Wednesday, January 28, 2015

You will always be the bread and the knife, and–somehow–the wine


You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine…

-Jacques Crickillon

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general’s head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman’s tea cup.
But don’t worry, I’m not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and–somehow–the wine.

Billy Collins

Saturday, January 24, 2015


Mary Oliver, while speaking about her late partner, Molly Cooke, in 'Our World':

"It has frequently been remarked, about my own writings, that I emphasize the notion of attention. This began simply enough: to see that the way the flicker flies is greatly different from the way the swallow plays in the golden air of summer. It was my pleasure to notice such things, it was a good first step. "

But later, watching M. when she was taking photographs, and watching her in the darkroom, and no less watching the intensity and openness with which she dealt with friends, and strangers too, taught me what real attention is about.

Attention without feeling, I began to learn, is only a report. An openness — an empathy — was necessary if the attention was to matter. Such openness and empathy M. had in abundance, and gave away freely…"

Every chord is minor, every light dim

This Is How Lonesome Feels

The sun goes down and the sky turns dusky
And everything tastes like homesick
You drape the sky around your shoulders
And know how lonesome feels.

Every chord is minor
Every light dim
And if a stranger smiles at you,
you see regret beneath the curve of lips.
You’ve been alone too long.

If you count the time in twilights
it would number a lifetime.
You understand moths dying for the light
The sorrowful call of the whippoorwill
The futile signal of the firefly.

You imagine a lifetime of loneliness.
You picture your hair going gray
your body loosening into a fold of wrinkles
Your best intentions pooled at your feet.

How long since you recognized a face
Felt the touch of a familiar hand
A bowl of flowers on a kitchen table
An orange, peeled and halved for you.

Judy Reeves

Sunday, January 18, 2015


Salt shining behind its glass cylinder.
Milk in a blue bowl. The yellow linoleum.
The cat stretching her black body from the pillow.
The way she makes her curvaceous response to the small, kind gesture.
Then laps the bowl clean.
Then wants to go out into the world
where she leaps lightly and for no apparent reason across the lawn,
then sits, perfectly still, in the grass.

I watch her a little while, thinking:
what more could I do with wild words?
I stand in the cold kitchen, bowing down to her.
I stand in the cold kitchen, everything wonderful around me.

Mary Oliver

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Reach out, keep reaching out

The Seven Of Pentacles

...Connections are made slowly, sometimes they grow underground.
You cannot tell always by looking at what is happening.
More than half the tree is spread out in the soil under your feet.

Penetrate quietly as the earthworm that blows no trumpet.
Fight persistently as the creeper that brings down the tree.

Spread like the squash plant that overruns the garden.
Gnaw in the dark and use the sun to make sugar.

Weave real connections, create real nodes, build real houses.
Live a life you can endure: Make love that is loving.

Keep tangling and interweaving and taking more in,
a thicket and bramble wilderness to the outside but to us
interconnected with rabbit runs and burrows and lairs.

Live as if you liked yourself, and it may happen:
reach out, keep reaching out, keep bringing in.

This is how we are going to live for a long time: not always,
for every gardener knows that after the digging, after the planting,
after the long season of tending and growth, the harvest comes.

Marge Piercy, 'In Praise of Fertile Land', edited by Claudia Mauro)

Thursday, January 8, 2015


Well, Old Flame, the fire’s out.
I miss you most at the laundromat.

Folding sheets is awkward work
Without your help. My nip and tuck
Can’t quite replace your hands,
And I miss that odd square dance
We did. Still, I’m glad to do without
Those gaudy arguments that wore us out.

I’ve gone over them often
They’ve turned grey. You fade and soften
Like the hackles of my favorite winter shirt.
You’ve been a hard habit to break, Old Heart.

When I feel for you beside me in the dark,
The blankets crackle with bright blue sparks.

Barton Sutter

Here all we have is love

Here all we have is love, a great undulating
raft, melting steadily. We go out on it.
...The thing we have to learn is how to walk light.

Crossing Over

That’s what love is like. The whole river
is melting. We skim along in great peril,

having to move faster than ice goes under
and still find foothold in the soft floe.

We are one another’s floe. Each displaces the weight
of his own need. I am fat as a bloodhound,

hold me up. I won’t hurt you. Though I bay,
I would swim with you on my back until the cold

seeped into my heart. We are committed, we
are going across this river willy-nilly.

No one, black or white, is free in Kentucky,
old gravity owns everybody. We’re weighty.

I contemplate this unfavorable aspect of things.
Where is something solid? Only you and me.

Has anyone ever been to Ohio?
Do the people there stand firmly on icebergs?

Here all we have is love, a great undulating
raft, melting steadily. We go out on it

anyhow. I love you, I love this fool’s walk.
The thing we have to learn is how to walk light.

William Meredith

From here:

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Emergence, not immersion

"...A labyrinth is an ancient device that compresses a journey into a small space, winds up a path like thread on a spool. It contains beginning, confusion, perseverance, arrival, and return. There at last the metaphysical journey of your life and your actual movements are one and the same. You may wander, may learn that in order to get to your destination you must turn away from it, become lost, spin about, and then only after the way has become overwhelming and absorbing, arrive, having gone the great journey without having gone far on the ground.

In this it is the opposite of a maze, which has not one convoluted way but many ways and often no center, so that wandering has no cease or at least no definitive conclusion. A maze is a conversation; a labyrinth is a an incantation or perhaps a prayer. In a labyrinth you're lost in that you don't know the twists and turns, but if you follow them you get there; and then you reverse your course.

The end of the journey through the labyrinth is not at the center, as is commonly supposed, but back at the threshold again; the beginning is also the real end. That is the home to which you return from the pilgrimage, the adventure. The unpraised edges and margins matter too, because it's not ultimately a journey of immersion, but emergence."

Page 188, 'Flight', from 'The Faraway Nearby' by Rebecca Solnit

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