Thursday, January 31, 2013

Courthouse Steps

to say no more of art than that it makes, by its very distraction
a mode of abiding

accordingly, its variations: each type of thread-and-piecework
named double engagement ring, log cabin, or broken dishes
all built on the same geometric figures—
precise interception of angle and line

so too each tale of love is rooted in that first tale: the poet
descending to the underworld
finally granted his shade, who'll follow him
only to disappear again. perhaps one version has them reunite
affixed in their solo chromospheres the stars, which,
to the human eye, appear to overlap

substanceless love
immune at last to gravity and time—

in texas (I might as well recount this as a story) there's a town
with a courthouse built on concrete and twisted iron
edified in red granite, capitals & architrave of red sandstone

with point and punch, a carver broached the effigy of his muse
he rendered her attractive features, down to the very blush

of course she spurned him,
of course there was another to whom she turned
love should not be written in stone but written in water
(I paraphrase the latin of catullus)

the sculptor carried on: not just the face of his beloved
but the face of her other lover:
snaggle-toothed, wart-peppered, pudgy
them both, made into ugly caricatures of themselves, as wanton
as the carver perceived them, and as lewd

well, craze and degenerate and crack: the portraits hold
though, long since, the participants have dwindled into dirt

beautiful. unbeautiful. each with an aspect of exactness

tread light upon this pedestal. dream instead of a time before
your love disfigured, a time
withstanding even crass, wind-beaten time itself.

D.A. Powell


“I watched the gorilla's eyes again, wise and knowing eyes, and wondered about this business of trying to teach apes language. Our language. Why? There are many members of our own species who live in and with the forest and know it and understand it. We don't listen to them. What is there to suggest we would listen to anything an ape could tell us? Or that it would be able to tell us of its life in a language that hasn't been born of that life?

I thought, maybe it is not that they have yet to gain a language, it is that we have lost one.”

Douglas Adams, 'Last Chance to See'

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I am not, I'm of no use

Pablo Neruda

I touch hatred like a covered breast;
I without stopping go from garment to garment,
sleeping at a distance.

I am not, I'm of no use, I do not know
anyone; I have no weapons of ocean or wood,
I do not live in this house.

My mouth is full of night and water.
The abiding moon determines
what I do not have.

What I have is in the midst of the waves,
a ray of water, a day for myself,
an iron depth.

There is no cross-tide, there is no shield, no costume,
there is no special solution too deep to be sounded,
no vicious eyelid.

I live suddenly and other times I follow.
I touch a face suddenly and it murders me.
I have no time.

Do not look for me when drawing
the usual wild thread or the
bleeding net.

Do not call me: that is my occupation.
Do not ask my name or my condition.
Leave me in the middle of my own moon
in my wounded ground.

Photo: Google Images. Scene from Andrei Tarkovsky's film 'The Stalker', my favorite movie. The glass, sliding down the table, in the house next to the railway track.

Demain, dès l'aube...

Demain, dès l'aube, à l'heure où blanchit la campagne,
Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m'attends.
J'irai par la forêt, j'irai par la montagne.
Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.

Je marcherai les yeux fixés sur mes pensées,
Sans rien voir au dehors, sans entendre aucun bruit,
Seul, inconnu, le dos courbé, les mains croisées,
Triste, et le jour pour moi sera comme la nuit.

Je ne regarderai ni l'or du soir qui tombe,
Ni les voiles au loin descendant vers Harfleur,
Et quand j'arriverai, je mettrai sur ta tombe
Un bouquet de houx vert et de bruyère en fleur.

Victor Hugo

Boleros #36

The poplars have grown their winter cotton,
snow that winds a shaggy warmth around the branches.
At night now even when the moon has tucked itself
into its patchy quilt,
you can go from this house in the hollow
to the house at the point of the stone wall,
following the trees’ light and silence
through fog that inexplicably rises
and suddenly disappears.

White seams in the lapis lazuli skirt of a new
Hampshire might remind us of the first time
we saw the aluminum shimmy of northern lights,
the hants’ tree houses
from which through the fluttering doors,
we expected to hear an hechivera voice
and the montuno of a home we had swiftly abandoned.

