Monday, July 15, 2013






(inquiry before snow

e.e. cummings

Saturday, July 13, 2013


Which shouldn’t exist
in this world,
the one who forgets
or the one
who is forgotten?

Which is better,
to love
one who has died
or not to see
each other when you are alive?

Which is better,
the distant lover
you long for
or the one you see daily
without desire?

Which is the least unreliable
among fickle things—
the swift rapids,
a flowing river,
or this human world?

~ Izumi Shikibu
 translation by Jane Hirshfield
from  The Ink Dark Moon

~ Jane Hirshfield
from the San Francisco International Poetry Festival

Saturday, April 27, 2013

there is none

Many have gone mad looking for a solid center,
but there is none.
We think of centering as only a continual narrowing
of focus until we touch the pearl
but in practice it is often a continual expansion
of focus until we become the ocean.

Our center is vast space, boundless awareness
indistinguishable from unconditional love.

Of course I play the fool when I dare allow
consciousness to describe itself!  Isn't that the birth
of the ego, the "I am this" that closed behind us
when we entered the body?

~ Stephen Levine


It is also good to love: because love is difficult. 
For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps 
the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, 
the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which
 all other work is merely preparation. 

That is why young people, who are beginners in everything, 
are not yet capable of love: it is something they must learn. 
With their whole being, with all their forces, gathered around their solitary, 
anxious, upward-beating heart, they must learn to love. 
But learning-time is always a long, secluded time, and therefore loving, 
for a long time ahead and far on into life, is: solitude, a heightened 
and deepened kind of aloneness for the person who loves. 

Loving does not at first mean merging, surrendering, and uniting with another person 
(for what would a union be of two people who are unclarified, unfinished, and still incoherent?),
 it is a high inducement for the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, 
to become world, to become world in himself for the sake of another person; 
it is a great, demanding claim on him, something that chooses him 
and calls him to vast distances. 

Only in this sense, as the task of working on themselves 
("to hearken and to hammer day and night"), may young people 
use the love that is given to them. Merging and surrendering and 
every kind of communion is not for them (who must still, 
for a long, long time, save and gather themselves); it is the ultimate, 
is perhaps that for which human lives are as yet barely large enough.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from Letter to a Young Poet, #7
art by picasso

Friday, April 26, 2013

comes naturally to an end

Love is something that is new, fresh, alive. 
It has no yesterday and no tomorrow. 
It is beyond the turmoil of thought.

It is only the innocent mind which knows what love is, 
and the innocent mind can live in the world which is not innocent.

 To find this extraordinary thing which man has sought 
endlessly through sacrifice, through worship, 
through relationship, through sex, 
through every form of pleasure and pain,
 is only possible when thought 
comes to understand itself 
and comes naturally to an end. 

Then love has no opposite, 
then love has no conflict.

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

hearing music at dawn

It is sweet to hear music when the night
Is just retreating from the smoky branches
And the sun's enemies are throwing down their gloves.

Music is always reminding us whom we love,
One or two notes dissolve the auditor's mind
So we are swimming once more in the old river.

We are all failed farmers learning to play whist.
We have a lot of hands to play before midnight.
Someone else will have to worry about time.

I'm always glad when I hear that an old hen
Has been seen crossing the road at dusk.
It means our old teacher is still all right.

We keep remembering Barborossa's life.
A little whiskey fits in well with our lives.
The time of the Depression is not really over.

Poems like this amount to some form of music.
We dance for two hours.  When we look up,
We see that all the musicians have disappeared.

~ Robert Bly
from Talking into the Ear of a Donkey

what did we see today?

Some days we are passive, listening to the incoming waves.
On other days, we are like a light that sweeps
Out over the husky soybean fields all night.

What did we see today?  Horses at the end 
Of their tethering ropes, the wing of affection going over,
Flying bulls glimpsed passing the moon disc.

Rather than arguing about whether Giordano Bruno
Was right or not, it might be better to fall silent
And lose ourselves in the curved energy.

We know how many men live alone in their twenties,
And how many women are married to the wrong person,
And how many fathers and sons are strangers to each other.

It's all right if we keep forgetting the way home.
It's all right if we don't remember when we were born.
It's all right if we write the same poem over and over.

Robert, I don't know why you talk so confidently
About yourself in this way.  There are a lot of shady
Characters in this town, and you are one of them.

~ Robert Bly
from Talking into the Ear of a Donkey

Monday, April 22, 2013

the key

Morning unlocks the lake
as a woman with many keys might
come to open a house
where others are sleeping.
Enjoying the quiet possession.
Wiping the shelves of the mountain
with a lemony rag until they catch.
It is not hers. Those who live
there will claim it with raised voices,
with the closet doors' casual banging.
But for now, a single rowboat
drifts on the silvery water.
The oars are banked, the one sound
drips from the blades and widens
toward the enormous, dark-held shore.
There, the house is dreaming:
a red barrette on a wooden dresser,
somehow important.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from The Lives of the Heart
art by Elizabeth Torak

Friday, April 19, 2013

supposed to be

It is hard to be as popular as we are supposed to be. 
The superego or interior judge has altered its requirements ...
For one who fails to become successful and well-loved, 
punishment is swift and thorough. 
Self-esteem receives a battering from the inside, 
everyone feels insignificant and unseen until, in desperation, 
we finally agree to go on a talk show and tell it all. 
Once that moment is over, 
and universal love has not poured over our heads 
following the program, we fall still farther.

~ Robert Bly
from The Sibling Society


I was born in a drouth year. That summer 
my mother waited in the house, enclosed 
in the sun and the dry ceaseless wind, 
for the men to come back in the evenings, 
bringing water from a distant spring. 
veins of leaves ran dry, roots shrank. 
And all my life I have dreaded the return 
of that year, sure that it still is 
somewhere, like a dead enemy's soul. 
 Fear of dust in my mouth is always with me, 
and I am the faithful husband of the rain, 
I love the water of wells and springs 
and the taste of roofs in the water of cisterns. 
I am a dry man whose thirst is praise 
of clouds, and whose mind is something of a cup. 
My sweetness is to wake in the night 
after days of dry heat, hearing the rain.


Like the water
of a deep stream,
love is always too much.
We did not make it.
Though we drink till we burst,
we cannot have it all,
or want it all.
In its abundance
it survives our thirst.

In the evening we come down to the shore
to drink our fill,
and sleep,
while it flows
through the regions of the dark.
It does not hold us,
except we keep returning to its rich waters

We enter,
willing to die,
into the commonwealth of its joy.

~ Wendell Berry

Sunday, April 14, 2013

... while you're alive

~ Bill Moyers
 interview with Robert Bly

a delicious disease

~ Ibn Hazm
read by Robert Bly

Saturday, April 13, 2013

sight, taste, touch, hearing, stopped

~ St. John of the Cross
read by Robert Bly

Friday, April 12, 2013

the present

I wanted to give you something —
no stone, clay, bracelet,
no edible leaf could pass through.
Even a molecule's fragrance by then too large.
Giving had been taken, as you soon would be.
Still, I offered the puffs of air shaped to meaning.
They remained air.
I offered memory on memory,
but what is memory that dies with the fallible inks?
I offered apology, sorrow, longing. I offered anger.
How fine is the mesh of death. You can almost see through it.
I stood on one side of the present, you stood on the other.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from Come, Thief