Thursday, December 30, 2021

say i am


The grave of the Russian composer Alfred Schnittke in Novodevichye Cemetery in Moscow is surmounted by a stone on which is engraved a rest beneath a fermata with a triple forte noted at the bottom: A very, very loud extended silence.

—John Biguenet



Wednesday, December 29, 2021

in the water that runs, in the water that sleeps


Though I do not expect that I shall be reborn directly as a crocus, I know that one day my atoms will inhabit a bacterium here, a diatom there, a nematode or a flagellate - even a crayfish or a sea cucumber. I will be here, in myriad forms, for as long as there are forms of life on Earth.

I have always been here, and with a certain effort of will,
I can sometimes remember.

—John A. Livingston
One Cosmic Instant, A Natural History of Human Arrogance

.  .  .

Listen in the wind to the sighing of the bush:
This is the ancestors breathing.
Those who are dead are never gone;
The dead are not down in the earth:
They are in the trembling of the trees,
In the groaning of the woods,
In the water that runs, in the water that sleeps.

—traditional saying from Senegal


Tuesday, December 28, 2021

life is more true than reason will deceive


life is more true than reason will deceive

(more secret or than madness did reveal)

deeper is life than lose:higher than have

—but beauty is more each than living’s

allmultiplied by infinity sans if

the mightiest meditations of mankind

cancelled are by one merely opening leaf

(beyond whose nearness there is no beyond)

or does some littler bird than eyes can learn

look up to silence and completely sing?

futures are obsolete;pasts are unborn

(here less than nothing’s more than everything)

death,as men call him,ends what they call men

—but beauty is more now than dying’s when

–E. E. Cummings


Monday, December 27, 2021

Promissory Note



If I die before you
which is all but certain
then in the moment
before you will see me
become someone dead
in a transformation
as quick as a shooting star’s
I will cross over into you
and ask you to carry
not only your own memories
but mine too until you
too lie down and erase us
both together into oblivion.

—Galway Kinnell


Saturday, December 25, 2021



I have already died all deaths, and I am going to die all deaths again, die the death of the wood in the tree, die the stone death in the mountain, earth death in the sand, leaf death in the crackling summer grass and the poor bloody human death. I will be born again, flowers, tree and grass I will be born again.

—Herman Hesse


.   .   .

There is a force within
Which gives you life –
seek That.

In your body
Lies a priceless gem – 
seek That.

O wandering Sufi,
if you want to find
the greatest treasure
Don’t look outside,
Look inside, and seek That.

Star/Shiva version

Jan van Ijken

Friday, December 24, 2021




There is a grace approaching
that we shun as much as death,
it is the completion of our birth.

It does not come in time,
          but in timelessness
when the mind sinks into the heart
and we remember.

It is an insistent grace that draws us
to the edge and beckons us to surrender
safe territory and enter our enormity.

We know we must pass
          beyond knowing
and fear the shedding.

But we are pulled upward
through forgotten ghosts
          and unexpected angels,

And there is nothing left to say
but we are That.

And that is what we sing about.


—Steven Levine




Wednesday, December 22, 2021




You Don't Have to Act Crazy Anymore -
We all know you were good at that.
Now retire, my dear,
From all that hard work you do
Of bringing pain to your sweet eyes and heart.
Look in a clear mountain mirror -
See the Beautiful Ancient Warrior
And the Divine elements
You always carry inside
That infused this Universe with sacred Life
So long ago
And join you Eternally
With all Existence - with God!

Daniel Ladinsky version


Tuesday, December 21, 2021

One Sand Grain Amongst The Others in a Winter Wind



I wake with my hand held over the place of grief in my body.
“Depend on nothing,” the voice advises, but even that is useless.
My ears are useless, my familiar and intimate tongue.
My protecting hand is useless, that wants to hold the single leaf to the tree
and say, Not this one, this one will be saved.

—Jane Hirshfield

Sunday, December 19, 2021

listen up, pal

Othmar Maudry - Owl, 1930


Listen up, pal, the moon is way up in the sky. Aren't you scared? The helplessness that comes from nature. That moonlight, think about it, that moonlight, paler than a corpse's face, so silent and far away, that moonlight witnessed the cries of the first monsters to walk the earth, surveyed the peaceful waters after the deluges and the floods, illuminated centuries of nights and went out at dawns throughout centuries . . . 

Think about it, my friend, that moonlight will be the same tranquil ghost when the last traces of your great-grandsons' grandsons no longer exist. Prostrate yourself before it. You've shown up for an instant and it is forever. Don't you suffer, pal? I . . . I myself can't stand it. It hits me right here, in the center of my heart, having to die one day and, thousands of centuries later, undistinguished in humus, eyeless for all eternity, I, I!, for all eternity . . . and the indifferent, triumphant moon, its pale hands outstretched over new men, new things, different beings. And I Dead! 

