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


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014



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


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

some questions you might ask


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


Monday, November 24, 2014

things keep sorting themselves


Does the butterfat know it is butterfat,
milk know it’s milk?
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


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Three times my life has opened


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


Saturday, November 22, 2014

temporary ghost


Thursday, November 20, 2014

you are the medicine


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.



Monday, November 17, 2014



In the Borderlands


The part of this being that is rock,
the part of this body that is a star,
lately I feel them yearning to go back
and be what they are.

As we get closer to the border
they whisper sometimes to my soul:
So long we’ve been away from order,
O when will we be whole?

Soon enough, my soul replies,
you’ll shine in star and sleep in stone,
when I who troubled you a while with eyes
and grief and wakefulness am gone.

—Ursula K. Le Guin


Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Stone at the Bottom, excerpt


Into what waters do we fall
when we leave, if time does not exist?

What is the depth of heaven?”

–Manuel Ulacia


Friday, November 14, 2014

And let me ask you this: the dead, where aren't they?" –Franz Wright


I basked in you;
I loved you, helplessly, with a boundless tongue-tied love.
And death doesn't prevent me from loving you.

in my opinion you aren't dead.
(I know dead people, and you are not dead.)

–Franz Wright


Monday, November 10, 2014

we did not make ourselves


To acknowledge our ancestors means we are aware that we did not make ourselves. We remember them because it is an easy thing to forget; that we are not the first to suffer, rebel, fight, love and die.

The grace with which we embrace life, in spite of the pain, the sorrows, is always a measure of what has gone before.

—Alice Walker
In These Dissenting Times


Sunday, November 9, 2014

not to worry


All will come again into its strength:
the fields undivided, the waters undammed,
the trees towering and the walls built low.
And in the valleys, people as strong
and varied as the land.

And no churches where God
is imprisoned and lamented
like a trapped and wounded animal.

The houses welcoming all who knock
and a sense of boundless offering
in all relations, and in you and me.

No yearning for an afterlife, no looking beyond,
no belittling of death,
but only longing for what belongs to us
and serving earth, lest we remain unused.

–Rainer Maria Rilke
The Book of Hours


Saturday, November 8, 2014

dew light


Now in the blessed days of more and less
when the news about time is that each day

there is less of it I know none of that
as I walk out through the early garden

only the day and I are here with no
before or after and the dew looks up
without a number or a present age

W. S. Merwin


Friday, November 7, 2014

In Memoriam: Two Poems, excerpt



Suffering (Chapter Three)
doesn't insult the body.
Death? It comes in your sleep,
exactly as it should.

When it comes, you'll be dreaming
that you don't need to breathe;
that breathless silence is
the music of the dark,
and it's part of the rhythm
to vanish like a spark.

Only a death like that. A rose
could prick you harder, I suppose;
 you'd feel more terror at the sound
of petals falling to the ground.

Only a world like that. To die
just that much. And to live just so.
And all the rest is Bach's fugue, played
for the time being
on a saw. 

–Wislawa Szymborska
Stanislaw Baranczak and
Clare Cavanagh translation

I'm Working On The World


Tuesday, November 4, 2014





It was May before my
attention came
to spring and

my word I said
to the southern slopes

missed it, it
came and went before
I got right to see:

don't worry, said the mountain,
try the later northern slopes
or if

you can climb, climb
into spring: but
said the mountain

it's not that way
with all things, some
that go are gone

–A. R. Ammons


Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Road



Walker, your footsteps
are the road, and nothing more.

Walker, there is no road,
the road is made by walking.
Walking you make the road,
and turning to look behind
you see the path you never

again will step upon.

Walker, there is no road,
only foam trails on the sea.

–Antonio Machado


Saturday, November 1, 2014



We are looking for your laugh.
Trying to find the path back to it
between drooping trees.
Listening for your rustle
under bamboo,
brush of fig leaves,
feeling your step
on the porch,
natty lantana blossom
poked into your buttonhole.
We see your raised face
at both sides of a day.
How was it, you lived around
the edge of everything we did,
seasons of ailing and growing,
mountains of laundry and mail?
I am looking for you first and last
in the dark places,
when I turn my face away
from headlines at dawn,
dropping the rolled news to the floor.
Your rumble of calm
poured into me.
There was the saving grace
of care, from day one, the watching
and being watched
from every corner of the yard.

–Naomi Shihab Nye