Tuesday, March 31, 2015

a better place to die


Monday, March 30, 2015



Her life closed in a gentle dream—may she wake as kindly in the other world!
–Emily Bronte,
Wuthering Heights

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Ancients of the World


The salmon lying in the depths of Llyn Llifon
Secretly as a thought in a dark mind,
Is not so old as the owl of Cwm Cowlyd
Who tells her sorrow nightly on the wind.

The ousel singing in the woods of Cilgwri,
Tirelessly as a stream over the mossed stones,
Is not so old as the toad of Cors Fochno
Who feels the cold skin sagging round his bones.
The toad and the ousel and the stag of Rhedynfre,
That has cropped each leaf from the tree of life,
Are not so old as the owl of Cwm Cowlyd,
That the proud eagle would have to wife.

–R. S. Thomas


Friday, March 27, 2015



Zen teacher Issan Dorsey, who established the Maitri Hospice in San Francisco,
was on his deathbed when one of his closest friends came to visit him.

“I’m going to miss you,” the friend said.

“I’m going to miss you, too,” responded Issan. He was silent for a moment.
Then he asked, “Are you going somewhere?”

–Sean Murphy
One Bird, One Stone


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Red Glove Thrown in a Rosebush


If our bodies weren’t so beautiful.
Even rabbits are made of firecrackers
so tiny they tickle your hand.
If only the infirmities,
blocked neural pathways, leg braces
and bandages didn’t make all these bodies
look like they’re dancing.

Breathing will destroy us, hearts
like ninja stars stuck into the sternums
of granite caesars. Should I worry
people have stopped saying how skinny
and pale I am? Paul may destroy the kitchen
but he’s the best cook I know.

Seared tuna, pesto risotto – where
did he get those tomatoes? –what a war
must be fought for simplicity!
Even the alligator, flipped over,
is soft as an eyelid. Hans, the trapezist,
got everyone high on New Year’s Eve
with a single joint, the girl he was with
a sequin it was impossible not to want
to try to catch without a net.

Across the bay, fireworks punched
luminous bruises in the fog.
If only my body wasn’t borrowed from dust!

–Dean Young
Bender: New and Selected Poems

David Chambon

Wednesday, March 25, 2015



I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy.
Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become 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



Tuesday, March 24, 2015

to whom are we beautiful as we go?


I wish I understood the beauty
in leaves falling. To whom
are we beautiful
as we go?
I lie in the field
still, absorbing the stars
and silently throwing off
their presence. Silently
I breathe and die
by turns.

He was ripe
and fell to the ground
from a bough
out where the wind
is free
of the branches.

–David Ignatow
Against the Evidence: selected poems


Sunday, March 22, 2015

if you come


At the end of my life,
with just one breath left,
if you come,
I’ll sit up and sing.



Saturday, March 21, 2015

from Afterword


Shall I be raised from death, the spirit asks.
And the sun says yes.
And the desert answers
your voice is sand scattered in wind.

–Louise Glück


Friday, March 20, 2015

Are You a Mere Picture?


Are you a mere picture, and not as true as those stars, true as
this dust? They throb with the pulse of things, but you are
immensely aloof in your stillness, painted form. 
The day was when you walked with me, your breath warm, your
limbs singing of life. My world found its speech in your voice, and
touched my heart with your face. You suddenly stopped in your walk,
in the shadow-side of the Forever, and I went on alone.

Life, like a child, laughs, shaking its rattle of death as it
runs; it beckons me on, I follow the unseen; but you stand there,
where you stopped behind that dust and those stars; and you are a
mere picture.
No, it cannot be. Had the life-flood utterly stopped in you,
it would stop the river in its flow, and the foot-fall of dawn in
her cadence of colours. Had the glimmering dusk of your hair
vanished in the hopeless dark, the woodland shade of summer would
die with its dreams.
Can it be true that I forgot you? We haste on without heed, forgetting the flowers on the roadside hedge. Yet they breathe unaware into our forgetfulness, filling it with music. You have moved from my world, to take seat at the root of my life, and therefore is this forgetting-remembrance lost in its own depth.
You are no longer before my songs, but one with them. You came
to me with the first ray of dawn. I lost you with the last gold of
evening. Ever since I am always finding you through the dark. No,
you are no mere picture.

