Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Cranefly in September


She is struggling through grass-mesh - not flying,
Her wide-winged, stiff, weightless basket-work of limbs
Rocking, like an antique wain, a top-heavy ceremonial cart
Across mountain summits
(Not planing over water, dipping her tail)
But blundering with long strides, long reachings, reelings
And ginger-glistening wings
From collision to collision.

Aimless in no particular direction,
Just exerting her last to escape out of the overwhelming
Of whatever it is, legs, grass,
The garden, the county, the country, the world -

Sometimes she rests long minutes in the grass forest
Like a fairytale hero, only a marvel can help her.
She cannot fathom the mystery of this forest
In which, for instance, this giant watches -
The giant who knows she cannot be helped in any way.

Her jointed bamboo fuselage,
Her lobster shoulders, and her face
Like a pinhead dragon, with its tender moustache,

And the simple colourless church windows of her wings
Will come to an end, in mid-search, quite soon.

Everything about her, every perfected vestment
Is already superfluous.
The monstrous excess of her legs and curly feet

Are a problem beyond her.
The calculus of glucose and chitin inadequate
To plot her through the infinities of the stems.

The frayed apple leaves, the grunting raven, the defunct tractor
Sunk in nettles, wait with their multiplications
Like other galaxies.

The sky's Northward September procession, the vast
soft armistice,
Like an Empire on the move,
Abandons her, tinily embattled
With her cumbering limbs and cumbered brain.

–Ted Hughes

John Crongeyer


Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Dream Within a Dream



Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow:
You are not wrong who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand—
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep—while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

—Edgar Allan Poe


Friday, August 29, 2014

Last Night the Rain Spoke to Me


Last night
the rain
spoke to me
slowly, saying,
what joy

to come falling
out of the brisk cloud,
to be happy again
in a new way
on the earth!

That’s what it said
as it dropped,
smelling of iron,
and vanished

like a dream of the ocean
into the branches
and the grass below.

Then it was over.

The sky cleared.
I was standing
under a tree.

The tree was a tree
with happy leaves,
and I was myself,

and there were stars in the sky
that were also themselves
at the moment
at which moment

my right hand
was holding my left hand
which was holding the tree
which was filled with stars

and the soft rain
imagine! imagine!
the long and wondrous journeys
still to be ours.

—Mary Oliver

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Late August, Lasting Words


It's as if we're always preparing
for something, the endless  roll of the earth
ripening us.
Even on the most tranquil
late August afternoon when heavy heads
of phlox bow in the garden
and the hummingbird sits still for a moment
on a branch of an apple tree—
even on such a day,
evening approaches sooner
than yesterday, and we cannot help
noticing whole families of birds
arrive together in the enclosure,
young blue birds molted a misty grey,
colored through no will of their own
for a journey.
On such an evening
I ache for what I cannot keep—the birds,
the phlox, the late-flying bees—
though I would not forbid the frost,
even if I could. There will be more to love
and lose in what's to come and this too: desire
to see it clear before it's gone.

–Mary Chivers 
from Claire B. Willis
Lasting Words: A Guide to Finding Meaning Toward the Close of Life
© Green Writers Press, 2014

Stationary Point


I would know nothing, dream nothing:
who will teach my non-being
how to be, without striving to be?

How can the water endure it?

What sky have the stones dreamed?

Immobile, until those migrations
delay at their apogee
and fly on their arrows
toward the cold archipelago.

Unmoved in its secretive life,
like an underground city,
so the days may glide down
like ungraspable dew:

nothing fails, or shall perish,
until we be born again,
until all that lay plundered
be restored with the tread
of the springtime we buried—
the unceasingly stilled, as it lifts
itself out of non-being, even now,
to be flowering bough.

–Pablo Neruda
Voyages and Homecomings, 1959


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Writing in the Afterlife


I imagined the atmosphere would be clear,
shot with pristine light,
not this sulphurous haze,
the air ionized as before a thunderstorm.

Many have pictured a river here,
but no one mentioned all the boats,
their benches crowded with naked passengers,
each bent over a writing tablet.

I knew I would not always be a child
with a model train and a model tunnel,
and I knew I would not live forever,
jumping all day through the hoop of myself.

I had heard about the journey to the other side
and the clink of the final coin
in the leather purse of the man holding the oar,
but how could anyone have guessed

that as soon as we arrived
we would be asked to describe this place
and to include as much detail as possible—
not just the water, he insists,

rather the oily, fathomless, rat-happy water,
not simply the shackles, but the rusty,
iron, ankle-shredding shackles—
and that our next assignment would be

to jot down, off the tops of our heads,
our thoughts and feelings about being dead,
not really an assignment,
the man rotating the oar keeps telling us—

think of it more as an exercise, he groans,
think of writing as a process,
a never-ending, infernal process,
and now the boats have become jammed together,

bow against stern, stern locked to bow,
and not a thing is moving, only our diligent pens.