There is another voice,
high in the White Mountains,
one we carried in your father’s urn
from appleless Jersey and scattered
in the moss shadow of a singular apple tree.
In spring,
it comes in the white-throated sparrow’s song,
a melisma of misery tempered by the thrill of survival.

Soon, the mauve summer sky
will strike its evening tympanum,
and move you through the deep waters of wonder
into a forgiving sleep.

Jay Wright

Warm Days in January

It has never been so easy to cry
openly or to acknowledge children.
Never before could I walk directly
to the center of an island city
feeling the automatism of millions
drawing one pious breath, shouldering
the sunset, holding it up in the oily
tree-line a while longer. Years ago,
I was never sad enough and nothing
but a hotel that I could tear to pieces
and reconstruct inside a shoebox
felt like home. My parents died. Their miserable
possessions washed up in other hotels,
dioramas of the febrile romantic.

I take my first lover, already
gray at her temples and more reticent
than shy, more tacit than admiring,
to the bus stop by the Jewish Museum.
We wait in the dark a long time.
She does not kiss me. She hurries
up out of the oily street onto the humming,
fluorescent podium of the last bus
where I see her a last time, not waving
to me, not lovable, erect in the freedom
we traduced years ago in our first kiss.

Never deny the power of withdrawal.
Never doubt that thought and time make things small.
Never refuse the easy exit line or prescribed
uncomprehending gesture. At childhood’s end,
none can tell happiness from buoyancy.
None of it made any difference—
the patricides, the hotels ill-constructed,
the inconstant starlight of drugs and rebellion.
We are no more complicated
than our great-grandparents who dreaded
the hotel life. Like them, we seek the refuge
of warm days in January, a piety
whose compulsion is to survive according
to explicit laws no young woman adores
or young man follows with darling hunger.

Donald Revell, from 'Erasures'

My Father’s Love Letters

On Fridays he’d open a can of Jax
After coming home from the mill,
and ask me to write a letter to my mother
Who sent postcards of desert flowers
Taller than men. He would beg,
Promising to never beat her
Again. Somehow I was happy
She had gone, and sometimes wanted
To slip in a reminder, how Mary Lou
Williams’ “Polka Dots and Moonbeams”
Never made the swelling go down.

His carpenter’s apron always bulged
With old nails, a claw hammer
Looped at his side and extension cords
Coiled around his feet.
Words rolled from under the pressure
Of my ballpoint: Love,
Baby, Honey, Please.

We sat in the quiet brutality
Of voltage meters and pipe threaders,
Lost between sentences …
The gleam of a five-pound wedge
On the concrete floor
Pulled a sunset
Through the doorway of his toolshed.
I wondered if she laughed
and held them over a gas burner.

My father could only sign
His name, but he’d look at blueprints
and say how many bricks
Formed each wall. This man,
Who stole roses and hyacinth
For his yard, would stand there
With eyes closed and fists balled,
Laboring over a simple word, almost
Redeemed by what he tried to say.

Yusef Komunyakaa

Friday, January 25, 2013

I need help

"Today I woke up to discover I have become a ghost. I have disappeared. I come and go in public, in broad daylight - crossing streets against traffic, slipping in and out of nearly closed subway doors - never once getting handed a supermarket circular, discount offer, or trial membership to a gym. I have fallen off the radar. No one makes eye contact. Not with me. I am invisible. I walk among the living but exist on a different plane. Distanced, as if I am at a remove. Or rather, as if I am as if. Imaginary.

The sensation is strange. Not to feel nothing, but to feel like nothing. I am light and cold. I can feel the wind blow through my empty veins. I do not exert enough gravity to keep my feet on the ground. So I hover, suspended. I am somewhere between now and when, between here and just beyond where. I am halfway there. I have had enough. More than enough. But I have tried and failed to go the last mile. I have stood at the edge of the subway platform leaning into the oncoming light. And stepped back. Because I am a coward. I need help. With my exit."

