Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Wild Geese

Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer's end. In time's maze
over the fall fields, we name names
that went west from here, names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed's marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.

Wendell Berry, Collected Poems 1957-1982

Hymn to November

Strangers are tethered to dogs, or sit
in oversized and idling cars, or bear
heavy coats and bags as ballast.
I keep myself grounded with stones
in my pockets, marked with my children’s names.

Yet this morning the city itself
could take-off, under such blind winter sun.
Our words rise up in rapture,
and breath smokes like an offering.
Old stones re-cast as celestial.

Amid all this weightlessness, a beggar
strips in the street, wants out. No one helps.
There is no way to the soul
but through the body. A butcher hangs
a haunch inside his window. Ave.

Michael Symmons Robert, 'Drysalter'


Perhaps these thoughts of ours
will never find an audience
Perhaps the mistaken road
will end in a mistake
Perhaps the lamps we light one at a time
will be blown out, one at a time
Perhaps the candles of our lives will gutter out
without lighting a fire to warm us.

Perhaps when all the tears have been shed
the earth will be more fertile
Perhaps when we sing praises to the sun
the sun will praise us in return
Perhaps these heavy burdens
will strengthen our philosophy
Perhaps when we weep for those in misery
we must be silent about miseries of our own

Because of our irresistible sense of mission
We have no choice.

Shu Ting, translated by K. Kizer


You never know when somebody will walk away from you on a bright day on a busy street, never looking back and

you cannot believe the slow disappearance, cannot believe what is moving away from your reach until the busy street no longer needs its presence to look the same, because it is the same.

And the city offers you its fruits and fish, and the churchgoers lift their veils as they step out in the open

and you know the picture is incomplete but it can stand for itself

and who are you to ask for more, who are you to insist on hunger?

Conchitina Cruz

To be Elsewhere

We met in a coastal village
spent a lovely night without leaving an address
going separate ways. Three years later
we meet again by coincidence.

The whole
three years spun a novel
we abandoned:
They fail to recognize themselves
as though meeting in another story
for an encounter.

One asks: Who are you, so cold and weary
The other says: I only know a thread is loose on my sweater
The more you pull it, the more it lengthens
until I completely vanish.

Hsia Yü

The Poetry Teacher

The university gave me a new, elegant
classroom to teach in. Only one thing,
they said. You can't bring your dog.
It's in my contract, I said. (I had
made sure of that.)

We bargained and I moved to an old
classroom in an old building. Propped
the door open. Kept a bowl of water
in the room. I could hear Ben among
other voices barking, howling in the
distance. Then they would all arrive—

Ben, his pals, maybe an unknown dog
or two, all of them thirsty and happy.
They drank, they flung themselves down
among the students. The students loved
it. They all wrote thirsty, happy poems.

Mary Oliver, from 'Dog Songs'. © Penguin, 2013.

Believing each other into being

“We are indebted to one another and the debt is a kind of faith — a beautiful, difficult, strange faith. We believe each other into being.”

Stay: The Social Contagion of Suicide and How to Preempt It

About 'Stay, A History of Suicide And The Philosophies Against It'

Coming and Going

My marriage ended in an airport long ago.
I was not wise enough to cry while looking for my car,

walking through the underground garage;
jets were roaring overhead, and if I had been wise

I would have looked up at those heavy-bellied cylinders
and seen the wheelchairs and the frightened dogs inside;

the kidneys bedded in dry ice and Styrofoam containers.
I would have known that in synagogues and churches all over

couples were gathering like flocks of geese
getting ready to take off, while here the jets were putting down

their gear, getting ready for the jolt, the giant tires
shrieking and scraping off two

long streaks of rubber molecules,
that might have been my wife and I, screaming in our fear.

It is a matter of amusement to me now,
me staggering around that underground garage,

trying to remember the color of my vehicle,
unable to recall that I had come by cab--

eventually gathering myself and going back inside,
quite matter-of-fact,

to get the luggage
I would be carrying for the rest of my life.

Tony Hoagland

Sunday, October 20, 2013



O sweet spontaneous
earth how often have
               fingers of
prurient philosophers pinched
, has the naughty thumb
of science prodded
         beauty                  how
often have religions taken
thee upon their scraggy knees
squeezing and
buffeting thee that thou mightest conceive
to the incomparable
couch of death thy
              thou answerest
them only with

E. E. Cummings

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Letter in October

Dawn comes later and later now,  
and I, who only a month ago
could sit with coffee every morning  
watching the light walk down the hill  
to the edge of the pond and place  
a doe there, shyly drinking,

then see the light step out upon  
the water, sowing reflections  
to either side—a garden
of trees that grew as if by magic—
now see no more than my face,  
mirrored by darkness, pale and odd,

startled by time. While I slept,  
night in its thick winter jacket  
bridled the doe with a twist
of wet leaves and led her away,
then brought its black horse with harness  
that creaked like a cricket, and turned

the water garden under. I woke,  
and at the waiting window found  
the curtains open to my open face;  
beyond me, darkness. And I,
who only wished to keep looking out,  
must now keep looking in.

Ted Kooser

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Red Earth, and Pouring Rain

What He Said

What could my mother be
to yours? What kin is my father
to yours anyway? And how
Did you and I meet ever?
But in love
our hearts have mingled
as red earth and pouring rain.
From the Tamil anthology "Kuruntokai"
Translated by A.K.Ramanujan, in"The Interior Landscape: Love Poems from a Classical Tamil Anthology".

Cempulappeyanirar wrote about 2000 years ago,  a poet of the Sangam age.

That emptiness between us


And I carried to that emptiness
between us, the birds
that had been calling out
all night. I carried an old
bicycle, a warm meal,
some time to talk.

I would have brought
them to you sooner
but was afraid your own
hopelessness would keep you
crouched there. If you spring up,
let it not be against me

but like a weed or a
fountain. I grant you
the hard spine of your
childhood. I grant you
the frowning arc of this morning.
If I could I would grant you

a bright throat and even
brighter eyes, this whole hill
of olive trees, its
calmness of purpose.

Let me not forget
ever what I owe you.

I have loved the love
you felt for those gardens
and I would grant you
the always steadying
presence of seeds.

I bring to that trouble
between us a bell that might
blur into air. I bring the woods
and a sense of what lives there.

Like you, I turn to sunlight for
answers. Like you, I am
not sure where it has gone.

Joanna Klink

Monday, September 9, 2013

On the tidal mud, just before sunset


On the tidal mud, just before sunset,
dozens of starfish
were creeping. It was
as though the mud were a sky
and enormous, imperfect stars
moved across it as slowly
as the actual stars cross heaven.

All at once they stopped,
and, as if they had simply
increased their receptivity
to gravity, they sank down
into the mud, faded down
into it and lay still, and by the time
pink of sunset broke across them
they were as invisible
as the true stars at daybreak.

Galway Kinnell


"....individuals who often read fiction appear to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and view the world from their perspective."

