Showing posts from 2010

Annunciation to the Shepherds

by Lynn Ungar It's hard not to laugh. What a picture it makes— the dumbfounded shepherds and the stricken sheep, the cacophony of bleating and the barking of sheepdogs dashing and nipping in a vain attempt at order, and over it all the angels trying to make their shimmery voices heard. “A who? Wrapped in what?” the shepherds holler back. “Where are we supposed to go?” Poor guys. They wanted directions, a purpose, some sense of how the story might end. And all they got, all any of us ever get, was the sound of angels, somewhere beyond the din, singing “Glory, Hosanna” across the improbable night.

It Was Like This: You Were Happy

by Jane Hirshfield for J.S. It was like this: you were happy, then you were sad, then happy again, then not. It went on. You were innocent or you were guilty. Actions were taken, or not. At times you spoke, at other times you were silent. Mostly, it seems you were silent—what could you say? Now it is almost over. Like a lover, your life bends down and kisses your life. It does this not in forgiveness— between you, there is nothing to forgive— but with the simple nod of a baker at the moment he sees the bread is finished with transformation. Eating, too, is a thing now only for others. It doesn’t matter what they will make of you or your days: they will be wrong, they will miss the wrong woman, miss the wrong man, all the stories they tell will be tales of their own invention. Your story was this: you were happy, then you were sad, you slept, you awakened. Sometimes you ate roasted chestnuts, sometimes persimmons.

Descended from Dreamers

by Li-Young Lee And what did I learn, a child, on the Sabbath? A father is bound to kill his favorite son, and to his father's cherishing the beloved answers Yes. The rest of the week, I hid from my father, grateful I was not prized. But how deserted he looked, with no son who pleased him. And what else did I learn? That light is born of dark to usurp its ancient rank. And when a pharaoh dreams of ears of wheat or grazing cows, it means he's seen the shapes of the oncoming years. The rest of my life I wondered: Are there dreams that help us to understand the past? Or is any looking back a waste of time, the whole of it a too finely woven net of innumerable conditions, causes, effects, countereffects, impossible to read? Like rain on the surface of a pond. Where's Joseph when you need him? Did Jacob, his father, understand the dream of the ladder? Or did his enduring its mystery make him richer? ** Why are you crying? my father asked in my

Faint Music

by Robert Hass Maybe you need to write a poem about grace. When everything broken is broken, and everything dead is dead, and the hero has looked into the mirror with complete contempt, and the heroine has studied her face and its defects remorselessly, and the pain they thought might, as a token of their earnestness, release them from themselves has lost its novelty and not released them, and they have begun to think, kindly and distantly, watching the others go about their days-- likes and dislikes, reasons, habits, fears-- that self-love is the one weedy stalk of every human blossoming, and understood, therefore, why they had been, all their lives, in such a fury to defend it, and that no one-- except some almost inconceivable saint in his pool of poverty and silence--can escape this violent, automatic life's companion ever, maybe then, ordinary light, faint music under things, a hovering like grace appears. As in the story a friend once told about the tim

How It Happens

by W.S. Merwin The sky said I am watching to see what you can make out of nothing I was looking up and I said I thought you were supposed to be doing that the sky said Many are clinging to that I am giving you a chance I was looking up and I said I am the only chance I have then the sky did not answer and here we are with our names for the days the vast days that do not listen to us

To Hold

by Li-Young Lee So we're dust. In the meantime, my wife and I make the bed. Holding opposite edges of the sheet, we raise it. billowing, then pull it tight, measuring by eye as it falls into aignment between us. We tug, fold, tuck. And if I'm lucky, she'll remember a recent dream and tell me. One day we'll lie down and not get up. One day, all we guard will be surrendered. Until then, we'll go on learning to recognize what we love, and what it takes to tend what isn't for our having. So often, fear has led me to abandon what I know I must relinquish in time. But for the moment, I'll listen to her dream, and she to mine, our mutual hearing calling more and more detail into the light of a joint and fragile keeping.

