane Hirshfield

no path


Now, if you go into it very clearly and thoroughly, with intelligence, you see that to truth there can be no path; there is no path, as yours and mine: the path of service, the path of knowledge, the path of devotion, and the other innumerable paths that philosophers have invented, depending on their particular idiosyncrasies and neurological responses. Now, if one can think clearly about this matter, without prejudice - I mean by prejudice, being committed to a particular action of thought or belief, and being utterly unaware that one particular form of thinking, one particular approach, must inevitably limit, whether it is the path of knowledge, the path of devotion, or the path of action - , one will see that any particular path must invariably limit, and therefore cannot lead to reality. Because, a path of action, or a path of knowledge, or a path of devotion, in itself, is not sufficient, surely. A man of learning, however erudite, however encyclopedic his knowledge may be, if he has no love, surely his knowledge is worthless; it is merely book learning. A man of belief, as we discussed, must inevitably shape his life according to the dogma, the tenet, that he holds, and therefore his experience must be limited; because, one experiences according to one’s beliefs, and such experience can never be liberating. On the contrary, it is binding. And, as we said, only in freedom can we discover anything new, anything fundamental.
~ J. Krishnamurti 
from The Collected Works Volume V


Saturday, January 1, 2011

a blessing of solitude

May you recognize in your life the presence, 
power, and light of your soul.
May you realize that you are never alone, 
that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects
you intimately with the rhythm of the universe.
May you have respect for your own individuality and difference.
May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique, 
that you have a special destiny here, 
that behind the facade of your life there is something beautiful, 
good, and eternal happening.
May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, 
pride, and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.

~ John O’Donohue
from To Bless the Space Between Us