Saturday, June 28, 2014

Today I let the rain soak through my shirt

In the Mushroom Summer
David Mason

Colorado turns Kyoto in a shower,
mist in the pines so thick the crows delight
(or seem to), winging in obscurity.

The ineffectual panic of a squirrel
who chattered at my passing gave me pause
to watch his Ponderosa come and go—
long needles scratching cloud. I'd summited
but knew it only by the wildflower meadow,
the muted harebells, paintbrush, gentian,
scattered among the locoweed and sage.

Today my grief abated like water soaking
underground, its scar a little path
of twigs and needles winding ahead of me
downhill to the next bend. Today I let
the rain soak through my shirt and was unharmed.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The deepest well

“The point is, not to resist the flow. You go up when you're supposed to go up and down when you're supposed to go down. When you're supposed to go up, find the highest tower and climb to the top. When you're supposed to go down, find the deepest well and go down to the bottom. When there's no flow, stay still. If you resist the flow, everything dries up. If everything dries up, the world is darkness.”

Haruki Murakami, 'The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle'

Photo from here.


The way the dog trots out the front door
every morning
without a hat or an umbrella,
without any money
or the keys to her doghouse
never fails to fill the saucer of my heart
with milky admiration.

Who provides a finer example
of a life without encumbrance -
Thoreau in his curtainless hut
with a single plate, a single spoon?
Gandhi with his staff and his holy diapers?

Off she goes into the material world
with nothing but her brown coat
and her modest blue collar,
following only her wet nose,
the twin portals of her steady breathing,
followed only by the plume of her tail.

If only she did not shove the cat aside
every morning
and eat all his food
what a model of self-containment she
would be,
what a paragon of earthly detachment.
If only she were not so eager
for a rub behind the ears,
so acrobatic in her welcomes,
if only I were not her god.

Billy Collins, 'Sailing Alone Around the Room'

Being the music, roaring

Charles Bukowski

the illusion is that you are simply
reading this poem.
the reality is that this is
more than a
this is a beggar's knife.
this is a tulip.
this is a soldier marching
through Madrid.
this is you on your
death bed.
this is Li Po laughing
this is not a god-damned
this is a horse asleep.
a butterfly in
your brain.
this is the devil's
you are not reading this
on a page.
the page is reading
feel it?
it's like a cobra.
it's a hungry eagle circling the room.

this is not a poem. poems are dull,
they make you sleep.

these words force you
to a new

you have been blessed, you have been pushed into a
blinding area of

the elephant dreams
with you
the curve of space
bends and

you can die now.
you can die now as
people were meant to
hearing the music,
being the music,

Remember the wheat stalk


Let a stalk of wheat
be your witness
to every difficult day.

Since it was a flame
before it was a plant,
since it was courage
before it was grain,
since it was determination
before it was growth,
and, above all, since it was prayer
before it was fruition,
it has nothing to point to
but the sky.

Remember the incredibly gentle wheat stalk
which holds its countless arrows fixed
to shoot from the bowstring --
you, standing in the same position
where the wind holds it.

Ishihara Yoshiro, Translated by N. Koriyama and E. Lueders, 'Like Underground Water'

Ishihara Yoshiro (1915-1977) A student of German and a Christian convert, he began to write poetry seriously after his experience as a prisoner of war: captured by the Soviet Army in Manchuria, he spent eight years in Siberia, released only by the general amnesty given at Stalin's death. He began to write at that time, he said, because he wanted to examine what it means to be a human being.

But wonderful

"Go to the pine if you want to learn about the pine, or to the bamboo if you want to learn about the bamboo. And in doing so, you must leave your subjective preoccupation with yourself. Otherwise you impose yourself on the object and do not learn. Your poetry issues of its own accord when you and the object have become one - when you have plunged deep enough into the object to see something like a hidden glimmering there. However well-phrased your poetry may be, if your feeling is not natural - if the object and yourself are separate - then your poetry is not true poetry but merely your subjective counterfeit. Submerge yourself into the object until its intrinsic nature becomes apparent, stimulating poetic impulse."

Matsuo Basho, 'Sanzoshi'


Good morning, sparrow...
Writing on my clean veranda
With your dewy feet.


The old messenger
Proffering his plum-branch first…
Only then the letter.


Ashes, my burnt hut
But wonderful,
The cherry blooming on my hill.

Tachibana Hokushi

I scooped up the moon
In my water bucket...
And spilled it on the grass.



Old weary willows....
I thought how long the road would be
When you went away


The Deer

You never know.
The body of night opens
like a river, it drifts upward like white smoke,

like so many wrappings of mist.
And on the hillside two deer are walking along
just as though this wasn't

the owned, tilled earth of today
but the past.
I did not see them the next day, or the next,

but in my mind's eye -
there they are, in the long grass,
like two sisters.

This is the earnest work. Each of us is given
only so many mornings to do it -
to look around and love

the oily fur of our lives,
the hoof and the grass-stained muzzle.
Days I don't do this

I feel the terror of idleness,
like a red thirst.
Death isn't just an idea.

When we die the body breaks open
like a river;
the old body goes on, climbing the hill.

Mary Oliver, 'House of Light'

To reteach a thing its loveliness

Saint Francis And The Sow

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don't flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;

though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;

as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow

began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart

to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

© 1980 by Galway Kinnell


Ursula Le Guin

What little we have ever understood
is like an offering we make beside the sea.
It is pure worship when pursued
as its own end, to find out. Mystery,
the undiminishable silent flood,
stretches on out from where we pray
round the clear altar flame. The god
accepts the sacrifice and turns away.