–Billy Collins

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

on living


Living is no laughing matter:
 you must live with great seriousness
  like a squirrel, for example–
   I mean without looking for something beyond and above living,
  I mean living must be your whole occupation.
Living is no laughing matter:
 you must take it seriously,
 so much so and to such a degree
   that, for example, your hands tied behind your back,
                                            your back to the wall,
   or else in a laboratory
 in your white coat and safety glasses,
 you can die for people–
   even for people whose faces you’ve never seen,
   even though you know living
 is the most real, the most beautiful thing.
I mean, you must take living so seriously
   that even at seventy, for example, you’ll plant olive trees–
   and not for your children, either,
   but because although you fear death you don’t believe it,
   because living, I mean, weighs heavier.

Let’s say we’re seriously ill, need surgery–
which is to say we might not get up
   from the white table.
Even though it’s impossible not to feel sad
   about going a little too soon,
we’ll still laugh at the jokes being told,
we’ll look out the window to see if it’s raining,
or still wait anxiously
  for the latest newscast... 
Let’s say we’re at the front–
 for something worth fighting for, say.
There, in the first offensive, on that very day,
 we might fall on our face, dead.
We’ll know this with a curious anger,
        but we’ll still worry ourselves to death
        about the outcome of the war, which could last years.
Let’s say we’re in prison
and close to fifty,
and we have eighteen more years, say,
                        before the iron doors will open.
We’ll still live with the outside,
with its people and animals, struggle and wind–
                                I  mean with the outside beyond the walls.
I mean, however and wherever we are,
        we must live as if we will never die.

This earth will grow cold,
a star among stars
               and one of the smallest,
a gilded mote on blue velvet–
   I mean this, our great earth.
This earth will grow cold one day,
not like a block of ice
or a dead cloud even 
but like an empty walnut it will roll along
   in pitch-black space... 
You must grieve for this right now
--you have to feel this sorrow now–
for the world must be loved this much
                               if you’re going to say “I lived”... 
–Nâzım Hikmet Ran 
1902 - 1963 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Breathing for a Living


“I’m a typical college student, if there is such a thing,” Laura wrote as a freshman at Brown University. “Except that I won’t be able to look back at my life from old age.” The sentences became part of a larger project during her sophomore year, when she became so ill that she withdrew from college to undergo the double lung transplant that ultimately failed to prolong her life. Weaving together essays, diary entries, poems, and emails to and from her many friends—dispatches from the shifting battlefields of CF and its treatment—Laura created a chronicle of her life as she lived it. She wrote with unadorned honesty and wry understatement, refusing to indulge in even a hint of false hope or sentimentality. Yet her voice resisted identification with an illness. 

What shines through Breathing for a Living is the sense that there is something in us that is not limited, that can seek and speak and be the truth. The reader comes away with the inkling that our greatest human power may not be our capacity to defend ourselves, to be unassailably strong and independent, but to be defenseless. The life of Laura proved that opening to our experience in its raw state without hope of escape makes us capable of opening to others as well. 

–Tracy Cochran
Living as Spiritual Practice:
The life and death of Laura Rothenberg

for your Sunday



Friday, August 22, 2014

the kingfisher

The kingfisher rises out of the black wave
like a blue flower, in his beak
he carries a silver leaf. I think this is
the prettiest world -- so long as you don't mind
a little dying, how could there be a day in your whole life
that doesn't have its splash of happiness?

There are more fish than there are leaves
on a thousand trees, and anyway the kingfisher
wasn't born to think about it, or anything else.

When the wave snaps shut over his blue head, the water
remains water--hunger is the only story
he has ever heard in his life that he could believe.

I don't say he's right. Neither
do I say he's wrong. Religiously he swallows the silver leaf
with its broken red river, and with a rough and easy cry
I couldn't rouse out of my thoughtful body
if my life depended on it, he swings back
over the bright sea to do the same thing, to do it
(as I long to do something, anything) perfectly.

–Mary Oliver


Thursday, August 21, 2014



Ripeness is
what falls away with ease.
Not only the heavy apple,
the pear,
but also the dried brown strands
of autumn iris from their core.

To let your body
love this world
that gave itself to your care
in all of its ripeness,
with ease,
and will take itself from you
in equal ripeness and ease,

is also harvest.

And however sharply
you are tested —
this sorrow, that great love —
it too will leave on that clean knife.

–Jane Hirshfield
The October Palace

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Aya Despacho, a shamanic ceremony for the end of life

see also


Brotherhood, Homage to Claudius Ptolemy



I am a man: little do I last
and the night is enormous.

But I look up:
the stars write.

Unknowing I understand:
I too am written,
and at this very moment
someone spells me out.