Think about it, my friend. It's shining over the cemetery right now. The cemetery, where all lie sleeping who once were and never more shall be. There, where the slightest whisper makes the living shudder in terror and where the tranquility of the stars muffles our cries and brings terror to our eyes. There, where there are neither tears nor thoughts to express the profound misery of coming to an end.

—Clarice Lispector
The Complete Stories


Saturday, December 18, 2021



Listen for the stream that tells you:

die on this bank
begin with me
the way of rivers with the sea.



Friday, December 17, 2021

in praise of mortality


Praise the world to the angel: leave the unsayable aside.
Your exalted feelings do not move him.
In the universe, where he feels feelings, you are a beginner.
Therefore show him what is ordinary, what has been
shaped from generation to generation, shaped by hand and eye.
Tell him of things. He will stand still in astonishment,
the way you stood by the ropemaker in Rome
or beside the potter on the Nile.
Show him how happy a thing can be, how innocent and ours,
how even a lament takes pure form,
serves as a thing, dies as a thing,
while the violin, blessing it, fades.

And the things, even as they pass,understand that we praise them. Transient, they are trusting usto save them - us, the most transient of all.As if they wanted in our invisible heartsto be transformedinto - oh, endlessly - into us.

Earth, isn't this what you want? To arise in us, invisible?
Is it not your dream, to enter us so wholly
there's nothing left outside us to see?
What, if not transformation,
is your deepest purpose? Earth, my love,
I want that too. Believe me,
no more of your springtimes are needed
to win me over - even one flower
is more than enough. Before I was named
I belonged to you. I seek no other law
but yours, and know I can trust
the death you will bring.

—Rainer Maria Rilke
Ninth Duino Elegy
Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy version


Thursday, December 16, 2021

section V of Little Gidding, excerpt



Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea’s throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.

We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.

—T. S. Eliot
Four Quartets



Tuesday, December 14, 2021

over, last lines


I say your name
again. It is a key, unlocking all the dark,
so death swings open on its hinge.

I hear a bird being its song,
piercing the hour, to bring first light this Christmas dawn,
a gift, the blush of memory.

Carol Ann Duffy



Monday, December 13, 2021

the afterlife



They’re moving off in all imaginable directions,
each according to his own private belief,
and this is the secret that silent Lazarus would not reveal:
that everyone is right, as it turns out.

you go to the place you always thought you would go,
the place you kept lit in an alcove in your head.
Some are being shot into a funnel of flashing colors
into a zone of light, white as a January sun.

Others are standing naked before a forbidding judge who sits
with a golden ladder on one side, a coal chute on the other.
Some have already joined the celestial choir
and are singing as if they have been doing this forever,

while the less inventive find themselves stuck
in a big air conditioned room full of food and chorus girls.
Some are approaching the apartment of the female God,
a woman in her forties with short wiry hair
and glasses hanging from her neck by a string.

With one eye she regards the dead through a hole in her door.
There are those who are squeezing into the bodies
of animals—eagles and leopards—and one trying on
the skin of a monkey like a tight suit,

ready to begin another life in a more simple key,
while others float off into some benign vagueness,
little units of energy heading for the ultimate elsewhere.
There are even a few classicists being led to an underworld
by a mythological creature with a beard and hooves.

He will bring them to the mouth of the furious cave
guarded over by Edith Hamilton and her three-headed dog.
The rest just lie on their backs in their coffins
wishing they could return so they could learn Italian

or see the pyramids, or play some golf in a light rain.
They wish they could wake in the morning like you
and stand at a window examining the winter trees,
every branch traced with the ghost writing of snow.

—Billy Collins


Saturday, December 11, 2021

on presence and absence



VIETNAM. A Vietcong graveyard where slain fighters of the front lie buried beneath headstones with five-pointed stars. 
Villagers make sure the warriors’ souls will not “wander through eternity” by feeding their cows (later to be eaten) on the grass that grows over the graves. 

source unknown

Friday, December 10, 2021

the name of a fish



If winter is a house then summer is a window
in the bedroom of that house. Sorrow is a river
behind the house and happiness is the name

of a fish who swims downstream. The unborn child
who plays the fragrant garden is named Mavis:
her red hair is made of future and her sleek feet

are wet with dreams. The cat who naps
in the bedroom has his paws in the sun of summer
and his tail in the moonlight of change. You and I

spend years walking up and down the dusty stairs
of the house. Sometimes we stand in the bedroom
and the cat walks towards us like a message.