Standard Checklist for Amateur Mystics

by Li-Young Lee A lamp so you can read the words on the tablet. A hand to copy the sentences you find. A hand for you to rest your head. Feet to dance the gist of what you find. A bird to scour your heart. A bird to help you pronounce the sentences. Breath to fan the fire's nest. A kiln to test the choice. A crown to keep underfoot. Two eyes to see the one in one. Three to see the two in one. Seven to see the all in one. A hand to cross out your name. A donkey to carry your shit. A monkey to filch change and food. A brother to point the way. A sister to redeem the refused. A sister to ransom straw. A sister to wake you with kisses when you've fallen asleep at your opus.


by Yves Bonnefoy Notre vie, ces chemins Qui nous appellent Dans la fraîcheur des prés Où de l’eau brille. Nous en voyons errer Au faîte des arbres Comme cherche le rêve, dans nos sommeils, Son aute terre. Ils vont, leurs mains sont pleines D’une poussière d’or, Ils entrouvrent leurs mains Et la nuit tombe. YESTERDAY, WITHOUT END Our life, these paths That call us In the coolness of meadows Where water shines. Some of them go roaming On the crowns of trees, Just as in our sleep, a dream Will seek its other earth. They wander, hands full Of golden dust. They spread their fingers, And night falls. from "The Curved Planks" a quick hit of John Plant's vocal setting !


by Constantine P. Cavafy       As you set out for Ithaka hope your road is a long one, full of adventure, full of discovery. Laistrygonians, Cyclops, angry Poseidon-don’t be afraid of them: you’ll never find things like that on your way as long as your keep your thoughts raised high, as long as a rare excitement stirs your spirit and your body. Laistrygonians, Cyclops, wild Poseidon-you won’t encounter them unless you bring them inside your soul, unless your soul sets them up in front of you.   Hope your road is a long one. May there be many summer mornings when, with what happiness, what joy, you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time; may you stop at Phoenician trading stations to buy fine things, mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony, sensual perfume of every kind- as many sensual perfumes as you can; and may you visit many Egyptian cities to learn and go on leaning from their scholars. Keep Ithaka always in y

The Second Coming

by William Butler Yeats Turning and turning on the widening gyre, The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity. Surely some revelation is at hand; Surely the Second Coming is at hand. The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi Troubles my sight: Somewhere in the sands of the desert A shape with a lion body and the head of a man, A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds. The darkness drops again, but now I know That twenty centuries of stony sleep Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Lines Written in the Days of Growing Darkness

by Mary Oliver Every year we have been witness to it: how the world descends into a rich mash, in order that it may resume. And therefore who would cry out to the petals on the ground to stay, knowing, as we must, how the vivacity of what was is married to the vitality of what will be? I don’t say it’s easy, but what else will do if the love one claims to have for the world be true? So let us go on though the sun be swinging east, and the ponds be cold and black, and the sweets of the year be doomed. If you want to read more of Mary Oliver’s poems, here are some that I like.


by William Shakespeare That time of year thou mayst in me behold When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang. In me thou see'st the twilight of such day As after sunset fadeth in the west, Which by and by black night doth take away, Death's second self, that seals up all in rest. In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire That on the ashes of his youth doth lie, As the death-bed whereon it must expire, Consum'd with that which it was nourish'd by. This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong, To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

The Chinese Peaks

by Robert Bly     For Donald Hall I love the mountain peak but I know also its rolling foothills half-invisible in mist and fog. The Seafarer gets up long before dawn to read. His soul is a whale feeding on the Holy Word. The soul who loves the peak also inhales the deep breath rising from the mountain buried in mist.

The Past

by Max Reif The past is an interest-bearing investment, an estate enclosing more territory each day, a delta always creating land. Now, in my 60s, I'm a great landowner, a don unable to survey all my holdings at once, even from the highest hill. To do so, I have to take to the winding back roads. Whole years I'd forgotten come into view. Everything is growing, rooted in soil. I didn't know the past blossomed with such passionate, poignant flowers or yielded such succulent fruit. Blossoms have faces and speak. Resurrected old homes straddle valleys. Memories graze on hillsides. I return from such excursions knowing there are still more such loops. How did the tiny sharecropper's yard I knew as a young man ever accrue to this? What Hand has watered the once-arid precincts and made them fertile? I wonder, hearing people say, “the past is dead”, when I find it so alive, nearly as unknown, at times, as what has not yet been dreamed, and

