Friday, April 5, 2013

the light that’s blazing

A story is like water
that you heat for your bath.

It takes messages between the fire
and your skin. It lets them meet,
and it cleans you!

Very few can sit down
in the middle of the fire itself
like a salamander or Abraham.
We need intermediaries.

A feeling of fullness comes,
but it usually takes some bread
to bring it.

Beauty surrounds us,
but usually we need to be walking
in a garden to know it.

The body itself is a screen
to shield and partially reveal
the light that’s blazing
inside your presence.

Water, stories, the body,
all the things we do, are mediums
that hide and show what’s hidden.

Study them,
and enjoy being washed
with a secret we sometimes know,
and then not.

~ Rumi
translation by Coleman Barks
from The Essential Rumi

Thursday, April 4, 2013

once, I

Once, I
was seven Spanish bullocks in a high meadow,
sleepy and nameless.

As-ifness strange to myself, but complete.

Light on the neck-nape
of time
as two wings of one starling,

or lovers so happy
neither needs think of the other.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from Poetry (April 2013)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

a new loveliness

You cannot live without dying. 
You cannot live if you do not die psychologically every minute. 
This is not an intellectual paradox. To live completely, 
wholly, every day as if it were a new loveliness,
 there must be dying to everything of yesterday, 
otherwise you live mechanically, 
and a mechanical mind can never know what 
love is or what freedom is.

~ J. Krishnamurti
from Freedom from the Known
art by van gogh

an hour is not a house

An hour is not a house,
a life is not a house,
you do not go through them as if
they were doors to another.

Yet an hour can have shape and proportion,
four walls, a ceiling.
An hour can be dropped like a glass.

Some want quiet as others want bread.
Some want sleep.

My eyes went
to the window, as a cat or dog left alone does.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from Poetry, April 2013

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Hildegard von Bingen

Listen: there was once a king sitting on his throne. 
Around him stood great and wonderfully beautiful columns 
ornamented with ivory, bearing the banners of the king with great honor. 
Then it pleased the king to raise a small feather from the ground, 
and he commanded it to fly. The feather flew, 
not because of anything in itself but because the air bore it along.
Thus am I, a feather on the breath of God.

 - visionary, poet, composer, naturalist, healer, and theologian - 
founded convents; corresponded with secular and ecclesiastical leaders, 
as well as a vast range of people of lesser rank; and 
ventured forth as a monastic trouble-shooter, 
consultant exorcist, and visiting preacher. 

Even more remarkable for a woman of her time was the body of written work she produced. 
Its range - from natural history and medicine to cosmology, 
music, poetry, and theology - 
 possesses great beauty


extraordinary creativity was her accomplishment in music. 
In the poetry and melody of her songs, she reveals the full authority,
 intelligence and striking originality of her genius.

~ Hildegard von Bingen

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

multiplicity in properties

He who has lifted the veil sees multiplicity in properties, 
not in Essence; hence he knows that changes in properties 
cannot touch Essence, which owns a perfection subject to no mutability. 
Light merely seems to change as it shines through colored glass, but

light has no color.
Its rays shine through the glass
and only then 
do hues and tints appear.

Don't you understand?

Come then into my eyes

and you will see

a sun shining
through a thousand bits of glass
beaming to plain sight through each
a ray of color
Why should any difference appear
between this one and that?
All light is one
but colors a thousandfold.

~ Fakhruddin 'Iraqi
from Divine Flashes

Saturday, March 23, 2013

the lips of insanity

~ Coleman Barks
~ Rumi

Friday, March 22, 2013

wait for the hour

Always trust yourself and your own feeling, 
as opposed to argumentations, discussion, 
or introductions of that sort; if it turns out that you are wrong, 
then the natural growth of your inner life will eventually guide you to other insights. 

Allow your judgments their own silent, undisturbed development, 
which, like all progress, must come from deep within 
and cannot be forced or hastened. 

Everything is gestation and then birthing. 
To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion,
 entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, 
beyond the reach of one’s own understanding, and with deep humility 
and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: 
this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as in creating.

~Rainer Maria Rilke
from Letters to a young poet, letter 3
translation by Stephen Mitchell
image found at art42

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

many waves

each image painted
on the canvas of existence
is the form
of the artist himself.
Eternal Ocean
spews forth new waves,
"Waves" we call them;
but there is only the Sea.

Many and disparate waves do not make the sea a multiplicity;
no more do the Names make the Named more than One.
When the sea breathes they call it mist;
when mist piles up they call it clouds.
It falls again,
they name it rain;
it gathers itself and rejoins the sea.
And it is now the same sea it ever was.

