Sunday, November 30, 2014

The End








  
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Not every man knows what he shall sing at the end,
Watching the pier as the ship sails away, or what it will seem like
When he's held by the sea's roar, motionless, there at the end,
Or what he shall hope for once it is clear that he'll never go back.

When the time has passed to prune the rose or caress the cat,
When the sunset torching the lawn and the full moon icing it down
No longer appear, not every man knows what he'll discover instead.
When the weight of the past leans against nothing, and the sky

Is no more than remembered light, and the stories of cirrus
And cumulus come to a close, and all the birds are suspended in flight,
Not every man knows what is waiting for him, or what he shall sing
When the ship he is on slips into darkness, there at the end.


–Mark Strand
The Continuous Life






the remains

 






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I empty myself of the names of others. I empty my pockets.
I empty my shoes and leave them beside the road
At night I turn back the clocks;
I open the family album and look at myself as a boy.

What good does it do? The hours have done their job.
I say my own name. I say goodbye.
The words follow each other downwind.
I love my wife but send her away.

My parents rise out of their thrones
into the milky rooms of clouds. How can I sing?
Time tells me what I am. I change and I am the same.
I empty myself of my life and my life remains.



Mark Strand  (1934-2014)




















 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Rivers into Seas





 
 
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Palaces of drift and crystal, the clouds
loosen their burden, unworldly flakes so thick
the border zones of sea and shore, the boundless zones
of air fuse to float their worlds until the spirits   
congregate, fleet histories yearning into shape.

Close my eyes and I’m a vessel. Make it
some lucent amphora, Venetian blue, lip circled
in faded gold. Can you see the whorls of breath,
imperfections, the navel where it was blown
from the maker’s pipe, can you see it drawn

up from the bay where flakes hiss the instant
they become the bay? Part the curtain. The foghorn’s
steady, soothing moan—warning, safety, the reeling
home. Shipwreck and rescue. Stories within stories—
there’s this one of the cottage nestled into dune

snowed into pure wave, the bay beyond and its lavish
rustle, skirts lifting and falling fringed in foam.   
But I’m in another season—my friends’ house adrift,   
Wally’s last spring-into-summer, his bed a raft,
cats and dogs clustered and we’re watching television

floods, the Mississippi drowning whole cities
unfamiliar. How could any form be a vessel
adequate to such becoming, the stories unspooled
through the skein of months as the virus erased
more and more until Wally’s nimbused as these

storm clouds, the sudden glowing ladders they let fall?
But that’s not the moment I’m conjuring—it’s when
my voyager afloat so many months brought back   
every flood story I carried. Drifting worlds,
and Wai Min takes a shape I tell Wally as

steady watermarks across the cold bare floor—
Chinatown, South Pacific flashing its crimson,
neoned waves tranced across Wai Min’s midnight eyes
behind black shades, and that voice unraveling past
each knocking winter pain. It’s another world

I’m telling, Cognac and squalor. The foghorn’s haunting drone
blends with that halting monotone, scarlet watermarks,
the Sinkiang’s floodtides murky brown, the village
become water, swept away. Three days floating on a door,
his sister, the grandmother weaving stories endless

beneath the waxed umbrella canopy she’s fashioned,
stories to soothe the children wrapped in the curtain
of her hair, to calm the ghost souls’ blurred lanterns.
How rats swam to their raft, soaked cats, spirits
she said, ghosts held tranced by the storied murmurous

river. I have no spell, simply the foghorn’s song
when voices unbodied, drift over water past
the low dune this cottage nestles in becoming
shape in motion stilled. No boundaries on this point,
foghorn singing its come-home incantation over

the ruthless currents. And isn’t it so
we’re merely vessels given in grace, in mystery,
just a little while, our fleet streaked moments?
As this day is given, singular, chilly
bolts of snow chenilled across the sky, the sea.

