Wednesday, October 29, 2014

You let me speak, and you just listened

"For many years Sergeant Kevin Briggs had a dark, unusual, at times strangely rewarding job: He patrolled the southern end of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, a popular site for suicide attempts. In a sobering, deeply personal talk Briggs shares stories from those he’s spoken — and listened — to standing on the edge of life. He gives a powerful piece of advice to those with loved ones who might be contemplating suicide."

"....When Kevin came back over, I asked him, "What was it that made you come back and give hope and life another chance?"

And you know what he told me?

He said, "You listened. You let me speak, and you just listened."

Kevin Briggs: The bridge between suicide and life


http://www.ted.com/talks/kevin_briggs_the_bridge_between_suicide_and_life?language=en

Can you taste what I'm saying?

The Simple Truth

I bought a dollar and a half's worth of small red potatoes,
took them home, boiled them in their jackets
and ate them for dinner with a little butter and salt.

Then I walked through the dried fields
on the edge of town. In middle June the light
hung on in the dark furrows at my feet,
and in the mountain oaks overhead the birds
were gathering for the night, the jays and mockers
squawking back and forth, the finches still darting
into the dusty light. The woman who sold me
the potatoes was from Poland; she was someone
out of my childhood in a pink spangled sweater and sunglasses
praising the perfection of all her fruits and vegetables
at the road-side stand and urging me to taste
even the pale, raw sweet corn trucked all the way,
she swore, from New Jersey. "Eat, eat" she said,
"Even if you don't I'll say you did."

Some things
you know all your life. They are so simple and true
they must be said without elegance, meter and rhyme,
they must be laid on the table beside the salt shaker,
the glass of water, the absence of light gathering
in the shadows of picture frames, they must be
naked and alone, they must stand for themselves.

My friend Henri and I arrived at this together in 1965
before I went away, before he began to kill himself,
and the two of us to betray our love. Can you taste
what I'm saying? It is onions or potatoes, a pinch
of simple salt, the wealth of melting butter, it is obvious,
it stays in the back of your throat like a truth
you never uttered because the time was always wrong,
it stays there for the rest of your life, unspoken,
made of that dirt we call earth, the metal we call salt,
in a form we have no words for, and you live on it.

Philip Levine

Prayers for Everywhere

Prayers for the volcanoes
that need garlands when they erupt
and prayers for the freeways
you never drive them the same twice,
prayers for the buds
that look like babies’ faces
as they open next week and for the blossoms
opening their soft legs to bees.

Prayers for everything the soul
must reluctantly or passionately kiss:
rain-running gutters,
a pebble in the shoe,
the silt gritty on your ocean-washed lips.

Because what is a prayer
but a laugh that can’t be formed
in letters, but only heard
in that place that, praised, lights up.
So prayers for everywhere
that needs them,

Prayers for the worms washed out
of the grass onto driveways,
prayers to step over as they swim
because you can’t pick them up
without damage. So much
of the heart can only be helped
without direct touching.

Prayers for everyone
in the throngs who need well-wishes
to suck on in their sleep
like giant glowing lollipops.
Prayers going to every restless sleeper
on this earth who needs a cool hand on the brow.
Prayers for their own sake,
prayers as beautiful as dolphins
leaping and twisting, prayers
freed from gravity’s pull
to fly glistening into the air.

Rachel Dacus

Look for me under your boot-soles

Song of Myself, LII
Walt Whitman

The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains
of my gab and my loitering.

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

The last scud of day holds back for me,
It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the shadow'd wilds,
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.

I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.

A long time to come

Autumn

O Lord, it is time
The summer was so vast
Put your shadows on the sundials
And in the fields let the wind loose.

Order the last fruits to become ripe
Give them two more sunny days
Push them to fulfillment
And force the last sweetness into the heavy wine.

He who has no house now will not build one
He who is alone will be so for a long time to come
Will stay awake, read, write long letters
And restlessly walk in the park among the blown leaves.

Rainer Maria Rilke, Translated by Charlotte Schmid

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Infinite has no preferences

From Aphorisms for Thirsty Fish, The Lost Writings of Wu Hsin:

The greatest crime is
The overlooking of
Who you really are in favor of
The story of
Who you think you are.
This preoccupation with
Your personal drama is
The cloud that masks the sun.

*    *    *    *

To search for happiness
Implies its absence.
This implication is a fundamental flaw.
Happiness is ever present.
It may become obscured,
Such obscuration being temporary.

*    *    *    *

The greatest enjoyment is experienced
When there is no concern for its duration.

*    *    *    *

Expectation is the grandfather of
Disappointment.
The world can never
Own a man who wants nothing.

*    *    *    *

Nothing succeeds like failure.
Failure is a natural
Call for attention,
Like pain.
To pay attention is to
Step out of your trance.


*    *    *    *

Ridding oneself of ignorance is
Worth more than the acquisition of knowledge.
With memory gone
The past is gone
Relinquishing hopes and fears
The future is gone.
The present is upon you.
In every moment.
You are free.

*    *    *    *

To conquer the large,
Begin with the small.
To change your world,
Begin by changing yourself.
What needs to be changed?
Only the point of view.

*    *    *    *

You are not satisfied
With the answers
Given by others.
So you come to Wu Hsin.
But what you really seek
Are not answers
But confirmation
Of what you think
You already know.
If you were to admit
That you know nothing,
Then I will most gladly answer.


*    *    *    *

The sum of a past is I was.
The sum of a future is
I will be.
The continuous crossing back and forth
Between the two
Obscures the present moment,
The I am, Being Itself.

*    *    *    *

The man of contentment
Seeks nothing that
He doesn’t have and
Understands that
Whatever he has
Isn’t his to own.


*    *    *    *

The attachment to beliefs is
The greatest shackle.
To be free is
To know that
One does not know.