~ Fakhruddin 'Iraqi
from Divine Flashes

Sunday, March 17, 2013


~ Jiddu Krishnamurti, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Saturday, March 16, 2013


Sitting over words
very late I have heard a kind of whispered sighing
not far
like a night wind in pines or like the sea in the dark
the echo of everything that has ever
been spoken
still spinning its one syllable
between the earth and silence

~ W. S. Merwin
 from The Rain in the Trees

the conditional

Say tomorrow doesn't come. 
Say the moon becomes an icy pit. 
Say the sweet-gum tree is petrified. 
Say the sun's a foul black tire fire. 
Say the owl's eyes are pinpricks. 
Say the raccoon's a hot tar stain. 
Say the shirt's plastic ditch-litter. 
Say the kitchen's a cow's corpse. 
Say we never get to see it: bright 
future, stuck like a bum star, never 
coming close, never dazzling. 
Say we never meet her. Never him. 
Say we spend our last moments staring 
at each other, hands knotted together,
clutching the dog, watching the sky burn. 
Say, It doesn't matter. Say, That would be 
enough. Say you'd still want this: us alive, 
right here, feeling lucky.

~ Ada Limón
with thanks again to Lisa

about this poem the author said,
"There is so much to worry about. 
All the time, so much worry. 
Here, I wanted to take all the worry as far out as I could 
and then stamp it out 
under the heavy black boot of love." 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

the wealth of poverty

I have seen that the lane of piety stretches out,
far, far into the distance;
My dearest friends, can you not show me then
the way of the madman?
Bring me a glass of Magian wine
that I may drink deep
for I have given up all thought
of ascetic piety;
or if the pure wine has all been downed
bring me the cloudy dregs
for thick residue lights up the heart 
and illuminates the eyes.
Tuppence for the Sufi meeting house!
I flee the company of the righteous;
fill up a row of glasses with wine
and bring me the first.
I have no rules or regulations,
nor heart nor religion -
only I remain, and you, sitting in the corner
and the wealth of Poverty.
All fear of God, all self-denial I deny;
bring wine, nothing but wine
for in all sincerity I repent
my worship which is but hypocrisy.
Yes, bring me wine, for I have renounced all renunciation
and all my vaunted self-righteousness
seems to me but swagger and self-display.
Now for a time let my proof be wine
against the sorrow of Time
for only in drunkenness can one be free
of the hour's grief.
Once I am thoroughly drunk, what difference
if I end up in a church or in Mecca?
Once I've abandoned myself, what matter
if I win Union - or separation?
I've been to the gambling house and seen 
that the losers there are pure;
I've been to the monastery and have found
no one but hypocrites.
Now I've broken my repentance, at least
do not break our covenant:
at least welcome this broken heart and say
"How are you? Where have you been?"
I've been to Mecca, to circle the Kaaba
but they refused me entrance
saying "Off with you!  What merit have you earned
outside, that we should admit you within?"
Then, last night, I knocked
at the tavern door;
from within came a voice: "'Iraqi! Come in!
for you are one of the chosen!"

~ Fakhruddin 'Iraqi
from the introduction to Divine Flashes
translation by William Chittick and Peter Wilson

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

three times my life has opened

Three times my life has opened.
Once, into darkness and rain.
Once, into what the body carries at all times within it and starts
to remember each time it enters the act of love.
Once, to the fire that holds all.
These three are not different.
You will recognize what I am saying or you will not.
But outside my window all day a maple has stepped from her leaves
like a woman in love with winter, dropping the colored silks.
Neither are we different in what we know.
There is a door.  It opens.  Then it is closed.  But a slip of light
stays, like a scrap of unreadable paper left on the floor,
or the one red leaf the snow releases in March.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from The Lives of the Heart

Monday, March 4, 2013

a wind-swept spirit

In this mortal frame of mine, which is made of a hundred bones and nine orifices, there is something, and this something is called a wind-swept spirit, for lack of a better name, for it is much like a thin drapery that is torn and swept away at the slightest stir of the wind.  
This something in me took to writing poetry years ago, merely to amuse itself at first, but finally making it its lifelong business.  It must be admitted, however, that there were times when it sank into such dejection that it was almost ready to drop its pursuit, or again times when it was so puffed up with pride that it exulted in vain victories over others. Indeed, ever since it began to write poetry, it has never found peace with itself, always wavering  between doubts of one kind and another. 
At one time it wanted to gain security by entering the service of a court, and at another it wished to measure the depth of its ignorance by trying to be a scholar, but it was prevented from either because of its unquenchable love of poetry.  The fact is, it knows no other art than writing poetry, and therefore, it hangs on to it more of less blindly.

~ Matsuo Basho
from Journal of a Travel-Worn Satchel
translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa

A wanderer all his life both in body and spirit, Basho concerned himself less with destination than with the quality of the traveler's attention.  A poem, he said, only exists while it's on the writing desk; by the time its ink has dried, it should be recognized as just a scrap of paper.  In poetry as in life, he saw each moment as gate-latch.  Permeability mattered more in this process than product or will:  "If we were to gain mastery over things, we would find their lives would vanish under us without a trace."

~ Jane Hirshfield 
from The Heart of Haiku