–Octavio Paz

Tuesday, August 19, 2014



Fish (fly-replete, in depth of June,  
 Dawdling away their wat'ry noon)
 Ponder deep wisdom, dark or clear,
 Each secret fishy hope or fear.
Fish say, they have their Stream and Pond;
 But is there anything Beyond?
 This life cannot be All, they swear,
 For how unpleasant, if it were!
One may not doubt that, somehow, Good
 Shall come of Water and of Mud;
 And, sure, the reverent eye must see
 A Purpose in Liquidity.
We darkly know, by Faith we cry,
 The future is not Wholly Dry.
 Mud unto mud! -- Death eddies near --
 Not here the appointed End, not here!
But somewhere, beyond Space and Time,
 Is wetter water, slimier slime!
 And there (they trust) there swimmeth One
 Who swam ere rivers were begun,
Immense, of fishy form and mind,
 Squamous, omnipotent, and kind;
 And under that Almighty Fin,
 The littlest fish may enter in.
Oh! never fly conceals a hook,
 Fish say, in the Eternal Brook,
 But more than mundane weeds are there,
 And mud, celestially fair;
Fat caterpillars drift around,
 And Paradisal grubs are found;
 Unfading moths, immortal flies,
 And the worm that never dies.
And in that Heaven of all their wish,
 There shall be no more land, say fish.
–Rupert Brooke


Monday, August 18, 2014

not to worry


In the right-hand pocket of my former life I’ve left something for you.

That is, darling, your turn will come.

I’d walk out on myself if I could.

I love the distant glow in the nighttime desert sky

like a worn yellow spot in the dark

everything might still slip through.

—Charlie Smith
from section 1 Outside Las Vegas of Late Days
Jump Soul: New and Selected Poems


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Getting There


You take a final step and, look, suddenly
You’re there. You’ve arrived
At the one place all your drudgery was aimed for:
This common ground
Where you stretch out, pressing your cheek to sandstone.
What did you want
To be? You’ll remember soon. You feel like tinder
Under a burning glass,
A luminous point of change. The sky is pulsing
Against the cracked horizon,
Holding it firm till the arrival of stars
In time with your heartbeats.
Like wind etching rock, you’ve made a lasting impression
On the self you were
By having come all this way through all this welter
Under your own power,
Though your traces on a map would make an unpromising
Meandering lifeline. What have you learned so far? You’ll find out later,
Telling it haltingly
Like a dream, that lost traveler’s dream
Under the last hill
Where through the night you’ll take your time out of mind
To unburden yourself
Of elements along elementary paths
By the break of morning.
You’ve earned this worn-down, hard, incredible sight
Called Here and Now.
Now, what you make of it means everything,
Means starting over:
The life in your hands is neither here nor there
But getting there,
So you’re standing again and breathing, beginning another
Journey without regret
Forever, being your own unpeaceable kingdom,
The end of endings.

–David Wagoner

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Lights Out


I have come to the borders of sleep,
The unfathomable deep
Forest where all must lose
Their way, however straight,
Or winding, soon or late;
They cannot choose.
Many a road and track
That, since the dawn's first crack,
Up to the forest brink,
Deceived the travellers,
Suddenly now blurs,
And in they sink.

Here love ends,
Despair, ambition ends,
All pleasure and all trouble,
Although most sweet or bitter,
Here ends in sleep that is sweeter
Than tasks most noble.

There is not any book
Or face of dearest look
That I would not turn from now
To go into the unknown
I must enter and leave alone
I know not how.

The tall forest towers;
Its cloudy foliage lowers
Ahead, shelf above shelf;
Its silence I hear and obey
That I may lose my way
And myself.

–Edward Thomas


Friday, August 15, 2014



You will never be alone, you hear so deep
a sound when autumn comes. Yellow
pulls across the hills and thrums,
or the silence after lightning before it says
its names — and then the clouds’ wide-mouthed
apologies. You were aimed from birth:
you will never be alone. Rain
will come, a gutter filled, an Amazon,
long aisles — you never heard so deep a sound,
moss on rock, and years. You turn your head—
that’s what the silence meant: you’re not alone.
The whole wide world pours down.

–William Stafford

Thursday, August 14, 2014

keeping quiet


Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
This one time upon the earth,
let’s not speak any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be a delicious moment,
without hurry, without locomotives,
all of us would be together
in a sudden uneasiness.

The fishermen in the cold sea
would do no harm to the whales
and the peasant gathering salt
would look at his torn hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars of gas, wars of fire,
victories without survivors,
would put on clean clothing
and would walk alongside their brothers
in the shade, without doing a thing.

What I want shouldn’t be confused
with final inactivity:
life alone is what matters,
I want nothing to do with death.

If we weren’t unanimous
about keeping our lives so much in motion,
if we could do nothing for once,
perhaps a great silence would
interrupt this sadness,
this never understanding ourselves
and threatening ourselves with death,
perhaps the earth is teaching us
when everything seems to be dead
and then everything is alive.

Now I will count to twelve
and you keep quiet and I’ll go.

Pablo Neruda


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

According to Garp


Death, it seems,” Garp wrote, “does not like to wait until we are prepared for it. Death is indulgent and enjoys, when it can, a flair for the dramatic.

—John Irving
The World According to Garp


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Fern-Leafed Beech



This tree listened
when my husband died.
I leaned my head
against its trunk
and cried.
No words passed,
but I took its strength
and knew
that life at last
secretly transforms
until what is seen
becomes unseen,
and what has been
is still to be.

–Moyra Caldecott