Sunday, November 30, 2014




I asked the professors who teach the meaning of life
to tell me what is happiness.
And I went to famous executives
who boss the work of thousands of men.
They all shook their heads and gave me a smile
as though I was trying to fool with them

And then one Sunday afternoon
I wandered out along the Desplaines river
And I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees
with their women and children
and a keg of beer and an accordion.

Carl Sandburg

Monday, November 24, 2014

For people who invent pain, terrified of blankness

For people who have nowhere to go in the afternoons,
For people who the evening banishes to small rooms,
For good people, people huge as the world.
For people who give themselves away forgetting
What it is they are giving,
And who are never reminded.

For people who cannot help being kind
To the hand bunched in pain against them.
For inarticulate people,
People who invent their own ugliness,
Who invent pain, terrified of blankness;
For people who stand forever at the same junction
Waiting for the chances that have passed.

And for those who lie in ambush for themselves,
Who invent toughness as a kind of disguise,
Who, lost in self-defeating worlds,
Carry remorse inside them like a plague;
And for the self-seeking self lost among them
I hazard a poem.

 Brian Patten

Saturday, November 22, 2014

From blossom to blossom

"There's a shadow in your ultrasound. We'd like to investigate."
"You've come alone?"
"That's alright. Let's start."

*             *             *             *
"..There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,

from blossom to blossom, to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom."

Li-Young Lee, 'From Blossoms'

From Blossom to Blossom:

Friday, November 21, 2014

Who would call in the middle of the night?

Visitors from Abroad
Louise Gluck


Sometime after I had entered
that time of   life
people prefer to allude to in others
but not in themselves, in the middle of the night
the phone rang. It rang and rang
as though the world needed me,
though really it was the reverse.

I lay in bed, trying to analyze
the ring. It had
my mother’s persistence and my father’s
pained embarrassment.

When I picked it up, the line was dead.
Or was the phone working and the caller dead?
Or was it not the phone, but the door perhaps?


My mother and father stood in the cold
on the front steps. My mother stared at me,
a daughter, a fellow female.
You never think of us, she said.

We read your books when they reach heaven.
Hardly a mention of us anymore, hardly a mention of  your sister.
And they pointed to my dead sister, a complete stranger,
tightly wrapped in my mother’s arms.

But for us, she said, you wouldn’t exist.
And your sister — you have your sister’s soul.
After which they vanished, like Mormon missionaries.


The street was white again,
all the bushes covered with heavy snow
and the trees glittering, encased with ice.

I lay in the dark, waiting for the night to end.
It seemed the longest night I had ever known,
longer than the night I was born.

I write about you all the time, I said aloud.
Every time I say “I,” it refers to you.


Outside the street was silent.
The receiver lay on its side among the tangled sheets,
its peevish throbbing had ceased some hours before.

I left it as it was;
its long cord drifting under the furniture.

I watched the snow falling,
not so much obscuring things
as making them seem larger than they were.

Who would call in the middle of the night?
Trouble calls, despair calls.
Joy is sleeping like a baby.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Dying Is an art, like everything else

Is an art, like everything else.  
I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.  
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I’ve a call.

It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.
It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.  
It’s the theatrical

Comeback in broad day
To the same place, the same face, the same brute  
Amused shout:

‘A miracle!’
That knocks me out.  
There is a charge

For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge  
For the hearing of my heart——
It really goes.

And there is a charge, a very large charge  
For a word or a touch  
Or a bit of blood

Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.  

'Lady Lazarus', Sylvia Plath

Sunday, November 16, 2014

I'll Give You Red

I’ll give you red,
the color the Russians loved
so much they used it to make
their word for beautiful:

I’ll give you scarlet
from the epaulets of blackbirds.

Or cardinal
from the spirits threading
through a steamy green
Midwestern afternoon.

I’ll give you crimson
from the feathers the parrot
hides in his tail
and only lets us see
when he is furious.

Here is your cerise
the sad, shameful stain of cherries.

And vermilion
the bright sash of yesterday
that lingers on the horizon.

I’ll give you ruby
the color of lies
that lovers tell themselves,
the flame at the prism’s
deepest heart.

