Monday, August 31, 2015

here and gone



Here and gone. That's what it is to be human, I think - to be both someone and no one at once, to hold a particular identity in the world (our names, our place of origins, our family and affectional ties) and to feel that solid set of ties also capable of dissolution, slipping away, as we become moments of attention.

Mark Doty


Sunday, August 30, 2015

I Will Be Found (Lost at Sea)


After the Fact


The people of my time are passing away: my
Wife is baking for a funeral, a 60-year old who

Died suddenly, when the phone rings, and it's
Ruth we care so much about in intensive care:

It was once weddings that came so thick and
Fast, and then, first babies, such a hullabaloo:

Now, it's this and that and the other and somebody
Else gone or on the brink: well, we never

Thought we would live forever (although we did)
And now it looks like we won't: some of us

Are losing a leg to diabetes, some don't know
What they went downstairs for, some know that

A hired watchful person is around, some like
To touch the cane tip into something steady,

So nice: we have already lost so many,
Brushed the loss of ourselves ourselves: our

Address books for so long a slow scramble now
Are palimpsests, scribbles and scratches: our

Index cards for Christmases, birthdays,
Halloweens drop clean away into sympathies:

At the same time we are getting used to so
Many leaving, we are hanging on with a grip

To the ones left: we are not giving up on the
Congestive heart failures or brain tumors, on

The nice old men left in empty houses or on
The widows who decided to travel a lot: we

Think the sun may shine someday when we'll
Drink wine together and think of what used to

Be: until we die we will remember every
Single thing, recall every word, love every

Loss: then we will, as we must, leave it to
Others to love, love that can grow brighter

And deeper till the very end, gaining strength
And getting more precious all the way.

–A. R. Ammons


Saturday, August 29, 2015

the reason for going



Each of the tragedies can be read
as the tale of a single ripening self,
every character part of one soul.
The comedies can be included in this as well.
Often the flaw is a flaw of self-knowledge;
sometimes greed.  For this reason the comic glint
of a school of herring leads to no plot line,
we cannot imagine a tragedy of donkeys or bees.

Before the ordinary realities, ordinary failures:
hunger, coldness, anger, longing, heat.
 Yet one day, a thought as small as a vetch
flower opens.

After, no longer minding the minor and almost
wordless role, playing the messenger given
the letter everyone knows will arrive too
late or ruined by water.

To have stopped by the fig and eaten was
not an error, then, but the reason for going.

–Jane Hirshfield


Friday, August 28, 2015



The sting in a limbering spring day
foreshadows summer. Through her window
roses plait themselves together beside young-
leafed eucalyptus as she, too ill to speak,
slowly becomes my eye in the clouds, the gap
I will see through. No one knows me better
than she who circled my first flight.

I’ve tried to prepare myself, remembering
her cyclopaedic mind, her gift for solutions.
My bird-mother. I reach out, hold her hands.

She slides down into sleep and wakes again
on this final island, where touch is more important
than words. She grimaces, begs for morphine . . .
Our world divides. We’ll fly differently now.

–Katherine Gallagher


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Lightly my darling


It’s dark because you are trying too hard.
Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly.
Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply.
Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.

I was so preposterously serious in those days, such a humorless little prig.
Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me.
When it comes to dying even.
Nothing ponderous, or portentous, or emphatic.

No rhetoric, no tremolos, no self conscious persona putting on its celebrated imitation of Christ or Little Nell.
And of course, no theology, no metaphysics.
Just the fact of dying and the fact of the clear light.

So throw away your baggage and go forward.
There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet,
trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair.
That’s why you must walk so lightly.

Lightly my darling,on tiptoes and no luggage,
not even a sponge bag,
completely unencumbered.

–Aldous Huxley


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

This Is My Poem for You


How many poems have been written
about that perfect globe of
eiderdown poised on a stem,
tens of tiny snowy pinpricks
left by a petalled sunburst?

If so much care
is spent on a plant,
a milk-white miracle,
surely we can ask a miracle for you,

dear one, lying so ill in your hospital bed?

August 17, 2015
On the journey with Glenda


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

This World


It appears that it was all a misunderstanding.
What was only a trial run was taken seriously.

The rivers will return to their beginnings.
The wind will cease in its turning about.

Trees instead of budding will tend to their roots.
Old men will chase a ball, a glance in the mirror -
They are children again.

The dead will wake up, not comprehending.
Till everything that happened has unhappened.

What a relief!
Breathe freely, you who suffered much.

