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"The Catholic Bells"

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by William Carlos Williams

In honor of my friend, Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J.
August 24, 1918 – December 12, 2008






Tho' I'm no Catholic
I listen hard when the bells
in the yellow-brick tower
of their new church

ring down the leaves
ring in the frost upon them
and the death of the flowers
ring out the grackle

toward the south, the sky
darkened by them, ring in
the new baby of Mr. and Mrs.
Krantz which cannot

for the fat of its cheeks
open well its eyes, ring out
the parrot under its hood
jealous of the child

ring in Sunday morning
and old age which adds as it
takes away. Let them ring
only ring! over the oil

painting of a young priest
on the church wall advertising
last week's Novena to St.
Anthony, ring for the lame

young man in black with
gaunt cheeks and wearing a
Derby hat, who is hurrying
to 11 o'clock Mass (the

First Feelings First

by Nina Cassian



“Everything always happens for the first time,” I said
He answered “No.”
How could you recognize a frog
if you hadn’t seen one before?
How could you avoid burning your fingers
if you hadn’t been touched, at least once, by a flame?

I have recollections, but no experience, I said.
My new love is as mysterious and haunting
as my first one.
The frog you see
is not the frog you saw.
I wish you’d burn your fingers
again and again….

O rei de Ítaca

by Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen




O rei de Ítaca

A civilização em que estamos é tão errada que
Nela o pensamento se desligou da mão

Ulisses rei de Ítaca carpinteirou seu barco
E gabava-se também de saber conduzir
Num campo a direito o sulco do arado


The King of Ithaca

Our civilization is so out of kilter that
Thought has separated itself from the hand

Ulysses King of Ithaca carpentered his boat
And also boasted of his ability
To plough a straight furrow in the field



Thanks to my internet friend Rui for introducing me to the work of the Portuguese poet, Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen (1919-2004).

© 1991, Sophia de Mello Breyner
From: Obra Poética III
Publisher: Caminho, Lisboa

n 657

(another poem from deep in a zen meditation retreat) by Emily Dickinson

I dwell in Possibility—
A fairer House than Prose—
More numerous of Windows—
Superior—for Doors—

Of Chambers as the Cedars—
Impregnable of Eye—
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky—

Of Visitors—the fairest—
For Occupation—This—
The spreading wide of narrow Hands
To gather Paradise—

Dharma

(here is a poem from deep in zen retreat)by Billy Collins
The way the dog trots out the front door every morning without hat or umbrella, without any money or the keys to her doghouse never fails to fill the saucer of my heart with milky admiration.
Who provides a finer example of a life without encumbrance— Thoreau in his curtainless hut with a single plate, a single spoon? Gandhi with his staff and holy diapers?
Off she goes into the material world with nothing but her brown coat and her modest blue collar, following her wet nose, the twin portals of her steady breathing, followed only by the plums of her tail.
If only she did not shove the cat outside every morning and eat all his food what a model of self-containment she would be, what a paragon of earthly detachment. If only she were not so eager for a rub behind the ears, so acrobatic in her welcomes, if only I were not her god. from Sailing Alone Around the Room

The Snow Man

by Wallace Stevens



One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

LAKE AND MAPLE

by Jane Hirshfield

I want to give myself utterly as the maple that burned and burned for three days without stinting and then in two more dropped off very leaf; as this lake that, no matter what comes to its green-blue depths, both takes and returns it. In the still heart, that refuses nothing, the world is twice-born— two earths wheeling, two heavens, two egrets reaching down into subtraction; even the fish for an instant doubled, before it is gone. I want the fish. I want the losing it all when it rains and I want the returning transparence. I want the place by the edge-flowers where the shallow sand is deceptive, where whatever steps in must plunge, and I want that plunging. I want the ones who come in secret to drink only in early darkness,’ and I want the ones who are swallowed. I want the way the water sees without eyes, hears without ears, shivers without will or fear at the gentlest touch. I want the way it accepts the cold moonlight and its it pass, the way it lets all of it pass without judgment or comment. There is a …

IN SILENCE

by Thomas Merton

Be still Listen to the stones of the wall. Be silent, they try To speak your
Name. Listen To the living walls. Who are you? Who Are you? Whose Silence are you?
Who (be quiet) Are you (as these stones Are quiet). Do not Think of what you are Still less of
What you may one day be. Rather Be what you are (but who?) be The unthinkable one You do not know.
O be still, while You are still alive, And all things live around you Speaking (I do not hear) To your own being, Speaking by the Unknown That is in you and in themselves.
“I will try, like them To be my own silence: And this is difficult. The whole World is secretly on fire. The stones Burn, even the stones They burn me. How can a man be still or Listen to all things burning? How can he dare To sit with them when All their silence Is on fire?”

“The Land Of Plenty”

by Leonard Cohen Dont really know who sent me
To raise my voice and say:
May the lights in the land of plenty
Shine on the truth some day.

I dont know why I come here,
Knowing as I do,
What you really think of me,
What I really think of you.

For the millions in a prison,
That wealth has set apart,
For the christ who has not risen,
From the caverns of the heart.

For the innermost decision,
That we cannot but obey -
For whats left of our religion,
I lift my voice and pray:
May the lights in the land of plenty
Shine on the truth some day.

Creation Myth & Walking

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This morning, I started getting ready to clean up my room, pack a bag and head up to St Dot’s later in the week. Lewis Headrick, an old friend from the days when Issan lived at Hartford St, shot me a message on Facebook which turned my attention around. He said he read "Ad patrem sinensis" aloud at breakfast with his spouse, and I began looking for more of Phil Whalen’s poetry.


After Phil died in 2002, Poltroon Press put the out of print, Prolegomena to a Study of the Universe up online as a kind of tribute. http://www.poltroonpress.com/whalen.html It was and is a generous and lovely act in this world of words. I take the liberty of quoting here from this short, wonderful book. (I apologize that the type-face is small. I had to reduce it in order to keep Phil’s arrangement of the lines on the page. Put on your reading glasses – it’s worth it!) From Kevin Power’s Introduction: Buddha in an early sutra sets out one of Whalen’s essential poetic principles: "In what is seen the…