How to cipher where one life begins and becomes
another? Part the curtain and here’s my voyager
afloat, gentle sleeper, sweet fish, dancer over
water and he’s talking, laughing in
that great four-poster bed he could not leave

for months, a raft to buoy his furious radiant soul,
if I may hazard to say that? Yes,
there was laughter, the stories, the shining dogs—
gold and black—his company. Voyager afloat
so many months, banks of sunflowers he loved spitting

their seeds. Tick. Black numerals on the sill.
A world can be built anywhere & he spun, letting go. . . .
The last time I held him, the last time we spoke, just
a whisper—hoarse—that marries now this many-voiced mansion
of storm and from him I’ve learned to slip my body,

to be the storm governed by the law of bounty given
then taken away. Shush and glide. This tide’s running
high, its silken muscular tearing ruled by cycles,   
relentless, the drawn lavish damasks—teal, aquamarine,
silvered steel, desire’s tidal forces, such urgent

fullness, the elaborate collapse, and withdrawal
beyond the drawn curtain that shows the secret
desert of bare ruched sand. I’ve learned this,   
I’ve learned to be the horn calling home
the journeyer, saying farewell. And here’s

the foghorn’s simple two-note wail,
mechanical stark aria that ripples
out to shelter all of us—
our mortal burden of dreams—
adrift in the sea’s restless shouldering. 
 
 
–Lynda Hull 
For Wally Roberts, 1951-1994







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Friday, November 28, 2014

this only









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A valley and above it forests in autumn colors.
A voyager arrives, a map leads him there.

Or perhaps memory. Once long ago in the sun,
When snow first fell, riding this way
He felt joy, strong, without reason,
Joy of the eyes. Everything was the rhythm
Of shifting trees, of a bird in flight,
Of a train on the viaduct, a feast in motion.

He returns years later, has no demands.
He wants only one, most precious thing:
To see, purely and simply, without name,
Without expectations, fears, or hopes,
At the edge where there is no I or not-I.


–Czeslaw Milosz





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2bfamily


 











Thursday, November 27, 2014

hate to see your heart break











 








not to worry









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Death is a favour to us,
But our scales have lost their balance.
The impermanence of the body
Should give us great clarity, deepening the wonder in our

Senses and eyes

Of this mysterious existence we share

And surely are just travelling through.

 
If I were in the tavern tonight,
Hafiz would call for drinks

And as the Master poured, I would be reminded

That all I know of life and myself is that

We are just a mid-air flight of golden wine

Between His Pitcher and His cup.

If I were in the tavern to night,
I would buy freely for everyone in this world

Because our marriage with the Cruel Beauty

Of time and space cannot endure very long.
 

Death is a favour to us,
But our minds have lost their balance.
 

The miraculous existence and impermanence of
Form

Always makes the illumined ones

Laugh and sing.



–Hafiz







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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

gestures








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And yet they, who passed away long ago, still exist in us,
as predisposition, as burden upon our fate, as murmuring blood,
and as gesture that rises up from the depths of time.



—Rainer Maria Rilke





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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

some questions you might ask









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Is the soul solid, like iron?
Or is it tender and breakable, like
the wings of a moth in the beak of an owl?

Who has it, and who doesn't?
I keep looking around me.

The face of the moose is as sad
as the face of Jesus.
The swan opens her white wings slowly.
In the fall, the black bear carries leaves into the darkness.

One question leads to another.
Does it have a shape? Like an iceberg?
Like the eye of a hummingbird?
Does it have one lung, like the snake and the scallop?

Why should I have it, and not the anteater
who loves her children?
Why should I have it, and not the camel?

Come to think of it, what about maple trees?
What about the blue iris?
What about all the little stones, sitting alone in the moonlight?
What about roses, and lemons, and their shining leaves?

What about the grass?


–Mary Oliver








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Monday, November 24, 2014

things keep sorting themselves







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Does the butterfat know it is butterfat,
milk know it’s milk?
No.
Something just goes and something remains.

Like a boardinghouse table:
men on one side, women on the other.
Nobody planned it.

Plaid shirts next to one another,
talking in accents from the Midwest.

Nobody plans to be a ghost.

Later on, the young people sit in the kitchen.