On the Day the Last Drag Queen Leaves Town

by Eric Leigh for Issan The boys downstairs huff gasoline off strips of Mother’s emerald gown, making what joy they can out of fume and a knockoff Halston. No note, no explanation, only thing she left is a hole where reason should be. You grow a heart and feed it leftovers: stray earrings, scuffed-out pumps, the soft pink flame of her first feather boa. How it curled around her shoulders when she did the lucky snake dance, the one with the shimmy, where her hands dangled at her side and slapped her hips. And then she’d wave her hand across the air just as she did every morning when you’d wake her with an orange for breakfast, a bowl of milk for her facial, and she’d give you a word: banana , somehow transformed by the dissonance of painted lips and baritone. Truth is you’ll be just fine. Remember a girl in high heels can still win a race. You’re just missing the way she knew you— the way the

Miracle Fair

by Wislawa Szymborska Commonplace miracle: that so many commonplace miracles happen. An ordinary miracle: in the dead of night the barking of invisible dogs. One miracle out of many: a small, airy cloud yet it can block a large and heavy moon. Several miracles in one: an alder tree reflected in the water, and that it’s backwards left to right and that it grows there, crown down and never reaches the bottom, even though the water is shallow. An everyday miracle: winds weak to moderate turning gusty in storms. First among equal miracles: cows are cows. Second to none: just this orchard from just that seed. A miracle without a cape and top hat: scattering white doves. A miracle, for what else could you call it: today the sun rose at three-fourteen and will set at eight-o-one. A miracle, less surprising than it should be: even though the hand has fewer than six fingers, it still has more than four. A miracle, just take a look around: the wor


by Wislawa Szymborska I prefer movies. I prefer cats. I prefer the oaks along the river. I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky. I prefer myself liking people to myself loving mankind. I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case. I prefer the color green. I prefer not to maintain that reason is to blame for everything. I prefer exceptions. I prefer to leave early. I prefer talking to doctors about something else. I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations. I prefer the absurdity of writing poems to the absurdity of not writing poems. I prefer, where love’s concerned, nonspecific anniversaries that can be celebrated every day. I prefer moralists who promise me nothing. I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind. I prefer the earth in civvies. I prefer conquered to conquering countries. I prefer having some reservations. I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order. I prefer Grimms’ fairy tales to the newspapers’ front pages. I prefer leave

Could Have

by Wislawa Szymborska It could have happened. It had to happen. It happened earlier. Later. Nearer. Farther off. It happened, but not to you. You were saved because you were the first. You were saved because you were the last. Alone. With others. On the right. The left. Because it was raining. Because of the shade. Because the day was sunny. You were in luck -- there was a forest. You were in luck -- there were no trees. You were in luck -- a rake, a hook, a beam, a brake, A jamb, a turn, a quarter-inch, an instant . . . So you're here? Still dizzy from another dodge, close shave, reprieve? One hole in the net and you slipped through? I couldn't be more shocked or speechless. Listen, how your heart pounds inside me. from View With a Grain of Sand , trans. Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh To read more of her poems that I admire!

The Three Oddest Words

by Wislawa Szymborska When I pronounce the word Future, the first syllable already belongs to the past. When I pronounce the word Silence, I destroy it. When I pronounce the word Nothing, I make something no non-being can hold. Translated by S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh To read more of her poems that I admire!


For my mother, Leona Mare Carroll Ireland I found a poem by Seamus Heaney that would not let me go. Mother never forgot to mention that they had a cook in her family home on Elmwood Place. I think that her name was Lizzy, Irish no doubt. FROM "CLEARANCES," IN MEMORIAM M. K. H. (1911 - 1984) When all the others were away at Mass I was all hers as we peeled potatoes. They broke the silence, let fall one by one Like solder weeping off the soldering iron: Cold comforts set between us, things to share Gleaming in a bucket of clean water. And again let fall. Little splashes From each other's work would bring us to our senses. So while the parish priest at her bedside Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying And some were responding and some crying I remembered her head bent towards my head, Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives - Never closer the whole rest of our lives.

The Lesson Of The Falling Leaves

by Lucille Clifton With gratitude for the fall sesshin, October 10 th -17 th , Saint Dorothy's Rest, Camp Meeker. And thank you, Lucille Clifton, for the capping verse: The Lesson Of The Falling Leaves the leaves believe such letting go is love such love is faith such faith is grace such grace is god i agree with the leaves

