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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

we are born passing away


This is the realm of the passing away.
All that exists does not for long.
Whatever comes into this world never stops sliding
toward the edge of eternity.

Form arises from formlessness and passes back,
arising and dissolving in a few dance steps between
creation and destruction.
We are born passing away.

Seedlings and deadfall all face forward.
Earthworms eat what remains.
We sing not for that which dies but for that which
never does.

–Stephen Levine
Breaking the Drought: Visions of Grace


Sunday, November 30, 2014

The End


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

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Rivers into Seas


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