Sunday, December 29, 2013

how is it that the snow

How Is It That the Snow
by Robert Haight

How is it that the snow
amplifies the silence,
slathers the black bark on limbs,
heaps along the brush rows?

Some deer have stood on their hind legs
to pull the berries down.
Now they are ghosts along the path,
snow flecked with red wine stains.

This silence in the timbers.
A woodpecker on one of the trees
taps out its story,
stopping now and then in the lapse
of one white moment into another.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

an inward heat

We step hastily along through the powdery snow, warmed by an inward heat, enjoying an Indian summer still, in the increased glow of thought and feeling. 
Probably if our lives were more conformed to nature, we should not need to defend ourselves against her heats and colds, but find her our constant nurse and friend, as do plants and quadrupeds.

— Henry David Thoreau, A Winter Walk, 1843

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Luke, and Ara

by Mary Oliver

I had a dog
  who loved flowers.
     Briskly she went
         through the fields,

yet paused
   for the honeysuckle
     or the rose,
        her dark head

and her wet nose
      the face
         of every one

with its petals
  of silk,
    with its fragrance

into the air
  where the bees,
    their bodies
      heavy with pollen,

  and easily
    she adored
      every blossom,

not in the serious,
  careful way
    that we choose
      this blossom or that blossom—

the way we praise or don’t praise—
  the way we love
    or don’t love—
      but the way

we long to be—
  that happy
    in the heaven of earth—
      that wild, that loving.

Run in Peace in your new heaven, Ara dog, 
gentle friend and companion, 
family member, just six years old.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013



by Edgar Albert Guest

Gettin’ together to smile an’ rejoice,
An’ eatin’ an’ laughin’ with folks of your choice;
An’ kissin’ the girls an’ declarin’ that they
Are growin’ more beautiful day after day;
Chattin’ an’ braggin’ a bit with the men,
Buildin’ the old family circle again;
Livin’ the wholesome an’ old-fashioned cheer,
Just for awhile at the end of the year.

Greetings fly fast as we crowd through the door
And under the old roof we gather once more
Just as we did when the youngsters were small;
Mother’s a little bit grayer, that’s all.
Father’s a little bit older, but still
Ready to romp an’ to laugh with a will.
Here we are back at the table again
Tellin’ our stories as women an’ men.

Bowed are our heads for a moment in prayer;
Oh, but we’re grateful an’ glad to be there.
Home from the east land an’ home from the west,
Home with the folks that are dearest an’ best.
Out of the sham of the cities afar
We’ve come for a time to be just what we are.
Here we can talk of ourselves an’ be frank,
Forgettin’ position an’ station an’ rank.

Give me the end of the year an’ its fun
When most of the plannin’ an’ toilin’ is done;
Bring all the wanderers home to the nest,
Let me sit down with the ones I love best,
Hear the old voices still ringin’ with song,
See the old faces unblemished by wrong,
See the old table with all of its chairs
An’ I’ll put soul in my Thanksgivin’ prayers.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

sweet solitude

Crowded places, I shunned them as noises too rude
And flew to the silence of sweet solitude.

— John Clare, "Song"

Thursday, November 21, 2013

if you think

If you think you are enlightened, go home for Thanksgiving.

― Ram Dass

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

what is, what is not

A wheel is useful because it has emptiness at its centre,
through which an axle might pass.  
A bowl is useful because it is molded around emptiness,
waiting to be filled.  
A house is useful because of its doors and windows,
that allow people to enter and live happily.  
Therefore the 'what is' is benefited by the 'what is not'.  
Each is served by the other. 

— Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

Monday, November 11, 2013

in times when nothing stood

In times when nothing stood
but worsened, or grew strange,
there was one constant good:
             she did not change. 
— Philip Larkin, 2 March 1978

Thursday, November 7, 2013

live up to the spirit

Every day the choice is presented to us, in a thousand different ways, to live up to the spirit which is in us or to deny it. Whenever we talk about right and wrong we are turning the light of scrutiny upon our neighbors instead of upon ourselves. We judge in order not to be judged. We uphold the law, because it is easier than to defy it. 
— Henry Miller, Stand Still Like the Hummingbird, "The Immorality of Morality"

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

darkness restores

For / darkness restores what light cannot repair.

