Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Taste of Cherries

In Abbas Kiorastami's film 'The Taste of Cherry', an Iranian man drives his truck across the countryside in search of someone who will bury him under a cherry tree after he commits suicide, he is tired of life. No one is willing, except an elderly taxidermist, who agrees only because he needs the money for an ill child. Yet the old man gently pleads with him to choose life, to embrace the joys of earthly existence, to remember the taste of cherries. He narrates to him how he had tried to kill himself 37 years ago.

He had intended to hang himself from a mulberry tree, and when he climbs the tree to secure the rope, just before dawn, he happens to see some ripe mulberries, and he eats a few. And in a flood the splendour of the natural world comes upon him and fills him to the brim, and he starts noticing the sunrise, he is spellbound as he sits there on the tree watching the light, he is "blown open". Later little children pass by on their way to school, and they stop to ask him for some mulberries. He gets down from the tree, offers them the fruits with a smile, and returns to his life.

Albors Pascal Askari, with his short pieces of fluid beauty, comes to me on the darkest of mornings, reminding me, briefly albeit, of the taste of cherries.

My Reason to Be:

"...You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open."

Postscript, Seamus Heaney, from 'The Spirit Level'

Friday, July 20, 2012


"...and I am as far as a train at evening,
as far as a whistle you can't hear or remember."

'Yellow Stars and Ice', Susan Stewart

You are thirst, and thirst is all I know

To the DesertBenjamin Alire Sáenz

I came to you one rainless August night.
You taught me how to live without the rain.
You are thirst and thirst is all I know.
You are sand, wind, sun, and burning sky,
The hottest blue. You blow a breeze and brand
Your breath into my mouth. You reach—then bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
You wrap your name tight around my ribs
And keep me warm. I was born for you.
Above, below, by you, by you surrounded.
I wake to you at dawn. Never break your
Knot. Reach, rise, blow, Sálvame, mi dios,
Trágame, mi tierra. Salva, traga, Break me,
I am bread. I will be the water for your thirst.


Astonished, opened at last

The Opening of Eyes

That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.

It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.

It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.

David Whyte, from 'Songs for Coming Home'

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Some Like Poetry
Wislawa Szymborska
Translated from Polish by Regina Grol

Some -
thus not all. Not even the majority of all but the minority.
Not counting schools, where one has to,
and the poets themselves,
there might be two people per thousand.

Like -
but one also likes chicken soup with noodles,
one likes compliments and the color blue,
one likes an old scarf,
one likes having the upper hand,
one likes stroking a dog.

Poetry -
but what is poetry.
Many shaky answers
have been given to this question.
But I don't know and don't know and hold on to it
like to a sustaining railing.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Debt and Religion

"In today's excerpt - in ancient times, taking out loans for land or dowries was often necessary for people to eat or have families, but not repaying those loans could bring the risk of their children or themselves being sold into slavery. All of the world's great religions emerged amid the anguish of this burden of debt and debates about the role of the market in life. The language of these religions is permeated with the language of debt - with words such as redemption being borrowed directly from debt transactions:

"Even the very earliest Vedic poems, composed sometime between 1500 and 1200 BC, evince a constant concern with debt - which is treated as synonymous with guilt and sin. ... In all Indo-European languages (such as English and French), words for 'debt' are synony­mous with those for 'sin' or 'guilt', illustrating the links be­tween religion, payment and the mediation of the sacred and profane realms by 'money.' For example, there is a connection between money (German Geld), indemnity or sacrifice (Old English Geild), tax (Gothic Gild) and, of course, guilt. ...

"Why ... do we refer to Christ as the 'redeemer'? The primary meaning of 'redemption' is to buy something back, or to recover something that had been given up in security for a loan; to ac­quire something by paying off a debt. It is rather striking to think that the very core of the Christian message, salvation itself, the sacrifice of God's own son to rescue humanity from eternal damnation, should be framed in the language of a financial transaction. ... "

Read the rest here.

From 'Debt: The First 5,000 Years', by David Graeber

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

And yet your suffering, as ordinary as newsprint


You return to loss the way one returns to a bed one has slept in, long ago, as a child.
Amazed that your body still fits within its dimensions. Tempted to pretend you never left.

* * *
Your own end

All night you sit in the dark, the gun ticking at your temple.

Every goodbye is a compromise. If you could explain how you were feeling you would not need to do this. And yet your suffering is as ordinary as newsprint, and you want to pretend you are not in love with death, that you are just using her.

Not judgment after death, but a death that does not judge.

* * *
A violin, a cello and a piano

New cellos are no good. The perfect cello must be aged for years in a cask of pure silence, until all its high-strung bitterness had turned to mellow grief.

* * *

Every time someone gets close to her she holds back, keeps her distance. Waiting for them to turn against her, waiting for it to go wrong.

It always does.

Aseem Kaul, 2x3x7

Each spoken word


Why wonder about the loaves and the fishes?
If you say the right words, the wine expands.
If you say them with love
and the felt ferocity of that love
and the felt necessity of that love,
the fish explode into the many.
Imagine him, speaking,
and don't worry about what is reality,
or what is plain, or what is mysterious.
If you were there, it was all those things.
If you can imagine it, it was all those things.
Eat, drink, be happy.
Accept the miracle.
Accept, too, each spoken word
spoken with love.

Mary Oliver

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

But she remembered, where joy used to live


Ours were the streets where Bess first met her
cancer. She went to work every day at the
secure houses. At her job in the library
she arranged better and better flowers, and when
students asked for books her hand went out
to help. In the last year of her life

she had to keep her friends from knowing
how happy they were. She listened while they
complained about food or work or the weather.
And the great national events danced
their grotesque, fake importance. Always

Pain moved where she moved. She walked
ahead; it came. She hid; it found her.
No one ever served another so truly;
no enemy ever meant so strong a hate.

It was almost as if there was no room
left for her on earth. But she remembered
where joy used to live. She straightened its flowers;
she did not weep when she passed its houses;

and when finally she pulled into a tiny corner
and slipped from pain, her hand opened
again, and the streets opened, and she wished all well.

William Stafford

Photo: At the train door, evening-time, a favorite thing.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

When it's over, so they say...

Someone told me long ago
There's a calm before the storm,
I know; it's been comin' for some time.

When it's over, so they say,
It'll rain a sunny day,
I know; shinin' down like water...

Song: Have you ever seen the rain, Creedence Clearwater Revival

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Remember whatever pain you bring back
from your dreaming
but do not look for new gods
in the sea
nor in any part of a rainbow
Each time you love
love as deeply as if it were
only nothing is

'For Each of You', Audre Lorde

* * *

The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don't dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.

'Anthem', Leonard Cohen

* * *

When I wake, I lift cold water
To my face. I close my eyes.
A body wishes to be held, and held, and what
Can you do about that?

'In the City of Light', Larry Levis

Every-minute Zen

"Zen students are with their masters at least  ten years before they presume to teach others. Nan-in was visited by Tenno‚ who having passed his apprenticeship ‚ had become a teacher. The day happened to be rainy‚ so Tenno wore wooden clogs and carried an umbrella. After greeting him Nan-in remarked: "I suppose you left your wooden clogs in the vestibule. I want to know if your umbrella is on the right or left side of the clogs."

Tenno‚ confused‚ had no instant answer. He realized that he was unable to carry his Zen every minute. He became Nan-in's pupil ‚ and he studied six more years to accomplish his every-minute Zen."

Page 43. 'Zen Flesh Zen Bones  - A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings'
Compiled by Paul Reps
Penguin Books 1957

Blog Archive