Reading Literature Makes Us Smarter and Nicer

"Deep reading" is vigorous exercise for the brain and increases our real-life capacity for empathy

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Alive in both worlds at once

Wine Tasting

I think I detect cracked leather.
I'm pretty sure I smell the cherries
from a Shirley Temple my father bought me

in 1959, in a bar in Orlando, Florida,
and the chlorine from my mother's bathing cap.
And last winter's kisses, like salt on black ice,

like the moon slung away from the earth.
When Li Po drank wine, the moon dove
in the river, and he staggered after.

Probably he tasted laughter.
When my friend Susan drinks
she cries because she's Irish

and childless. I'd like to taste,
one more time, the rain that arrived
one afternoon and fell just short

of where I stood, so I leaned my face in,
alive in both worlds at once,
knowing it would end and not caring.

Kim Addonizio

Monday, September 2, 2013



Dearest, note how these two are alike;
This harpsichord pavane by Purcell
And the racer's twelve-speed bike.

The machinery of grace is always simple.
This chrome trapezoid, one wheel connected
To another of concentric gears,
Which Ptolemy dreamt of and Schwinn perfected,
Is gone. The cyclist, not the cycle, steers.
And in the playing, Purcell's chords are played away.

So this talk, or touch if I were there,
Should work its effortless gadgetry of love,
Like Dante's heaven, and melt into the air.

If it doesn't, of course, I've fallen. So much is chance,
So much agility, desire, and feverish care,
As bicyclists and harpsicordists prove

Who only by moving can balance,
Only by balancing move.

Michael Donaghy

Friday, August 23, 2013

The screened porch at dawn, the Milky Way, any comets in our yard


You can have the grackle whistling blackly
from the feeder as it tosses seed,

if I can have the red-tailed hawk perched
imperious as an eagle on the high branch.

You can have the brown shed, the field mice
hiding under the mower, the wasp’s nest on the door,

if I can have the house of the dead oak,
its hollowed center and feather-lined cave.

You can have the deck at midnight, the possum
vacuuming the yard in its white prowl,

if I can have the yard of wild dreaming, pesky
raccoons, and the roaming, occasional bear.

You can have the whole house, window to window,
roof to soffits to hardwood floors,

if I can have the screened porch at dawn,
the Milky Way, any comets in our yard.

Patricia Clark

Sunday, August 18, 2013


"Prior to his arrival Jean conducted a workshop on his marvellous poem ‘Wintering’ (below). I loved its internal music straight away, all those flinty ‘i’ sounds in the first stanza (‘picture’, ‘him’, ‘flitting’, ‘splints’, ‘rib’, ‘kindle’) setting up a spine of sound that pulses through the entire poem like returning waves of grief (‘listen’, ‘kitchen’, ‘calling’, ‘him’, ‘fizz’, ‘mizzle’, ‘things’, ‘winter’)."

This is exactly how I relate to poetry, I listen to its "internal music".  Thank you, Anthony Wilson.


If I close my eyes I can picture him
flitting the hedgerow for splints
or a rib of wood to kindle the fire,

or reading the snow for whatever
it was that came out of the trees
and circled the house in the night;

if I listen I can hear him out
in the kitchen, scudding potatoes,
calling the cat in; if I breathe

I can smell the ghost of a fire,
a burning of leaves that would fizz
in the mizzle before snow.

There is in this house now
a stillness of cat fur and boxes,
of photographs, paperbacks, waste—

paper baskets; a lifetime
of things that I’ve come here
to winter or to burn.

There is in this world one snow fall.
Everything else is just weather.

Matthew Hollis, from Ground Water (Bloodaxe, 2004)


So the unwanting soul
Sees what's hidden,

and the ever-wanting soul
sees only what it wants.

Mystery of all mysteries
The door to the hidden.

Tao Te Ching

Page 174, ‘Finding Beauty in a Broken World’, Terry Tempest Williams

Friday, August 16, 2013


"You know how hard I tried
to make a bridge, to make a tunnel
between the human and divine in both of us
between spirit and animal.
that I failed is beside the point."


Independence Day. Independence. Which so many are sceptical about. While so many are giving up their lives for what we take for granted. Remembering the old man at the Tibetan Refugee Camp.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

There’s no duck behind this couch

Spike Milligan: Goon, Loon, Manic Depressive Comic Genius

"His comic influences were Jacques Tati, WC Fields ("the voice of insincerity") and the Marx brothers.

"An example. Groucho was singing a love song to Margaret Dupont. She was a very tall woman. ‘I love you my dear I always will.’ Suddenly there’s a knock on the door. She says: ‘Duck behind the couch.’ So he went behind the couch and the husband came in, and Groucho stood up and said: ‘There’s no duck behind this couch.’

And may it be endlessly Saturday

The Other Life
i.m. Emily Riall

I want to wake up in a house
where the ghosts have recently departed,

persuaded to leave by prayer
infused with wordless singing,

its roomy silences punctuated
by waves and far-off bells.

I want to visit a village,
its market infecting the alleyways

with tables groaning with cheeses,
gossip and outdoor coffee,

where they call me my childhood nickname;
may I know and taste the air there,

a whiff of salt and apples
a backnote of conker and dog;

and may it be endlessly Saturday,
the bonfires yet to start drifting towards the blue.

Anthony Wilson

Near-death experiences are 'electrical surge in dying brain'

"A lot of people thought that the brain after clinical death was inactive or hypoactive, with less activity than the waking state, and we show that is definitely not the case.

"If anything, it is much more active during the dying process than even the waking state."

What can a brain scan tell about free will?

Will scientific progress undermine our sense that we have free will? Will it eventually lead us to conclude that free will is an illusion?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Trying to remember you
is like carrying water
in my hands a long distance
across sand. Somewhere people are waiting.
They have drunk nothing for days.

Your name was the food I lived on;
now my mouth is full of dirt and ash.
To say your name was to be surrounded
by feathers and silk; now, reaching out,
I touch glass and barbed wire.
Your name was the thread connecting my life;
now I am fragments on a tailor's floor.
I was dancing when I
learned of your death; may
my feet be severed from my body.

Stephen Dobyns

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


"I’m beginning to think I will never see you again
that I will never see anything again
but the twenty yards or so of visibility
in stark panorama around my broken sled."

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Let’s Celebrate

the moments
where nothing happens.
The moments
that fill our lives.
Not the field bright with poppies, but
the times you walked, seeing
no leaves, no sky, only one foot
after another.

We are sleeping
(it’s not midnight and
there is no dream).
We enter a room – no one is in it.
We run a tap,
queue to buy a stamp.

These are the straw moments
that give substance
to our astonishments;
moments the homesick dream of;
the bereaved, the diagnosed.

Mandy Coe, from Clay (Shoestring Press)

Lifesaving Poems

"I was struck by a remark of Seamus Heaney in an interview he gave some years ago now. He was musing on how many poems can affect the life of an individual across that person’s lifetime. Was it ten, he said, twenty, fifty, a hundred, or more? This is the question that has underpinned this pet project of mine since I began it in July 2009.