— Joseph Brodsky, from "On Love"

Saturday, November 2, 2013

too zealously

Too many parents make life hard for their children by trying, 
too zealously, to make it easy for them. 

― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Out of the dimming sky a speck appeared, then another, and another. It was the starlings going to roost. They gathered deep in the distance, flock sifting into flock, and strayed towards me, transparent and whirling, like smoke. They seemed to unravel as they flew, lengthening in curves, like a loosened skein. I didn’t move; they flew directly over my head for half an hour. The flight extended like a fluttering banner, an unfurled oriflamme, in either direction as far as I could see. Each individual bird bobbed and knitted up and down in the flight at apparent random, for no known reason except that that’s how starlings fly, yet all remained perfectly spaced. The flocks each tapered at either end from a rounded middle, like an eye. Over my head I heard a sound of beaten air, like a million shook rugs, a muffled whuff. Into the woods they sifted without shifting a twig, right through the crowns of trees, intricate and rushing, like wind.

After half an hour, the last of the stragglers had vanished into the trees. I stood with difficulty, bashed by the unexpectedness of this beauty, and my spread lungs roared. My eyes pricked from the effort of trying to trace a feathered dot’s passage through a weft of limbs. Could tiny birds be sifting through me right now, birds winging through the gaps between my cells, touching nothing, but quickening in my tissues, fleet?

— Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


I think this is the little piggy that went to market, and lost its way.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

over and over stitch

Over and Over Stitch
by Jorie Graham

Late in the season the world digs in, the fat blossoms
hold still for just a moment longer.
Nothing looks satisfied,
but there is no real reason to move on much further:
this isn't a bad place;
why not pretend

we wished for it?
The bushes have learned to live with their haunches.
The hydrangea is resigned
to its pale and inconclusive utterances.
Towards the end of the season
it is not bad

to have the body. To have experienced joy
as the mere lifting of hunger
is not to have known it
less. The tobacco leaves
don't mind being removed
to the long racks — all uses are astounding

to the used.
There are moments in our lives which, threaded, give us heaven —
noon, for instance, or all the single victories
of gravity, or the kudzu vine,
most delicate of manias,
which has pressed its luck

this far this season.
It shines a gloating green.
Its edges darken with impatience, a kind of wind.
Nothing again will ever be this easy, lives
being snatched up like dropped stitches, the dry stalks of daylilies
marking a stillness we can't keep.

— from Dream of the Unified Field

Thursday, October 24, 2013

burning in every moment

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
the world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.

— T. S. Eliot, from Four Quartets, East Coker, V

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

your world

Your World 
by Georgia Douglas Johnson 
Your world is as big as you make it.
I know, for I used to abide
In the narrowest nest in a corner,
My wings pressing close to my side. 
But I sighted the distant horizon
Where the skyline encircled the sea
And I throbbed with a burning desire
To travel this immensity. 
I battered the cordons around me
And cradled my wings on the breeze,
Then soared to the uttermost reaches
With rapture, with power, with ease!

Monday, October 21, 2013

how would we live?

. . . I experience at least a little pleasure every day. I wonder if this is more than the usual amount? It was the same even in childhood when most people are miserable. I don’t think this is because so many wonderful things happen to me but rather that the small things go a long way. 
. . .  
. . . The thing no one ever tells you about joy is that it has very little real pleasure in it. And yet if it hadn’t happened at all, at least once, how would we live?

— Zadie Smith, from "Joy"

Saturday, October 19, 2013


Art is not in some far-off place.

— Lydia Davis

Thursday, October 17, 2013


by Wendy Videlock

The forest is the only place
where green is green and blue is blue.
Walking the forest I have seen
most everything. I’ve seen a you
with yellow eyes and busted wing.
And deep in the forest, no one knew.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

every day

by Mary Oliver 

Every day
I see or hear
that more or less 
kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle 
in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for -
to look, to listen, 
to lose myself
inside this soft world -
to instruct myself
over and over 
in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional 
the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant -
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab, 
the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help 
but grow wise
with such teachings
as these -
the untrimmable light 
of the world,
the ocean's shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?