But I will keep this red
the drunken sweet damp scent
of the breeze that sweeps
over strawberry fields
in June.

Tamara Madison


Of many reasons I love you here is one

the way you write me from the gate at the airport
so I can tell you everything will be alright

so you can tell me there is a bird
trapped in the terminal      all the people
ignoring it       because they do not know
what do with it       except to leave it alone
until it scares itself to death

it makes you terribly terribly sad

You wish you could take the bird outside
and set it free or       (failing that)
call a bird-understander
to come help the bird

All you can do is notice the bird
and feel for the bird       and write
to tell me how language feels
impossibly useless

but you are wrong

You are a bird-understander
better than I could ever be
who make so many noises
and call them song

These are your own words
your way of noticing
and saying plainly
of not turning away
from hurt

you have offered them
to me       I am only
giving them back

if only I could show you
how very useless
they are not

Craig Arnold

So much is in bud

"...But we have only begun
To love the earth.

We have only begun
To imagine the fullness of life.

How could we tire of hope?
- so much is in bud.

...We have only begun to know
the power that is in us if we would join
our solitudes in the communion of struggle.

So much is unfolding that must
complete its gesture,

so much is in bud."

'Beginners', Denise Levertov

So much is in bud

Psychological androgyny & Creativity

"In all cultures, men are brought up to be “masculine” and to disregard and repress those aspects of their temperament that the culture regards as “feminine,” whereas women are expected to do the opposite.

Creative individuals to a certain extent escape this rigid gender role stereotyping. When tests of masculinity/femininity are given to young people, over and over one finds that creative and talented girls are more dominant and tough than other girls, and creative boys are more sensitive and less aggressive than their male peers.

....Psychological androgyny is a much wider concept, referring to a person’s ability to be at the same time aggressive and nurturant, sensitive and rigid, dominant and submissive, regardless of gender. A psychologically androgynous person in effect doubles his or her repertoire of responses and can interact with the world in terms of a much richer and varied spectrum of opportunities. It is not surprising that creative individuals are more likely to have not only the strengths of their own gender but those of the other one, too."

Why “Psychological Androgyny” Is Essential for Creativity
Maria Popova

The Myth of "You can be whatever you want to be"

"For Freud human life was a process of ego-building, not the quest for a fictitious inner self. Looking for your true self invites unending disappointment. If you have no specific potential, the cost of trying to bring your inner nature to fruition will be a painfully misspent existence. Few human beings are as unhappy as those who have a gift that no one wants. Anyway, who wants to spend their life hanging around waiting to be recognized? As John Ashbery wrote:

A talent for self-realisation
Will get you only so far as the vacant lot
Next to the lumber yard, where they have

The Romantic idea tells people to seek their true self. There is no such self, but that does not mean we can be anything we want to be. Talent is a gift of fortune, not something that can be chosen. Imagining that you have talent that you lack turns you into a version of the composer Salieri, whose life was poisoned by the appearance of Mozart. Salieri was not without ability. For much of his life he enjoyed a successful career. But if we accept how he has been portrayed by Pushkin and others, Salieri was consumed by the suspicion that he was himself a fake. A society of people who have been taught to be themselves cannot be other than full of fakes."

Page 110, 'The Silence of Animals, On Progress and Other Modern Myths', John Gray

Thursday, November 13, 2014

In the strange openness of your face, I'm powerless

Michael O Siadhail

As we fall into step I ask a penny for your thoughts.
'Oh, nothing,' you say, 'well, nothing so easily bought.'

Sliding into the rhythm of your silence, I almost forget
how lonely I'd been until that autumn morning we met.

At bedtime up along my childhood's stairway, tongues
of fire cast shadows. Too earnest, too highstrung.

My desire is endless: others ended when I'd only started.
Then, there was you: so whole-hog, so wholehearted.

Think of the thousands of nights and the shadows fought.
And the mornings of light. I try to read your thought.

In the strange openness of your face, I'm powerless.
Always this love. Always this infinity between us.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


This is how you live when you have a cold heart.
As I do: in shadows, trailing over cool rock,
under the great maple trees.