Page 243, 'Too Bright to Hear, Too Loud to See', Juliann Garey

Thursday, January 24, 2013


"Unequal love", he said. That's what really killed him. That she loved him less than he loved her. He'd rather have not been loved at all, than loved less, to be the only one suffering with the unbearable intensity of his love, while hers left her calm and composed.

cats and you and me

the Egyptians loved the cat
were often entombed with it
instead of with the child
and never with the dog.

and now
good people with
the souls of cats
are very few

yet here and now many
fine cats
with great style
lounge about
in the alleys of
the universe.

our argument tonight
whatever it was
no matter
how unhappy
it made us

remember that
there is a
adjusting to the
space of itself
with a calm
and delightful

in other words
magic persists with
or without us
no matter how
we may try to
destroy it
and I would
destroy the last chance for
that this might always

Charles Bukowski


"The terrible master eventually defeated David Foster Wallace, which makes it easy to forget that none of the cloudlessly sane and true things he had to say about life in 2005 are any less sane or true today, however tragic the truth now seems.

This Is Water does nothing to lessen the pain of Wallace’s defeat. What it does is remind us of his strength and goodness and decency — the parts of him the terrible master could never defeat, and never will."

This Is Water: David Foster Wallace on Life


"The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.

That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing."

David Foster Wallace

From This is Water: David Foster Wallace on Life

January Drought

It needn’t be tinder, this juncture of the year,  
a cigarette second guessed from car to brush.  

The woods’ parchment is given  
to cracking asunder the first puff of wind.  
Yesterday a big sycamore came across First  
and Hawthorne and is there yet.  

The papers say it has to happen,  
if just as dribs and drabs on the asbestos siding.  
But tonight is buckets of stars as hard and dry as dimes.  

A month’s supper things stacks in the sink.  
Tea brews from water stoppered in the bath  
and any thirst carried forward is quenched thinking you,  
piece by piece, an Xmas gift hidden  
and found weeks after: the ribbon, the box.  

I have reservoirs of want enough  
to freeze many nights over.

Conor O'Callaghan

Praise Song for My Mother

You were
water to me
deep and bold and fathoming

You were moon's eye to me
pull and grained and mantling

You were
sunrise to me
rise and warm and streaming

You were
the fishes gill to me
the flame tree's spread to me
the crab's leg/the fried plantain smell
replenishing, replenishing

Go to your wide futures, you said.

Grace Nichols

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Something solid to end the fall

"When I was sixteen, our neighbour, Mrs.Bronfman, threw herself out the window of her tenth-story apartment. Hannah and I heard her body hit the sidewalk. But, since we didn't know that the sound - almost like a gun going off - was Mrs. Bronfman's life ending, we continued to argue about which one of us was going to get stuck scrubbing the huge cast-iron pot grandpa had used to make chicken paprikash.

...I think about Mrs. Bronfman a lot lately. I think I can safely say she didn't give a shit where she was buried or whether anyone came over with casseroles or Bundt cakes. I think she probably just wanted something to push against. Something solid to end the fall."

Page 102, 'Too bright to hear, Too loud to see', Juliann Garey

Variations on the Word 'Sleep'

I would like to watch you sleeping,
which may not happen.
I would like to watch you,
sleeping. I would like to sleep
with you, to enter
your sleep as its smooth dark wave
slides over my head

and walk with you through that lucent
wavering forest of bluegreen leaves
with its watery sun and three moons
towards the cave where you must descend,
towards your worst fear

I would like to give you the silver
branch, the small white flower, the one
word that will protect you
from the grief at the center
of your dream, from the grief
at the center. I would like to follow
you up the long stairway
again and become
the boat that would row you back
carefully, a flame
in two cupped hands
to where your body lies
beside me, and you enter
it as easily as breathing in

I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed
and that necessary.

Margaret Atwood

What you worship

“Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.”

Remembering Aaron Swartz: David Foster Wallace on the Meaning of Life
by Maria Popova

Monday, January 21, 2013


To believe you are magnificent. 
And gradually to discover that you are not magnificent.
Enough labor for one human life.