Since then I have been copying out poems into a plain Moleskine notebook, one at a time, in inky longhand, when the mood took me. Allowing myself no more than one poem per poet, I wanted to see how many poems I could honour with the label ‘lifesaving’."

Anthony Wilson

An amazing collection of poems, a veritable feast:

 My moleskine notebook, this blog, life-saving.

Turning Things Over

Lifesaving Poems: Simon Armitage’s ‘To His Lost Lover’
Anthony Wilson

Now they are no longer
any trouble to each other

he can turn things over, get down to that list
of things that never happened, all of the lost

unfinishable business.
For instance… for instance,

Ethics & Land

"The first ethics dealt with the relation between individuals; the Mosaic Decalogue is an example. Later accretions dealt with the relation between the individual and society. The Golden Rule tries to integrate the individual to society; democracy to integrate social organization to the individual.

There is as yet no ethic dealing with man's relation to land and to animals and plants which grow upon it. Land, like Odysseus's slave-girls, is still property. The land-relation is still strictly economic, entailing privileges but not obligations."

Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac, 1949
Page 69, ‘Finding Beauty in a Broken World’, Terry Tempest Williams

The Whole Picture

"In The Brothers Karamazov, there is a chapter on labor and what men do for their own pride. It shows what men are capable of when they are motivated.

"Men inherently want to work and be part of something larger than themselves. That's what multinational corporations have taken away from people. It's the compartmentalization of the workforce. They've taken away the whole picture. People today see only a fragment of the picture. 'They feel insignificant, invisible, not part of a team. They don't feel they are accomplishing anything real."

Page 84, ‘Finding Beauty in a Broken World’, Terry Tempest Williams

Extending Our Idea of Community

"I offer my opinion to The New York Times, on Groundhog Day, 2003, just weeks before we invade Iraq:

.....As we find ourselves on the eve of war with Iraq, why should we care about the fate of a rodent (the prairie dog), an animal many simply see as a "varmint". Why should we as citizens of the United States of America with issues of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, racism, and a shaky economy care about the status and well-being of an almost invisible animal that spends half of its life underground in the western grasslands of this nation?

Quite simply, because the story of the Utah prairie dog is the story of the range of our compassion. If we can extend our idea of community to include the lowliest of creatures (call them the "untouchables") then we will indeed be closer to a path of peace and tolerance. If we cannot accommodate "the other", the shadow we will see on our own home ground will be the forecast of our own species' extended winter of the soul."

Page 89, ‘Finding Beauty in a Broken World’, Terry Tempest Williams

Saturday, August 3, 2013


after Montale

You lie through midday in the shade
of a sun-baked garden wall, pale,
absorbed by the crackle of blackbirds, the rustle
of snakes in the dry sticks and thorns;

you try to decipher the red lines of ants that scrawl
through the climbing plants, down through the ruts
of the scorched ground, to break and braid
and break again over the tops of their little mounds;

you might see, through the leaves, the distant pulse
of the sea, the distinct green scales of the waves,
while the churning of cicadas rises,
chiding and fricative, up from the empty heights.

And then you will walk, sun-blinded,
into the slow and bitter understanding
that all this life and all its heart-sick wonder
is just the following of a wall
ridged with bright shards of broken glass.

Robin Robertson

Prairie Dog Grammar

“Biologist Constantin Slobodchikoff, in his twenty years of researching communication patterns among prairie dogs, has proven that they have the most sophisticated animal language decoded so far. Not only do sentinel prairie dogs warn the colony of impending danger from a predator, they have different calls for different species of predator, be it a badger, a red-tailed hawk, or an eagle. They can incorporate descriptive information about the individual predator including size, color and how fast they are traveling.

Focusing primarily on Gunnison’s prairie dogs near Flagstaff, Arizona, he has also found variations within prairie dog speech – call them dialects – that differ from region to region.  But studies have shown that they do understand one other. Their use of language includes not only nouns, but modifiers, and the ability to coin new words. To date, one hundred words have been identified among Gunnison’s prairie dogs. And now, with the use of advanced technology, Dr. Slobodchikoff is in the process of deconstructing prairie dog grammar. “A short chirp, about a tenth of a second, is analogous to a sentence or paragraph… If we dissect the chirp into a bunch of different time slices, each slice has some specific information in it. Time slices become words and the assemblage of an idea appears.

"...One of my Ph D students did a comparative study of the alarm calls of all five species of prairie dogs, calling for her when she was wearing a yellow shirt or a green one. All fives species had distinctly different calls for the two colors of shirts. Also, each species had different vocalizations for each color, suggesting that each species has its own language, but the languages differs from one another, much as German, French and English differ."

Page 54, ‘Finding Beauty in a Broken World’, Terry Tempest Williams

Friday, July 26, 2013

Tattered Kaddish

"Kaddish is a prayer found in the Jewish prayer service. The central theme of the Kaddish is the magnification and sanctification of God's name.The term "Kaddish" is often used to refer specifically to "The Mourners' Kaddish", said as part of the mourning rituals in Judaism in all prayer services as well as at funerals and memorials. When mention is made of "saying Kaddish", this unambiguously denotes the rituals of mourning."

Taurean reaper of the wild apple field
messenger from earthmire gleaning
transcripts of fog
in the nineteenth year and the eleventh month
speak your tattered Kaddish for all suicides:

Praise to life though it crumbled in like a tunnel
on ones we knew and loved

Praise to life though its windows blew shut
on the breathing-room of ones we knew and loved

Praise to life though ones we knew and loved
loved it badly, too well, and not enough

Praise to life though it tightened like a knot
on the hearts of ones we thought we knew loved us

Praise to life giving room and reason
to ones we knew and loved who felt unpraisable

Praise to them, how they loved it, when they could.

Adrienne Rich

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A letter

Your loneliness
is a letter I read and put away,
a daily reminder
that I am
still capable of inflicting pain
at this distance.

Yom Kippur, Taos, New Mexico
Robin Becker

Saturday, July 6, 2013

How It Adds Up

There was the day we swam in a river, a lake, and an ocean.
And the day I quit the job my father got me.
And the day I stood outside a door,
and listened to my girlfriend making love
to someone obviously not me, inside,

and I felt strange because I didn’t care.

There was the morning I was born,
and the year I was a loser,
and the night I was the winner of the prize
for which the audience applauded.

Then there was someone else I met,
whose face and voice I can’t forget,
and the memory of her
is like a jail I’m trapped inside,

or maybe she is something I just use
to hold my real life at a distance.

Happiness, Joe says, is a wild red flower
plucked from a river of lava
and held aloft on a tightrope
strung between two scrawny trees
above a canyon
in a manic-depressive windstorm.

Don’t drop it, Don’t drop it, Don’t drop it—,

And when you do, you will keep looking for it
everywhere, for years,
while right behind you,
the footprints you are leaving

will look like notes
of a crazy song.