Monday, October 14, 2013

the heat of autumn

The Heat of Autumn
by Jane Hirshfield

The heat of autumn
is different from the heat of summer.
One ripens apples, the other turns them to cider.
One is a dock you walk out on,
the other the spine of a thin swimming horse
and the river each day a full measure colder.
A man with cancer leaves his wife for his lover.
Before he goes she straightens his belts in the closet,
rearranges the socks and sweaters inside the dresser
by color. That’s autumn heat:
her hand placing silver buckles with silver,
gold buckles with gold, setting each
on the hook it belongs on in a closet soon to be empty,
and calling it pleasure.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

who am I?

Who Am I?
by Carl Sandburg

My head knocks against the stars.
My feet are on the hilltops.
My finger-tips are in the valleys and shores of universal life.
Down in the sounding foam of primal things I reach my hands and play with pebbles of destiny.
I have been to hell and back many times.
I know all about heaven, for I have talked with God.
I dabble in the blood and guts of the terrible.
I know the passionate seizure of beauty
And the marvelous rebellion of man at all signs reading "Keep Off. 
My name is Truth and I am the most elusive captive in the universe.

Friday, October 11, 2013

perfectly satisfying

She was learning, quite late, what many people around her appeared to have known since childhood that life can be perfectly satisfying without major achievements. 

― Alice Munro, Too Much Happiness

Thursday, October 10, 2013

the sacred wood

The Sacred Wood 
by May Sarton

A charm of columns crowds
The tranquil glade;
No leaves to be seen,
The sudden rush of green
Makes of the air a cloud
Above the colonnade. 
And this perspective breathes;
Unchanging, yet it grows.
The rich leaves of the trees
Renew through centuries
Those columns and those wreaths
Through which the season flows. 
The green rush comes and goes,
Light bursting through stained glass;
The coppers shine and fall
In the great airy hall,
But winter only shows
Structure more marvelous— 
The columns in a choir
Define the empty air;
That leafy cloud has gone
But only to bring on
This magic more severe,
The crucial form laid bare. 
Oh answer to a prayer
And to an old long hunger,
This ancient fertile glade,
This living colonnade
Where form and content are
Not parted any longer!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

not in king's robes

We must not portray you in king's robes,
you drifting mist that brought forth the morning. 

— Rainer Maria Rilke, from The Book of Hours I, 4

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

sail on solar wind

I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam. It is possible, in deep space, to sail on solar wind. Light, be it particle or wave, has force: you rig a giant sail and go. The secret of seeing is to sail on solar wind. Hone and spread your spirit till you yourself are a sail, whetted, translucent, broadside to the merest puff. 

— Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Monday, October 7, 2013

never dead

The poetry of earth is never dead.

— John Keats

Friday, October 4, 2013

the whole mess . . . almost

The Whole Mess . . .  Almost
by Gregory Corso

I ran up six flights of stairs
to my small furnished room
opened the window
and began throwing out
those things most important in life

First to go, Truth, squealing like a fink:
“Don’t! I’ll tell awful things about you!”
“Oh yeah? Well, I’ve nothing to hide ... OUT!”
Then went God, glowering & whimpering in amazement:
“It’s not my fault! I’m not the cause of it all!” “OUT!”
Then Love, cooing bribes: “You’ll never know impotency!
All the girls on Vogue covers, all yours!”
I pushed her fat ass out and screamed:
“You always end up a bummer!”
I picked up Faith Hope Charity
all three clinging together:
“Without us you’ll surely die!”
“With you I’m going nuts! Goodbye!”

Then Beauty ... ah, Beauty—
As I led her to the window
I told her: “You I loved best in life
... but you’re a killer; Beauty kills!”
Not really meaning to drop her
I immediately ran downstairs
getting there just in time to catch her
“You saved me!” she cried
I put her down and told her: “Move on.”

Went back up those six flights
went to the money
there was no money to throw out.
The only thing left in the room was Death
hiding beneath the kitchen sink:
“I’m not real!” It cried
“I’m just a rumor spread by life ... ”
Laughing I threw it out, kitchen sink and all
and suddenly realized Humor
was all that was left—
All I could do with Humor was to say:
“Out the window with the window!”

Thursday, October 3, 2013

the clear mirror

You who want 
see the Oneness 

There you 
will find 
the clear mirror 
already waiting. 

— Hadewijch II (Antwerp, 13th century) 
translated by Jane Hirshfield

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

nothing at all

There is nothing at all that can be talked about adequately, 
and the whole art of poetry is to say what can't be said.