Czeslaw Milosz, 'Road-side Dog' (translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Robert Hass)

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Ingemar is a 12 year old boy who has his own means of coping with all the injustices that life heaps upon him:

"It's not bad if you think about it. It could've been worse.
Just think how that poor guy ended up who got a new kidney in Boston. He got his name in all the papers, but he died just the same.

And what about Laika, the Space Dog?
They put her in a Sputnik and sent her into space. They attached wires to her heart and brain to see how she felt. I don't think she delt so good.

She spun around up there for five months till her doggie bag was empty. She starved to death.

It's important to have things like that to compare with."

from the Swedish film " My life as a dog" by Lasse Halstorm

A Page in Your Name

Your name can be bitten like an apple.
It smells like Manila mango and mandarin orange.
It leaves my tongue purple like chagalapolin
and the escobilla.

I crush it and breathe mint.
As I separate it a pomegranate explodes.

It grows to the height of a sugarcane flower, it's the vine
that climbs the fence or reaches to the edge of the patio,
persecutor of coral snakes, watermelons, and verdolagas.

If I shake it, I hear the water that fills it.
If I give it to the mad man of the house, he will return to the top
of the hill and make it a flute.

To free me from darkness I keep it in a jar.
With the light it makes it illuminates this page.

Francisco Hernández
Translated by Marlon L. Fick
Prairie Schooner. Volume 76, Number 2.Summer 2002

Phaedrus, you of the insane lostness

It's snowing dry leaves yet again, O Phaedrus. Sunspeckled, turning-wurning small leaves that turn from shade to snow.

And as we walk pulling our cloaks tight around our winter selves, the light pouring in without the protecting canopy reveals all our empty spaces sans mercy, O Phaedrus, you of the insane lostness....

Dec 23rd, 2004


A Fable

Two women with
the same claim
came to the feet of
the wise king. Two women,
but only one baby.
The king knew
someone was lying.
What he said was
Let the child be
cut in half; that way
no one will go
empty-handed. He
drew his sword.
Then, of the two
women, one
renounced her share:
this was
the sign, the lesson.

you saw your mother
torn between two daughters:
what could you do
to save her but be
willing to destroy
yourself— she would know
who was the rightful child,
the one who couldn't bear
to divide the mother.

Louise Gluck

Something moving away from you

There Is No Word

There isn’t a word for walking out of the grocery store
with a gallon jug of milk in a plastic sack
that should have been bagged in double layers

so that before you are even out the door
you feel the weight of the jug dragging
the bag down, stretching the thin

plastic handles longer and longer
and you know it’s only a matter of time until
bottom suddenly splits.

There is no single, unimpeachable word
for that vague sensation of something
moving away from you

as it exceeds its elastic capacity
- which is too bad, because that is the word
I would like to use to describe standing on the street

chatting with an old friend
as the awareness grows in me that he is
no longer a friend, but only an acquaintance,

a person with whom I never made the effort—
until this moment, when as we say goodbye
I think we share a feeling of relief,

a recognition that we have reached
the end of a pretense,
though to tell the truth

what I already am thinking about
is my gratitude for language—
how it will stretch just so much and no farther;

how there are some holes it will not cover up;
how it will move, if not inside, then
around the circumference of almost anything—

how, over the years, it has given me
back all the hours and days, all the
plodding love and faith, all the

misunderstandings and secrets
I have willingly poured into it.

Tony Hoagland

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Down by the Station, Early in the Morning

It all wears out. I keep telling myself this, but
I can never believe me, though others do. Even things do.
And the things they do. Like the rasp of silk, or a certain
Glottal stop in your voice as you are telling me how you
Didn’t have time to brush your teeth but gargled with Listerine
Instead. Each is a base one might wish to touch once more
Before dying.

There’s the moment years ago in the station in Venice,
The dark rainy afternoon in fourth grade, and the shoes then,
Made of a dull crinkled brown leather that no longer exists.
And nothing does, until you name it, remembering, and even then
It may not have existed, or existed only as a result
Of the perceptual dysfunction you’ve been carrying around for years.

