Saturday, August 31, 2013

blackberry picking

Blackberry Picking

by Seamus Heaney

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

In an Iridescent Time

In an Iridescent Time

by Ruth Stone

My mother, when young scrubbed laundry in a tub,
She and her sisters on an old brick walk
Under the apple trees, sweet rub-a-dub.
The bees came round their heads, the wrens made talk.
Four young ladies each with a rainbow board
Honed their knuckles, wrung their wrists to red,
Tossed back their braids and wiped their aprons wet.
The Jersey calf beyond the back fence roared;
And all the soft day, swarms about their pet
Buzzed at his big brown eyes and bullish head.
Four times they rinsed, they said. Some things they starched,
Then shook them from the baskets two by two,
And pinned the fluttering intimacies of life
Between the lilac bushes and the yew;
Brown gingham, pink, and skirts of Alice blue.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

the whole carpet

Sing, my heart, about gardens you've never known,
bright and remote, like gardens set in glass.
Water and roses of Isfahan and Shiraz,
sing their praises, second to none.

Show, my heart, that you will always be there.
That they have you in mind, their ripening figs.
That you blend among the blossoms and twigs
with the intensified, near-visible air.

Never make the mistake of believing
you have to renounce in order to be!
Silk thread: you too went into the weaving.

Whichever image expresses your mind,
even a scene from a life of misery,
feel the whole carpet's radiant design!

— Rainer Maria Rilke, from Sonnets to Orpheus, trans. Graham Good

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

the deepest sensuality

The Deepest Sensuality 
by D.H. Lawrence 
The profoundest of all sensualities
is the sense of truth
and the next deepest sensual experience
is the sense of justice.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

grace and felicity

Against Which  
habit smacks
its dull skull
like a stuck bull
in a brick stall 
and my version
of what I know
is like eye surgery
with a backhoe 
on grace
so much beyond
my pitiful gray
sponge of a brain 
I'd not believe it exists
except for such
doses of felicity
as this.

— Michael Ryan

Monday, August 26, 2013


by Frank Steele

You’re expected to see
only the top, where sky
scrambles bloom, and not
the spindly leg, hairy, fending off
tall, green darkness beneath.
Like every flower, she has a little
theory, and what she thinks
is up. I imagine the long
climb out of the dark
beyond morning glories, day lilies, four o’clocks
up there to the dream she keeps
lifting, where it’s noon all day.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

souls of those we have lost

I find the Celtic belief very reasonable, that the souls of those we have lost are held captive in some inferior creature, in an animal, in a plant, in some inanimate thing, effectively lost to us until the day, which for many never comes, when we happen to pass close to the tree, come into possession of the object that is their prison. Then they quiver, they call out to us, and as soon as we have recognized them, the spell is broken. Delivered by us, they have overcome death and they return to live with us.

— Marcel Proust

[This grasshopper visited our porch yesterday. My deceased brother Bennett's photography icon was a grasshopper. I think maybe he stopped by to wish me a happy birthday (two days ago).]

Saturday, August 24, 2013

living presence

If you think the cosmos is just a bunch of dead matter wheeling around and around in its own gyrations, a self-sufficient mechanism which just happened to happen, then nothing I say will make any sense at all. I am talking about the living presence of things, the unmistakable quivering energy alive in all things. Every form of apartness and togetherness is living and free, quivering and breathing. I bow before its majesty and before the living God, because the face of God is in everything. 

— William Everson, Birth of a Poet

Friday, August 23, 2013

beyond desire

                                    This is the use of memory:
For liberation—not less of love but expanding
Of love beyond desire, and so liberation
From the future as well as the past.

— T.S. Eliot, from Four Quartets, Little Gidding

Thursday, August 22, 2013

the heart turns to light

There is a morning where presence
comes over you, and you sing
like a rooster in your earth-colored shape.

Your heart hears and, no longer frantic,
begins to dance. At that moment
soul reaches total emptiness.