The Second Voyage

by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin Odysseus rested on his oar and saw The ruffled foreheads of the waves Crocodiling and mincing past: he rammed The oar between their jaws and looked down In the simmering sea where scribbles of weed defined Uncertain depth, and the slim fishes progressed In fatal formation, and thought                                             If there was a single Streak of decency in these waves now, they'd be ridged Pocked and dented with the battering they've had, And we could name them as Adam named the beasts, Saluting a new one with dismay, or a notorious one With admiration; they'd notice us passing And rejoice at our shipwreck, but these Have less character than sheep and need more patience. I know what I'll do he said; I'll park my ship in the crook of a long pier (And I'll take you with me he said to the oar) I'll face the rising ground and walk away From tidal waters, up riverbeds Where hero

Men at Work

by Julie Bruck The Lost Valentinos. For Nik, Safe Travels and "break a leg!" I said, “Do you speak-a my language?” He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich. —“Down Under.” We middle-aged sense them immediately: four brittle pop stars sprawled across the rigid fibreglass chairs at the airport gate. It’s not just that they’re Australian, that gorgeous thunk of English, the stacked electric-guitar cases draped with black leather jackets, or their deep tans on this Sunday night in midwinter Toronto that holds everyone’s attention, drawn as we are, pale filings to their pull. Even their rail-thin lassitude attracts us, as it must Doug, the portly Air Canada gate manager in his personalized jacket, who arrives to greet the band, cranking hands and cracking jokes. Doug, who must live in Mississauga with the wife and a couple of kids, and who insists the boys come back to play Toronto next year, when we clutchers of boarding passes w

I Want to Write Something So Simply

by Mary Oliver, from Evidence I want to write something so simply about love or about pain that even as you are reading you feel it and as you read you keep feeling it and though it be my story it will be common, though it be singular it will be known to you so that by the end you will think— no, you will realize— that it was all the while yourself arranging the words, that it was all the time words that you yourself out of your own heart had been saying. for Brendan who shared tonight at a 12 step meeting. You inspired me to write more personally about my experience with Issan and the founding years at Maitri Hospice. If you want to read more of Mary Oliver’s poems, here are some that I like.


by Mary Oliver The spirit likes to dress up like this: ten fingers, ten toes, shoulders, and all the rest at night in the black branches, in the morning in the blue branches of the world. It could float, of course, but would rather plumb rough matter. Airy and shapeless thing, it needs the metaphor of the body, lime and appetite, the oceanic fluids; it needs the body's world, instinct and imagination and the dark hug of time, sweetness and tangibility, to be understood, to be more than pure light that burns where no one is — so it enters us — in the morning shines from brute comfort like a stitch of lightning; and at night lights up the deep and wondrous drownings of the body like a star. by Mary Oliver, from Dream Work Atlantic Monthly Press If you want to read more of Mary Oliver’s poems, here are some that I like.


by Mary Oliver All night the dark buds of dreams open richly. In the center of every petal is a letter, and you imagine if you could only remember and string them all together they would spell the answer. It is a long night, and not an easy one— you have so many branches, and there are diversions— birds that come and go, the black fox that lies down to sleep beneath you, the moon staring with her bone-white eye. Finally you have spent all the energy you can and you drag from the ground the muddy skirt of your roots and leap awake with two or three syllables like water in your mouth and a sense of loss—a memory not yet of a word, certainly not yet the answer— only how it feels when deep in the tree all the locks click open, and the fire surges through the wood, and the blossoms blossom. If you want to read more of Mary Oliver’s poems, here are some that I like.

White Owl Flies Into and Out of the Field

Detail from Audubon Plate 121 Snowy Owl by Mary Oliver Coming down out of the freezing sky with its depths of light, like an angel, or a Buddha with wings, it was beautiful, and accurate, striking the snow and whatever was there with a force that left the imprint of the tips of its wings — five feet apart — and the grabbing thrust of its feet, and the indentation of what had been running through the white valleys of the snow — and then it rose, gracefully, and flew back to the frozen marshes to lurk there, like a little lighthouse, in the blue shadows — so I thought: maybe death isn't darkness, after all, but so much light wrapping itself around us — as soft as feathers — that we are instantly weary of looking, and looking, and shut our eyes, not without amazement, and let ourselves be carried, as through the translucence of mica, to the river that is without the least dapple or shadow, that is nothing but light —

