Thursday, April 30, 2015


Tilicho Lake

In this high place
it is as simple as this,
leave everything you know behind.

Step toward the cold surface,
say the old prayer of rough love
and open both arms.

Those who come with empty hands
will stare into the lake astonished,
there, in the cold light
reflecting pure snow
the true shape of your own face.

David Whyte

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Consider the Space between Stars

Consider the white space
between words on a page, not just
the margins around them.

Or the space between thoughts:
instants when the mind is inventing
exactly what it thinks

and the mouth waits
to be filled with language.
Consider the space

between lovers after a quarrel,
the white sheet a cold metaphor
between them.

Now picture the brief space
before death enters, hat in hand:
vanishing years, filled with light.

Linda Pastan

On Feeling Young

"It was only in my forties that I really began to feel young. By then I was ready for it. By this time I had lost many illusions, but fortunately not my enthusiasm, nor the joy of living, nor my unquenchable curiosity."

"With this attribute goes another which I prize above everything else, and that is the sense of wonder. No matter how restricted my world may become I cannot imagine it leaving me void of wonder. In a sense I suppose it might be called my religion. I do not ask how it came about, this creation in which we swim, but only to enjoy and appreciate it."

"If you can fall in love again and again… if you can forgive as well as forget, if you can keep from growing sour, surly, bitter and cynical… you’ve got it half licked.”

Curiosity and Wonder as Religion: Henry Miller on Growing Old, the Perils of Success, and the Secret of Remaining Young at Heart

Monday, April 13, 2015

You Loved A Woman Once

She told you of childhood summers, mayflies trembling
beside the bridge of her nose, hunting frogs. Skinning them
on a brick, the house smelling like their small, fried legs.

All she wanted was for you to carry her home in a canoe
with paddles, life vests, a flare. You promised
to teach her how to swim when she was in your arms.

Your own body, broken into so many times, became a clear lake
for her to bathe in. Remember pulling the one tiny, suckering
leech from below her neck, the pale collarbone Braille it left.

You said the boat was her shoulder in your mouth, even when
you couldn’t bear her epaulets of freckles, even when nothing
but a body would do and there was no body but her own.

Below her—lily pads, dragonflies, the worms
dug up last summer and thrown from the dock to see fish
rise in a boil—now all snapped raw in the frozen pond. And speaker,

coded “you"—what about the light straining through her dampened
hair, will you catch it in your jaws? There’s the smell of paper
on her skin and you pressing her body like a flower in a book.

Keetje Kuipers

Valediction, on Arriving in a Distant Land

I am not one to travel with no destination. No city or continent
charms me with the vague glee of flight. Nor would I go alone,
for every day, we wake warmth to warmth, your breath in my ear,

my hand on your thigh. Yesterday, the planet bowed before us,
and cool distance clarified a curve measurable in miles, in feet
pacing dutifully through the world. I’ve crossed deserts and seas,

rivers and peaks from which the waters flow, the sun westering
and a moon pierced by sky while morning melts into noon. All
space intensifies, blue, absolute, definite and dismal, magnified

by our finite human measures when we mark our roads with signs
and lines and lights that regulate. Even now, with old mountains
at my back and a thin river lost in a valley of dust, I am with you.

The rays from stars cascade through darkness limitless and lit
too little. Light is slow beside the speed with which my thoughts
turn to you. And no world is large enough to come between us.

Eric Paul Shaffer

Vanishing years, filled with light

Consider the Space between Stars

Consider the white space
between words on a page, not just
the margins around them.

Or the space between thoughts:
instants when the mind is inventing
exactly what it thinks

and the mouth waits
to be filled with language.
Consider the space

between lovers after a quarrel,
the white sheet a cold metaphor
between them.

Now picture the brief space
before death enters, hat in hand:
vanishing years, filled with light.

Linda Pastan

Lessons in being here


"Mindfulness practice, of whatever sort, calls us home to where we are, and helps us abide there. It helps us pay attention. It helps us inhabit our lives instead of just going through the motions.

One of the best tools in mindfulness practice today, as it has been for millennia, is poetry. Why? Because the very act of reading a poem cultivates mindfulness. To fully experience any poem, we must stop whatever else we’re doing and give it our full and gracious attention, start to finish, just as the poet did when writing it.

...If all good poetry deepens our engagement with “this moment we have,” as Rukeyser believed, certain poems do so in especially memorable fashion, because their makers have brought to their topics not only exceptional craft but extraordinary awareness.

Whether these poems demonstrate what mindfulness is, or recount an experience of it, or offer advice on how to practice it, all of them show us how to be more present in the living of our lives. They are exquisite lessons in being here."

Lilac opening, ship lights

"Let me begin by telling you that I was in love.