–Czesław Miłosz

Monday, August 24, 2015

Black Stone on a White Stone



I will die in Paris while it rains,
on a day which I already remember.
I will die in Paris – and I do not run away –
perhaps in the Autumn, on a Thursday, as it is today.
It will be a Thursday, because today,
The Thursday that I write these lines,
my bones feel the turn,
and never so much as today, in all my road,
have I seen myself alone.
Cesar Vallejo

Sunday, August 23, 2015



You cannot become attached to human beings, things, or landscapes
without suffering immediately taking up a position at your side. 

This is probably a trite remark. 

Yet a much stranger fate brings you face to face with uprootedness.
It is better, then, to accept the suffering at your side. 

And illuminate it with love.

Pierre-Albert Jourdan
from The Approach, John Taylor translation


Friday, August 21, 2015

the lesson of the falling leaves


the leaves believe
such letting go is love
such love is faith
such faith is grace
such grace is god.

—Lucille Clifton


Thursday, August 20, 2015

deep peace to you


Deep peace of the running wave to you
Deep peace of the flowing air to you
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you

Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen.

Deep peace of the shining stars to you
Deep peace of the gentle night to you
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you

Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen.
Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen.

Deep peace of Christ, The light of the world to you
Deep peace of Christ to you.
Deep peace of Christ, The light of the world to you

Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen
Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen.

"The Peacemakers: Healing Light: A Celtic prayer (Anon)" by Karl Jenkins/London Symphony Orchestra/City of Birmingham Symphony Youth Chorus/Laurence Cottle/Davy Spillane/Simon Halsey/Gareth Davies/Chloë Hanslip/Rundfunkchor Berlin



together they come


Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.

Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.

Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.
–Kahlil Gibran
The Prophet

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

to Holderlin



We are not permitted to linger, even with what is most
intimate. From images that are full, the spirit
plunges on to others that suddenly must be filled;
there are no lakes till eternity. Here,
falling is best. To fall from the mastered emotion
into the guessed-at, and onward.

To you, O majestic poet, to you the compelling image,
O caster of spells, was a life, entire; when you uttered it
a line snapped shut like fate, there was a death
even in the mildest, and you walked straight into it; but
the god who preceded you led you out and beyond it.

O wandering spirit, most wandering of all! How snugly
the others live in their heated poems and stay,
content, in their narrow smiles. Taking part. Only you
move like the moon. And underneath brightens and darkens
the nocturnal landscape, the holy, the terrified landscape,
which you feel in departures. No one
gave it away more sublimely, gave it back
more fully to the universe, without any need to hold on.

Thus for years that you no longer counted, holy, you played
with infinite joy, as though it were not inside you,
but lay, belonging to no one, all around
on the gentle lawns of the earth, where the godlike children had left it.
Ah, what the greatest have longed for: you built it, free of desire,
stone upon stone, till it stood. And when it collapsed,
even then you weren't bewildered.

Why, after such an eternal life, do we still
mistrust the earthly? Instead of patiently learning from transience
the emotions for what future
slopes of the heart, in pure space?

–Rainer Maria Rilke
Stephen Mitchell translation


Monday, August 17, 2015

another spring



The seasons revolve and the years change
With no assistance or supervision.
The moon, without taking thought,
Moves in its cycle, full, crescent, and full.

The white moon enters the heart of the river;
The air is drugged with azalea blossoms;
Deep in the night a pine cone falls;
Our campfire dies out in the empty mountains.

The sharp stars flicker in the tremulous branches;
The lake is black, bottomless in the crystalline night;
High in the sky the Northern Crown
Is cut in half by the dim summit of a snow peak.

O heart, heart, so singularly
Intransigent and corruptible,
Here we lie entranced by the starlit water,
And moments that should each last forever

Slide unconsciously by us like water.


–Kenneth Rexroth


Sunday, August 16, 2015

from Transparent Things


This is, I believe, it: not the crude anguish of physical death but the incomparable pangs of the mysterious mental maneuver needed to pass from one state of being to another.

Easy, you know, does it, son.

–Vladimir Nabokov

Saturday, August 15, 2015

when I die


Friday, August 14, 2015

holy longing


Tell a wise person, or else keep silent
for the massman will mock it right away.
I praise what is truly alive,
what longs to be burned to death.

In the calm waters of the love-nights
where you were begotten, where you have begotten,
a strange feeling comes over you
when you see the silent candle burning.

Now you are no longer caught
in this obsession with darkness,
and a desire for higher love-making
sweeps you upward.

