Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dawn. The Hour of Lauds.


There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity,
a dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness.
This mysterious Unity and Integrity is
Wisdom, the Mother of all, Natura naturans.

There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity,
a silence that is a fount of action and joy,
It rises up in wordless gentleness and flows out to me
from the unseen roots of all created being,
welcoming me tenderly,
saluting me with indescribable humility.

This is at once my own being, my own nature,
and the Gift of my Creator's Thought and Art within me,
speaking as Hagia Sophia,
speaking as my sister, Wisdom. 

–Thomas Merton 

Hagia Sophia


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Empedocles at Etna (1852)


To the elements it came from
Everything will return—
Our bodies to earth,
Our blood to water,
Heat to fire,
Breath to air.

They were well born, they will be well entomb’d—
But mind?…

–Matthew Arnold


Monday, December 29, 2014

Knockin' On Heaven's Door


Mama, take this badge from me
I can't use it any more
It's getting dark, too dark to see
I'm feelin' like I'm knocking on Heaven's door

Knock, knock, knocking on Heaven's door
Knock, knock, knocking on Heaven's door
Knock, knock, knocking on Heaven's door
Knock, knock, knocking on Heaven's door

Mama, put my guns in the ground
I can't shoot them any more
That long cold black cloud is coming down
I'm feelin' like I'm knocking on Heaven's door

Baby stay right here with me
'Cause I can't see you anymore
This ain't the way it's supposed to be
I feel I'm knocking on heaven's door

–Bob Dylan


Saturday, December 27, 2014

where are they?


The loved ones of my heart where are they? Say, by
God, where are they?
As thou sawest their apparition, wilt thou show to me
their reality?

How long, how long was I seeking them! and how often
did I beg to be united with them,

Until I had no fear of being parted from them, and yet
I feared to be amongst them.

Perchance my happy star will hinder their going afar
from me,

That mine eye may be blest with them, and that I may
not ask,’ Where are they?’

—Ibn al-Arabi, from section XLV
The Tarjuman al-Ashwaq: A Collection Of Mystical Odes

breaking my heart ...

Friday, December 26, 2014

what became of dinosaurs


Birds were what became of dinosaurs.

Those mountains of flesh whose petrified bones were on display at the Museum of Natural History had done some brilliant retooling over the ages and could now be found living in the form of orioles in the sycamores across the street. 

As solutions to the problem of earthly existence, the dinosaurs had been pretty great, but blue-headed vireos and yellow warblers and white-throated sparrows - feather-light, hollow-boned, full of song were even greater.

Birds were like dinosaurs’ better selves.
They had short lives and long summers.

–Jonathan Franzen
The Discomfort Zone


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

not to worry


How does a part of the world leave the world?

How can wetness leave water?



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

sacred songs


Mascagni: Cavalleria rusticana - Ave Maria (Arranged From "Intermezzo sinfonico")" by Plácido Domingo




losing its name
      a river
      enters the sea

—John Sandbach


Monday, December 22, 2014

De Profundis


so it is



When thoughts arise, then do all things arise.

When thoughts vanish, then do all things vanish.

–Huang Po


Sunday, December 21, 2014

all the names


You know the name you were given,
you do not know the name that you have.

–José Saramago
Margaret Jull Costa translation


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Excerpts from the The Ninth Elegy


Why, when this short span of being could be spent
like the laurel, a little darker than all the other green,
the edge of each leaf fluted with small waves
(like the wind’s smile) — why, then, do we have to be
human and, avoiding fate, long for fate?
Oh, not because of happiness,
that quick profit of impending loss really exists.
Not out of curiosity, not just to exercise the heart
– that could be in the laurel, too…

But because being here means so much, and because all
that’s here, vanishing so quickly seems to need us
and strangely concerns us. Us, to the first to vanish.

Once each, only once. Once and no more. And us too,
once, even if only once, to have been on earth just once
— that’s irrevocable.

And so we keep on going and try to realize it,
try to hold it in our simple hands, in our overcrowded eyes,
and in our speechless heart.

Try to become it. To give it to whom? We’d rather
keep all of it forever… Ah, but what can we take across
into that other realm? 

Not the power to see what we’ve learned so slowly here,
and nothing that’s happened here.
Nothing. And so, the pain; above all, the hard work of living;
the long experience of love – those purely unspeakable things. 

But later, under the stars, what then?
That’s better left unsaid.

For the wanderer doesn’t bring a handful of that unutterable
earth from the mountainside down to the valley, but only some
word he’s earned, a pure word, the yellow and blue gentian. 