Tony Hoagland

Thursday, July 4, 2013

After Six

Cheek pressed against the cordless phone, I picture
my mother in her Savannah kitchen, leaning
both elbows on the glass breakfast table as she asks
if I can send her 50 newly minted 2007 pennies.
It’s 8:30 p.m. and she wants to give them out to mark
her one-year anniversary of being sober. I can hear
the emery board filing her nails in the background.

For 20 years, I knew not to call after six. Questions asked,
stories shared before the slur of words, Merlot numbing
her senses. Now, she asks how my break-up is going.
I tell her I walked the Golden Gate Bridge. On the other
side, I threw out love letters, photographs, lingerie,
baseball caps and ticket stubs. A cool gust of air
blows the Chronicle off the table. I adjust the phone
and push down each cuticle until I can see the half moons.
My mother is silent and I know she is crying.

I hear her shift as she tells me how she said goodbye
to my father when they divorced. Alone at Gooseberry Beach,
she made nine sand castles at low tide. Each one represented
a house they’d renovated together, from frames to foundations—
homes they’d dreamed of happily living in one day.
She sat for hours until high tide washed them all away.
Do you think you can find those pennies? she asks again.
I live behind the Mint, I tell her. We laugh.

My mother’s mother taught her always to pick up a penny.
Bring luck inside. I agree with Grandma Shea. I will visit
every bank in the city to find those newly minted pennies.
I have waited a lifetime to talk with my mother after six,
like this, listening to each other through miles of cable
buried under the soil late into the evening.

Meghan Adler

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


"The lifeboats are sparse. I think it shall be over soon.”

Too Late

The One and the Other

The child hums as he carries, too late,
his grandmother’s sugar-dusted lemon-glazed cake

down the street to the neighbor who needs to be cheered,
too late for the neighbor

who’s stepped into the air
of her silent front hall from a ladder-backed chair

her church dress just pressed, her head in a loop she tied
into the clothesline, too late

he unlatches the gate,
walks up the brick walk on his tiptoes, avoiding the cracks

toward the door she unlocked, left ajar, who knows why
or for whom, if on purpose

or not, but because he’s too late
she’s gone still when he reaches the door and because

he’s too late, as he calls out and looks, brilliant sun
burns through haze

pours through sidelights and bevels
through chandelier prisms, strikes white sparks and purples

on ceiling and walls, on the overturned chair, on her stockings
her brown and white

spectator shoes on the floor
and because he’s too late he remembers both terror and beauty

but not which came first. But enough of the one
that he ran

and enough of the other
to carefully lay down the cake at her feet.

Hayden Saunier

Monday, June 24, 2013


Avoidance. Or why suicide is sometimes the only way out.

On the Death of a Colleague

She taught theater, so we gathered in the theater.
We praised her voice, her knowledge,
how good she was
with Godot and just four months later with Gigi.
She was fifty. The problem in the liver.
Each of us recalled
an incident in which she'd been kind
or witty.

I told about being unable to speak
from my diaphragm
and how she made me lie down, placed her hand
where the failure was
and showed me how to breathe.
But afterwards
I only could do it when I lay down
and that became a joke
between us, and I told it as my offering
to the audience. 

I was on stage and I heard myself
wishing to be impressive.
Someone else spoke of her cats
and no one spoke
of her face or the last few parties.
The fact was
I had avoided her for months.

It was a student's turn to speak, a sophomore,
one of her actors.
She was a drunk, he said, often came to class
Sometimes he couldn't look at her, the blotches,
the awful puffiness.

And yet she was a great teacher,
he loved her,
but thought someone should say
what everyone knew
because she didn't die by accident.
Everyone was crying. Everyone was crying and it
was almost over now.
The remaining speaker, a historian, said he'd cut
his speech short.

And the Chairman stood up as if by habit,
said something about loss
and thanked us for coming. None of us moved
except some students
to the student who'd spoken, and then others
moved to him, across dividers,
down aisles, to his side of the stage.

Stephen Dunn

Saturday, June 22, 2013

I asked myself

What, Sappho, can
you give one who
has everything,
like Aphrodite?


They go on, they go on without me

Walking in the Breakdown Lane

Wind has stripped
the young plum trees
to a thin howl.
They are planted in squares
to keep the loose dirt from wandering.
Everything around me is crying to be gone.
The fields, the crops humming to be cut and done with.

Walking in the breakdown lane, margin of gravel,
between the cut swaths and the road to Fargo,
I want to stop, to lie down
in standing wheat or standing water.

Behind me thunder mounts as trucks of cattle
roar over, faces pressed to slats for air.
They go on, they go on without me.
They pound, pound and bawl,
until the road closes over them farther on.
Louise Erdrich

Friday, June 21, 2013

Long Afternoons

Those were the long afternoons when poetry left me.
The river flowed patiently, nudging lazy boats to sea.
Long afternoons, the coast of ivory.
Shadows lounged in the streets, haughty manikins in shopfronts
stared at me with bold and hostile eyes.

Professors left their schools with vacant faces,
as if the Iliad had finally done them in.
Evening papers brought disturbing news,
but nothing happened, no one hurried.
There was no one in the windows, you weren’t there;
even nuns seemed ashamed of their lives.

Those were the long afternoons when poetry vanished
and I was left with the city’s opaque demon,
like a poor traveler stranded outside the Gare du Nord
with his bulging suitcase wrapped in twine
and September’s black rain falling.

Oh, tell me how to cure myself of irony, the gaze
that sees but doesn’t penetrate; tell me how to cure myself
of silence.

Adam Zagajewski

Last Night the Rain Spoke to Me

Last night
the rain
spoke to me
slowly, saying,
what joy
to come falling
out of the brisk cloud,
to be happy again
in a new way
on the earth!

That’s what it said
as it dropped,
smelling of iron,
and vanished
like a dream of the ocean
into the branches
and the grass below.

Then it was over.
The sky cleared.
I was standing
under a tree.

The tree was a tree
with happy leaves,
and I was myself,
and there were stars in the sky
that were also themselves
at the moment
at which moment
my right hand
was holding my left hand
which was holding the tree
which was filled with stars
and the soft rain –
imagine! imagine!

the long and wondrous journeys
still to be ours.

Mary Oliver

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Lightkeeper

A night without ships. Foghorns called into walled cloud, and you
still alive, drawn to the light as if it were a fire kept by monks,
darkness once crusted with stars, but now death-dark as you sail inward.

Through wild gorse and sea wrack, through heather and torn wool
you ran, pulling me by the hand, so I might see this for once in my life:
the spin and spin of light, the whirring of it, light in search of the lost,

there since the era of fire, era of candles and hollow-wick lamps,
whale oil and solid wick, colza and lard, kerosene and carbide,
the signal fires lighted on this perilous coast in the Tower of Hook.

You say to me stay awake, be like the lensmaker who died with his
lungs full of glass, be the yew in blossom when bees swarm, be
their amber cathedral and even the ghosts of Cistercians will be kind to you.