Sometimes we pick dandelions from the garden
and watch the white heads blow open
in our hands. We are learning to fish in the river
of sorrow; we are undressing for a swim.

—Faith Shearin 


Thursday, December 9, 2021

the tree in winter



This is the time of hidden regeneration.  
Mist hangs above the ground.  
Frost forms on open fields.

The tree is still.  
It stands alone and quiet.  
In the darkness of the early morning, nature is asleep.  
There is no movement in the air, 
no hint of trembling in the branches.  
The tree is silent in the darkness like a stone - 
a pillar in the courtyard of an empty temple.

A distant sound breaks through the stillness.  
The day's first light advances on the earth.  
The shadow of the tree moves with the dawn, 
but the tree is motionless.

The ground beneath the tree is frozen hard.  
Above the ground, the bark is cold, the limbs are stiff.  
A passer-by might wonder if the tree will live in spring.

But underneath the ground the earth is warm.  
The weight of all the tree sinks to its roots.  
They are indifferent to the frozen soil, 
they grow toward the centre of the earth.

The tree is not afraid.  
It was a seed: it knows the earth is holding it.  
Within its core, a vital ring is being formed.
Around its spine, a new life is rising from the earth, 
while flakes of snow are settling on the silent and unmoving tree.

—Master Lam Kam Chuen
from the way of energy


Wednesday, December 8, 2021

i am the exact centre


What am I? Nosing here, turning leaves over
Following a faint stain on the air to the river’s edge
I enter water. Who am I to split
The glassy grain of water looking upward I see the bed
Of the river above me upside down very clear
What am I doing here in mid-air? Why do I find
this frog so interesting as I inspect its most secret
interior and make it my own? Do these weeds
know me and name me to each other have they
seen me before do I fit in their world? I seem
separate from the ground and not rooted but dropped
out of nothing casually I’ve no threads
fastening me to anything I can go anywhere
I seem to have been given the freedom
of this place what am I then? And picking
bits of bark off this rotten stump gives me
no pleasure and it’s no use so why do I do it
me and doing that have coincided very queerly
But what shall I be called am I the first
have I an owner what shape am I what
shape am I am I huge if I go
to the end on this way past these trees and past these trees
till I get tired that’s touching one wall of me
for the moment if I sit still how everything
stops to watch me I suppose I am the exact centre
but there’s all this what is it roots
roots roots roots and here’s the water
again very queer but I’ll go on looking

—Ted Hughes


Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Requiem for the Dead Sister

Lucy Grossmith


On the hard road of life and deathThat is near our land,
You went, afraid,
Without words.

We know not where we go
Leaves blown, scattered,
Though fallen from the same tree,
By the first winds of autumn.

Ah, I will polish the path
Until I meet you in the Pure Land.

—Master Ch'undam 
(Korean, 742-765)

Monday, December 6, 2021

any day now


They say everything can be replaced
That every distance is not near
So I remember every face
Of every man that put me here

I see my light come shining
From the west down to the east
Any day now, any day now
I shall be released

They say every man needs protection
They say that every man must fall
But I swear I see my reflection
Somewhere so high above this wall

I see my light come shining
From the west down to the east
Any day now, any day now
I shall be released

Standing next to me in this lonely crowd
There’s a man who swears he’s not to blame
Every night I hear him shout so loud
Cryin’ out that he’s been framed

I see my light come shining
From the west down to the east
Any day now, any day now
I shall be released

Live at the 30 Anniversary of Bob Dylan’s First New York Performance
Madison Square Garden, New York City 1992


Sunday, December 5, 2021

use a distant brush

Anne Carson, from “Short Talk on the Withness of the Body”


Saturday, December 4, 2021

all souls


Did someone say that there would be an end,
an end, Oh, an end to love and mourning?
What has been once so interwoven cannot be raveled,
not the gift ungiven.
Now the dead move through all of us still glowing.

Mother and child, lover and lover mated,
are wound and bound together and enflowing. 

What has been plaited cannot be unplaited -
only the strands grow richer with each loss
and memory makes kings and queens of us.

Dark into light, light into darkness, spin.
When all the birds have flow to some real haven,
we who find shelter in the warmth within,
listen and feel new-cherished, new-forgiven,
as the lost human voices speak through us 
and blend our complex love,
our mourning without end.

—May Sarton

Friday, December 3, 2021

the swan



This laboring of ours with all that remains undone,
as if still bound to it,
is like the lumbering gait of the swan.