Your heart becomes Mary, miraculously pregnant,
and body, like a two-day-old Jesus,
says wisdom words.

Now the heart turns to light,
and the body picks up the tempo.

Where Shams Tabriz walks, the footprints
are musical notes, and holes
you fall through into space.

— Rumi

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


At a certain point, you say to the woods, to the sea, to the mountains, the world, Now I am ready. Now I will stop and be wholly attentive. You empty yourself and wait, listening. After a time you hear it: there is nothing there. There is nothing but those things only, those created objects, discrete, growing or holding, or swaying, being rained on or raining, held, flooding or ebbing, standing, or spread. You feel the world's word as a tension, a hum, a single chorused note everywhere the same. This is it: this hum is the silence. Nature does utter a peep - just this one. The birds and insects, the meadows and swamps and rivers and stones and mountains and clouds: they all do it; they all don't do it. There is a vibrancy to the silence, a suppression, as if someone were gagging the world. But you wait, you give your life's length to listening, and nothing happens. The ice rolls up, the ice rolls back, and still that single note obtains. The tension, or lack of it, is intolerable. The silence is not actually suppression: instead, it is all there is.

— Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

what is there?

In the Afterlife
by Mark Strand 
She stood beside me for years, or was it a moment? I cannot remember. Maybe I loved her, maybe I didn't. There was a house. There were trees, but none remain. When no one remembers, what is there? You, whose moments are gone, who drift like smoke in the afterlife, tell me something, tell me anything.
— from Almost Invisible, 2012 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

stream of life


The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and
day runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.

It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the
earth in numberless blades of grass and breaks into
tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.

It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth and
of death, in ebb and in flow.

I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of
life. And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my
blood this moment.

— Rabindranath Tagore, Gitanjali

[Green onion lying on the basil after rain.]

Friday, August 16, 2013


Inside and peeking out of our small but tall stand of corn are these cowlicks of silk. Each stalk has two ears of corn, and each ear sprouts a tuft of silk. These were planted late and are still too small to harvest yet. I see corn silk as a nuisance, really, when I shuck the husks. It sticks to my fingers like spider filaments as I try to twist-swipe it from the glossy kernels. I don't have patience to pick off every last one. This has been my job since I was a girl. Funny, these strands are the stigmas of the female flowers, and they are a "stigma" to me who husks corn. I wait a little impatiently now for the cobs to mature and so the beauty of the silk makes me wonder why we don't want to eat it. We discard it instead, like so many delicacies.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

the folded lie

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die. 
— W.H. Auden, from "1st September 1939"
Read the whole poem here; Listen to Tom O'Bedlam read it here

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Until we know the assumptions in which we are drenched, we cannot know ourselves.

― Adrienne Rich


Tuesday, August 13, 2013


To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms—this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong to the ranks of devoutly religious men. 
— Albert Einstein

Monday, August 12, 2013

who gets excited?

There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises. The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand. But— and this is the point— who gets excited by a mere penny? If you follow one arrow, if you crouch motionless on a bank to watch a tremulous ripple thrill on the water and are rewarded by the sight of a muskrat kit paddling from its den, will you count that sight of a chip of copper only, and go your rueful way? It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple. What you see is what you get. 

— Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Sunday, August 11, 2013


by Jennifer Chang

Something in the field is
working away. Root-noise.
Twig-noise. Plant
of weak chlorophyll, no
name for it. Something
in the field has mastered
distance by living too close
to fences. Yellow fruit, has it
pit or seeds? Stalk of wither. Grass-
noise fighting weed-noise. Dirt
and chant. Something in the
field. Coreopsis. I did not mean
to say that. Yellow petal, has it
wither-gift? Has it gorgeous
rash? Leaf-loss and worried
sprout, its bursting art. Some-
thing in the. Field fallowed and
cicada. I did not mean to
say. Has it roar and bloom?
Has it road and follow? A thistle
prick, fraught burrs, such
easy attachment. Stem-
and stamen-noise. Can I lime-
flower? Can I chamomile?
Something in the field cannot.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

