Sunday, May 31, 2015

Any Night


Look, the eucalyptus, the Atlas pine,
the yellowing ash, all the trees
are gone, and I was older than
all of them. I am older than the moon,
than the stars that fill my plate,
than the unseen planets that huddle
together here at the end of a year
no one wanted. A year more than a year,
in which the sparrows learned
to fly backwards into eternity. 

Their brothers and sisters saw this
and refuse to build nests. Before
the week is over they will all
have gone, and the chorus of love
that filled my yard and spilled
into my kitchen each evening
will be gone. I will have to learn
to sing in the voices of pure joy
and pure pain. I will have to forget
my name, my childhood, the years
under the cold dominion of the clock
so that this voice, torn and cracked,
can reach the low hills that shielded
the orange trees once. I will stand
on the back porch as the cold
drifts in, and sing, not for joy,
not for love, not even to be heard. 

I will sing so that the darkness
can take hold and whatever
is left, the fallen fruit, the last
leaf, the puzzled squirrel, the child
far from home, lost, will believe
this could be any night. That boy,
walking alone, thinking of nothing
or reciting his favorite names
to the moon and stars, let him
find the home he left this morning,
let him hear a prayer out
of the raging mouth of the wind. 

Let him repeat that prayer,
the prayer that night follows day,
that life follows death, that in time
we find our lives. Don’t let him see
all that has gone. Let him love
the darkness. Look, he’s running
and singing too. He could be happy.

—Philip Levine

Igor Shpilenok

Saturday, May 30, 2015

grace approaching


Maxwell Tomlinson


There is a grace approaching
that we shun as much as death,
it is the completion of our birth.

It does not come in time,
but in timelessness
when the mind sinks into the heart
and we remember.

It is an insistent grace that draws us
to the edge and beckons us surrender
safe territory and enter our enormity.

We know we must pass
beyond knowing
and fear the shedding.

But we are pulled upward
through forgotten ghosts
and unexpected angels,

And there is nothing left to say
but we are That.

And that is what we sing about.

–Stephen Levine
Breaking the Drought, Visions of Grace


Thursday, May 28, 2015



My heart is so small
it's almost invisible.
How can You place
such big sorrows in it?

"Look," He answered,
"your eyes are even smaller,
yet they behold the world."



Wednesday, May 27, 2015

remembering you


in time of daffodils (who know
the goal of living is to grow)
forgetting why, remember how
in time of lilacs who proclaim
the aim of waking is to dream,
remember so (forgetting seem)

in time of roses (who amaze
our now and here with paradise)
forgetting if, remember yes

in time of all sweet things beyond
whatever mind may comprehend,
remember seek (forgetting find)

and in a mystery to be
(when time from time
shall set us free)
forgetting me, remember me

–E. E. Cummings


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

fear of vanishing


The fear of vanishing which may arise with inquiry,
is the old sensation: “I am the body.”
This is not a fear of the new, but of leaving the old.
Have no fear and plunge into your own Being.
When “you” disappear, all fear will also.

Stay quiet, be still, here you are.
Stay as presence in your Heart.
Do not fear meeting the Self,
it is what you always been.
Nothing can be lost, have no fear.

There can also be fear of “losing it.”
Only when you possess something does the fear of losing arise.
Only Self cannot be held, so only Self cannot be lost.
The only way to avoid fear is to return to the inner beauty,
the Self, the Heart on the right.



Monday, May 25, 2015

not to worry


All your pain, worry, sorrow
Will someday apologize and confess
They were a great lie.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

that is happiness



I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. 

Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. 

At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. 

When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.

—Willa Cather 
from My Antonia


Saturday, May 23, 2015

I Am Learning to Abandon the World


I am learning to abandon the world
before it can abandon me.
Already I have given up the moon
and snow, closing my shades
against the claims of white.

