Thursday, February 28, 2013

February: Thinking of Flowers

Now the wind torments the field,
turning the white surface back
on itself, back and back on itself,
like an animal licking a wound. 
Nothing but white — the air, the light;
only one brown milkweed pod
bobbing in the gully, smallest
brown boat on the immense tide. 
A single green sprouting thing
would restore me. . . . 
Then think of the tall delphinium,
swaying, or the bee when it comes
to the tongue of the burgundy lily.

— Jane Kenyon, Otherwise: New and Collected Poems, 1996

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

spring reign

Spring Reign

Thank you whoever tuned the radio
to rain, thank you who spilled
the strong-willed wine for not
being me so I’m not to blame. I’m glad

I’m not that broken tree although
it looks sublime. And glad I’m not
taking a test and running out of time.
What’s a tetrahedron anyway? What’s

the sublime, 3,483 divided by 9,
the tenth amendment, the ferryman’s name
on the River Styx? We’re all missing
more and more tricks, losing our grips,

guilty of crimes we didn’t commit.
The horse rears and races then moves no more,
the sports coupe grinds to a stop, beginning
a new life as rot, beaten to shit, Whitman

grass stain, consciousness swamp gas,
the bones and brain, protoplasm and liver,
ground down like stones in a river. Or does
the heart’s cinder wash up as delta froth

out of which hops frog spawn, dog song,
the next rhyming grind, next kid literati?
Maybe the world’s just a bubble, all
philosophy ants in a muddle,

an engine inside an elk’s skull on a pole.
Maybe an angel’s long overdue and we’re
all in trouble. Meanwhile thanks whoever
for the dial turned to green downpour, thanks

for feathery conniptions at the seashore
and moth-minded, match-flash breath.
Thank you for whatever’s left.

(from Poetry, 2012)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

seat of consciousness

"Right now, you are sitting inside the center of consciousness watching your personal TV show. But there are so many interesting objects distracting your consciousness that you can’t help but get drawn into them. It’s overwhelming. It’s three-dimensional. It’s all around you. All of your senses draw you in— sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch— as well as your feelings and your thoughts. But you are really sitting quietly inside looking out at all these objects. Just as the sun does not leave its position in the sky to illuminate objects with its radiating light, so consciousness does not leave its center to project awareness onto the objects of form, thoughts, and emotions. If you ever want to re-center, just start saying 'hello' inside, over and over. Then notice that you are aware of that thought. Don’t think about being aware of it; that’s just another thought. Simply relax and be aware that you can hear 'hello' being echoed in your mind. That is your seat of centered consciousness."

— Michael Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

Monday, February 25, 2013

be wary

As yang bends toward yin
honour turns into dishonour.
Be wary of becoming bound up in yourself.

What does it mean that honour turns into dishonour? 
The need to maintain honour makes one dependent on praise, 
so the wise person avoids honour to begin with. 

What does it mean to be wary of becoming bound up in yourself? 
You become focused on a limited sense of yourself. 
But if you are selfless, what misfortune can occur?

Therefore those whose actions accord with the Tao 
can be trusted with the greatest responsibility.

— Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

so it is

“It's snowing still," said Eeyore gloomily.
"So it is."
"And freezing."
"Is it?"
"Yes," said Eeyore. "However," he said, brightening up a little, "we haven't had an earthquake lately.”

― A.A. Milne

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Dance Me To The End Of Love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin 
Dance me through the panic 'til I'm gathered safely in 
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove 
Dance me to the end of love 
Dance me to the end of love 
Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone 
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon 
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of 
Dance me to the end of love 
Dance me to the end of love 

Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on 
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long 
We're both of us beneath our love, we're both of us above 
Dance me to the end of love 
Dance me to the end of love 

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born 
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn 
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn 
Dance me to the end of love 

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin 
Dance me through the panic till I'm gathered safely in 
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove 
Dance me to the end of love 
Dance me to the end of love 
Dance me to the end of love

— Leonard Cohen

Friday, February 22, 2013

wintah, summah, snow er shine

Song (Wintah, summah, snow er shine)

Wintah, summah, snow er shine,
Hit's all de same to me,
Ef only I kin call you mine,
An' keep you by my knee.

Ha'dship, frolic, grief er caih,
Content by night an' day,
Ef only I kin see you whaih
You wait beside de way.