An ordinary statement, to be sure, but not an ordinary fact, for so few of us learn that love is tenderness, and tenderness is not, as a fair proportion suspect, pity; and still fewer know that happiness in love is not the absolute focusing of all emotion in another: one has always to love a good many things which the beloved must come only to symbolize; the true beloveds of this world are in their lover's eyes lilac opening, ship lights, school bells, a landscape, remembered conversations, friends, a child's Sunday, lost voices, one's favorite suit, autumn and all seasons, memory, yes, it being the earth and water of existence, memory."

Truman Capote, 'Other Voices, Other Rooms'

The lightest touch

Lines To Be Put Into Latin

The lightest touch
if it is gently giv-

en can yield as much
affection as a deep

embrace, soft as a
glance, swift as a

drop of rain, light
as a leaf, I give

you these again.

James Laughlin

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Only the terrible blessing of the journey


Then you shall take some of the blood, and put it on the door posts and the lintels of the houses . . . and when I see the blood, I shall pass over you, and no plague shall fall upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.

—Exodus 12:7 & 13

They thought they were safe
that spring night, when they daubed
the doorways with sacrificial blood.
To be sure, the angel of death
passed them over, but for what?
Forty years in the desert
without a home, without a bed,
following new laws to an unknown land.
Easier to have died in Egypt
or stayed there a slave, pretending
there was safety in the old familiar.

But the promise, from those first
naked days outside the garden,
is that there is no safety,
only the terrible blessing
of the journey. You were born
through a doorway marked in blood.
We are, all of us, passed over,
brushed in the night by terrible wings.

Ask that fierce presence,
whose imagination you hold.
God did not promise that we shall live,
but that we might, at last, glimpse the stars,
brilliant in the desert sky.

Lynn Ungar

There is so little left

Rondeau Redoublé

There is so little left. The room is bare.
She’ll strip his sheets and blankets by and by —
only this morning he was sleeping there.
The light is pouring from a hard white sky.

She’ll write to him, perhaps he will reply?
He’s better off, she knows, God knows, elsewhere.
She’ll be all right, she told him cheerfully.
There is so little left. The room is bare.

His smell’s still hanging in the chilly air,
his motorcycle boots are propped awry,
helmet abandoned on the basket-chair.
She’ll strip his sheets and blankets by and by.

Make a fresh start. Do something useful. Try
to avoid that stunned and slightly foolish stare
the mirror offers her maternal eye.
Only this morning he was sleeping there.

He’s left a paperback face downwards where
he gave up reading and she lets it lie.
That’s not his footstep coming up the stair.
The light is pouring from a hard white sky.

She stacks up papers, pulls the covers high,
faces the glass now, plucks the odd grey hair,
flicks away cobwebs, dusts off a dead fly,
feels and tries not to feel her own despair.
There is so little left.

Dorothy Nimmo

These days are best when one goes nowhere

Against Travel

These days are best when one goes nowhere,
The house a reservoir of quiet change,
The creak of furniture, the window panes
Brushed by the half-rhymes of activities

That do not quite declare what thing it was
Gave rise to them outside. The colours, even,
Accord with the tenor of the day—yes, ‘grey’
You will hear reported of the weather,

But what a grey, in which the tinges hover,
About to catch, although they still hold back
The blaze that's in them should the sun appear,

And yet it does not. Then the window pane
With a tremor of glass acknowledges
The distant boom of a departing plane.

Charles Tomlinson

Sunday, April 5, 2015


dear love,
you dream in the language of dodging bullets and artillery fire.
new, sexy diagnoses have been added to the lexicon on your behalf
(“charlie don’t surf,” has also been added to the lexicon on your behalf).

in this home that is not our home, we have mutually exiled each
other. i walk down your street in the rain, and i do not call you. i
walk in the opposite direction of where i know to find you. that we
do not speak is louder than bombs.

there are times that missing you is a matter of procedure. now is
not one of those times. there are times when missing you hurts. so
it comes to this, vying for geography. there is a prayer stuck in my
throat. douse me in gasoline, my love, and strike a match. let’s see
this prayer ignite to high heaven.

Barbara Jane Reyes

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Talk to me

"In his exquisite taxonomy of the nine kinds of silence, Paul Goodman included “the silence of listening to another speak, catching the drift and helping him be clear.”  And yet so often we think of listening as merely an idle pause amid the monologue of making ourselves clear."

"...Speaking calls for risk, speaking calls for a sense of what one has to lose. Not just what one has to gain."

"...Some people use language as a mask. And some want to create designed language that appears to reveal them but does not. Yet from time to time we are betrayed by language, if not in the words themselves, in the rhythm with which we deliver our words."

"...I wanted to get people to talk to me, in a true way. Not true in the sense of spilling their guts. Not true in the sense of the difference between truth and lies. I wanted to hear — well — authentic speech, speech that you could dance to, speech that had the possibility of breaking through the walls of the listener, speech that could get to your heart, and beyond that to someplace else in your consciousness."

How to Listen Between the Lines: Anna Deavere Smith on the Art of Listening in a Culture of Speaking
Maria Popova

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Late March

Late March

Again the trees remembered
to make leaves.
In the forest of their recollection
many birds returned

They sang, they sang
because they forgave themselves
the winter, and all that remained
still bitter.

