Friday, June 30, 2017

what no one plans


What No One Plans

is to inhale for sixty years the fumes
of burning nightshade, then with lungs
stiff and pocked, between coughings-up
and sippings-in from a flammable tank
you have to wheel or carry, to continue
to light those leaves and try to breathe, 
to cast every hour or oftener from the bed
the plastic tube out to your only other room,
already fully sfumato, so you can have a “safe” smoke,
which the neighbors smell and try to evict
before it explodes, then afterward
to reel your line back, to reinsert
your cannula like jewelery, little reed-flute
only the dead can hear.
No one plans to make their nurse,
paid a little by the state, love them
for selling their car to her for one dollar,
then hate you, to make everybody hate you,
for jerking your tubes out, dialing the police
when we weren’t looking to charge us
with leaving you, you swore, in your piss and shit.
No one is born planning to swear that no one comes.
No one is born planning to order everyone to stop coming.
Therefore if there are creatures of fire and light
whose task it is when someone dies
to lift off the roof of the house, and carry
to judgement everything hidden,
the person that did these things
will be screened (may she be screened)
behind the heaven of what she did plan,
dancing as she does in a black-and-white,
snapped in Cuba, as far as I can tell, before the war,
furniture pushed back, dress caught, flagrante,                                                 in the act of swinging out to the tune,
the mighty tune of black moiré caught tight
at her tiny, not-bloated waist, rhinestones
at her throat, ear, and wrists, where no skin
is as though burned or scarred or torn,
in the arms of a handsome man
not my father, not knowing all of us
that she would come to know,
not yet driven mad by too much love
and nowhere near enough.

Patrick Donnelly 


Wednesday, June 28, 2017



I wish I had the capacity
                                        to see through my own death.
Some flash light, some force of flame
Picking out diamond points
                                 of falling leaves and the river of stars.
This is the year I'm scraping the ice away from its sidewalks.
This is the year I've slid its shoes off.
This is the year I've started to keep it company,
                                                                           and comb its hair.

–Charles Wright


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Short Talk on the Withness of the Body, excerpt


What departs at death is 19 grams (= 7/8 ounce) of you
shedding a soft blue light.

–Anne Carson

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

hearing the names of the valleys


Finally the old man is telling

the forgotten names

and the names of the stones they came from

for a long time I asked him the names

and when he says them at last

I hear no meaning

and cannot remember the sounds

I have lived without knowing

the names for the water

from one rock

and the water from another

and behind the names that I do not have

the color of water flows all day and all night

the old man tells me the name for it

and as he says it I forget it

there are names for the water

between here and there

between places now gone

except in the porcelain faces

on the tombstones

and places still here

and I ask him again

the name for the color of water

wanting to be able to say it

as though I had known it all my life

without giving it a thought

—W.S. Merwin
from The Rain in the Trees, 1988

Friday, June 16, 2017

mystical realization


This is the essential experience of any mystical realization. You die to your flesh and are born into your spirit. You identify yourself with the consciousness and life of which your body is but the vehicle. You die to the vehicle and become identified…with that of which the vehicle is but the carrier.

–Joseph Campbell


not to worry


The ultimate nature of the experience of life is that toil and pleasure, sorrow and joy, are inseparably mixed in it. The very will to life that brought one to light, however, was a will to come even through pain into this world; else one never would have got here. And that is the notion underlying the oriental idea of reincarnation. 

Since you came to birth in this world at this time, in this place, and with this particular destiny, it was this indeed that you wanted and required for your own ultimate illumination. 

That was a great big wonderful thing that you thereupon brought to pass; not the "you", of course, that you now suppose yourself to be, but the "you" that was already there before you were born and which even now is keeping your heart beating and your lungs breathing and doing for you all those complicated things inside that are your life. 

You are not now to lose your nerve! 
Go on through with it and play your own game all the way!

Joseph Campbell
Myths to Live By


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Other World


I don’t believe in the other world
But I don’t believe in this world either if its not penetrated by light
I believe in the body of a woman hit by a car on the street
I believe in bodies stopped in a rush in mid-gesture in reaching out as if something long awaited was just about to happen as if in a minute meaning was to raise up its index finger
I believe in the blind eye in the deaf ear in the lame leg in the wrinkle on the forehead in the red flush on a cheek
I believe in bodies lying in the trust of sleep in the patience of old age in the frailty of the unborn
I believe in a hair of the dead left on a brown beret
I believe that radiance spreads splendidly on all things even on a beetle which struggles on its back helpless as a pup
I believe that the rain stitches together heaven and earth and that with this rain angels visibly descend like winged frogs 
I don’t believe in this world empty like a railway station in the morning when all the trains have left for the other world
The world is one especially when it wakes up covered in dew and God walks among the bushes of animal and human dreams.