In a certain light as after rain, in pearled clouds or the water beyond,
seen or sensed water, sea or lake, you would stop still and gaze out
for a long time. Also when fireflies opened and closed in the pines,
and a star appeared, our only heaven. You taught me to live like this.

That after death it would be as it was before we were born. Nothing
to be afraid. Nothing but happiness as unbearable as the dread
from which it comes. Go toward the light always, be without ships.

Carolyn Forché

Friday, June 14, 2013


Long before I first left home, my father
tried to teach me horses, land, and sky,
to show me how his kind of work was done.
I studied how to be my father’s son,
but all I learned was, when the wicked die,
they ride combines through barley forever.

Every summer I hated my father
as I drove hot horses through the dusty grass;
and so I broke with him, and left the farm
for other work, where unfamiliar weather
broke on my head an unexpected storm
and things I had not studied came to pass.

So nothing changes, nothing stays the same,
and I have returned from a broken home
alone, to ask for a job breaking horses.
I watch a colt on a long line making
tracks in dust, and think of the kinds of breakings
there are, and the kinds of restraining forces.

Henry Taylor

Thursday, June 13, 2013

There is no single moment of loss, there is an amassing

Snowshoe to Otter Creek
Stacie Cassarino

love lasts by not lasting
—Jack Gilbert

I’m mapping this new year’s vanishings:
lover, yellow house, the knowledge of surfaces.
This is not a story of return.

There are times I wish I could erase
the mind’s lucidity, the difficulty of Sundays,
my fervor to be touched
by a woman two Februarys gone.

What brings the body
back, grieved and cloven, tromping these woods
with nothing to confide in? New snow reassumes
the circleting trees, the bridge above the creek
where I stand like a stranger to my life.

There is no single moment of loss, there is
an amassing. The disbeliever sleeps at an angle
in the bed. The orchard is a graveyard.
Is this the real end? Someone shoveling her way out
with cold intention? Someone naming her missing?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

When you respond

"So what purpose does Beauty serve? This is something I have been chewing on for a while. I know I am a nicer warmer kinder person when I am in the presence of beauty, and sharing it with another. When I send you a poem, I am filled to the brim, I am open, unafraid, I am reaching out to you.  When you respond, I am connected, I can see the Circle we are part of, I can feel the warmth of the fire we are sitting around, I want to save the world, I want to give more of myself.

And on days that Beauty does not touch me, I am dry, hard, cold, defensive, aloof, overly anxious about protecting myself.

Are we innately wired to rejoice, to revel in Beauty, is that why all our search for purpose and meaning leaves us still dissatisfied? Maybe one half of us just needs to be filled with the taste of cherries, nothing else will do?"

Respond. Resonate

Words are not innocent. You say something into being. Or into non-being.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *
“You’re making good progress", your physiotherapist says. “You’re not fighting with the machine and giving up in frustration, like most people do.”

Oh. When did you learn that?

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

"To pursue beauty to its lair."  Oh, you do. The ordinary still leaves you breathless.

It helps to know you're living on borrowed time. It helps to be so poor, to have nothing, and therefore have only beauty to turn to.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *
It’s a very ancient Portuguese instrument, she said. And it has these sympathetic strings. “Sympathetic strings or resonance strings are auxiliary strings found on many Indian musical instruments, as well as some Western Baroque instruments and a variety of folk instruments.”

The musician never plays them, but they resonate to the notes played on the main sting, they will “vibrate in response, providing a lingering halo of sound.”



Walking Alone

Where the wild poem is a substitute
For the woman one loves or ought to love,
One wild rhapsody a fake for another.

Wallace Stevens

It is night. For hours I have been walking,
wanting to see you, hoping you might
appear suddenly by the side of the road,
on a bridge, or in the arc of headlights
bending toward me. I have continued

beyond any place you might conceivably be.
Sunk into a dark hollow, between trees
and stone, the river goes where it has to go.
In the cold air I construct long conversations:
whatever we wouldn’t say if you were here.

I recite poems. I return home and write more.
You are, of course, attending within them,
beautiful and calm, near a window
or by a bridge before winter. I fix you
safely, where we might find each other.

But something comes between us, like glass
or water, a distance I cannot avoid.
We meet by accident and fall away.
I come back here, compose another poem,
and walk about at night reciting it to you.

Everything I conceive as possible returns
to an ordered page. I wish I were blind.
I wish my fingers would drop off.
What are they doing, writing all this again?

Lawrence Raab

Wanting to Die

Since you ask, most days I cannot remember.
I walk in my clothing, unmarked by that voyage.  
Then the almost unnameable lust returns.

Even then I have nothing against life.
I know well the grass blades you mention,  
the furniture you have placed under the sun.

But suicides have a special language.
Like carpenters they want to know which tools.
They never ask why build.

Twice I have so simply declared myself,  
have possessed the enemy, eaten the enemy,  
have taken on his craft, his magic.

In this way, heavy and thoughtful,  
warmer than oil or water,
I have rested, drooling at the mouth-hole.

I did not think of my body at needle point.
Even the cornea and the leftover urine were gone.  
Suicides have already betrayed the body.

Still-born, they don’t always die,
but dazzled, they can’t forget a drug so sweet  
that even children would look on and smile.

To thrust all that life under your tongue!—
that, all by itself, becomes a passion.  
Death’s a sad bone; bruised, you’d say,

and yet she waits for me, year after year,  
to so delicately undo an old wound,  
to empty my breath from its bad prison.

Balanced there, suicides sometimes meet,  
raging at the fruit a pumped-up moon,  
leaving the bread they mistook for a kiss,

leaving the page of the book carelessly open,
something unsaid, the phone off the hook
and the love whatever it was, an infection.

Anne Sexton

A Style of Loving

Light now restricts itself
To the top half of trees;
The angled sun
Slants honey-coloured rays
That lessen to the ground
As we bike through
The corridor of Palm Drive
We two

Have reached a safety the years
Can claim to have created:
Unconsumated, therefore
Unjaded, unsated.
Picnic, movie, ice-cream;
Talk; to clear my head
Hot buttered rum - coffee for you;
And so not to bed

And so we have set the question
Aside, gently.
Were we to become lovers
Where would our best friends be?
You do not wish, nor I
To risk again
This savoured light for noon's
High joy or pain.

Vikram Seth

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Driving Toward the Lac Qui Parle River

I am driving; it is dusk; Minnesota.
The stubble field catches the last growth of sun.
The soybeans are breathing on all sides.
Old men are sitting before their houses on car seats
In the small towns. I am happy,
The moon rising above the turkey sheds.

The small world of the car
Plunges through the deep fields of the night,
On the road from Willmar to Milan.
This solitude covered with iron
Moves through the fields of night
Penetrated by the noise of crickets.

Nearly to Milan, suddenly a small bridge,
And water kneeling in the moonlight.
In small towns the houses are built right on the ground;
The lamplight falls on all fours on the grass.
When I reach the river, the full moon covers it.
A few people are talking, low, in a boat.

Robert Bly, from Silence in the Snowy Fields, 1962.