And the world has taken
my father, my friends.
I have given up melodic lines of hills,
moving to a flat, tuneless landscape.
And every night I give my body up
limb by limb, working upwards
across bone, towards the heart.
But morning comes with small
reprieves of coffee and birdsong.
A tree outside the window
which was simply shadow moments ago
takes back its branches
twig by leafy twig.
And as I take my body back
the sun lays its warm muzzle on my lap
as if to make amends.

—Linda Pastan


Friday, May 22, 2015

this will be all?


And this will be all?
And the gates will never open again?
And the dust and the wind will play around the rusty door
hinges and the songs of October moan, Why-oh, why-oh?

And you will look to the mountains
And the mountains will look to you
And you will wish you were a mountain
And the mountain will wish nothing at all?
  This will be all?
The gates will never-never open again?

The dust and the wind only
And the rusty door hinges and moaning October
And Why-oh, why-oh, in the moaning dry leaves,
  This will be all?

Nothing in the air but songs
And no singers, no mouths to know the songs?
You tell us a woman with a heartache tells you it is so?
  This will be all?

–Carl Sandburg


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

worth a look


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Another Night in the Ruins



How many nights must it take
one such as me to learn
that we aren't, after all, made
from that bird that flies out of its ashes,
that for us
as we go up in flames, our one work
to open ourselves, to be
the flames?

–Galway Kinnell


Monday, May 18, 2015

On Death, without Exaggeration


It can’t take a joke, 
find a star, make a bridge. 
It knows nothing about weaving, mining, farming, 
building ships, or baking cakes.
In our planning for tomorrow, 
it has the final word, 
which is always beside the point.

It can’t even get the things done 
that are part of its trade: 
dig a grave, 
make a coffin, 
clean up after itself.

Preoccupied with killing, 
it does the job awkwardly, 
without system or skill. 
As though each of us were its first kill.

Oh, it has its triumphs, 
but look at its countless defeats, 
missed blows, 
and repeat attempts!

Sometimes it isn’t strong enough 
to swat a fly from the air. 
Many are the caterpillars 
that have outcrawled it.

All those bulbs, pods, 
tentacles, fins, tracheae, 
nuptial plumage, and winter fur 
show that it has fallen behind 
with its halfhearted work.

Ill will won’t help 
and even our lending a hand with wars and coups d’etat 
is so far not enough.

Hearts beat inside eggs. 
Babies’ skeletons grow. 
Seeds, hard at work, sprout their first tiny pair of leaves 
and sometimes even tall trees fall away.

Whoever claims that it’s omnipotent 
is himself living proof 
that it’s not.

There’s no life 
that couldn’t be immortal 
if only for a moment.

always arrives by that very moment too late.

In vain it tugs at the knob 
of the invisible door. 
As far as you’ve come 
can’t be undone.

–Wislawa Szymborska


Sunday, May 17, 2015

i shall be released


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Because I could not stop for Death


Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labour, and my leisure too,
For his civility.

We passed the school where children played,
Their lessons scarcely done;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.

We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the ground;
The roof was scarcely visible,
The cornice but a mound.

Since then ‘tis centuries; but each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses’ heads
Were toward eternity.

–Emily Dickinson


Friday, May 15, 2015



We come at last to the dark
and enter in. We are given bodies
newly made out of their absence
from one another in the light
of the ordinary day. We come
to the space between ourselves,
the narrow doorway, and pass through
into the land of the wholly loved.

–Wendell Berry
This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems


Thursday, May 14, 2015

After a Miscarriage


When spring came I came alive again.
The air was finally gentle
and I breathed deeply of sweet

lilac and hyacinth and some faint
scent I couldn’t find or name.
It wafted through the house

like light, forgotten in our long
winter of darkness. The plums
and cherry trees around the block

were laced with flowerlets
and tiny leaves and made a subtle
dazzling of hope. Not a forgetting

but a softening, as if the harsh
outlines of loss were growing
over now with something like the tender

grass of spring, its blades a clear
luminous green, a color from childhood,
from a time before grief and its

terrible healing makes traitors of us all.