Soon enough, they’ll be the ones
to stumble Excuse me and quickly withdraw.
But they don’t know that.
No one can ever know that.


–Jane Hirshfield





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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Three times my life has opened








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Three times my life has opened.
Once, into darkness and rain.
Once, into what the body carries at all times within it and
starts to remember each time it enters the act of love.
Once, to the fire that holds all.

These three were not different.
You will recognize what I am saying or you will not.
But outside my window all day a maple has stepped from
her leaves like a woman in love with winter, dropping
the colored silks.

Neither are we different in what we know.
There is a door. It opens. Then it is closed. But a slip
of light stays, like a scrap of unreadable paper left on
the floor, or the one red leaf the snow releases in March.


–Jane Hirshfield





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Saturday, November 22, 2014

temporary ghost









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Friday, November 21, 2014

Response and Reconciliation, last poem from Octavio Paz









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I


Ah life! Does no one answer?
His words rolled, bolts of lightning etched
in years that were boulders and now are mist.

Life never answers.
It has no ears and doesn't hear us;
it doesn't speak, it has no tongue.
It neither goes nor stays:
we are the ones who speak,

the ones who go,
while we hear from echo to echo, year to year,
our words rolling through a tunnel with no end.

That which we call life
hears itself within us, speaks with our tongues,
and through us, knows itself.
As we portray it, we become its mirror, we invent it.
An invention of an invention: it creates us
without knowing what it has created,
we are an accident that thinks.

It is a creature of reflections
we create by thinking,
and it hurls into fictitious abysses.
The depths, the transparencies
where it floats or sinks: not life, its idea.

It is always on the other side and is always other,
has a thousand bodies and none,
never moves and never stops,
it is born to die, and is born at death.
Is life immortal? Don't ask life,
for it doesn't even know what life is.

We are the ones who know
that one day it too must die and return
to the beginning, the inertia of the origin.
The end of yesterday, today, and tomorrow,
the dissipation of time
and of nothing, its opposite.

Then--will there be a then?
will the primogenious spark light
the matrix of the worlds,
a perpetual re-beginning of a senseless whirling?
No one answers, no one knows.
We only know that to live is to live for.

 

II

 

Sudden spring, a girl who wakes
on a green bed guarded by thorns;
tree of noon, heavy with oranges:
your tiny suns, fruits of cool fire,
summer gathers them in transparent baskets;
the fall is severe, its cold light
sharpens its knife against the red maples;
Januaries and Februaries: their beards are ice,
and their eyes sapphires that April liquefies,
the wave that rises, the wave that stretches out,
appearances-disappearances
on the circular road of the year

All that we see, all that we forget,
the harp of the rain, the inscription of the lightning,
the hurried thoughts, reflections turned to birds,
the doubts of the path as it meanders,
the wailing of the wind
as it carves the faces of the mountains,
the moon on tiptoe over the lake,
the breezes in gardens, the throbbing of night,
the camps of stars on the burnt field,
the battle of reflections on the white salt flats,
the fountain and its monologue,
the held breath of outstretched night
and the river that entwines it, the pine under the evening star
and the waves, instant statues, on the sea,
the flock of clouds that the wind herds
through drowsy valleys, the peaks, the chasms,
time turned to rock, frozen eras,
time maker of roses and plutonium,
time that makes as it razes.

The ant, the elephant, the spider, and the sheep,
our strange world of terrestrial creatures
that are born, eat, kill, sleep, play, couple,
and somehow know that they die;
our world of humanity, far and near,
the animal with eyes in its hands
that tunnels through the past and examines the future,
with its histories and uncertainties,
the ecstasy of the saint, the sophisms of the evil,
the elation of lovers, their meetings, their contentions,
the insomnia of the old man counting his mistakes,
the criminal and the just, a double enigma,
the Father of the People, his crematory parks,
his forests of gallows and obelisks of skulls,
the victorious and the defeated,
the long sufferings and the one happy moment,
the builder of houses and the one who destroys them,
this paper where I write, letter by letter,
which you glance at with distracted eyes,
all of them and all of it, all
is the work of time that begins and ends.