Distance does not make you falter,
now, arriving in magic, flying,
and, finally, insane for the light,
you are the butterfly and you are the light.

And so long as you haven’t experienced
this: to die and so to grow,
you are only a troubled guest
on the dark earth.

–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Robert Bly translation


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Concerning the Book that is the Body of the Beloved


Resurrection of the body of the beloved,
Which is the world
Which is the poem
Of the world, the poem of the body.

Mortal ourselves and filled with awe,
we gather the scattered limbs
Of Osiris.
That he should live again.
That death not be oblivion.

When I open the book
I hear the poets whisper and weep,
Laugh and lament.

In a thousand languages
They say the same thing:
“We lived. The secret of life
is love, that casts its wing
over all suffering, that takes
in its arms the hurt child,
that rises green from the fallen seed.”

Sadness is there, too.
All the sadness in the world.
Because the tide ebbs,
Because wild waves
Punish the shore
And the small lives lived there.
Because the body is scattered.
Because death is real
And sometimes death is not
Even the worst of it.

If sadness did not run
Like a river through the Book,
Why would we go there?
What would we drink?

Oh, there’s blood enough, and sap
From the stalks. Tears, too.
A raindrop and the dark water
Of bogs. It’s a rich ink.
Indelible, invisible
(hold up the page to the light,
hold the page near a flame).

The world comes into the poem.
The poem comes into the world.
Reciprocity – it all comes down
To that.
As with lovers:
When it’s right you can’t say
Who is kissing whom.

Lighten up, lighten up.
Let go of the heaviness.
Was it a poem from the Book
That so weighed you down?

Impossible. Less than a feather.
Less than the seed a milkweed
Pod releases in the breeze.

Lifted, it drifts out to settle
In a field, with all that’s inside it
Waiting to become
Root and tendril, to come alive.

Now the snow is falling
Even more than an hour ago.
The pine in the backyard
Bows with the weight of it.

Two years ago, my father
Died. What love we had
Hidden under misery,
Weighed down with years
Of silence.

And now,
Maybe the poem can free
Us, maybe the poem can express
The love and let the rest
Slide to the earth as the snow
Does now, freeing the tree
Of its burden.

To be alive: not just the carcass
But the spark.
That’s crudely put, but . . .

If we’re not supposed to dance,
Why all this music?

Time to shut up.
Voltaire said the secret
Of being boring
Is to say everything.

And yet I held
Back about love
All those years:
Talking about death
Insistently, even
As I was alive;
Talking about loss
As if all was loss,
As if the world
Did not return
Each morning.
As if the beloved
Didn’t long for us.

No wonder I go on
So. I go on so
Because of the wonder.

–Gregory Orr


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

the secret

I have a secret which I have learned how to read inside myself; if I told it to you, it would make you laugh.My heart is naked and no one can put clothes on it,  and nothing can be put on that will not immediately fall off. My secret is ignorant,    it doesn’t sing songs, no lie, it has nothing to tell you. My two eyes are maps of the planet— I see everything and nothing upsets me.
besides being no one,    know that I am you    and everybody.
~Thomas Merton, excerpted from “The Secret”
…the lines that touched my heart deeply…(Photo by Marciej Duczynski)


Since I am
Somebody’s dream,
I have a good life.

Sometimes I go away in my sailboat on a cloud
and take a quiet little trip.
I have a secret
which I have learned how to read inside myself;
if I told it to you,
it would make you laugh.

My heart is naked
and no one can put clothes on it,   
and nothing can be put on
that will not immediately fall off.

My secret is ignorant,   
it doesn’t sing songs,
no lie,
it has nothing to tell you.

My two eyes
are maps of the planet—
I see everything
and nothing upsets me.

Just now
I was in China
and saw there a great piece of happiness   
that belonged to one man.

And I have been to the center of the earth,   
where there is no suffering.

If on your loneliest nights,   
I visit other planets
and the most secret stars of all,

besides being no one,   
know that I am you   
and everybody.

But if I go away
without giving you a name to remember me with,
how will I find
the right dream to return to?

You won’t have to mark down
on your calendar that I am coming back;   
don’t bother to write me into your notebooks.   
I will be around
when you aren’t thinking about me,

without hair or a neck,   
without a nose and cheeks   
no reputation—
there won’t be anything.

I am a bird   
which God made.