The sun hardly touches me.
Sometimes I see it in early spring, rising very far away.
Then leaves grow over it, completely hiding it. I feel it
glinting through the leaves, erratic,
like someone hitting the side of a glass with a metal spoon.

Living things don't all require
light in the same degree. Some of us
make our own light: a silver leaf
like a path no one can use, a shallow
lake of silver in the darkness under the great maples.

But you know this already.
You and the others who think
you live for truth and, by extension, love
all that is cold.

Louise Gluck

Theory of Memory

Long, long ago, before I was a tormented artist, afflicted with longing yet
incapable of forming durable attachments, long before this, I was a glorious
ruler uniting all of a divided country—so I was told by the fortune-teller
who examined my palm.

Great things, she said, are ahead of you, or perhaps
behind you; it is difficult to be sure.

And yet, she added, what is the difference?

Right now you are a child holding hands with a fortune-teller.
All the rest is hypothesis and dream.

Louise Gluck

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Your season is surely November


 To Spareness

You lean toward nonexistence,
but have not yet become it entirely.
         For this reason, you can still be praised.

The tree unleafing enters your dominion.
An early snowfall shows you abide in all things.

Your two dimensions are line and inclination.
Therefore desire,
though it incinders each mote of its object, itself is spare.

                                    The late paintings of Turner
prove your slender depths without limit.
         The beauty too of shakuhachi and cello.

“Winter darkness. Rain. No crickets singing.”
—You are there, pulling hard on the rope-end.

Remembering you, I remember also compassion.
I cannot explain this.
                              Nor how you live in a teabowl
or in a stone that has spent a long time in a river.
         Nor the way you at times can signal your own contradiction,
                              meaning extra, but not by much—
“Brother, can you spare a dime,” one thin man asks of another.

Any room, however cluttered, gestures toward you,

                  “Here lives this, not that”
In logic, the modest “<” sign gestures toward you.

Your season is surely November,
your fruit, persimmons ripening by coldness.

Your sound a crow cry, a bus idling at night by the roadside.

Without apparent effect,
and so you are reminded of starlight on the colors of a cow’s hide.

Your proposition, like you, is simple, of interest only to the human soul:
                  vast reach of all that is not, and still something is.

Jane Hirshfield, “To Spareness” from After. 2006

Konark, Table for One

Saturday, November 8, 2014

This is London. It is on fire.

The Burning Of The Houses

Tottenham is on fire and I work in an arts centre
where the sky is blue and I can hear birdsong
from a sound installation of birds
cooing outside my office window.

This is London. Hackney is on fire now
and Jamie is looking up from his desk.
He stops working. He tweets that he can see
people smashing up a bus. He says there is a car
being soaked in petrol. He asks if there is someone
in that car. He tells us that car has been set alight.

This is London. Croydon is on fire now
and Anna is Facebooking furiously from Manchester
calling everyone bastards for doing this.

I am watching the BBC and reading Twitter
flicking between #LondonRiot and my friends.
Sometimes you can be proud of your friends.

I remember when Bianca came to stay
and we got tickets to watch The Night
James Brown Saved Boston in the QEH.

People are getting hurt. Television isn’t going
to save us. But it’s okay now, some of my friends
are linking to videos of kittens which must mean
everyone is fine. This is London. It is on fire.

I go to bed while it is burning. I wake up
and parts of it are still burning.

Chrissy Williams
from Flying into the Bear (Happenstance, 2013)

Anthony Wilson's review, sharp and beautiful as always:

That last Friday he looked so ill

Beaver Moon - The Suicide of a Friend
Mary Oliver

When somewhere life
breaks the pane of glass,
and from every direction casual
voices are bringing you the news,
you say: I should have known.
You say: I should have been aware.

That last Friday he looked
so ill, like an old mountain-climber
lost on the white trails, listening
to the ice breaking upward, under
his worn-out shoes. You say:

I heard rumors of trouble, but after all
we all have that. You say:
What could I have done? and you go
with the rest, to bury him.

