Sunday, April 17, 2016

And the world owes me nothing

Yes, I’m Truly A Dunce
Taigu Ryokan

Yes, I’m truly a dunce
Living among trees and plants.
Please don’t question me about illusion and enlightenment —
This old fellow just likes to smile to himself.

I wade across streams with bony legs,
And carry a bag about in fine spring weather.
That’s my life,
And the world owes me nothing.

Ryōkan Taigu (良寛大愚?) (1758–1831) was a quiet and eccentric Sōtō Zen Buddhist monk who lived much of his life as a hermit. Ryōkan is remembered for his poetry and calligraphy, which present the essence of Zen life.

Till you return




















…Soaring in white clouds,
The cherry trees are in full bloom,
Every branch bending with loaded blossoms.
But the wind is ceaseless as the peak is lofty,
And day after day falls the spring rain;

The flowers have scattered from the upper sprays.
May the blossoms on the lower branches
Neither fall nor lose their beauty,
Till you, who journey, grass for pillow,
Come home again!”

Takahashi Mushimaro, from “1000 Poems from the Manyoshu: The Complete Nippon Gakujutsu Shinkokai”

From here.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

What the Dog Perhaps Hears

If an inaudible whistle
blown between our lips
can send him home to us,
then silence is perhaps
the sound of spiders breathing
and roots mining the earth;

it may be asparagus heaving,
headfirst, into the light
and the long brown sound
of cracked cups, when it happens.

We would like to ask the dog
if there is a continuous whir
because the child in the house
keeps growing, if the snake
really stretches full length
without a click and the sun
breaks through clouds without
a decibel of effort,
whether in autumn, when the trees
dry up their wells, there isn't a shudder
too high for us to hear.

What is it like up there
above the shut-off level
of our simple ears?
For us there was no birth cry,
the newborn bird is suddenly here,
the egg broken, the nest alive,
and we heard nothing when the world changed.

Lisel Mueller, 'Alive Together: New and Selected Poems'

Monday, March 28, 2016

And there it is again, another Spring




















Late March

Again the trees remembered
to make leaves.
In the forest of their recollection
many birds returned
singing.

They sang, they sang
because they forgave themselves
the winter, and all that remained
still bitter.

Yet it was early spring,
when the days were touch and go,
and a late snow could nip a shoot,
or freeze a fledgling in its nest.

And where would we be then?
But that’s not the point.

Do you think the magpie doesn’t know
that its chicks are at risk,
or the peach trees, their too-frail blossoms,
the new-awakened bees, all that is
incipient within us?

We know, but we can’t help ourselves
any more than they can,
any more than the earth can
stop hurtling through the night
of its own absence.

Must be something in the sap,
the blood, a force like gravity,
a trick called memory.
You name it. Or leave it nameless
that’s better—

how something returns
and keeps on returning
through a gap,
through a dimensional gate,
through a tear in the veil.

And there it is again.
Another spring.
To woo loss into song.

Richard Schiffman

Strange wonderful people

“now, I’m not saying that I’ve conquered
the world but I’ve avoided
numberless early traffic jams, bypassed some
common pitfalls
and have met some strange, wonderful
people

one of whom
was
myself—someone my father
never
knew.”

An excerpt from “Throwing Away the Alarm Clock” by Charles Bukowski

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The opposite of this inattention is love

"I notice that I have to pay careful attention in order to listen to others with an openness that allows them to be as they are, or as they think themselves to be. The shutters of my mind habitually flip open and click shut, and these little snaps form into patterns I arrange for myself.

The opposite of this inattention is love, is the honoring of others in a way that grants them the grace of their own autonomy and allows mutual discovery."

Anne Truitt on Compassion, Humility, and How to Cure Our Chronic Self-Righteousness


https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/09/12/anne-truitt-humility-compassion-righteousness/

Hello Darkness My Friend....

The patterns we impose on our friends

“I have often noticed that we are inclined to endow our friends with the stability of type that literary characters acquire in the reader's mind.

No matter how many times we reopen 'King Lear,' never shall we find the good king banging his tankard in high revelry, all woes forgotten, at a jolly reunion with all three daughters and their lapdogs. Never will Emma rally, revived by the sympathetic salts in Flaubert's father's timely tear. Whatever evolution this or that popular character has gone through between the book covers, his fate is fixed in our minds, and, similarly, we expect our friends to follow this or that logical and conventional pattern we have fixed for them.

Thus X will never compose the immortal music that would clash with the second-rate symphonies he has accustomed us to. Y will never commit murder. Under no circumstances can Z ever betray us. We have it all arranged in our minds, and the less often we see a particular person, the more satisfying it is to check how obediently he conforms to our notion of him every time we hear of him.

Any deviation in the fates we have ordained would strike us as not only anomalous but unethical. We could prefer not to have known at all our neighbor, the retired hot-dog stand operator, if it turns out he has just produced the greatest book of poetry his age has seen.”

Vladimir Nabokov, “Lolita”

https://www.facebook.com/SometimesIWriteSometimesIAm/photos/a.210068335788867.45859.210048145790886/827676244028070/?type=3&theater

Your Return


 


















For a Friend Lying in Intensive Care Waiting for Her White Blood Cells
to Rejuvenate After a Bone Marrow Transplant


The jonquils. They come back. They split the earth with
their green swords, bearing cups of light.

The forsythia comes back, spraying its thin whips with
blossom, one loud yellow shout.

The robins. They come back. They pull the sun on the
silver thread of their song.

The irises come back. They dance in the soft air in silken
gowns of midnight blue.

The lilacs come back. They trail their perfume like a scarf
of violet chiffon.

And the leaves come back, on every tree and bush, millions
and millions of small green hands applauding your return.