Yet it was early spring,
when the days were touch and go,
and a late snow could nip a shoot,
or freeze a fledgling in its nest.

And where would we be then?
But that’s not the point.

Do you think the magpie doesn’t know
that its chicks are at risk,
or the peach trees, their too-frail blossoms,
the new-awakened bees, all that is
incipient within us?

We know, but we can’t help ourselves
any more than they can,
any more than the earth can
stop hurtling through the night
of its own absence.

Must be something in the sap,
the blood, a force like gravity,
a trick called memory.
You name it. Or leave it nameless
that’s better—

how something returns
and keeps on returning
through a gap,
through a dimensional gate,
through a tear in the veil.

And there it is again.
Another spring.
To woo loss into song.

Richard Schiffman

On the Nature of Daylight

Max Richter: On the Nature of Daylight


Listen. At 6 in the morning, when all is still, you can hear the honge flowers falling, like the first drops of approaching rain.

Inside you, vault opens behind vault, endlessly

Romanesque Arches

Inside the huge Romanesque church the tourists jostled in the half darkness.
Vault gaped behind vault, no complete view.
A few candle flames flickered.

An angel with no face embraced me
and whispered through my whole body:

"Don't be ashamed of being human, be proud!
Inside you vault opens behind vault endlessly.
You will never be complete, that's how it's meant to be."

Blind with tears
I was pushed out on the sun-seething piazza
together with Mr and Mrs Jones, Mr Tanaka, and Signora Sabatini,
and inside them all vault opened behind vault endlessly.

Tomas Tranströmer, 1931-2015
from New Collected Poems. Translated from the original Swedish by Robin Fulton

All that is life

You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies, that is why you must sing, and dance, and write poems, and suffer, and understand, for all that is life.”

Jiddu Krishnamurti

From here:

We wake as if surprised

Object Permanence
(for John)

We wake as if surprised the other is still there,
each petting the sheet to be sure.

How have we managed our way
to this bed—beholden to heat like dawn
indebted to light. Though we’re not so self-
important as to think everything
has led to this, everything has led to this.

There’s a name for the animal
love makes of us—named, I think,
like rain, for the sound it makes.

You are the animal after whom other animals
are named. Until there’s none left to laugh,
days will start with the same startle
and end with caterpillars gorged on milkweed.

O, how we entertain the angels
with our brief animation. O,
how I’ll miss you when we’re dead.

Nicole Sealey


"Courage is the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another, with a community, a work, a future.

To be courageous, is not necessarily to go anywhere or do anything except to make conscious those things we already feel deeply, and then to live through the unending vulnerabilities of those consequences.

To be courageous is to seat our feelings deeply in the body and in the world: to live up to and into the necessities of relationships that often already exist, with things we find we already care deeply about: with a person, a future, a possibility in society, or with an unknown that begs us on and always has begged us on.

Whether we stay or whether we go - to be courageous is to stay close to the way we are made."

David Whyte, 'Consolations'

The many ways of going on and on...

Calling Card
Kristjana Gunnars

the many small ways of being human

removing rust from old windowsills
sandpapering blue paint off the railing
then paint that has peeled off in straggles

once again shining silver goblets never used
once again wiping rain off the veranda tables

moving rose buses from one spot to another
planting another lilac tree in place of the one lost
yet again watering the everdrooping fuchsias

an endless core of small services
observations on daily life forever incomplete

the many ways of going on and on...

From here:


"For me, language is a freedom. As soon as you have found the words with which to express something, you are no longer incoherent, you are no longer trapped by your own emotions, by your own experiences; you can describe them, you can tell them, you can bring them out of yourself and give them to somebody else.

That is an enormously liberating experience, and it worries me that more and more people are learning not to use language; they’re giving in to the banalities of the television media and shrinking their vocabulary, shrinking their own way of using this fabulous tool that human beings have refined over so many centuries into this extremely sensitive instrument.

I don’t want to make it crude, I don’t want to make it into shopping-list language, I don’t want to make it into simply an exchange of information: I want to make it into the subtle, emotional, intellectual, freeing thing that it is and that it can be."

Jeanette Winterson


The Russian Greatcoat
Theodore Deppe

While my children swim off the breakwater,
while my wife sleeps beside me in the sun,
I recall how you once said you knew
a sure way to paradise or hell.

Years ago, you stood on the Covington bridge,
demanded I throw my coat into the Ohio—
my five dollar "Russian greatcoat,"
my "Dostoevsky coat," with no explanations,
simply because you asked.

From that height, the man-sized coat fell
in slow motion, floated briefly,
one sinking arm bent at the elbow.

At first, I evade the question when my wife asks
as if just thinking of you were an act of betrayal.

The cigarette I shared with you above the river.
Our entrance into the city, your thin black coat
around both our shoulders. Sometimes I can go
weeks without remembering.

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