–Thomas Merton


Monday, August 10, 2015

Picnic, Lightning


It is possible to be struck by a
meteor or a single-engine plane while
reading in a chair at home. Pedestrians
are flattened by safes falling from
rooftops mostly within the panels of
the comics, but still, we know it is
possible, as well as the flash of
summer lightning, the thermos toppling
over, spilling out on the grass.
And we know the message can be
delivered from within. The heart, no
valentine, decides to quit after
lunch, the power shut off like a
switch, or a tiny dark ship is
unmoored into the flow of the body's
rivers, the brain a monastery,
defenseless on the shore. This is
what I think about when I shovel
compost into a wheelbarrow, and when
I fill the long flower boxes, then
press into rows the limp roots of red
impatiens -- the instant hand of Death
always ready to burst forth from the
sleeve of his voluminous cloak. Then
the soil is full of marvels, bits of
leaf like flakes off a fresco,
red-brown pine needles, a beetle quick
to burrow back under the loam. Then
the wheelbarrow is a wilder blue, the
clouds a brighter white, and all I
hear is the rasp of the steel edge
against a round stone, the small
plants singing with lifted faces, and
the click of the sundial as one hour
sweeps into the next.

–Billy Collins 

kevin steele

i see you


Sunday, August 9, 2015

what time is it?

what time is it?it is by every star
a different time,and each most falsely true;
or so subhuman superminds declare

– nor all their times encompass me and you:

when are we never,but forever now
(hosts of eternity;not guests of seem)
believe me,dear,clocks have enough to do

without confusing timelessness and time.

Time cannot children,poets,lovers tell -
measure imagine,mystery,a kiss
– not through mankind would rather know than feel;

mistrusting utterly that timelessness

whose absence would make your whole life and my
(and infinite our)merely to undie

–E. E. Cummings

Saturday, August 8, 2015

the eighth elegy


With all its eyes the natural world looks out
into the Open. Only our eyes are turned
backward, and surround plant, animal, child
like traps, as they emerge into their freedom.

We know what is really out there only from
the animal's gaze; for we take the very young
child and force it around, so that it sees
objects - not the Open, which is so
deep in animals' faces. Free from death.
We, only, can see death; the free animal
has its decline in back of it, forever,
and God in front, and when it moves, it moves
already in eternity, like a fountain.

Never, not for a single day, do we have
before us that pure space into which flowers
endlessly open. Always there is World
and never Nowhere without the No: that pure
unseparated element which one breathes
without desire and endlessly knows. A child
may wander there for hours, through the timeless
stillness, may get lost in it and be
shaken back. Or someone dies and is it.
For, nearing death, one doesn't see death; but stares
beyond, perhaps with an animal's vast gaze.

Lovers, if the beloved were not there
blocking the view, are close to it, and marvel...
As if by some mistake, it opens for them
behind each other... But neither can move past
the other, and it changes back to World.
Forever turned toward objects, we see in them
the mere reflection of the realm of freedom,
which we have dimmed. Or when some animal
mutely, serenely, looks us through and through.
That is what fate means: to be opposite,
to be opposite and nothing else, forever.

If the animal moving toward us so securely
in a different direction had our kind of
consciousness -, it would wrench us around and drag us
along its path. But it feels its life as boundless,
unfathomable, and without regard
to its own condition: pure, like its outward gaze.
And where we see the future, it sees all time
and itself within all time, forever healed.

Yet in the alert, warm animal there lies
the pain and burden of an enormous sadness.
For it too feels the presence of what often
overwhelms us: a memory, as if
the element we keep pressing toward was once
more intimate, more true, and our communion
infinitely tender. Here all is distance;

there it was breath. After that first home,
the second seems ambiguous and drafty.

Oh bliss of the tiny creature which remains
forever inside the womb that was its shelter;
joy of the gnat which, still within, leaps up
even at its marriage: for everything is womb.
And look at the half-assurance of the bird,
which knows both inner and outer, from its source,
as if it were the soul of an Etruscan,
flown out of a dead man received inside a space,
but with his reclining image as the lid.
And how bewildered is any womb-born creature
that has to fly. As if terrified and fleeing
from itself, it zigzags through the air, the way
a crack runs through a teacup. So the bat
quivers across the porcelain of evening.

And we: spectators, always, everywhere,
turned toward the world of objects, never outward.
It fills us. We arrange it. It breaks down.
We rearrange it, then break down ourselves.
Who has twisted us around like this , so that
no matter what we do, we are in the posture
of someone going away? Just as, upon
the farthest hill, which shows him his whole valley
one last time, he turns, stops, lingers -,
so we live here, forever taking leave.

–Rainer Maria Rilke

from Duino Elegies