That night, you turn in your bed
to watch the moon rise, and once more
see what a small coin it is
against the darkness, and how everything else
is a mystery, and you know
nothing at all except
the moonlight is beautiful-
white rivers running together
along the bare boughs of the trees-

and somewhere, for someone, life
is becoming moment by moment

From 'Twelve Moons', Poems by Mary Oliver




A Duel and a Duet as Flamenco and Kathak Face Off

Israel Galván is the maverick of the flamenco world, a brilliantly talented, ground-breaking artist who combines the almost tragic seriousness of his art with an absurdist sense of its possibilities. Akram Khan, the kathak-trained British choreographer, is known for his fusion of that north Indian classical form with a more contemporary physical idiom, and for his collaborations with artists (Juliette Binoche, Sylvie Guillem, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui) from other dance traditions and disciplines.

“Torobaka,” a flamenco-kathak encounter between these two men, is another such collaboration for Mr. Khan, but a departure for Mr. Galván, until now a proudly solo performer.

Torobaka, trailer


Image: From Google Images

Brian Cox visits the world's biggest vacuum chamber

Brian Cox visits the world's biggest vacuum chamber - Human Universe: Episode 4 Preview - BBC Two

Friday, November 7, 2014

The indifferent sidewalk

Phone Therapy
Ellen Bass

I was relief, once, for a doctor on vacation
and got a call from a man on a window sill.
This was New York, a dozen stories up.
He was going to kill himself, he said.
I said everything I could think of.
And when nothing worked, when the guy
was still determined to slide out that window
and smash his delicate skull
on the indifferent sidewalk, “Do you think,”
I asked, “you could just postpone it
until Monday, when Dr. Lewis gets back?”

The cord that connected us—strung
under the dirty streets, the pizza parlors, taxis,
women in sneakers carrying their high heels,
drunks lying in piss—that thick coiled wire
waited for the waves of sound.

In the silence I could feel the air slip
in and out of his lungs and the moment
when the motion reversed, like a goldfish
making the turn at the glass end of its tank.
I matched my breath to his, slid
into the water and swam with him.
"Okay," he agreed.


In your extended absence, you permit me
use of earth, anticipating
some return on investment. I must report
failure in my assignment, principally
regarding the tomato plants.

I think I should not be encouraged to grow
tomatoes. Or, if I am, you should withhold
the heavy rains, the cold nights that come
so often here, while other regions get
twelve weeks of summer. All this

belongs to you: on the other hand,
I planted the seeds, I watched the first shoots
like wings tearing the soil, and it was my heart
broken by the blight, the black spot so quickly
multiplying in the rows. I doubt

you have a heart, in our understanding of
that term. You who do not discriminate
between the dead and the living, who are, in consequence,
immune to foreshadowing, you may not know
how much terror we bear, the spotted leaf,

the red leaves of the maple falling
even in August, in early darkness: I am responsible
for these vines.

Louise Gluck

A frozen mouth experience

"I didn't tell anyone about my experience because I couldn't make my mouth form the words. And I mean that literally; it is like a frozen mouth experience."

Your Personal Ghosts
Scott Adams

Thursday, November 6, 2014

All I know is what I have words for

"Wittgenstein said, ‘All I know is what I have words for.’ And I think that if you don’t have the words for it, you can’t explain to somebody else what your need is. To some degree, you can’t even explain to yourself what your need is. And so you can’t get better.”

The Giving Tree

"Silverstein detested stories with happy endings. As he once put it, “The child asks, ‘Why don’t I have this happiness thing you’re telling me about?’”

"The Giving Tree” at Fifty: Sadder Than I Remembered
Ruth Margalit


"In 2013, she decided to begin a series that dealt with the realities of what it means to put on a brave face while simultaneously coping with forms of depression. Starting with herself, Obert took two photos: one that showed the person she chooses to present to the world, and a second portrait that presented an image of how she existed behind closed doors when feeling depressed."

 The Secret Dual Lives of People Living With Mental Illness
 David Rosenberg

 Liz Obert

 "As a person who suffers from bipolar II disorder, I lead a double life. I have one persona that people see everyday, and another that I hide from the world. Many others who suffer from bipolar and depression have the same experience. I decided to document this experience in a photographic series titled Dualities. I believe it is important to put a human face to disorders that affect millions of people."