Livin', dyin', smiles er teahs,
My soul will still be free,
Ef only thoo de comin' yeahs
You walk de worl' wid me.

Bird-song, breeze-wail, chune er moan,
What puny t'ings dey'll be,
Ef w'en I's seemin' all erlone,
I knows yo' hea't's wid me.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

against the nihil of the age

Against the nihil
One candle-flame, one blade of grass,
One thought suffices
To affirm all.

— This epigraph appears at the beginning of an essay by Wendell Berry called "Against the Nihil of the Age" in his collection of essays titled Imagination in Place. The essay is about the poet and Blake scholar Kathleen Raine. After searching the Internet for attribution of these lines, I am no closer to determining if they are written by Raine, or by Berry.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

ode to garlic

Ode to Garlic

In the harbor of autumn
the husbandman
cloves into the dirt.
They slept
under snow moons.
In spring’s growing sun
they sprouted, and
by July,
he pulled them
from the ground
by their leaf swords
and hung them like
to dry.

Today, he carried
them to me
where I waited
under the maple tree
with empty hands.
A midwife,
I cradled them in my arms —
eggs in a nest,
clams in a tangle of kelp.

Oh, my children!

I felt the leap
inside, as if I myself
had birthed them
from my own canal.
Being from the center
of me, it was my duty to
rub the dirt
from their faces —
fat and cherubic,
their fragile skin
petals falling
to the grass,
my papery hands
weaving braids like a crone.

When death comes,
send me down the river
with garlic — pearls
of life pressed
in the soil of my hands.

— Ruth

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

first hand

"You shall no longer take things at second or third hand,
nor look through the eyes of the dead,
nor feed on the specters in books."

— Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

Monday, February 18, 2013


“Wherever you will go,
I will let you down,
But this lullaby goes on.” 

― Sarah Dessen, This Lullaby

Sunday, February 17, 2013

in and out

"I pondered . . . what effect poverty has on the mind; and what effect wealth has on the mind . . . and I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse perhaps to be locked in;"

—  Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own, chapter one

Saturday, February 16, 2013

small vs large

“The spirit in the body is like wine in a glass; when it spills, it seeps into air and earth and light….It’s a mistake to think it’s the small things we control and not the large, it’s the other way around! We can’t stop the small accident, the tiny detail that conspires into fate: the extra moment you run back for something forgotten, a moment that saves you from an accident – or causes one. But we can assert the largest order, the large human values daily, the only order large enough to see.” 

― Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces

Friday, February 15, 2013

Ash Wednesday

The Madeleine Church, Paris

Bless├Ęd sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care 
Teach us to sit still 
Even among these rocks, 
Our peace in His will 
And even among these rocks Sister, mother 
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea, 
Suffer me not to be separated 
 And let my cry come unto Thee.

— from "Ash Wednesday" by T.S. Eliot

Read the whole poem here

Thursday, February 14, 2013

some kiss

There is some kiss we want
with our whole lives,
the touch of spirit on the body.

Seawater begs the pearl
to break its shell.

And the lily, how passionately
it needs some wild darling.

At night, I open the window
and ask the moon to come
and press its face against mine.
Breathe into me.

Close the language-door
and open the love-window.

The moon won't use the door,
only the window.

— Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

shades of red

Shades of Red
    by Ruth Mowry

A man will tell you
if you say
The dress was coral
that he doesn’t know
what color that is.
It’s a funny joke
that a man can’t identify
shades of ruby, rose or russet.
Don’t specify
cadmium, crimson,
carmine or cardinal
or burden him
with the fiery folly of mauve,
maroon and magenta;
these will topple him
into a raspberry of despair;
you won’t get to his heart
through his stomach
describing anything as
candy apple, cherry,
tangerine or strawberry.
Just call it red.
You and I know
it doesn’t mean he
doesn’t care about the dress;
it may mean he doesn’t understand
the subtle species of your feelings
separated into seed packets
in the complex filing
system of your spirit;
it means he would like
you to hit the broad red
side of the barn
with your meaning
so that he can love you
with his strong brick red heart.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

blue turquoise orange gold

“Let me peer out at the world
through your lens. (Maybe I'll shudder,
or gasp, or tilt my head in a question.)
Let me see how your blue
is my turquoise and my orange
is your gold. Suddenly binary
stars, we have startling
gravity. Let's compare
scintillation - let's share