Friday, May 31, 2013


"We are primed to use stories. Part of our survival as a species depended upon listening to the stories of our tribal elders as they shared parables and passed down their experience and the wisdom of those who went before. As we get older it is our short-term memory that fades rather than our long-term memory. Perhaps we have evolved like this so that we are able to tell the younger generation about the stories and experiences that have formed us which may be important to subsequent generations if they are to thrive."

How to Stay Sane: The Art of Revising your Inner Storytelling

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Feeling the world

"We waste so much energy trying to cover up who we are when beneath every attitude is the want to be loved, and beneath every anger is a wound to be healed and beneath every sadness is the fear that there will not be enough time.

When we hesitate in being direct, we unknowingly slip something on, some added layer of protection that keeps us from feeling the world, and often that thin covering is the beginning of a loneliness which, if not put down, diminishes our chances of joy.

It’s like wearing gloves every time we touch something, and then, forgetting we chose to put them on, we complain that nothing feels quite real. Our challenge each day is not to get dressed to face the world but to unglove ourselves so that the doorknob feels cold and the car handle feels wet and the goodbye kiss feels like the lips of another being, soft and unrepeatable.

Mark Nepo in 'The Book of Awakening'

Presence, not praise

"Being present, whether with children, with friends, or even with oneself, is always hard work. But isn’t this attentiveness — the feeling that someone is trying to think about us — something we want more than praise?"



"What is supremely important is to be free from contradictions: the goal and the way must not be on different levels; life and light must not quarrel; behaviour must not betray belief. Call it honesty, integrity, wholeness; you must not go back, undo, uproot, abandon the conquered ground. Tenacity of purpose and honesty in pursuit will bring you to your goal."

Nisargadutta, 'I am That'


"The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together.

There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space."

Italo Calvino, 'Invisible Cities'

Actions, not words

From 'Don't Sleep, There are Snakes, Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle', by Daniel L.Everett. A fascinating account of his discovery of an intriguing language and the worldview it represents, among the happiest people he has ever met, people who smile, laugh and joke more than any community he has ever seen.

"One of the things about the Piraha that immediately fascinated me was the lack of what linguists call "phatic" communication - communication that primarily functions to maintain social and interpersonal channels, to recognize or stroke, as some refer to it, one's interlocutor.

Expressions like hello, goodbye, how are you?, I'm sorry, you're welcome, and thank you don't express or elicit new information about the world so much as they maintain goodwill and mutual respect. The Piraha culture does not require this kind of communication. Piraha sentences are either requests for information (questions), assertions of new information (declarations), or commands, by and large. There are no words for thanks,  I'm sorry, and so on.

...The expression of gratitude can come later, with a reciprocal gift, or some unexpected act of kindness, such as helping you carry something. The same goes when someone has done something offensive or hurtful. They have no words for "I'm sorry." They can say "I was bad", or some such, but do so rarely. The way to express penitence is not by words but by actions."

Page 11, 'Discovering the World of the Pirahas'

This passage also made me think of how I have rarely heard the words for "Thank you" and "Sorry" being used in our Indian languages, among close relatives or friends, especially when I was growing up, in the 70s and 80s. We did indeed believe that we need to reciprocate by actions, not words.

Somewhere along the way, are we substituting that with these easy words, moving on without taking the trouble to re-establish or re-affirm relationships by concrete acts of connection?

The birds don't alter space, they reveal it

Yes. At traffic signals, on a bike, you get to watch kites endlessly circling space, a gliding-peace-ritual that never fails to calm you. Kite meditation, available to us, for free, all day.

Praise Them

The birds don't alter space.
They reveal it. The sky
never fills with any
leftover flying. They leave
nothing to trace. It is our own
astonishment collects
in chill air. Be glad.

They equal their due
moment never begging,
and enter ours
without parting day. See
how three birds in a winter tree
make the tree barer.
Two fly away, and new rooms
open in December.

Give up what you guessed
about a whirring heart, the little
beaks and claws, their constant hunger.
We're the nervous ones.

If even one of our violent number
could be gentle
long enough that one of them
found it safe inside
our finally untroubled and untroubling gaze,
who wouldn't hear
what singing completes us?

Li-Young Lee, 'Book of My Nights'

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Not everything is lost

This is so completely my vision of happiness. This is what I live for. A real incident, from one of Naomi Shihab Nye's memoirs. Her father is Palestinian, her mother American.

"This is the world I want to live in.
The shared world.

Not everything is lost."

Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal
After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,
I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,
Please come to the gate immediately.

Well — one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,
Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.
Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her
Problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she
Did this.

I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.
Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,
Sho bit se-wee?

The minute she heard any words she knew — however poorly used -
She stopped crying.

She thought our flight had been canceled entirely.
She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the
Following day. I said no, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late,

Who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him.
We called her son and I spoke with him in English.
I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
Would ride next to her — southwest.

She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.

Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and
Found out of course they had ten shared friends.

Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian
Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering

She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies — little powdered
Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts — out of her bag —
And was offering them to all the women at the gate.

To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
The lovely woman from Laredo — we were all covered with the same
Powdered sugar. And smiling. There are no better cookies.

And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers —
Non-alcoholic — and the two little girls for our flight, one African
American, one Mexican American — ran around serving us all apple juice
And lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.

And I noticed my new best friend — by now we were holding hands —
Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,

With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always
Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.

Not a single person in this gate — once the crying of confusion stopped
— has seemed apprehensive about any other person.

They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere.

Not everything is lost.

Naomi Shihab Nye

What We Want

What we want
is never simple.
We move among the things
we thought we wanted:
a face, a room, an open book
and these things bear our names--
now they want us.
But what we want appears
in dreams, wearing disguises.

We fall past,
holding out our arms
and in the morning
our arms ache.
We don't remember the dream,
but the dream remembers us.
It is there all day
as an animal is there
under the table,
as the stars are there
even in full sun.

Linda Pastan,'Carnival Evening'


Brilliant fusion by the Auroville-based band Emergence, the Carnatic Classical blending in seamlessly!  The video is superb, this one has to be seen, as well as listened to.

Bob Dylan's 'All Along The Watchtower' by Emergence:

Emergence is a four member band from Auroville, Pondicherry, made up of Krishna Mckenzie (lead singer and guitarist), Mishko M’ba (bassist), Suresh Bascara (drums), and Karthick Srinivasan (violinist and vocalist). They’ve released two albums under record label Blue Frog.

Emergence Music:,

Music underlies language acquisition

“Spoken language is a special type of music,” said Anthony Brandt, co-author of a theory paper published online this month in the journal Frontiers in Cognitive Auditory Neuroscience. “Language is typically viewed as fundamental to human intelligence, and music is often treated as being dependent on or derived from language. But from a developmental perspective, we argue that music comes first and language arises from music.”

Theory: Music underlies language acquisition

Sunday, May 5, 2013


If I never see you again
I will always carry you

on my fingertips
and at brain edges

and in centers
of what I am of
what remains.