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

And only then did I see

The Truth
Ronald Wallace

for Amy

Her breast cancer, she said,
had metastasized to her liver;
she was going to die, and
soon. She said it made her
sad. I didn’t know her well.

We were co-workers and
I liked her, but
what do you say when someone
actually answers the question
how are you?
with the unvarnished truth:

Not well, she said. I haven’t
long to live. And should I
have said Oh you will! Should I
have smoothed it over
with the syrup of nervousness,
or done what I did
which was to
talk about terror and anger,
the unfairness and the lie,
to take the truth at face value?

No, she was just sad, she said.

She had her faith, she said,
and started to cry. And only then
did I see what she needed from me
was miracle, a simple belief
in miracle, and if that was varnish,
well, it would bring the grain
of the truth out, would save it
from wear and weather.

It would make the truth
almost shine.

And sometimes they win

Monsters are real
Ghosts are real too.
They live inside us,
And sometimes they win.

Stephen King

Keeping an eye on the world

The first November tabebuias in Cubbon Park

"I am an extremely busy person. I keep an eye on the world."

"Is it hard work keeping an eye on the world? Most certainly. I can remember the terrifying face of one woman I saw in the street, a face devoid of expression. I also keep an eye on thousands of slum-dwellers on the nearby slopes. I observe the seasonal changes in myself: I inevitably change with every season."

"You must be wondering why I keep an eye on the world. I was born with this mission. And I am responsible for everything in existence, even for those wars and crimes which cause so much physical and spiritual havoc."

"Keeping an eye on the world requires a lot of patience: I must wait for the ants to reappear. Patience. While watching the flowers open imperceptibly, little by little."

"But I still have not found the person to whom I should report my findings."

From Selected Crônicas by Clarice Lispector

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Why Scott Adams is such a funny man

Like Robin Williams and Spike Milligan and everybody.

Your Personal Ghosts
Scott Adams


Two months after retirement
my father is here, to get away
from 6 A.M. and his cup
of empty destination.

At a football game we huddle
under his umbrella
talking about the obvious.
He brings me coffee
to hold warm between my hands,
a gift of no occasion.

When we rise for the anthem
I hear the rusty crack of his voice
for the first time maybe ever.

Thirty-three years of coughing
thick factory air, of drifting to sleep
through the heavy ring of machinery,
of twelve-hour days. In my sleep
I felt the cold bump of his late-night kiss.

I shiver in the rain
as my father sings me
what now I hear as
a children's song. I lean into him,
the umbrella and rain my excuse,
my shoulder against his,
and I imagine my mother
falling in love.

Jim Daniels

Those who know us construct us

“Whenever someone who knows you disappears, you lose one version of yourself. Yourself as you were seen, as you were judged to be. Lover or enemy, mother or friend, those who know us construct us, and their several knowings slant the different facets of our characters like diamond-cutter's tools. Each such loss is a step leading to the grave, where all versions blend and end.”

Salman Rushdie, 'The Ground Beneath Her Feet'


The Lighthouse
Jane Hirshfield

Its vision sweeps its one path
like an aged monk raking a garden,
his question long ago answered or moved on.

Far off, night-grazing horses,
breath scented with oatgrass and fennel,
step through it, disappear, step through it, disappear.

Somewhere in the world

For there must be
kindness somewhere else in the world,
maybe even out of it, though I’m not crazy
about the emptiness of outer space. I have to live
here, with finite life and inner space and with
the horrible desire to love everything and be disappointed....

'The Absolutely Huge and Incredible Injustice in the World'


I nearly went to sleep standing on a corner today.
The light turned green
People charged down into the street, arms
with bags and boxes
while I stood there disappearing.

And after dinner, forehead resting
on the table, I saw some gentlemen
eating carrots in a dining car
with a landscape whizzing past outside,
really fast trees and hills, varied sights
and views, and those carrots disappearing
into the eaters’ mouths. I raised
my eyes: music on the machine,
light, and fall coming on.

Ron Pagett, 'Collected Poems'

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