 


III

 


From birth to death time surrounds us
with its intangible walls.
We fall with the centuries, the years, the minutes.
Is time only a falling, only a wall?


For a moment, sometimes, we see
--not with our eyes but with our thoughts--
time resting in a pause.
The world half-opens and we glimpse
the immaculate kingdom,
the pure forms, presences
unmoving, floating
on the hour, a river stopped:
truth, beauty, numbers, ideas
--and goodness, a word buried
in our century.

A moment without weight or duration,
a moment outside the moment:
thought sees, our eyes think.
Triangles, cubes, the sphere, the pyramid
and the other geometrical figures
thought and drawn by mortal eyes
but which have been here since the beginning,
are, still legible, the world, its secret writing,
the reason and the origin of the turning of things,
the axis of the changes, the unsupported pivot
that rests on itself, a reality without a shadow.

The poem, the piece of music, the theorem,
unpolluted presences born from the void,
are delicate structures
built over an abyss:
infinities fit into their finite forms,
and chaos too is ruled by their hidden symmetry.

Because we know it, we are not an accident:
chance, redeemed, returns to order.
Tied to the earth and to time,
a light and weightless ether,
thought supports the worlds and their weight,
whirlwinds of suns turned
into a handful of signs
on a random piece of paper.

Wheeling swarms
of transparent evidence
where the eyes of understanding
drink a water simple as water.

The universe rhymes with itself,
it unfolds and is two and is many
without ceasing to be one.

Motion, a river that runs endlessly
with open eyes through the countries of vertigo
--there is no above nor below, what is near is far--
returns to itself
--without returning, now turned
into a fountain of stillness.

Tree of blood, man feels, thinks, flowers,
and bears strange fruits: words.
What is thought and what is felt entwine,
we touch ideas: they are bodies and they are numbers.

And while I say what I say
time and space fall dizzyingly,
restlessly. They fall in themselves.
Man and the galaxy return to silence.

Does it matter? Yes--but it doesn't matter:
we know that silence is music and that
we are a chord in this concert.



–Octavio Paz
Eliot Weinberger translation






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Thursday, November 20, 2014

you are the medicine










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Don’t go off sightseeing.
The real journey is right here.
The great excursion starts
from exactly where you are.
You are the world.
You have everything you need.
You are the secret.
You are the wide opened.

Don’t look for the remedy for your troubles
outside yourself.

You are the medicine.
You are the cure for your own sorrow.


 –Rumi






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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Questions Which Tend Not to Edification







 
 
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I have not explained that the saint exists after death;
I have not explained that the saint does not exist after death; I have not explained that the saint both exists and does not exist after death; I have not explained that the saint neither exists nor does not exist after death. 
And why, Malunkyaputta, have I not explained this? Because, Malunkyaputta, this profits not, nor has to do with the fundamentals of religion, nor tends to aversion, absence of passion, cessation, quiescence, the supernatural faculties, supreme wisdom, and Nirvana.

 

–Lord Buddha






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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

An Improvisation For Angular Momentum








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Walking is like
imagination, a
single step
dissolves the circle
into motion; the eye here
and there rests
on a leaf,
gap, or ledge,
everything flowing
except where
sight touches seen:
stop, though, and
reality snaps back
in, locked hard,
forms sharply
themselves, bushbank,
dentree, phoneline,
definite, fixed,
the self, too, then
caught real, clouds
and wind melting
into their directions,
breaking around and
over, down and out,
motions profound,
alive, musical!

Perhaps the death mother like the birth mother
does not desert us but comes to tend
and produce us, to make room for us
and bear us tenderly, considerately,
through the gates, to see us through,
to ease our pains, quell our cries,
to hover over and nestle us, to deliver
us into the greatest, most enduring
peace, all the way past the bother of
recollection,
beyond the finework of frailty,
the mishmash house of the coming and going,
creation's fringes,
the eddies and curlicues.


–A. R. Ammons






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Monday, November 17, 2014

gorgeous











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