And then our dying — releasing ourselves
from the very ground on which we stood —
is like the way he hesitantly lowers himself

into the water. It gently receives him,
and, gladly yielding, flows back beneath him,
as wave follows wave,
while he, now wholly serene and sure,
with regal composure,
allows himself to glide.

—Rainer Maria Rilke


Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Talking into the Ear of a Donkey, excerpt



So many blessings have been given to us
During the first distribution of light, that we are
Admired in a thousand galaxies for our grief.

Don't expect us to appreciate creation or to
Avoid mistakes. Each of us is a latecomer
To the earth, picking up wood for the fire.

Every night another beam of light slips out
From the oyster's closed eye. So don't give up hope
that the door of mercy may still be open. 

Seth and Shem, tell me, are you still grieving
Over the spark of light that descended with no
Defender near into the Egypt of Mary's womb? 

It's hard to grasp how much generosity
Is involved in letting us go on breathing,
When we contribute nothing valuable but our grief.

Each of us deserves to be forgiven, if only for
Our persistence in keeping our small boat afloat
When so many have gone down in the storm.

—Robert Bly


Tuesday, November 30, 2021



The first undeniable reality is that every living thing dies, and the second undeniable reality is that we suffer throughout our lives because we don’t understand death. The truth derived from these two points is the importance of clarifying the matter of birth and death. 
The third undeniable reality is that all of the thoughts and feelings that arise in my head simply arise haphazardly, by chance. And the conclusion we can derive from that is not to hold on to all that comes up in our head. 
That is what we are doing when we sit zazen. 

—Kosho Uchiyama


Monday, November 29, 2021

take nothing for the journey



Whatever way you put it, I am here only because my world is here. When I took my first breath, my world was born with me. When I die, my world dies with me. In other words, I wasn't born into a world that was already here before me, nor do I live simply as one individual among millions of other individuals, nor do I leave everything behind to live on after me. 
People live thinking of themselves as members of a group or society. However, this isn't really true. Actually, I bring my own world into existence, live it out, and take it with me when I die. 


—Kosho Uchiyama


Sunday, November 28, 2021

this one




I am not I.

I am this one
walking beside me whom I do not see,

whom at times I manage to visit,
and whom at other times I forget;

who remains calm and silent while I talk,
and forgives gently, when I hate,

who walks where I am not,
who will remain standing when I die.

—Juan Ramón Jiménez

.  .  .

We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.
The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree 

Are of equal duration. A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails
On a winter’s afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now…

—T.S. Eliot 


Saturday, November 27, 2021

death is a threshold


Me: Hey God.

God: Hey John.

Me: Grief keeps sneaking up on me.

God: That’s because grief is like a ninja.

Me: When will it leave me alone?

God: Hopefully never.

Me: Um. What?!

God: To grieve means that you have loved. Grieving is one of the truest human experiences that you will ever participate in. It often arrives without warning - like a late day summer storm - obscuring the sun and drenching you in a downpour. It’s a gift, isn’t it?

Me: Uh, no.

God: Grab a pen and write the following four things down:

1) Grief can come and go as it pleases. You gave it a key to your house at the exact moment you gave your heart to somebody else.

2) Bereavement is the debt you must pay for having loved. There is no getting over the loss of a beloved who is now resting in the arms of endless love. Grief has no expiration date. Despite the passing of time, the phantom pain of mourning is always one memory away from returning.

3) Of all the emotions you face, grief is the by-far stickiest. It gets all over everything. Like peanut butter, grief sticks to the roof of your soul.

4) Grief is like an
afternoon thunderstorm
in late July.

It’s the storm
that’s always waiting
on the edges
of your most sunny
days to roll
across the horizon
and right over you.

The ghosts of your loved
ones who have died
are the clouds.

The webbed lightning
Illuminating the
dark canvas sky is
their reminder to you
that life is just a
a brilliant temporary flash
of time.

It’s a reminder
to live now.
to be bold.
to be electric.

The pounding rain isn’t your tears.
It’s the hope of eternal life that falls
on you.

It’s that downpour of hope that will
help you grow deep roots in love and faith.

The gale winds
of these storms are
the messages from
those you have
lost to death that
are whispering
to you through the pines
the following psalm:

“It’s okay, my love. Eternity is holding me. Death isn’t an end. Death is a threshold. I’m still here. I never left. Love doesn’t die. Love doesn’t die. I remain. There is no afterlife. There is only life. I’m here with you. Love doesn’t die.”

Me: Okay…great…now I’m crying.

God: I’m proud of your tears of grief.

Me: You are?

God: Yes- because it’s proof that you have loved.

Me: Well, I’ve got all sorts of proof pouring down my face right now…

God: It’s all such an adventure!!

—John Roedel