Maybe we’re here only to say: house, bridge, well, gate, jug,
olive tree, window – at most, pillar, tower… but to say them,
remember, oh, to say them in a way that the things themselves
never dreamed of existing so intensely. 

When this silent earth urges lovers on, isn’t it her secret
reason to make everything shudder with ecstasy in them?

Doorsill: how much it means to a pair of lovers
to wear down the sill of their own door a little more,
them too, after so many before them, and before all
those to come…gently.

This is the time for what can be said. Here is its country.
Speak and testify. The things we can live with are falling
away more than ever, replaced by an act without symbol.

Our heart survives between hammers, just as the tongue
between the teeth is still able to praise.

Look, I’m alive. On what? Neither childhood nor the future
grows less…
More being than I’ll ever need springs up in my heart.

–Rainer Maria Rilke

Friday, December 19, 2014

burlap sack


A person is full of sorrow
the way a burlap sack is full of stones or sand.
We say, "Hand me the sack,"
but we get the weight.
Heavier if left out in the rain.
To think that the stones or sand are the self is an error.
To think that grief is the self is an error.
Self carries grief as a pack mule carries the side bags,
being careful between the trees to leave extra room.
The mule is not the load of ropes and nails and axes.
The self is not the miner nor builder nor driver.
What would it be to take the bride
and leave behind the heavy dowry?
To let the thick ribbed mule browse in tall grasses,
its long ears waggling like the tails of two happy dogs?

–Jane Hirshfield


Monday, December 15, 2014

from Gravity’s Rainbow


Everything science has taught me— and continues to teach me— strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death. Nothing disappears without a trace.

—Thomas Pynchon

Sunday, December 14, 2014

the beauty of death


Part One - The Calling

Let me sleep, for my soul is intoxicated with love and
Let me rest, for my spirit has had its bounty of days and nights;
Light the candles and burn the incense around my bed, and
Scatter leaves of jasmine and roses over my body;
Embalm my hair with frankincense and sprinkle my feet with perfume,
And read what the hand of Death has written on my forehead.

Let me rest in the arms of Slumber, for my open eyes are tired;
Let the silver-stringed lyre quiver and soothe my spirit;
Weave from the harp and lute a veil around my withering heart.

Sing of the past as you behold the dawn of hope in my eyes, for
It's magic meaning is a soft bed upon which my heart rests.

Dry your tears, my friends, and raise your heads as the flowers
Raise their crowns to greet the dawn.
Look at the bride of Death standing like a column of light
Between my bed and the infinite;
Hold your breath and listen with me to the beckoning rustle of
Her white wings.

Come close and bid me farewell; touch my eyes with smiling lips.
Let the children grasp my hands with soft and rosy fingers;
Let the ages place their veined hands upon my head and bless me;
Let the virgins come close and see the shadow of God in my eyes,
And hear the echo of His will racing with my breath.

Part Two - The Ascending

I have passed a mountain peak and my soul is soaring in the
Firmament of complete and unbound freedom;
I am far, far away, my companions, and the clouds are
Hiding the hills from my eyes.

The valleys are becoming flooded with an ocean of silence, and the
Hands of oblivion are engulfing the roads and the houses;
The prairies and fields are disappearing behind a white specter
That looks like the spring cloud, yellow as the candlelight
And red as the twilight.
The songs of the waves and the hymns of the streams
Are scattered, and the voices of the throngs reduced to silence;
And I can hear naught but the music of Eternity
In exact harmony with the spirit's desires.
I am cloaked in full whiteness;
I am in comfort; I am in peace.

Part Three - The Remains

Unwrap me from this white linen shroud and clothe me
With leaves of jasmine and lilies;
Take my body from the ivory casket and let it rest
Upon pillows of orange blossoms.

Lament me not, but sing songs of youth and joy;
Shed not tears upon me, but sing of harvest and the winepress;
Utter no sigh of agony, but draw upon my face with your
Finger the symbol of Love and Joy.

Disturb not the air's tranquility with chanting and requiems,
But let your hearts sing with me the song of Eternal Life;
Mourn me not with apparel of black,
But dress in color and rejoice with me;

Talk not of my departure with sighs in your hearts; close
Your eyes and you will see me with you forevermore.

Place me upon clusters of leaves and
Carry my upon your friendly shoulders and
Walk slowly to the deserted forest.
Take me not to the crowded burying ground lest my slumber
Be disrupted by the rattling of bones and skulls.
Carry me to the cypress woods and dig my grave where violets
And poppies grow not in the other's shadow;

Let my grave be deep so that the flood will not
Carry my bones to the open valley;
Let my grace be wide, so that the twilight shadows
Will come and sit by me.