The result is magic, then terror, then pity at the emptiness,
Then air gradually bathing and filling the emptiness as it leaks,
Emoting all over something that is probably mere reportage
But nevertheless likes being emoted on. And so each day
Culminates in merriment as well as a deep shock like an electric one,

As the wrecking ball bursts through the wall with the bookshelves
Scattering the works of famous authors as well as those
Of more obscure ones, and books with no author, letting in
Space, and an extraneous babble from the street
Confirming the new value the hollow core has again, the light
From the lighthouse that protects as it pushes us away.

John Ashbery, from ‘A Wave’

From here.

There Are Things to be Said

There are things to be said. No doubt.
And in one way or another
they will be said. But to whom tell.

The silences? With whom share them
now? For a moment the sky is
empty and then there was a bird.

Cid Corman

Late Self-Portrait by Rembrandt

The dog, dead for years, keeps coming back in the dream.
We look at each other there with the old joy.

It was always her gift to bring me into the present-
Which sleeps, changes, awakens, dresses, leaves.

Happiness and unhappiness
differ as a bucket hammered from gold differs from one of pressed tin,
this painting proposes.

Each carries the same water, it says.

Jane Hirshfield, 'After'

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Plain Sense of Things

After the leaves have fallen, we return
To a plain sense of things. It is as if
We had come to an end of the imagination,
Inanimate in an inert savoir.

It is difficult even to choose the adjective
For this blank cold, this sadness without cause.
The great structure has become a minor house.
No turban walks across the lessened floors.

The greenhouse never so badly needed paint.
The chimney is fifty years old and slants to one side.
A fantastic effort has failed, a repetition
In a repetitiousness of men and flies.

Yet the absence of the imagination had
Itself to be imagined. The great pond,
The plain sense of it, without reflections, leaves,
Mud, water like dirty glass, expressing silence

Of a sort, silence of a rat come out to see,
The great pond and its waste of the lilies, all this
Had to be imagined as an inevitable knowledge,
Required, as a necessity requires.

Wallace Stevens

Only the Truly Lost

it was like a church in there
only the truly lost
sat in bars
on tuesday mornings
at 8:30 am....... beads and bones
the universe in bent.
a cop rides his bike behind me,
the day has truly begun.

Only the Truly Lost
Charles Bukowski

Charles Bukowski, Poems and Letter Manuscripts:

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


I tend the mobile now
like an injured bird
We text, text, text
our significant words
I re-read your first,
your second, your third
looking for the small xx
feeling absurd.

The codes we send
arrive with a broken chord.
I try to picture your hands
their image is blurred.
Nothing my thumbs press
will ever be heard.

Carol Ann Duffy


When I get up he has been long at work,
his brush limber against the house.
Seeing him on his ladder under the eaves,
I look back on myself asleep in the dream
I could not carry awake. Sleep
inside a house that is being painted,
whole lifetimes now only the familiar cast
of morning light over the prayer plant.
This “not remembering” is something new
of where you have been.

What was settled or unsettled in sleep
stays there. But your house
under this steady arm is leaving itself
and you see this gradual surface of
new light covering your sleep
has the greater power.
You think now you felt brush strokes or
the space between them, a motion
bearing down on you—accumulation
of stars, each night of them
arranging over the roofs of entire cities.

His careful strokes whiten the web,
the swirl of woodgrain blotted
out like a breath stopped
at the heart. Nothing has changed
you say, faithlessly. But something has
cleansed you past recognition. When
you stand near his ladder looking up
he does not acknowledge you,
and as from daylight in a dream you see
your house has passed from you
into the blessed hands of others.

This is ownership, you think, arriving
in the heady afterlife of paint smell.
A deep opening goes on in you.
Some paint has dropped onto your shoulder
as though light concealed an unsuspected
weight. You think it has fallen through
you. You think you have agreed to this,
what has been done with your life, willingly.