Charles Bukowski

Standing Deer

As the house of a person
in age sometimes grows cluttered
with what is
too loved or too heavy to part with,
the heart may grow cluttered.
And still the house will be emptied,
and still the heart.

As the thoughts of a person
in age sometimes grow sparer,
like a great cleanness come into a room,
the soul may grow sparer;
one sparrow song carves it completely.
And still the room is full,
and still the heart.

Empty and filled,
like the curling half-light of morning,
in which everything is still possible and so why not.

Filled and empty,
like the curling half-light of evening,
in which everything now is finished and so why not.

Beloved, what can be, what was,
will be taken from us.
I have disappointed.
I am sorry. I knew no better.

A root seeks water.
Tenderness only breaks open the earth.
This morning, out the window,
the deer stood like a blessing, then vanished.

Jane Hirshfield, 'The Lives of the Heart'

Have you ever smelled old leaves?

"Let's talk about something else. Have you ever smelled old leaves? Don't they smell like cinnamon? Here. Smell."

"Why, yes, it is like cinnamon in a way."

She looked at him with her clear dark eyes. "You always seem shocked."

"It's just that I haven't had time......."


"Oh, they don't miss me," she said. "I'm antisocial, they say. I don't mix. It's so strange. I'm very social indeed. It all depends on what you mean by social, doesn't  it? Social to me means talking to you about things like this."


"Sometimes I sneak around and listen in subways. Or I listen at soda fountains, and do you know what?"


"People don't talk about anything."

"Oh, they must!"

"No, not anything. They name a lot of cars or clothes or swimming pools mostly and say how swell! But they all say the same things and nobody says anything different from anyone else."

Page 28, 'Fahrenheit 451', Ray Bradbury

Thursday, April 18, 2013


James Fenton

Awake, alert,
Suddenly serious in love,
You're a surprise.
I've known you long enough —
Now I can hardly meet your eyes.

It's not that I'm
Embarrassed or ashamed.
You've changed the rules
The way I'd hoped they'd change
Before I thought: hopes are for fools.

Let me walk with you.
I've got the newspapers to fetch.
I think you know
I think you have the edge
But I feel cheerful even so.

That's why I laughed.
That's why I went and kicked that stone.
I'm serious!
That's why I cartwheeled home.
This should mean something. Yes, it does.

"Serious" by James Fenton, from Yellow Tulips. © Faber and Faber, 2012

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


The Diameter of the Bomb

The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters
and the diameter of its effective range about seven meters,
with four dead and eleven wounded.
And around these, in a larger circle
of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered
and one graveyard. But the young woman
who was buried in the city she came from,
at a distance of more than a hundred kilometers,
enlarges the circle considerably,
and the solitary man mourning her death
at the distant shores of a country far across the sea
includes the entire world in the circle.

And I won’t even mention the crying of orphans
that reaches up to the throne of God and
beyond, making
a circle with no end and no God.

Yehuda Amichai

Listen to crickets

"..Listen to crickets. Learn how to divine the temperature from their chirps. Listen to the ground underneath you. Gravity will keep you here until you are ready to leave.

You can still recite those sad poems from memory, but they don’t resonate in your chest the way they used to. You can walk across a bridge without counting the seconds between your bones and the concrete below. There is an ocean, but it is far away, not filling up your mouth. There will be people who want to touch you gently. You know that you can still feel pain, in your eyes and hands especially. But in this moment, all you know of your body is open arms."

Lindsay Miller

Sunday, April 14, 2013


Something new in the air today, perhaps the struggle of the bud
to become a leaf. Nearly two weeks late it invaded the air but
then what is two weeks to life herself? On a cool night there is
a break from the struggle of becoming. I suppose that's why we

In a childhood story they spoke of the land of enchantment.
We crawl to it, we short-lived mammals, not realizing that
we are already there. To the gods the moon is the entire moon
but to us it changes second by second because we are always fish
in the belly of the whale of earth. We are encased and can't stray
from the house of our bodies.

I could say that we are released,
but I don't know, in our private night when our souls explode
into a billion fragments then calmly regather in a black pool in
the forest, far from the cage of flesh, the unremitting "I." This was
a dream and in dreams we are forever alone walking the ghost
road beyond our lives.

Of late I see waking as another chance at Spring.

Jim Harrison, from 'Songs of Unreason'


Ripeness is
what falls away with ease.
Not only the heavy apple,
the pear,
but also the dried brown strands
of autumn iris from their core.

To let your body
love this world
that gave itself to your care
in all of its ripeness,
with ease,
and will take itself from you
in equal ripeness and ease,
is also harvest.

And however sharply
you are tested --
this sorrow, that great love --
it too will leave on that clean knife.

Jane Hirshfield, 'The October Palace'

Going There

Of course it was a disaster.
The unbearable, dearest secret
has always been a disaster.
The danger when we try to leave.
Going over and over afterward
what we should have done
instead of what we did.

But for those short times
we seemed to be alive. Misled,
misused, lied to and cheated,
certainly. Still, for that
little while, we visited
our possible life.

Jack Gilbert

And on the Third Day

We called off the search,
and the weary climbed down from the glacier
with their dogs exhausted in the spring sun
too tired to eat the ice in their paws.

We had called his name, mostly for show,
a ritual that kept us moving: in the high bowls,
their stunted pines predating the flood,
in the steep ravines sliding loose with scree,
loudly at first, then speaking it to each other
then spelling it out on forms required by law.

It is a form of praying, he claimed, to walk
out to the very edge of your life. Every time
the reply comes clear as a stone
at our thin crowns. It misses
almost every time, humming as it goes.

Andrew Allport

The Crowd

From 'The Silence of Animals, On Progress and Other Modern Myths', by John Gray:

"The machine-like condition of modern humans may seem a limitation. In fact it is a condition of their survival. Kayerts and Carlier (the characters from Joseph Conrad's 'An Outpost of Progress' who break down when trapped in the heart of the Belgian Congo jungles) were able to function as individuals only because they had been shaped by society down to their innermost being. They were:

"two perfectly insignificant and incapable individuals, whose existence is only rendered possible through the high organization of civilized crowds. Few men realize that their life, the very essence of their character, their capabilities and their audacities, are only the expression of their belief in the safety of their surroundings. The courage, the composure, the confidence; the emotions and principles; every great and every insignificant thought belongs not to the individual but to the crowd: to the crowd that believes blindly in the irresistible force of its institutions and of its morals, in the power of the police and of its opinion."

When they stepped outside of their normal surroundings, the two men were powerless to act. More than that: they ceased to exist.

Page 2, 'An Old Chaos'

No longer

I no longer know where you are,
and I walk on and wonder where
the living goes
when it stops.

Charles Bukowski

Ceres Looks at the Morning (excerpt)

I wake slowly. Already
my body is a twilight: Solid. Gold.
At the edge of a larger darkness. But outside
my window
a summer day is beginning. Apple trees
appear, one by one. Light is pouring
into the promise of fruit.