*    *    *    *

Controlling the mind doesn’t
Take one to freedom.
Controlling the mind
Adds another link
To one’s shackles.


*    *    *    *

Chasing after the things
One yearns for is
Inferior to
Chasing after
The source of the yearning.


*    *    *    *

Whereas pain is
A physical experience
Suffering is a mental one.
It is the sense that
Things should be
Other than they are.
Its antidote is Acceptance.

*    *    *    *

The Infinite has no preferences.
It kisses both the darkness and
The light equally.

Wu Hsin

For today, I will memorize

Dragonflies! There are dragonflies in this poem. That's what I will memorize from today. I saw them at a traffic signal when I went to Cubbon park this morning to check whether the pink tabebuia flowers of November have arrived early, just in case....

Solitudes
Margaret Gibson

For today, I will memorize
the two trees now in end-of-summer light

and the drifts of wood asters as the yard slopes away toward
the black pond, blue

dragonflies
in the clouds that shine and float there, as if risen

from the bottom, unbidden. Now, just over the fern—
quick—a glimpse of it,

the plume, a fox-tail's copper, as the dog runs in ovals and eights,
chasing scent.

The yard is a waiting room. I have my chair. You, yours.

The hawk has its branch in the pine.

White petals ripple in the quiet light.

In the quiet, a necklace of gourds on the fence.

A mourning cloak on a seeded spray of crabgrass.

An undulant whine of cicadas.

In Our Souls

In our souls everything
moves guided by a mysterious hand.
We know nothing of our own souls
that are un-understandable and say nothing.

The deepest words
of the wise man teach us
the same as the whistle of the wind when it blows
or the sound of the water when it is flowing.

Antonio Machado, 'The Soul is Here for Its Own Joy', trans. by Robert Bly

Then one day

Middle-Class Blues
Dennis O'Driscoll

He has everything.
A beautiful young wife.
A comfortable home.
A secure job.
A velvet three-piece suite.
A metallic-silver car.
A mahogany cocktail cabinet.
A rugby trophy.
A remote-controlled music centre.
A set of gold clubs under the hallstand.
A fair-haired daughter learning to walk.

What he is afraid of most
and what keeps him tossing some nights
on the electric underblanket,
listening to the antique clock
clicking with disapproval from the landing,
are the stories that begin:
He had everything.
A beautiful young wife.
A comfortable home.
A secure job.
Then one day.

Goodbye

Each day I woke as it started to get dark and the pain came. Month
after month of this—who knows when I got well, the way you do,
whether you like it or not.

With dawn now, risen from the rampage
of sleep, I am walking in the Lincoln woods. A single bird is
loudly singing. And I walk here as I always have, as though from
tall room to room in a more or less infinite house where the owner's
not home but is watching me somehow, observing my behavior,
from behind the two-way mirror of appearances, I suppose,
and listening, somewhat critically, to what I am thinking. Not too,
however.

At certain moments I could swear there is even a sense of
being liked, as sunlight changes swiftly, leaving, leaving and arriving
again. A bird is chirping bitterly, as if these words were meant
for me, as if their intent was within me, and will not speak.

Nothing
is left me of you.

Franz Wright

How Ocean Currents Explain Our Unconscious Social Biases

"Biases often work in surreptitious ways — they sneak in through the backdoor of our conscience, our good-personhood, and our highest rational convictions, and lodge themselves between us and the world, between our imperfect humanity and our aspirational selves, between who we believe we are and how we behave.

Those stealthy inner workings of bias are precisely what NPR science correspondent Shankar Vedantam explores in The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives (public library) — a sweeping, eye-opening, uncomfortable yet necessary account of how our imperceptible prejudices sneak past our conscious selves and produce “subtle cognitive errors that lay beneath the rim of awareness,” making our actions stand at odds with our intentions and resulting in everything from financial errors based on misjudging risk to voter manipulation to protracted conflicts between people, nations, and groups."

Read excerpts here:

The Hidden Brain: How Ocean Currents Explain Our Unconscious Social Biases
Maria Popova

http://www.brainpickings.org/2014/04/09/the-hidden-brain-shankar-vedantam/

Go Deeper than Love

Go deeper than love, for the soul has greater depths,
love is like the grass, but the heart is deep wild rock
molten, yet dense and permanent.

Go down to your deep old heart, and lose sight of yourself.

And lose sight of me, the me whom you turbulently loved.
Let us lose sight of ourselves, and break the mirrors.

For the fierce curve of our lives is moving again to the depths
out of sight, in the deep living heart.

D.H. Lawrence, excerpt from Know Thyself, Know Thyself More Deeply

Autumn

All day I have watched the purple vine leaves
Fall into the water.
And now in the moonlight they still fall,
But each leaf is fringed with silver.

Amy Lowell

Sunday, October 5, 2014

September Tomatoes

The whiskey stink of rot has settled
in the garden, and a burst of fruit flies rises
when I touch the dying tomato plants.

Still, the claws of tiny yellow blossoms
flail in the air as I pull the vines up by the roots
and toss them in the compost.

It feels cruel. Something in me isn’t ready
to let go of summer so easily. To destroy
what I’ve carefully cultivated all these months.
Those pale flowers might still have time to fruit.

My great-grandmother sang with the girls of her village
as they pulled the flax. Songs so old
and so tied to the season that the very sound
seemed to turn the weather.
 
Karina Borowicz

There Will Come Soft Rains

 There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
 And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

 And frogs in the pools singing at night,
 And wild plum trees in tremulous white;

 Robins will wear their feathery fire,
 Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

 And not one will know of the war, not one
 Will care at last when it is done.

 Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
 If mankind perished utterly;

 And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn
 Would scarcely know that we were gone.

Sara Teasdale

Blog Archive