Free of all things...

White butterfly
darting among pinks -
whose spirit?


Quietening the mind
Deep in the forest
Water drips.


In the midst of the plain
Sings the skylark
Free of all things...



Butterfly on a swaying grass
That's all...but exquisite."

Nishiyama Soin (1605-1682

Here, here is the world

....If one day it happens
you find yourself with someone you love
in a café at one end
of the Pont Mirabeau, at the zinc bar
where white wine stands in upward opening glasses,

and if you commit then, as we did, the error
of thinking,
one day all this will only be memory,

as you stand
at this end of the bridge which arcs,
from love, you think, into enduring love,
learn to reach deeper
into the sorrows
to come – to touch
the almost imaginary bones
under the face, to hear under the laughter
the wind crying across the black stones. Kiss
the mouth
which tells you, here,
here is the world. This mouth. This laughter. These temple bones.

The still undanced cadence of vanishing.

from 'The Book of Nightmares' by Galway Kinnell

Saturday, June 14, 2014

You swell into survival, you take up the whole day

Over And Over Tune

You could grow into it,
that sense of living like a dog,
loyal to being on your own in the fur of your skin,
able to exist only for the sake of existing.

Nothing inside your head lasting long enough for you to hold onto,
you watch your own thoughts leap across your own synapses and disappear --
small boats in a wind,
fliers in all that blue,
the swish of an arm backed with feathers,
a dress talking in a corner,
and then poof,
your mind clean as a dog's,
your body big as the world,
important with accident --
blood or a limp, fur and paws.

You swell into survival,
you take up the whole day,
you're all there is,
everything else is
not you, is every passing glint, is
shadows brought to you by wind,
passing into a bird's cheep, replaced by a
rabbit skittering across a yard,
a void you yourself fall into.

You could make this beautiful,
but you don't need to,
living is this fleshy side of the bone,
going on is this medicinal smell of the sun --
no dog ever tires of seeing his life

keep showing up at the back door
even as a rotting bone with a bad smell;
feet tottering, he dreams of it,
wakes and licks no matter what.

Ioanna Carlsen

Each day nuzzle your way

Starting with Little Things

Love the earth like a mole,
fur-near. Nearsighted,
hold close the clods,
their fine-print headlines.
Pat them with soft hands --

Like spades, but pink and loving; they
break rock, nudge giants aside,
affable plow.
Fields are to touch;
each day nuzzle your way.

Tomorrow the world.

William Stafford, 'The Way It Is'

Saturday, June 7, 2014


I used to do this as a child, make paper boats and send them into big muddy rain water puddles and push them with a stick close to drowning beetles, who'd crawl into them immediately. The beetle-ship would then be slowly pushed ashore before it disintegrated in the water.  I would wait until all the beetles crawled out and made their way to higher grounds. I guess my life hasn't entirely been in vain, though it seems that way most of the time.

Tarantulas on the Lifebuoy
Thomas Lux

For some semitropical reason  
when the rains fall  
relentlessly they fall

into swimming pools, these otherwise  
bright and scary
arachnids. They can swim
a little, but not for long

and they can’t climb the ladder out.
They usually drown—but  
if you want their favor,
if you believe there is justice,  
a reward for not loving

the death of ugly
and even dangerous (the eel, hog snake,  
rats) creatures, if

you believe these things, then  
you would leave a lifebuoy
or two in your swimming pool at night.

And in the morning  
you would haul ashore
the huddled, hairy survivors

and escort them
back to the bush, and know,
be assured that at least these saved,  
as individuals, would not turn up

again someday
in your hat, drawer,
or the tangled underworld

of your socks, and that even—
when your belief in justice
merges with your belief in dreams—
they may tell the others

in a sign language  
four times as subtle
and complicated as man’s

that you are good,  
that you love them,
that you would save them again.

You never ask about my garden

‘You never ask about my garden,’ she says. I look at her questioningly but I think I know where she is coming from. ‘You have your books, I have my plants,’ she smiles. ‘I ask about your books but you never ask about my plants.’

‘I do, I keep listening to your tales about them, all the new plants that you are growing,’ I say.

‘But you never want to see my garden,’ she says. She pauses for a few seconds before continuing. ‘I am not into books like you are but I like to know about them because I like to know your mind.’ She stops.

The subtext hangs dangerously in the air between us: don’t you want to know my mind? I think about how to respond. If I apologize, I admit to a mistake but have I done something wrong? Am I not interested in other aspects of her life? If I don’t apologize I widen this gulf that’s opened between us. ‘It’s alright, I’m being difficult,’ she smiles and the tension lifts.

But what she tells me lingers. Every little thing she does is magic. When she towels her hair or when she’s cutting vegetables, I cannot take my eyes off of her. But I don’t ask about her garden, the single most important creative act of her life.

What does this say about me? More importantly, what is she to me? Deep down, that second question is what she probably wants answered too. But she hasn't framed the question that way. Not yet.

Philip John, Labyrinths,

Laden branches, bright rivers

Seeing, in Three Pieces
Somehow we must see
through the shimmering cloth
of daily life, its painted,
evasive facings of what to eat,
to wear? Which work
matters? Is a bird more
or less than a man?

There have been people
who helped the world. Named
or not named. They weren't interested
in what might matter,
doubled over as they were
with compassion. Laden
branches, bright rivers.

When a bulb burns out
we just change it--
it's not the bulb we love;
it's the light.

Kate Knapp, 'Wind Somewhere and Shade'

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