Saturday, November 22, 2014

From blossom to blossom

"There's a shadow in your ultrasound. We'd like to investigate."
"You've come alone?"
"That's alright. Let's start."

*             *             *             *
"..There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,

from blossom to blossom, to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom."

Li-Young Lee, 'From Blossoms'

From Blossom to Blossom:

Friday, November 21, 2014

Who would call in the middle of the night?

Visitors from Abroad
Louise Gluck


Sometime after I had entered
that time of   life
people prefer to allude to in others
but not in themselves, in the middle of the night
the phone rang. It rang and rang
as though the world needed me,
though really it was the reverse.

I lay in bed, trying to analyze
the ring. It had
my mother’s persistence and my father’s
pained embarrassment.

When I picked it up, the line was dead.
Or was the phone working and the caller dead?
Or was it not the phone, but the door perhaps?


My mother and father stood in the cold
on the front steps. My mother stared at me,
a daughter, a fellow female.
You never think of us, she said.

We read your books when they reach heaven.
Hardly a mention of us anymore, hardly a mention of  your sister.
And they pointed to my dead sister, a complete stranger,
tightly wrapped in my mother’s arms.

But for us, she said, you wouldn’t exist.
And your sister — you have your sister’s soul.
After which they vanished, like Mormon missionaries.


The street was white again,
all the bushes covered with heavy snow
and the trees glittering, encased with ice.

I lay in the dark, waiting for the night to end.
It seemed the longest night I had ever known,
longer than the night I was born.

I write about you all the time, I said aloud.
Every time I say “I,” it refers to you.


Outside the street was silent.
The receiver lay on its side among the tangled sheets,
its peevish throbbing had ceased some hours before.

I left it as it was;
its long cord drifting under the furniture.

I watched the snow falling,
not so much obscuring things
as making them seem larger than they were.

Who would call in the middle of the night?
Trouble calls, despair calls.
Joy is sleeping like a baby.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Dying Is an art, like everything else

Is an art, like everything else.  
I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.  
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I’ve a call.

It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.
It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.  
It’s the theatrical

Comeback in broad day
To the same place, the same face, the same brute  
Amused shout:

‘A miracle!’
That knocks me out.  
There is a charge

For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge  
For the hearing of my heart——
It really goes.

And there is a charge, a very large charge  
For a word or a touch  
Or a bit of blood

Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.  

'Lady Lazarus', Sylvia Plath

Sunday, November 16, 2014

I'll Give You Red

I’ll give you red,
the color the Russians loved
so much they used it to make
their word for beautiful:

I’ll give you scarlet
from the epaulets of blackbirds.

Or cardinal
from the spirits threading
through a steamy green
Midwestern afternoon.

I’ll give you crimson
from the feathers the parrot
hides in his tail
and only lets us see
when he is furious.

Here is your cerise
the sad, shameful stain of cherries.

And vermilion
the bright sash of yesterday
that lingers on the horizon.

I’ll give you ruby
the color of lies
that lovers tell themselves,
the flame at the prism’s
deepest heart.

But I will keep this red
the drunken sweet damp scent
of the breeze that sweeps
over strawberry fields
in June.

Tamara Madison


Of many reasons I love you here is one

the way you write me from the gate at the airport
so I can tell you everything will be alright

so you can tell me there is a bird
trapped in the terminal      all the people
ignoring it       because they do not know
what do with it       except to leave it alone
until it scares itself to death

it makes you terribly terribly sad

You wish you could take the bird outside
and set it free or       (failing that)
call a bird-understander
to come help the bird

All you can do is notice the bird
and feel for the bird       and write
to tell me how language feels
impossibly useless

but you are wrong

You are a bird-understander
better than I could ever be
who make so many noises
and call them song

These are your own words
your way of noticing
and saying plainly
of not turning away
from hurt

you have offered them
to me       I am only
giving them back

if only I could show you
how very useless
they are not

Craig Arnold

So much is in bud

"...But we have only begun
To love the earth.

We have only begun
To imagine the fullness of life.

How could we tire of hope?
- so much is in bud.

...We have only begun to know
the power that is in us if we would join
our solitudes in the communion of struggle.

So much is unfolding that must
complete its gesture,

so much is in bud."

'Beginners', Denise Levertov

So much is in bud

Psychological androgyny & Creativity

"In all cultures, men are brought up to be “masculine” and to disregard and repress those aspects of their temperament that the culture regards as “feminine,” whereas women are expected to do the opposite.

Creative individuals to a certain extent escape this rigid gender role stereotyping. When tests of masculinity/femininity are given to young people, over and over one finds that creative and talented girls are more dominant and tough than other girls, and creative boys are more sensitive and less aggressive than their male peers.

....Psychological androgyny is a much wider concept, referring to a person’s ability to be at the same time aggressive and nurturant, sensitive and rigid, dominant and submissive, regardless of gender. A psychologically androgynous person in effect doubles his or her repertoire of responses and can interact with the world in terms of a much richer and varied spectrum of opportunities. It is not surprising that creative individuals are more likely to have not only the strengths of their own gender but those of the other one, too."

Why “Psychological Androgyny” Is Essential for Creativity
Maria Popova

The Myth of "You can be whatever you want to be"

"For Freud human life was a process of ego-building, not the quest for a fictitious inner self. Looking for your true self invites unending disappointment. If you have no specific potential, the cost of trying to bring your inner nature to fruition will be a painfully misspent existence. Few human beings are as unhappy as those who have a gift that no one wants. Anyway, who wants to spend their life hanging around waiting to be recognized? As John Ashbery wrote:

A talent for self-realisation
Will get you only so far as the vacant lot
Next to the lumber yard, where they have

The Romantic idea tells people to seek their true self. There is no such self, but that does not mean we can be anything we want to be. Talent is a gift of fortune, not something that can be chosen. Imagining that you have talent that you lack turns you into a version of the composer Salieri, whose life was poisoned by the appearance of Mozart. Salieri was not without ability. For much of his life he enjoyed a successful career. But if we accept how he has been portrayed by Pushkin and others, Salieri was consumed by the suspicion that he was himself a fake. A society of people who have been taught to be themselves cannot be other than full of fakes."