Beautiful morning
look at me as a daughter would
look: with that love and that curiosity:
as to what she came from.
And what she will become.

Eavan Boland, 'The Lost Land'

In ancient Roman religion, Ceres was a goddess of agriculture, grain crops, fertility and motherly relationships.

Givers, Takers, and Matchers

"Givers, takers, and matchers all can — and do — achieve success. But there’s something distinctive that happens when givers succeed: it spreads and cascades. When takers win, there’s usually someone else who loses. Research shows that people tend to envy successful takers and look for ways to knock them down a notch.

In contrast, when [givers] win, people are rooting for them and supporting them, rather than gunning for them. Givers succeed in a way that creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them. You’ll see that the difference lies in how giver success creates value, instead of just claiming it."

Givers, Takers, and Matchers: The Surprising Science of Success

Maria Popova

Even Because

Because it all just breaks apart, and the pieces scatter and
rearrange without much fanfare or notice.

Because you can't and don't remember the step that kicked up
dust and left this planet—you'd give up even more now.

Because the body itself—the heart's

not dead but deeper, wrapped up in curtains, a different color,
among the railings and the pigeons, the rooftops and

for all you know it's a question of bread

or beer.

Because even love

returns. The city's all brightness

and shadow, deckle-edged, bluer than air—there's no help
anywhere—you no longer know how to listen.

And love says, love—midnight to midnight,

already ablaze. And the boulevard—wide-open. And the well-
stocked crowdless market, and a lone taxi blears.

Even happiness—the way anger's come back to roost again.
And joy, though joy's not in the ear or the eye. On this

The gulls hover offshore and the islands are speckled with fire.
Even love, even because.

Ralph Angel


"Classical Arabic is the version of Arabic which was used by the Koreshite tribe, hereditary guardians of the Temple of Mecca, and to which Mohammed belonged. Long before Arabic became considered a holy tongue because it is the vehicle of the Koran, it was the speech of the sacerdotal class of Mecca, a sanctuary whose religious history legend starts with Adam and Eve. Arabic, most precise and primitive of the Semitic languages, shows signs of being originally a constructed language. It is built upon mathematical principles - a phenomenon not paralleled by any other language." (Sirdar Ikbal Ali Shah)

"...The text of the Qur'an reveals language crushed by the power of the Divine Word. It is as if human language were scattered into a thousand fragments like a wave scattered into drops against the rocks of the sea. One feels through the shattering effect left upon the language of the Qur'an, the power of the Divine whence it originated. The Qur'an displays human language with all the weakness inherent in it becoming suddenly the recipient of the Divine Word and displaying its frailty before a power which is infinitely greater than man can imagine." (Seyyid Hussein Nasar)

This "shattered" and "scattered" facade of language is one factor that makes the Qur'an difficult for many Westerners to approach, until the reason for this effect is adequately understood. Then the dramatic shifts in person, mood, tense, and mode become exhilarating exercises in perspective and translation of consciousness into a new manner of perception."

Introduction, 'The Essential Koran, The Heart of Islam. An Introductory Selection of Readings from the Qur'an', Translated and Presented by Thomas Cleary, 1993

Learning Italian Slowly

I learn three words each day. It's been seven months now and
perhaps I could carry on a conversation with a Sicilian child. If she
spoke slowly. In present tense. And only about pencils and dogs
and cheese. Sometimes I feel my new Italian self growing inside
me. He's a little man who gesticulates as he speaks. He rides his
bicycle to the market to buy eggplant, anise, and porcini. Then
delivers them to his elderly mother. In the afternoon he plays
bocce with the older men. The children mimic the way he
whispers to himself. The grimaces he makes with his face. When
the moon comes out he slicks back his hair and sings beneath the
window of the woman he loves. What a sight he is. Down on one
knee. His arms outstretched. So willing to make a fool of himself.
Over and over again.

David Shumate


a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring

down the mountain.
All night
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring

I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
her tongue

like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:

how to love this world.
I think of her
like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against
the silence
of the trees.
Whatever else

my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its cities,

it is also this dazzling darkness
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her –
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.

Mary Oliver, 'House of Light'


"I discovered that my obsession for having each thing in the right place, each subject at the right time, each word in the right style, was not the well-deserved reward of an ordered mind but just the opposite: a complete system of pretense invented by me to hide the disorder of my nature.

I discovered that I am not disciplined out of virtue but as a reaction to my negligence, that I appear generous in order to conceal my meanness, that I pass myself off as prudent because I am evil-minded, that I am conciliatory in order not to succumb to my repressed rage, that I am punctual only to hide how little I care about other people’s time.

I learned, in short, that love is not a condition of the spirit but a sign of the zodiac."

Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez (Memories of My Melancholy Whores)

The Secret Sits

We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

Robert Frost


“Drinking is an emotional thing. It joggles you out of the standardism of everyday life, out of everything being the same. It yanks you out of your body and your mind and throws you against the wall. I have the feeling that drinking is a form of suicide where you’re allowed to return to life and begin all over the next day. It’s like killing yourself, and then you’re reborn. I guess I’ve lived about ten or fifteen thousand lives now.”

Charles Bukowski, An interview with London Magazine,
Dec 1974 – Jan 1975

Monday, March 25, 2013

My Father Comes to the City

Tonight his airplane comes in from the West,
and he rises from his seat, a suitcoat slung
over his arm. The flight attendant smiles
and says, "Have a nice visit," and he nods
as if he has done this all before,
as if his entire life hasn't been 170 acres
of corn and oats, as if a plow isn't dragging
behind him through the sand and clay,
as if his head isn't nestling in the warm
flank of a Holstein cow.

Only his hands tell the truth:
fingers thick as ropes, nails flat
and broken in the trough of endless chores.
He steps into the city warily, breathing
metal and exhaust, bewildered by the
stampede of humanity circling around him.
I want to ask him something familiar,
something about tractors and wagons,
but he is taken by the neon night,
crossing carefully against the light.

Joyce Sutphen

Suddenly, sun

What the Day Gives

Suddenly, sun. Over my shoulder
in the middle of gray November
what I hoped to do comes back,

Across the street the fiery trees
hold onto their leaves,
red and gold in the final months
of this unfinished year,
they offer blazing riddles..

In the frozen fields of my life
there are no shortcuts to spring,
but stories of great birds in migration
carrying small ones on their backs,
predators flying next to warblers
they would, in a different season, eat.

Stunned by the astonishing mix in this uneasy world
that plunges in a single day from despair
to hope and back again, I commend my life
to Ruskin's difficult duty of delight,
and to that most beautiful form of courage,
to be happy.

Jeanne Lohmann, 'The Light of Invisible Bodies'

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Some say you're lucky

Some say you're lucky
If nothing shatters it.
But then you wouldn't
Understand poems or songs.
You'd never know
Beauty comes from loss.

It's deep inside every person:
A tear tinier
Than a pearl or thorn.
It's one of the places
Where the beloved is born.

Gregory Orr

Blog Archive