Saturday, June 17, 2017

Take the present, the future’s no one’s affair

Ode I. 11

Leucon, no one’s allowed to know his fate,
Not you, not me: don’t ask, don’t hunt for answers
In tea leaves or palms. Be patient with whatever comes.

This could be our last winter, it could be many
More, pounding the Tuscan Sea on these rocks:

Do what you must, be wise, cut your vines
And forget about hope. Time goes running, even
As we talk. Take the present, the future’s no one’s affair.

Horace, 'The Essential Horace', edited and translated by Burton Raffel

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The mind, a squirrel caught crossing Route 80

I Remember Galileo

I remember Galileo describing the mind
as a piece of paper blown around by the wind,
and I loved the sight of it sticking to a tree,
or jumping into the backseat of a car,
and for years I watched paper leap through my cities;

but yesterday I saw the mind was a squirrel caught crossing
Route 80 between the wheels of a giant truck,
dancing back and forth like a thin leaf,
or a frightened string, for only two seconds living
on the white concrete before he got away,
his life shortened by all that terror, his head
jerking, his yellow teeth ground down to dust.

It was the speed of the squirrel and his lowness to the ground,
his great purpose and the alertness of his dancing,
that showed me the difference between him and paper.

Paper will do in theory, when there is time
to sit back in a metal chair and study shadows;
but for this life I need a squirrel,
his clawed feet spread, his whole soul quivering,
the loud noise shaking him from head to tail.

O philosophical mind, O mind of paper, I need a squirrel
finishing his wild dash across the highway,
rushing up his green ungoverned hillside.

Gerald Stern, 'This Time: New and Selected Poems'

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The ground at our feet

A Spiritual Journey

And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,
no matter how long,

but only by a spiritual journey,
a journey of one inch,

very arduous and humbling and joyful,
by which we arrive at the ground at our feet,

and learn to be at home.

Wendell Berry, 'Collected Poems'

Hold, one day more

A Room

A room does not turn its back on grief.
Anger does not excite it.
Before desire, it neither responds
nor draws back in fear.

Without changing expression,
it takes
and gives back;
not a tuft in the mattress alters.

Windowsills evenly welcome
both heat and cold.
Radiators speak or fall silent as they must.
Doors are not equivocal,
floorboards do not hesitate or startle.

Impatience does not stir the curtains,
a bed is neither irritable nor rapacious.
Whatever disquiet we sense in a room
we have brought there.

And so I instruct my ribs each morning,
pointing to hinge and plaster and wood -
You are matter, as they are.

See how perfectly it can be done.
Hold, one day more, what is asked.

Jane Hirshfield, 'The Lives of the Heart'

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