Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Holy Longing



Tell a wise person or else keep silent
for mass man 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 creeps over you,
as you watch the silent candle burning.

Now you are no longer caught in the obsession with darkness,
and a desire for higher lovemaking sweeps you upwards.

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

And so long as you have not 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


Friday, April 22, 2016

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Trees


The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.
Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.
Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

―Philp Larkin
High Windows

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

the great harvest



Consider the vast crop is thus annually shed upon the earth.
This, more than any mere grain or seed, is the great harvest of the year.
This annual decay and death, this dying by inches,
before the whole tree at last lies down and turns to soil.
As trees shed their leaves, so deer their horns, and men their hair or nails.
The year's great crop.
I am more interested in it than in the English grass alone or in the corn.
It prepares the virgin mold for future cornfields on which the earth fattens.
They teach us how to die.

–Henry David Thoreau
from his journal entry, 1853


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Peace of Wild Things


When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

–Wendell Berry


Monday, April 18, 2016

if you ask


If you ask where I have been
I have to say, "It so happens. . ."

I have to talk about the earth turned dark with stones,
and the river which ruins itself by keeping alive;
I only know about objects that birds lose,
the sea far behind us, or my sister crying.
Why so many different places, why does one day
merge with another day? Why does a black night
gather in the mouth? Why are all these people dead?

If you ask where I come from I have to start talking with broken objects,
with kitchenware that has too much bitterness.
with animals quite often rotten,
and with my heavy soul.

What have met and crossed are not memories,
nor the yellow pigeon that sleeps in forgetfulness;
but they are faces with tears,
fingers at the throat,
anything that drops out of the leaves:
the shadowiness of a day already passed by,
of a day fed with our own mournful blood.

Look and see violets, swallows,
all those things we love so much and can see
on the tender greeting-cards with long tails
where time and sweetness are sauntering.
But let's not go deeper than those teeth,
nor bite into the rinds growing over the silence,
because I don't know what to say:
there are so many people dead
and so many sea-walls that the red sun used to split,
and so many heads that the boats hit,
and so many hands that have closed around kisses,
and so many things I would like to forget.

–Pablo Neruda
There Is No Forgetfulness (Sonata)


Sunday, April 17, 2016

room for doubt, excerpts


'I had been carrying around Lenny’s death in a locked package up till then, a locked, frozen package that I couldn’t get at but couldn’t throw away, either. As long as I was afraid to look inside the package, it maintained its terrifying hold over me: it frightened and depressed me, or would have done, if I had allowed myself to have even those feelings instead of their shadowy half-versions. It wasn’t just Lenny that had been frozen; I had, too. But as I sat in the Berlin Philharmonic hall and listened to the choral voices singing their incomprehensible words, something warmed and softened in me. I became, for the first time in months, able to feel strongly again.'


'Later, when I looked at the words in the program, I saw that the choral voices had been singing about the triumph of God over death. This is what I mean about the importance of not understanding. If I had known this at the time, I might have stiffened my atheist spine and resisted. But instead of taking in what the German words meant, I just allowed them to echo through my body: I felt them, quite literally, instead of understanding them. And the reverie I fell into as I listened to Brahms’s music was not about God triumphing over death, but about music and death grappling with each other. Death was chasing me, and I was fleeing from it, and it was pounding toward me; it was pounding in the music, but the music was also what was helping me to flee. And, as in a myth or a fairy tale, I sensed that what would enable me to escape — not forever, because all such escapes are temporary, but to escape just this once — would be if I looked death, Lenny’s death, in the face: if I turned back and looked at it as clearly and sustainedly as I could bear.'

–Wendy Lesser

full article by Maria Popova at


Friday, April 15, 2016



As timely as a river
God's timeless life passes
Into this world. It passes
Through bodies, giving life,
And past them, giving death.
The secret fish leaps up
Into the light and is
Again darkened. The sun
Comes from the dark, it lights
The always passing river,
Shines on the great-branches tree,
And goes. Longing and dark,
We are completely filled
With breath of love, in us
Forever incomplete.

–Wendell Berry
Sabbaths 2000


Thursday, April 14, 2016

we don’t know how to say goodbye


We don’t know how to say goodbye:
we wander on, shoulder to shoulder.
Already the sun is going down;
you’re moody, I am your shadow.

Let’s step inside a church and watch
baptisms, marriages, masses for the dead.
Why are we different from the rest?
Outdoors again, each of us turns his head.

Or else let’s sit in the graveyard
on the trampled snow, sighing to each other.
That stick in your hand is tracing mansions
in which we shall always be together.

–Anna Akhmatova, from Poems,
Max Hayward translation

Sunday, April 3, 2016