― Alan Watts

Monday, September 30, 2013

I see my beauty in you

I see my beauty in you,
I become a mirror
that cannot close its eyes to your longing.

My eyes wet with yours in the early light.
My mind every moment giving birth,
always conceiving, always in the ninth month,
always the come-point.

How do I stand this?
We become these words we say,
a wailing sound moving out into the air.

These thousands of worlds that rise from nowhere,
how does your face contain them?

I am a fly in your honey, then closer,
a moth caught in the flame's allure,
then empty sky stretched out in homage.

— Rumi

Today is Rumi's birthday, b. September 30, 1207, d. December 17, 1273

Saturday, September 28, 2013

songs of fairies robbing an orchard

Song of Fairies Robbing an Orchard 
by Leigh Hunt 
We, the Fairies, blithe and antic,
Of dimensions not gigantic,
Though the moonshine mostly keep us,
Oft in orchards frisk and peep us. 
Stolen sweets are always sweeter,
Stolen kisses much completer,
Stolen looks are nice in chapels,
Stolen, stolen, be your apples. 
When to bed the world are bobbing,
Then's the time for orchard-robbing;
Yet the fruit were scarce worth peeling,
Were it not for stealing, stealing.

Friday, September 27, 2013

an effort to enter into morning

An Effort to Enter into Morning
by Brenda Hillman 
Orange thorns snag the hair.
The old fist of bourbon
flowers in the mouth
as you step out,
the doormat wet and straight
behind your foot,
the screendoor shutting and shutting
like a fact in the mind.
The most difficult thing
is to see the morning
for what it is: a foolish
autumn, a pale crust of dragonflies
frantic in their amber
coats, circling in slow
difficult joy.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

men say brown

Men Say Brown
by Henry M. Seiden

On the radio this morning: The average woman knows
275 colors—and men know eight. Women say coffee,
mocha, copper, cinnamon, taupe. Men say brown.

Women know an Amazon of colors I might have said
were green, an Antarctica of whites, oceans of colors
I'd stupidly call blue, fields of color, with flowers in them
I would have said were red.

From women, I've learned to love the browns,
the earths, the dusts, the clays, the soft colors, the colors
brought out from the mines, hardened ones,
hardened in fires I would call red; the colors of the furies;
the reconciling colors of the cooling ash.

By myself I know the evening colors when the sky goes
from blue to another blue to black—although it's a lonely,
whitish black sometimes,
like the color of sleep—
the way dreams are lit by the light that's thrown
from nowhere on the things you find in them. Last night
there was a turtle, I would say it was brown or green,
or it was a snake, mottled, a kind of grey, disguised
as a turtle, red spots as if painted on the shell,
a palish greenish underside—vulnerable, alone
swimming in water I would say was colorless.

I woke to the pale colors of the morning—no one
has a name for those: the white-rose white you see
through the white of the curtains on the window,
the milks, the creams, the cream a galactic swirl
before it turns to brown when your wife stirs it in the coffee,
the faint drying oval on the silver of the spoon.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

what you see

It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see.

― Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

sumac: it isn't about the photos

We are not prisoners.

No traps or snares are set around us; there is nothing that should frighten or torment us.

We have been put into life as into the element we most accord with, and we have moreover,

through millennia of adaptation, come to resemble this life so greatly,

that we, when we hold still,

through a happy mimicry,

can hardly be distinguished

from everything that surrounds us.

— Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Monday, September 23, 2013

lost and found

I travelled the old road every day, I took my fruits to the market,
my cattle to the meadows, I ferried my boat across the stream and
all the ways were well known to me.

One morning my basket was heavy with wares. Men were busy in
the fields, the pastures crowded with cattle; the breast of earth
heaved with the mirth of ripening rice. 
Suddenly there was a tremor in the air, and the sky seemed to
kiss me on my forehead. My mind started up like the morning out of
I forgot to follow the track. I stepped a few paces from the
path, and my familiar world appeared strange to me, like a flower
I had only known in bud. 
My everyday wisdom was ashamed. I went astray in the fairyland
of things. It was the best luck of my life that I lost my path that
morning, and found my eternal childhood. 

― Rabindranath Tagore

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Wendell Berry's manifesto

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front 
By Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed. 
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns. 
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.