Take from me all earthly raiment and place me deep in my
Mother Earth; and place me with care upon my mother's breast.
Cover me with soft earth, and let each handful be mixed
With seeds of jasmine, lilies and myrtle; and when they
Grow above me, and thrive on my body's element they will
Breathe the fragrance of my heart into space;
And reveal even to the sun the secret of my peace;
And sail with the breeze and comfort the wayfarer.

Leave me then, friends - leave me and depart on mute feet,
As the silence walks in the deserted valley;
Leave me to God and disperse yourselves slowly, as the almond
And apple blossoms disperse under the vibration of Nisan's breeze.
Go back to the joy of your dwellings and you will find there
That which Death cannot remove from you and me.

Leave with place, for what you see here is far away in meaning
From the earthly world. Leave me.

–Kahlil Gibran


Saturday, December 13, 2014

the first night


The worst thing about death must be
the first night.
—Juan Ramón Jiménez

Before I opened you, Jiménez,
it never occurred to me that day and night
would continue to circle each other in the ring of death,
but now you have me wondering
if there will also be a sun and a moon
and will the dead gather to watch them rise and set

then repair, each soul alone,
to some ghastly equivalent of a bed.
Or will the first night be the only night,

a darkness for which we have no other name?
How feeble our vocabulary in the face of death,
How impossible to write it down.

This is where language will stop,
the horse we have ridden all our lives
rearing up at the edge of a dizzying cliff.

The word that was in the beginning
and the word that was made flesh—
those and all the other words will cease.

Even now, reading you on this trellised porch,
how can I describe a sun that will shine after death?
But it is enough to frighten me

into paying more attention to the world’s day-moon,
to sunlight bright on water
or fragmented in a grove of trees,

and to look more closely here at these small leaves,
these sentinel thorns,
whose employment it is to guard the rose.

–Billy Collins


Friday, December 12, 2014



I hadn’t noticed
till a death took me outside
and left me there
that grass lifts so quietly
to catch everything
we drop and we drop

Leonard Nathan


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

love is life


Love is life. 
All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love.
Everything is, everything exists, only because I love.

Everything is united by it alone.
Love is God, and to die means that I, a particle of love,
shall return to the general and eternal source.

—Leo Tolstoy

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

not being


If what makes death seem so terrible to us were the thought of not being, we would necessarily think with equal horror of the time when as yet we were not. For it is irrefutably certain that not being after death cannot be different from not being before birth, and consequently is also no more deplorable.
A whole eternity has run its course while as yet we were not, but that by no means disturbs us. On the other hand, we find it hard, nay, unendurable, that after the momentary intermezzo of an ephemeral existence, a second eternity should follow in which we shall no longer be.

–Arthur Schopenhauer


Monday, December 8, 2014




The leaves are falling, falling as if from far up,
as if orchards were dying high in space.

Each leaf falls as if it were motioning “no.”
And tonight the heavy earth is falling
away from all other stars in the loneliness.

We’re all falling. This hand here is falling.
And look at the other one. It’s in them all.

And yet there is Someone, whose hands
infinitely calm, holding up all this falling.

Rainer Maria Rilke


Sunday, December 7, 2014

if i should die before you do


you wake up
from death,
you will find yourself
in my arms,
I will be
kissing you,
will be crying.

–Richard Brautigan


Saturday, December 6, 2014

wild ducks, people, and distances


The life of the world depends on that he is
Alive, on that people are alive, on that
There is village and village of them, without regard
To that be-misted one and apart from her.

Did we expect to live in other lives?
We grew used so soon, too soon, to earth itself,
As an element; to the sky as an element.
People might share but were never an element,

Like earth and sky. Then he became nothing else
And they were  nothing else. It was late in the year.
The wild ducks were enveloped. The weather was cold.
Yet, under the migrations to solitude, 

There remained the smoke of the villages. Their fire
Was central in distances the wild ducks could
Not span, without any weather at all, except
The weather of other lives, from which there could
Be no migrating. It was that they were there
That held the distances off: the villages
Held off the final, fatal distances,
Between us and the place in which we stood.

–Wallace Stevens


Friday, December 5, 2014



The world’s atoms are all drunk with love
drowned between negation and affirmation.

In the place where the sun casts its light
there is neither life nor death for the atoms.

–Farid al-Din Attar
from Fifty Poems of Attar
Kenneth Avery and Ali Alizadeh versions


Thursday, December 4, 2014

My Life, 25 - 28


I grow into my death.
My life is small
and getting smaller. The world is green.
Nothing is all.

–Mark Strand