–Anna Kamieńska
Tomasz P. Krzeszowski and Desmond Graham translation


Sunday, June 11, 2017

the names


Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.
A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,
And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,
I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened,
Then Baxter and Calabro,
Davis and Eberling, names falling into place
As droplets fell through the dark.
Names printed on the ceiling of the night.
Names slipping around a watery bend.
Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream.
In the morning, I walked out barefoot
Among thousands of flowers
Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears,
And each had a name --
Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal
Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins.
Names written in the air
And stitched into the cloth of the day.
A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox.
Monogram on a torn shirt,
I see you spelled out on storefront windows
And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city.
I say the syllables as I turn a corner --
Kelly and Lee,
Medina, Nardella, and O'Connor.
When I peer into the woods,
I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden
As in a puzzle concocted for children.
Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash,
Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton,
Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple.
Names written in the pale sky.
Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.
Names silent in stone
Or cried out behind a door.
Names blown over the earth and out to sea.
In the evening -- weakening light, the last swallows.
A boy on a lake lifts his oars.
A woman by a window puts a match to a candle,
And the names are outlined on the rose clouds --
Vanacore and Wallace,
(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound)
Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z.
Names etched on the head of a pin.
One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.
A blue name needled into the skin.
Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,
The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.
Alphabet of names in a green field.
Names in the small tracks of birds.
Names lifted from a hat
Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.
Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.
So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.

–Billy Collins


Saturday, June 10, 2017

i see you


Friday, June 9, 2017

Above Everything


I wished for death often
but now that I am at its door
I have changed my mind about the world.
It should go on; it is beautiful,
even as a dream, filled with water and seed,
plants and animals, others like myself,
ships and buildings and messages
filling the air -- a beauty,
if ever I have seen one.
In the next world, should I remember
this one, I will praise it
above everything.

–David Ignatow



Thursday, June 8, 2017



If it’s darkness we’re having, let it be extravagant.

–Jane Kenyon
taking down the tree



Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Room


A room does not turn its back on grief.
Anger does not excite it.
Before desire, it neither responds
nor draws back in fear.

Without changing expression,
it takes
and gives back;
not a tuft in the mattress alters.

Windowsills evenly welcome
both heat and cold.
Radiators speak or fall silent as they must.

Doors are not equivocal,
floorboards do not hesitate or startle.
Impatience does not stir the curtains,
a bed is neither irritable nor rapacious.

Whatever disquiet we sense in a room
we have brought there.

And so I instruct my ribs each morning,
pointing to hinge and plaster and wood -

You are matter, as they are.
See how perfectly it can be done.
Hold, one day more, what is asked.

–Jane Hirshfield
The Lives of the Heart


Tuesday, June 6, 2017



"think of it: not so long ago
    this was a village"
"yes; i know"

"of human beings who prayed and sang,
    or am i wrong?"
"no, you're not wrong"

"and worked like hell six days out of seven"
"to die as they lived: in the hope of heaven"

"didn't two roads meet here?"
    "they did;
and over yonder a schoolhouse stood"

"do i remember a girl with blue-
    sky eyes and sun-yellow hair?"
"do you?"

     "that's very odd,
for i've never forgotten one frecklefaced lad'

"what could have happened to her and him?"
"maybe they walked and called it a dream"

"in this dream were there green and gold
"through which a lazy brook strolled"

"wonder if clover still smells that way;
    up in the mow"
"full of newmown hay"

"and the shadows and sounds and silences"
"Yes, a barn could be a magical place"

"nothing's the same, is it?"
    "something still
remains, my friend, and always will"

    "if any woman knows,
one man in a million ought to guess"

"what of the dreams that never die?"
"turn to your left at the end of the sky"

"where are the girls whose breasts begin?"
"under the boys who fish with a pin"

–E. E. Cummings


Sunday, June 4, 2017

all things return


Why chidest thou the tardy Spring?
The hardy bunting does not chide;
The blackbirds make the maples ring
With social cheer and jubilee;
The redwing flutes his o-ka-lee,
The robins know the melting snow; 

The sparrow meek, prophetic-eyed,
Her nest beside the snow-drift weaves,
Secure the osier yet will hide 

Her callow brood in mantling leaves,
—And thou, by science all undone,
Why only must thy reason fail 

To see the southing of the sun? 
The world rolls round,—mistrust it not,—
Befalls again what once befell; 

All things return, both sphere and mote, 
And I shall hear my bluebird’s note, 
And dream the dream of Auburn dell.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson


Saturday, June 3, 2017

a friend's umbrella


Ralph Waldo Emerson, toward the end
of his life, found the names
of familiar objects escaping him.
He wanted to say something about a window,
or a table, or a book on a table.
But the word wasn't there,
although other words could still suggest
the shape of what he meant.
Then someone, his wife perhaps,

would understand: "Yes, window! I'm sorry,
is there a draft?" He'd nod.
She'd rise. Once a friend dropped by
to visit, shook out his umbrella
in the hall, remarked upon the rain.

Later the word umbrella
vanished and became
the thing that strangers take away.

Paper, pen, table, book:
was it possible for a man to think
without them? To know
that he was thinking? We remember
that we forget, he'd written once,
before he started to forget.

Three times he was told
that Longfellow had died.

Without the past, the present
lay around him like the sea.
Or like a ship, becalmed,
upon the sea. He smiled

to think he was the captain then,
gazing off into whiteness,
waiting for the wind to rise. 

–Lawrence Raab 


Friday, June 2, 2017

look at me


Look at me across the sea,
for I go radiant,

look at me across the night through which I sail,
and sea and night are those eyes of yours.

I have not left you when I go away.

–Pablo Neruda
The Captain's Verses


Thursday, June 1, 2017

not eyes but sight



I seemed to be drawn
to the center of myself
leaving the edges of me
in the hands of my wife 
and I saw with the most amazing
so that I had not eyes but
and, rising and turning,
through my skin,
there was all around not the
shapes of things 
but oh, at last, the things

–Lucille Clifton
The Death of Fred Clifton
Age 49