Tess Gallagher, 1984

Five years

The Teller

He told me, maybe thirty years ago,
he'd met a rawboned Eskimo named Jack
while filming polar bears on an ice floe.
Jack went out fishing in his sealskin kayak
but the current carried him so far off course
that when a Russian freighter rescued him
they signed him as a mate to Singapore.
Five years at sea it took to get back home.

The year an Englishman gave him his name.
The year of hustling on a Bali beach.
The year of opium in Viet Nam.
The year he pined for snow. The year he searched
for any vessel that would turn toward Nome.
The man who told me? I tell you, I don't know.

David Mason

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Art of Poetry

To gaze at a river made of time and water
and remember Time is another river.
To know we stray like a river
and our faces vanish like water.

To feel that waking is another dream
that dreams of not dreaming and that the death
we fear in our bones is the death
that every night we call a dream.

To see in every day and year a symbol
of all the days of man and his years,
and convert the outrage of the years
into a music, a sound, and a symbol.

To see in death a dream, in the sunset
a golden sadness, such is poetry,
humble and immortal, poetry,
returning, like dawn and the sunset.

Sometimes at evening there's a face
that sees us from the deeps of a mirror.
Art must be that sort of mirror,
disclosing to each of us his face.

They say Ulysses, wearied of wonders,
wept with love on seeing Ithaca,
humble and green. Art is that Ithaca,
a green eternity, not wonders.

Art is endless like a river flowing,
passing, yet remaining, a mirror to the same
inconstant Heraclitus, who is the same
and yet another, like the river flowing.

Jorge Luis Borges

Monday, January 14, 2013

Football, and eating lunch alone

This is absolutely brilliant, read the full excerpt from the link below. It is such a common thing in most companies to find people eating alone, and no one talking to them. I have tried to change it, now I eat alone and accept that exclusion is the norm, even if you sit next to each other for years. I try not to make people uncomfortable by breaking unwritten codes. Above all, you should always know where you are not wanted.


" 'You happen to see another boy off by himself, go sit with him or bring him over to sit with you and your friends,' Biff said. 'I don't care if you know him or not. I don't care if he's the best athlete in the school or the so-called nerd with his head always down in the books. You go get him and you make him feel wanted, you make him feel special. Simple, right? Well, that's being a man built for others.'

Season of Life: A Football Star, a Boy, a Journey to Manhood
Jeffrey Marx by Simon & Schuster

You become what you lose

"...The secret of life, he said,
is love. You become what you lose."

From "Secret of Life" by Diana Der-Hovanessian

Eternal release, while living

"The most widely revered Oriental personification of such a world-affirming attitude, transcending opposites, is that figure of boundless compassion, the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, known to China and Japan as Kuan Yin, Kwannon. For, in contrast to the Buddha, who at the conclusion of his lifetime of teaching passed away, never to return, this infinitely compassionate one, who renounced for himself eternal release to remain forever in this vortex of rebirths, represents through all time the mystery of a knowledge of eternal release while living.

The liberation thus taught is, paradoxically, not of escape from the vortex, but of full participation voluntarily in its sorrows, moved by compassion; for indeed, through selflessness one is released from self, and with release from self there is release from desire and fear. And as the Bodhisattva is thus released, so too are we, according to the measure of our experience of the perfection of compassion."

Page 155, 'The Mythology of Love', from 'Myths to Live By', Joseph Campbell

I think the poems look after me

From an ex-colleague who's on a writing fellowship in the US:

"This is the outside of the house that my hosts, City of Asylum, Pittsburgh have given me to live while I am here. The walls are covered with the poems of an exiled Chinese poet who lived in the house for a few years. Sometimes when i open the door I find a tourist taking pictures. I love this house. I think the poems look after me and keep me warm on really cold days."

This made me cry.

The Sonnets to Orpheus, Part Two, XII

Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
where everything shines as it disappears.
The artist, when sketching, loves nothing so much
as the curve of the body as it turns away.

What locks itself in sameness has congealed.
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
What turns hard becomes rigid
and is easily shattered.

Pour yourself out like a fountain.
Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.