Barbara Crooker

I wonder

1.
I wonder what people in my life think when I send them long, rambling letters. I write them when I am entirely out of sorts, but I write them when the cusp is full, too. I rarely get many replies, at least, not as much as I would like to have in return—another voice in the dark whispering back, so as to remind me I am not alone.

2.
I wonder if I write letters because I am alone. I wonder if I write this—all of this—because I want to extend my hand in front of me, hoping the tips of my fingers will touch you all the way there. Because—well, whatever for, yes?

Spring Reign, Dean Young: https://readalittlepoetry.wordpress.com/2016/03/25/spring-reign-by-dean-young/

Speed

"Speed in work has compensations. Speed gets noticed. Speed is praised by others. Speed is self-important. Speed absolves us. Speed means we don't really belong to any particular thing or person we are visiting and thus appears to elevate us above the ground of our labors. When it becomes all-consuming, speed is the ultimate defense, the antidote to stopping and really looking. If we really saw what we were doing and who we had become, we feel we might not survive the stopping and the accompanying self-appraisal. So we don't stop, and the faster we go, the harder it becomes to stop. We keep moving on whenever any form of true commitment seems to surface.

Speed is also warning, a throbbing, insistent indicator that some cliff edge or other is very near, a sure diagnostic sign that we are living someone else's life and doing someone else's work. But speed saves us the pain of all that stopping; speed can be such a balm, a saving grace, a way we tell ourselves, in unconscious ways, that we are really not participating.

The great tragedy of speed as an answer to the complexities and responsibilities of existence is that very soon we cannot recognize anything or anyone who is not traveling at the same velocity as we are. We see only those moving in the same whirling orbit and only those moving with the same urgency. Soon we begin to suffer a form of amnesia, caused by the blurred vision of velocity itself, where those germane to our humanity are dropped from our minds one by one. We start to lose sight of any colleagues who are moving at a slower pace, and we start to lose sight of the bigger, slower cycles that underlie our work. We especially lose sight of the big, unfolding wave form passing through our lives that is indicative of our central character.

On the personal side, as slaves to speed, we start to lose sight of family members, especially children, or those who are ill or infirm, who are not flying through the world as quickly and determinedly as we are. Just as seriously, we begin to leave behind the parts of our own selves that limp a little, the vulnerabilities that actually give us color and character. We forget that our sanity is dependent on a relationship with longer, more patient cycles extending beyond the urgencies and madness of the office."

David Whyte, 'Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity'

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Ship of Theseus & the Persistence of Identity

"Throughout our lives, we come to inhabit the seven layers of identity, often interpolating between them and constantly changing within each. And yet somehow, despite this ever-shifting seedbed of personhood, we manage to think of ourselves as concrete selves — our selves.

Hardly any perplexity of human existence is more fascinating than the continuity of personal identity — the question of what makes you and your childhood self the “same” person, despite a lifetime of change, from your cells to your values.

Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert captured this paradox perfectly: “Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished.”

The Ship of Theseus: A Brilliant Ancient Thought Experiment Exploring What Makes You You

https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/03/08/plutarch-the-ship-of-theseus-ted-ed/

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Practising Dying

























Learning from Trees


If we could,
like the trees,
practice dying,
do it every year
just as something we do—
like going on vacation
or celebrating birthdays,
it would become
as easy a part of us
as our hair or clothing.

Someone would show us how
to lie down and fade away
as if in deepest meditation,
and we would learn
about the fine dark emptiness,
both knowing it and not knowing it,
and coming back would be irrelevant.

Whatever it is the trees know
when they stand undone,
surprisingly intricate,
we need to know also
so we can allow
that last thing
to happen to us
as if it were only
any ordinary thing,

leaves and lives
falling away,
the spirit, complex,
waiting in the fine darkness
to learn which way
it will go.

Grace Butcher

From here.

Morning Poem

Listen. It’s morning. Soon I’ll see your hand reach
for my watch, the water will agitate in the kettle,
but listen. Traffic. I want your dreams first. And
to slide my leg beneath yours before the day opens.

Wait. We slept late. You’ll be moody, the phone
will ring, someone wanting something. Let me put
my hands in your hair. Who I was last night I would
be again. This is how the future holds me, how depression
wakes with us; my body shelters it. Let me
put my head on your breast. I know nothing lasts.

I would try to hold you back, not out of meanness
but fear. Oh my practical, my worldly-wise. You
know how the body falters, falls in on itself. Tell me
that we will never want from each other what we
cannot have. Lie. It’s morning.

Robin Becker

One Place to Begin

You need a reason, any reason—skiing, a job in movies,
the Golden Gate Bridge.
Take your reason and drive west, past the Rockies.
When you’re bored with bare hills, dry flats, and distance,
stop anywhere.

Forget where you thought you were going.
Rattle through the beer cans in the ditch.
If there’s a fence, try your luck—they don’t stop cows.
Follow the first hawk you see, and when the sagebrush
trips you, take a good look before you get up.

The desert gets by without government.

Crush juniper berries, breathe the smell, smear your face.
When you wonder why you’re here, yell as loud
as you can and don’t look behind.
Walk. Your feet are learning.

Admit you’re afraid of the dark.
Soak the warmth from scabrock, cheek to lichen.
The wind isn’t talking to you. Listen anyway.
Let the cries of coyotes light a fire in your heart.
Remember the terrible song of stars—you knew it once,
before you were born.

Tell a story about why the sun comes back.

Sit still until the itches give up, lizards ignore you,
a mule deer holds you in her eyes.
Explain yourself over and over. Forget it all
when a scrub jay shrieks.
Imagine sun, sky, and wind the same, over your
scattered white bones.

John Daniel

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