–Rabindranath Tagore
Lover’s Gifts XLII


Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Wish to be Generous


All that I serve will die, all my delights,
the flesh kindled from my flesh, garden and field,
the silent lilies standing in the woods,
the woods, the hill, the whole earth, all
will burn in man’s evil, or dwindle
in its own age. Let the world bring on me
the sleep of darkness without stars, so I may know
my little light taken from me into the seed
of the beginning and the end, so I may bow
to mystery, and take my stand on the earth
like a tree in a field, passing without haste
or regret toward what will be, my life
a patient willing descent into the grass.

–Wendell Berry


Monday, March 16, 2015

A Note Left on the Door


There are these: the blue
skirts of the ocean walking in now, almost
to the edge of town,
and a thousand birds, in their incredible wings
which they think nothing of, crying out
that the day is long, the fish are plentiful.

And friends, being as kind as friends can be,
striving to lift the darkness.
Forgive me, Lord of honeysuckle, of trees,
of notebooks, of typewriters, of music,
that there are also these:
the lover, the singer, the poet
asleep in the shadows.

—Mary Oliver


Friday, March 13, 2015



Dark, moist, wonder in my hand,
Living, breathing, nurse of seed,

Foundation of all,

How many dead leaves have you known?

How many men?

The peace you must have known,
Having flown as a bird,
Leaped as a frog,
Thought as a man,
Loved as a woman.

Eternal life or living dead,
When I am to be set among you,
Cast my ash with the wildest of daisies.

–Richard H. Goodman

Thursday, March 12, 2015




How can we ever know the difference we make to the soul of the earth? Where the infinite stillness of the earth meets the passion of the human eye, invisible depths strain towards the mirror of the name.
In the word, the earth breaks silence. It has waited a long time for the word. Concealed beneath familiarity and silence, the earth holds back and it never occurs to us to wonder how the earth sees us. Is it not possible that a place could have huge affection for those who dwell there?

Perhaps your place loves having you there. It misses you when you are away and in its secret way rejoices when you return. Could it be possible that a landscape might have a deep friendship with you? That it could sense your presence and feel the care you extend towards it? Perhaps your favorite place feels proud of you.

We tend to think of death as a return to clay, a victory for nature. But maybe it is the converse: that when you die, your native place will fill with sorrow. It will miss your voice, your breath and the bright waves of your thought, how you walked through the light and brought news of other places.
Perhaps each day our lives undertake unknown tasks on behalf of the silent mind and vast soul of nature. During its millions of years of presence perhaps it was also waiting for us, for our eyes and our words. Each of us is a secret envoi of the earth.

–John O'Donohue
Beauty: Rediscovering the True Source of Compassion, Serenity and Hope

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Bow and Arrow


Monday, March 9, 2015



When the spent sun throws up its rays on cloud
And goes down burning into the gulf below,
No voice in nature is heard to cry aloud
At what has happened. Birds, at least must know
It is the change to darkness in the sky.
Murmuring something quiet in her breast,
One bird begins to close a faded eye;
Or overtaken too far from his nest,
Hurrying low above the grove, some waif
Swoops just in time to his remembered tree.
At most he thinks or twitters softly, 'Safe!
Now let the night be dark for all of me.
Let the night be too dark for me to see
Into the future. Let what will be, be.'

—Robert Frost


Saturday, March 7, 2015



And when the hourglass has run out, the hourglass of temporality,
when the noise of secular life has grown silent and its restless or ineffectual activism has come to an end,
when everything around you is still, as it is in eternity,
then eternity asks you and every individual in these millions and millions about only one thing:
whether you have lived in despair or not.

—Søren Kierkegaard
The Sickness Unto Death, 1849


Friday, March 6, 2015



After great pain, a formal feeling comes—

The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs—

—Emily Dickinson


Thursday, March 5, 2015



Ideal and beloved voices
of those who are dead, or of those
who are lost to us like the dead.

Sometimes they speak to us in our dreams;
sometimes in thought the mind hears them.

And with their sound for a moment return
other sounds from the first poetry of our life —
like distant music that dies off in the night.

–Constantine P. Cavafy


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Will The Circle Be Unbroken


from Gathering by the River



and when our bodies rise again,

they will be wildflowers, then rabbits,

then wolves singing a perfect love

to the beautiful, meaningless moon.

–Philip Appleman