question life more closely

It is our destiny to live with the wrong as well as the right kind of citizens, and to learn from them, the wrong-minded ones, as much or more as from the others. If we have not yet succeeded — after how many centuries? — in eliminating from life the elements which plague us, perhaps we need to question life more closely. Perhaps our refusal to face reality is the only ill we suffer from, and all the rest but illusion and delusion. 
"The Way is not difficult; but you must avoid choosing!" Or, as another ancient one put it — "The Way is near, but men seek it afar. It is in easy things, but men seek it in difficult things." 
— Henry Miller, Stand Still Like the Hummingbird, "Open Sesame!"

Friday, August 9, 2013

let evening come

Let Evening Come 
by Jane Kenyon 
Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down. 
Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come. 
Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn. 
Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come. 
To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come. 
Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


Poem Without an End
by Yehuda Amichai 
Translated by Chana Bloch 
Inside the brand-new museum
there’s an old synagogue.
Inside the synagogue
is me.
Inside me
my heart.
Inside my heart
a museum.
Inside the museum
a synagogue,
inside it
inside me
my heart,
inside my heart
a museum

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

worthy to walk

Where is a foot worthy to walk a garden,
or any eye that deserves to look at trees? 
Show me a man willing to be
thrown into the fire.

— Rumi

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

my heart

My Heart
by Frank O'Hara

I'm not going to cry all the time
nor shall I laugh all the time,
I don't prefer one "strain" to another.
I'd have the immediacy of a bad movie,
not just a sleeper, but also the big,
overproduced first-run kind. I want to be
at least as alive as the vulgar. And if
some aficionado of my mess says "That's
not like Frank!", all to the good! I
don't wear brown and grey suits all the time,
do I? No. I wear workshirts to the opera,
often. I want my feet to be bare,
I want my face to be shaven, and my heart—
you can't plan on the heart, but
the better part of it, my poetry, is open.

Monday, August 5, 2013


Closing Piece  
by Rainer Maria Rilke, from The Book of Images

Death is great.
We are his completely
with laughing eyes.
When we feel ourselves immersed in life,
he dares to weep
immersed in us.

Sunday, August 4, 2013


The only form of prayer worthy of man is a prayer of thanksgiving.

— Henry Miller, Stand Still Like a Hummingbird, "The Immorality of Morality"

Saturday, August 3, 2013

inside out

Inside Out
by Diane Wakoski

I walk the purple carpet into your eye
carrying the silver butter server
but a truck rumbles by,
                  leaving its black tire prints on my foot
and old images         the sound of banging screen doors on hot
         afternoons and a fly buzzing over the Kool-Aid spilled on
         the sink
flicker, as reflections on the metal surface.

Come in, you said,
inside your paintings, inside the blood factory, inside the
old songs that line your hands, inside
eyes that change like a snowflake every second,
inside spinach leaves holding that one piece of gravel,
inside the whiskers of a cat,
inside your old hat, and most of all inside your mouth where you
grind the pigments with your teeth, painting
with a broken bottle on the floor, and painting
with an ostrich feather on the moon that rolls out of my mouth.

You cannot let me walk inside you too long inside
the veins where my small feet touch
You must reach inside and pull me
like a silver bullet
from your arm.

[Today is Diane Wakoski's birthday. She is my mentor and friend. Happy Birthday, Diane!]

Friday, August 2, 2013


A Noiseless Patient Spider
by Walt Whitman 
A noiseless patient spider,
I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them. 
And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

already there

Any theory, any idea, any speculation can augment the zest for life so long as one does not make the mistake of thinking that he is getting somewhere. We are getting nowhere, because (metaphysically speaking) there is nowhere to go. We are already there, have been since eternity. All we need do is wake up to the fact.

— Henry Miller, Stand Still Like the Hummingbird, "My Life as an Echo"