Every happiness is the child of a separation
it did not think it could survive. And Daphne, becoming a laurel,
dares you to become the wind.

Rainer Maria Rilke

To be carried, where all new time is stored

New Space
I lived where the day's light was
a clean and open transparency
so clear I should see into level distances
and, from hilltops,
know every fluttering wing,
every leaf down to the sprawling sea.

I should know every sky glow
and be dreaming in
the white sheeting of moonlight -
moonlight's wide sheeting.

I should be well washed
by clean green spaces and the gargle
of clear and stony streams, invisible
on sheer bird-throated land.

I should sway and echo with
the ancient sea's voice
and its depths, pregnant with life
more varied than the air holds -

longing to stand on the feet of a passing day
and be carried
where all new time is stored.

James Berry

The world just pours it out

"In the morning I was woken early by the chromatic bell of the Orthodox Church.

I unlatched the shutters. The light was as intense as a love affair. I was blinded, delighted, not just because it was warm and wonderful, but because nature measures nothing. Nobody needs this much sunlight. Nobody needs droughts, volcanoes, monsoons, tornadoes either, but we get them, because our world is as extravagant as a world can be. We are the ones obsessed by measurement. The world just pours it out."

Page 196, 'Some Wounds', from 'Lighthousekeeping', Jeanette Winterson

There is only paying attention

It is not what you first think

It is not what you first think.
There is no effort of will,
no firm resolve in the face
of this thing called living.

There is only paying attention
to the quiet each morning,
while you hold your cup
in the cool air

and then
that moment
you choose
to spread your
love like a cloth
upon the table &
invite the whole day
in again.

Brian Andreas

Now, he said

One or Two Things (excerpt)

The god of dirt
came up to me many times and said
so many wise and delectable things, I lay
on the grass listening
to his dog voice,
crow voice,
frog voice; now,
he said, and now,
and never once mentioned forever.

Mary Oliver

Hundreds of ways

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened.
Don't open the door to the study and begin reading.
Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

Jelaluddin Rumi

Music and Mental Illness

Conductor with bipolar disorder, on music and mental illness

"...Now he hopes to use his talent to help others. He conducts the ME2 orchestra in Vermont where amateur musicians coping with mental illness come together to create music without worrying about the stigma."

Just one time

100 Butterflies (excerpt)

Where you are going
and the place you stay
come to the same thing.
What you long for
and what you've left behind
are as useless as your name.

Just one time, walk out
into the field and look
at that towering oak --
an acorn still beating at its heart.

Peter Levitt

Sunday, January 13, 2013

If you cut me I could shine

On Turning Ten

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.

Billy Collins

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The longing to feel

"Reportage is violence. Violence to the spirit. Violence to the emotional empathy that should quicken in you and me when face to face we meet with pain. How many defeated among our own do we step over and push aside on our way home to watch the evening news?

'Terrible' you said at Somalia, Bosnia, Ethiopia, Russia, China, the Indian earthquake, the American floods, and then you watched a quiz show or a film because there's nothing you can do, and the fear and the unease that such powerlessness brings, trails in its wash, a dead arrogance for the beggar on the bridge that you pass every day. Hasn't he got legs and a cardboard box to sleep in?

And still we long to feel.

What's left? Romance. Love's counterfeit free of charge to all. Fall into my arms and the world with its sorrows will shrink up into a tinsel ball. This is the favorite antidote to the cold robot life of faraway perils and nearby apathy. Apathy. From the Greek A Pathos. Want of feeling. But, don't we know, only find the right boy, only find the right girl, and feeling will be yours. My colleagues tell me I need such a remedy."

Page 14, 'Handel', from 'Art & Lies', Jeanette Winterson

Friday, January 4, 2013

Out of touch

"After the Talking Bird, the nice man at the Tavistok Clinic kept asking me why I stole books and birds, though I had only ever stolen one of each.

I told him it was about meaning, and he suggested, very politely, that it might be a kind of psychosis.

'You think meaning is a psychosis?'

'An obsession with meaning, at the expense of the ordinary shape of life, might be understood as psychosis, yes.'