Page 110, 'The Silence of Animals, On Progress and Other Modern Myths', John Gray

Thursday, November 13, 2014

In the strange openness of your face, I'm powerless

Michael O Siadhail

As we fall into step I ask a penny for your thoughts.
'Oh, nothing,' you say, 'well, nothing so easily bought.'

Sliding into the rhythm of your silence, I almost forget
how lonely I'd been until that autumn morning we met.

At bedtime up along my childhood's stairway, tongues
of fire cast shadows. Too earnest, too highstrung.

My desire is endless: others ended when I'd only started.
Then, there was you: so whole-hog, so wholehearted.

Think of the thousands of nights and the shadows fought.
And the mornings of light. I try to read your thought.

In the strange openness of your face, I'm powerless.
Always this love. Always this infinity between us.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


This is how you live when you have a cold heart.
As I do: in shadows, trailing over cool rock,
under the great maple trees.

The sun hardly touches me.
Sometimes I see it in early spring, rising very far away.
Then leaves grow over it, completely hiding it. I feel it
glinting through the leaves, erratic,
like someone hitting the side of a glass with a metal spoon.

Living things don't all require
light in the same degree. Some of us
make our own light: a silver leaf
like a path no one can use, a shallow
lake of silver in the darkness under the great maples.

But you know this already.
You and the others who think
you live for truth and, by extension, love
all that is cold.

Louise Gluck

Theory of Memory

Long, long ago, before I was a tormented artist, afflicted with longing yet
incapable of forming durable attachments, long before this, I was a glorious
ruler uniting all of a divided country—so I was told by the fortune-teller
who examined my palm.

Great things, she said, are ahead of you, or perhaps
behind you; it is difficult to be sure.

And yet, she added, what is the difference?

Right now you are a child holding hands with a fortune-teller.
All the rest is hypothesis and dream.

Louise Gluck

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Your season is surely November


 To Spareness

You lean toward nonexistence,
but have not yet become it entirely.
         For this reason, you can still be praised.

The tree unleafing enters your dominion.
An early snowfall shows you abide in all things.

Your two dimensions are line and inclination.
Therefore desire,
though it incinders each mote of its object, itself is spare.

                                    The late paintings of Turner
prove your slender depths without limit.
         The beauty too of shakuhachi and cello.

“Winter darkness. Rain. No crickets singing.”
—You are there, pulling hard on the rope-end.

Remembering you, I remember also compassion.
I cannot explain this.
                              Nor how you live in a teabowl
or in a stone that has spent a long time in a river.
         Nor the way you at times can signal your own contradiction,
                              meaning extra, but not by much—
“Brother, can you spare a dime,” one thin man asks of another.

Any room, however cluttered, gestures toward you,

                  “Here lives this, not that”
In logic, the modest “<” sign gestures toward you.

Your season is surely November,
your fruit, persimmons ripening by coldness.

Your sound a crow cry, a bus idling at night by the roadside.

Without apparent effect,
and so you are reminded of starlight on the colors of a cow’s hide.

Your proposition, like you, is simple, of interest only to the human soul:
                  vast reach of all that is not, and still something is.

Jane Hirshfield, “To Spareness” from After. 2006

Konark, Table for One

Saturday, November 8, 2014

This is London. It is on fire.

The Burning Of The Houses

Tottenham is on fire and I work in an arts centre
where the sky is blue and I can hear birdsong
from a sound installation of birds
cooing outside my office window.

This is London. Hackney is on fire now
and Jamie is looking up from his desk.
He stops working. He tweets that he can see
people smashing up a bus. He says there is a car
being soaked in petrol. He asks if there is someone
in that car. He tells us that car has been set alight.

This is London. Croydon is on fire now
and Anna is Facebooking furiously from Manchester
calling everyone bastards for doing this.

I am watching the BBC and reading Twitter
flicking between #LondonRiot and my friends.
Sometimes you can be proud of your friends.

I remember when Bianca came to stay
and we got tickets to watch The Night
James Brown Saved Boston in the QEH.

People are getting hurt. Television isn’t going
to save us. But it’s okay now, some of my friends
are linking to videos of kittens which must mean
everyone is fine. This is London. It is on fire.

I go to bed while it is burning. I wake up
and parts of it are still burning.

Chrissy Williams
from Flying into the Bear (Happenstance, 2013)

Anthony Wilson's review, sharp and beautiful as always:

That last Friday he looked so ill

Beaver Moon - The Suicide of a Friend
Mary Oliver

When somewhere life
breaks the pane of glass,
and from every direction casual
voices are bringing you the news,
you say: I should have known.
You say: I should have been aware.

That last Friday he looked
so ill, like an old mountain-climber
lost on the white trails, listening
to the ice breaking upward, under
his worn-out shoes. You say:

I heard rumors of trouble, but after all
we all have that. You say:
What could I have done? and you go
with the rest, to bury him.

That night, you turn in your bed
to watch the moon rise, and once more
see what a small coin it is
against the darkness, and how everything else
is a mystery, and you know
nothing at all except
the moonlight is beautiful-
white rivers running together
along the bare boughs of the trees-

and somewhere, for someone, life
is becoming moment by moment

From 'Twelve Moons', Poems by Mary Oliver

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