― Naomi Shihab Nye, Time You Let Me In: 25 Poets under 25

Monday, February 11, 2013

museum postcards

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”

― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Sunday, February 10, 2013

the dance

The Dance
  by William Carlos Williams

When the snow falls the flakes
spin upon the long axis
that concerns them most intimately —
two and two to make a dance

the mind dances with itself,
taking you by the hand,
your lover follows
there are always two,

yourself and the other,
the point of your shoe setting the pace,
if you break away and run
the dance is over

Breathlessly you will take
another partner
better or worse who will keep
at your side, at your stops

whirls and glides until he too
leaves off
on his way down as if
there were another direction

gayer, more carefree
spinning face to face but always down
with each other secure
only in each other's arms

But only the dance is sure!
make it your own.
Who can tell
what is to come of it?

in the woods of your
own nature whatever
twig interposes, and bare twigs
have an actuality of their own

this flurry of the storm
that holds us,
plays with us and discards us
dancing, dancing as may be credible.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

hold both realms in your being

"Landscape as a centering. The recognition of a region as a founding of the world."

— William Everson, Birth of a Poet

Birth of a Poet is a transcription of William Everson speaking to students at UC Santa Cruz in 1975-76. Part of his advice to budding writers was to learn from and focus on the regional element, what it means to be a poet living on the Pacific coast. He embraced the cycles of nature. Of "the world" of society, he said,
"You must not let that outside world, with its emphasis on the linear, deny you your deeper self, which is of the cyclical mode. Your course in life must always be to hold both realms in your being. Your vocation is the process by which you bring them together."

Friday, February 8, 2013

as if she were the sun

“He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking.”

― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Thursday, February 7, 2013

prayer beads

Maybe the berries on a cedar tree 
are prayer beads for you, the birds and me. 

In traditional Native American medicine, cedar berries are used for their diuretic, antibiotic, germicidal and antiseptic properties. But don't overdo it; too much is toxic.

The birds get it. Here is a sweet video (2:50) of cedar waxwings (so named for the berries they eat), catbirds and robins eating cedar berries, accompanied by a lovely recording of Erik Satie's Gnossiennes No. 1, performed by Agathe Laforge. I saw my first bluebird in one of our cedar trees.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

look carefully

“Look carefully; record what you see. Find a way to make beauty necessary; find a way to make necessity beautiful.”

― Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

but tomorrow, dawn

“But tomorrow, dawn will come the way I picture her, barefoot and disheveled, standing outside my window in one of the fragile cotton dresses of the poor. She will look in at me with her thin arms extended, offering a handful of birdsong and a small cup of light.” 

― Billy Collins

Monday, February 4, 2013

a room in the past

A Room in the Past
by Ted Kooser

It’s a kitchen. Its curtains fill
with a morning light so bright
you can’t see beyond its windows
into the afternoon. A kitchen
falling through time with its things
in their places, the dishes jingling
up in the cupboard, the bucket
of drinking water rippled as if
a truck had just gone past, but that truck
was thirty years. No one’s at home
in this room. Its counter is wiped,
and the dishrag hangs from its nail,
a dry leaf. In housedresses of mist,
blue aprons of rain, my grandmother
moved through this life like a ghost,
and when she had finished her years,
she put them all back in their places
and wiped out the sink, turning her back
on the rest of us, forever.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

"no need to sparkle"

A snowflake was caught between two spent morning glories. We leave the flowers to dry on the vines, and then in the spring we crumble them open and scatter the seeds on the ground to grow into this year's vines. A second after this shot, the snowflake was lifted off by the wind, like a seed. 

As the snowflake rested with the seed pods I thought of Virginia Woolf in A Room of One's Own when she was settled in and absorbed in a good luncheon at Oxbridge: "No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself."

Saturday, February 2, 2013

playing small

There is no passion to be found playing small — in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.

— Nelson Mandela

(How wonderful that Nelson Mandela, who is 94, is "stronger than before" his infection that hospitalized him three weeks in December. How could he be stronger than before? I don't know if there's ever been anyone so strong.)

Friday, February 1, 2013


Sometimes a gate invites you into what is beyond. Sometimes you pause and examine it for a while. You may even forget where you were going, or that you were going anywhere. I thought I was heading into the walnut grove, but I got waylaid by the raindrops on the pines. (See Jan. 30.)