Harriet Brown

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

part 48


I have said that the soul is not more than the body,
And I have said that the body is not more than the soul,
And nothing, not God, is greater to one than one's self is,
And whoever walks a furlong without sympathy walks to his own funeral drest in his shroud,
And I or you pocketless of a dime may purchase the pick of the earth,
And to glance with an eye or show a bean in its pod confounds the learning of all times,
And there is no trade or employment but the young man following it may become a hero,
And there is no object so soft but it makes a hub for the wheel'd universe,
And I say to any man or woman, Let your soul stand cool and composed before a million universes.

And I say to mankind, Be not curious about God,
For I who am curious about each am not curious about God,
(No array of terms can say how much I am at peace about God and about death.)

I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God not in the least,
Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself.
Why should I wish to see God better than this day?

I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then,
In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass,
I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign'd by God's name,
And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe'er I go,
Others will punctually come for ever and ever.

–Walt Whitman
Song of Myself, Leaves of Grass


Monday, May 11, 2015

Am I Not Among the Early Risers, excerpt


Here is an amazement — once I was twenty years old and in
every motion of my body there was a delicious ease,
and in every motion of the green earth there was
a hint of paradise,
and now I am sixty years old, and it is the same.
Above the modest house and the palace — the same darkness.
Above the evil man and the just, the same stars.
Above the child who will recover and the child who will
not recover, the same energies roll forward,
from one tragedy to the next and from one foolishness to the next.

I bow down.

–Mary Oliver


Sunday, May 10, 2015

When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice, excerpt


I am fifty four years old, the age my mother was when she died. This is what I remember: We were lying on her bed with a mohair blanket covering us. I was rubbing her back, feeling each vertebra with my fingers as a rung on a ladder. It was January, and the ruthless clamp of cold bore down on us outside. Yet inside, Mother's tenderness and clarity of mind carried its own warmth. She was dying in the same way she was living, consciously.

"I am leaving you all my journals," she said, facing the shuttered window as I continued rubbing her back. "But you must promise me that you will not look at them until after I am gone."

I gave her my word. And then she told me where they were. I didn't know my mother kept journals.

A week later she died. That night, there was a full moon encircled by ice crystals.

On the next full moon I found myself alone in the family home. I kept expecting Mother to appear. Her absence became her presence. It was the right time to read her journals. They were exactly where she said they would be: three shelves of beautiful clothbound books; some floral, some paisley, others in solid colors. The spines of each were perfectly aligned against the lip of the shelves. I opened the first journal. It was empty. I opened the second journal. It was empty. I opened the third. It, too, was empty, as was the fourth, the fifth, the sixth - shelf after shelf after shelf, all my mother's journals were blank.

–Terry Tempest Williams


Saturday, May 9, 2015



Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
utters itself. So, a woman will lift
her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift.
Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth
enters our hearts, that small familiar pain;
then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth
in the distant Latin chanting of a train.

Pray for us now. Grade 1 piano scales
console the lodger looking out across
a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls
a child's name as though they named their loss.

Darkness outside. Inside, the radio's prayer -
Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.

–Carol Ann Duffy


Friday, May 8, 2015

everything is going to be all right


How should I not be glad to contemplate
the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?
There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.
The poems flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart.
The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.

–Derek Mahon

Thursday, May 7, 2015

On the Grasshopper and Cricket


The poetry of earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper’s—he takes the lead
In summer luxury,—he has never done
With his delights; for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.

The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
On a lone winter evening, when the frost
Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket’s song, in warmth increasing ever,
And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
The Grasshopper’s among some grassy hills.

–John Keats


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Grief, excerpt



Trying to remember you

is like carrying water

in my hands a long distance

across sand. Somewhere

people are waiting.

They have drunk nothing for days.

–Stephen Dobyns
Velocities: New and Selected Poems