'I do not accept that life has an ordinary shape, or that there is anything ordinary about life at all. We make it ordinary, but it is not.'

He twiddled his pencil. His nails were very clean.

'I am only asking questions.'

'So am I.'

He wrote on a piece of paper with his pencil: Psychosis: out of touch with reality.

Since then, I have been trying to find out what reality is, so that I can touch it."

Page 195, 'Some Wounds', from 'Lighthousekeeping', Jeanette Winterson

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year Dusk

Two black figures on the bridge
Are old wooden posts
What else have I mistaken
In the year just closed.

Sonam Chhoki

Finals Week

That the math teacher hung himself was no surprise,
and that he waited till the morning of the final exam

was to his credit. He left his students in the proctor's
capable hands. The surprise was to see which of the boys

turned up outside the city hospital to watch him gurneyed
to the idling car that was to return him to his country town.

Not the boys from the front row in class, who smiled
with respect and never forgot the quadratic equation,

no; it was the boys who threw flour bombs behind his back,
flew paper airplanes with sewing needle tips in class,

boys who carved their names in desks, who wrote poetry
in bathroom stalls, who never got an answer right in their life.

Standing round the circle drive at the back entrance
during finals week, boys who know what it is to fail.

Mark Mullee

Here comes the cat


Make much of something small.
The pouring-out of tea,
a drying flower's shadow on the wall
from last week's sad bouquet.
A fact: it isn't summer any more.

Say that December sun
is pitiless, but crystalline
and strikes like a bell.
Say it plays colours like a glockenspiel.
It shows the dust as well,

the elemental sediment
your broom has missed,
and lights each grain of sugar spilled
upon the tabletop, beside
pistachio shells, peel of a clementine.

Slippers and morning papers on the floor,
and wafts of iron heat from rumbling radiators,
can this be all? No, look — here comes the cat,
with one ear inside out.
Make much of something small.

Robyn Sarah

I hold all these

"An old book on the poisons
of madness, a map
of forest monasteries,
a chronicle brought across
the sea in Sanskrit shlokas.
I hold all these
but you have become
a ghost to me.

I hold only your shadow
since those days I drove
your nature away.

A falcon who became a coward.

I hold you the way astronomers
draw constellations for each other
in the market of wisdom

placing shells
on a dark blanket
saying 'these
are the heavens'

calculating the movement
of the great stars.

ix, 'The Nine Sentiments, Historical Illustrations on Rock and Book and Leaf'
Page 39, 'Handwriting', Poems by Michael Ondaatje

And yet, there is only one great thing

And I thought over again
My small adventures
As with a shore-wind I drifted out
In my kayak
And thought I was in danger
My fears,
Those small ones
That I thought so big
For all the vital things
I had to get and to reach
And yet, there is only
One great thing,
The only thing:
To live to see in huts and on journeys
The great day that dawns,
And the light that fills the world.

Traditional Inuit Tribal song



not much chance,
completely cut loose from
he was a young man
riding a bus
through North Carolina
on the way to somewhere
and it began to snow
and the bus stopped
at a little cafe
in the hills
and the passengers
he sat at the counter
with the others,
he ordered and the
food arived.
the meal was
and the
the waitress was
unlike the women
he had
she was unaffected,
there was a natural
humor which came
from her.
the fry cook said
crazy things.
the dishwasher.
in back,
laughed, a good
the young man watched
the snow through the
he wanted to stay
in that cafe
the curious feeling
swam through him
that everything
that it would always
stay beautiful
then the bus driver
told the passengers
that it was time
to board.
the young man
thought, I'll just sit
here, I'll just stay
but then
he rose and followed
the others into the
he found his seat
and looked at the cafe
through the bus
then the bus moved
off, down a curve,
downward, out of
the hills.
the young man
looked straight
he heard the other
of other things,
or they were
attempting to
they had not
the young man
put his head to
one side,
closed his
pretended to
there was nothing
else to do-
just to listen to the
sound of the
the sound of the
in the

Charles Bukowski

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