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

Blog Archive