As If to Demonstrate an Eclipse

by Billy Collins for Ken and Trevor, oh you Canadians! I pick an orange from a wicker basket and place it on the table to represent the sun. Then down at the other end a blue and white marble becomes the earth and nearby I lay the little moon of an aspirin. I get a glass from a cabinet, open a bottle of wine, then I sit in a ladder-back chair, a benevolent god presiding over a miniature creation myth, and I begin to sing a homemade canticle of thanks for this perfect little arrangement, for not making the earth too hot or cold not making it spin too fast or slow so that the grove of orange trees and the owl become possible, not to mention the rolling wave, the play of clouds, geese in flight, and the Z of lightning on a dark lake. Then I fill my glass again and give thanks for the trout, the oak, and the yellow feather, singing the room full of shadows, as sun and earth and moon circle one another in their impeccable orbits

All the True Vows

by David Whyte All the true vows are secret vows the ones we speak out loud are the ones we break. There is only one life you can call your own and a thousand others you can call by any name you want. Hold to the truth you make every day with your own body, don't turn your face away. Hold to your own truth at the center of the image you were born with. Those who do not understand their destiny will never understand the friends they have made nor the work they have chosen nor the one life that waits beyond all the others. By the lake in the wood in the shadows you can whisper that truth to the quiet reflection you see in the water. Whatever you hear from the water, remember, it wants you to carry the sound of its truth on your lips. Remember, in this place no one can hear you and out of the silence you can make a promise It will kill you to break, that way you'll find what is real and what is not. I know what I am saying. Time

The Beauty Of Hopelessness

Zen comments on the 12 Steps The koan, "Hsiang-yen: Up a Tree," case 5 of the Mumonkan. Today I find myself totally swept up in the hanging man's dilemma as I begin to re-work Step 1 of the 12 Steps. The Big Book puts the first step in simple, straightforward language: "I admit that I am powerless over … [alcohol, drugs, food, sex]—that my life has become unmanageable." It's just the first step on a journey, and in my case, there is a story connected with my personal surrender. Here is case 5 as my teacher, John Tarrant Roshi, presented it during a retreat . "Hsiang-yen: Up Tree" The priest Hsiang-yen said, "It is as though you were up in a tree, hanging from a branch with your teeth. Your hands and feet can't touch any branch. Someone appears beneath the tree and asks, `What is the meaning of Bodhidharma's coming from the West?' If you do not answer, you evade your responsibility. If you do answer, you lose your life.

In Praise of Feeling Bad About Yourself

by Wislawa Szymborska The buzzard never says it is to blame. The panther wouldn't know what scruples mean. When the piranha strikes, it feels no shame. If snakes had hands, they'd claim their hands were clean. A jackal doesn't understand remorse. Lions and lice don't waver in their course. Why should they, when they know they're right? Though hearts of killer whales may weigh a ton, in every other way they're light. On this third planet of the sun among the signs of bestiality a clear conscience is Number One. Translated by Stanislaw Baraczak and Clare Cavanagh To read more of her poems that I admire!

Reckless Poem

by Mary Oliver Today again I am hardly myself. It happens over and over. It is heaven-sent. It flows through me like the blue wave. Green leaves – you may believe this or not – have once or twice emerged from the tips of my fingers somewhere deep in the woods, in the reckless seizure of spring. Though, of course, I also know that other song, the sweet passion of one-ness. Just yesterday I watched an ant crossing a path, through the       tumbled pine needles she toiled. And I thought: she will never live another life but this one. And I thought: if she lives her life with all her strength       is she not wonderful and wise? And I continued this up the miraculous pyramid of everything       until I came to myself. And still, even in these northern woods, on these hills of sand, I have flown from the other window of myself to become white heron, blue whale,       red fox, hedgehog. Oh, sometimes already my body has felt like the body of a flower! Sometim

Sit Quietly

by Nanao Sakaki If you have time to chatter, Read books. If you have time to read, Walk into the mountain, desert, and ocean. If you have time to walk, Sing songs and dance. If you have time to dance, Sit quietly, you Happy Lucky Idiot. for Seraphina Tarrant on her graduation from UCLA!--although to the unperceptive eye there does not appear to be much "silent solitude" around you, some of us think we know better. I thought of you when I read this poem. You do all recommended activities in abundance and then some. I am including a picture of a place where we both walked into the ocean, Manly Beach NSW.

We Have A Beautiful Mother

by Alice Walker We have a beautiful Mother Her hills Are buffaloes Her buffaloes Hills. We have a beautiful Mother Her oceans Are wombs Her wombs Oceans. We have a beautiful Mother Her teeth The white stones At the edge Of the water The summer Grasses Her plentiful Hair. We have a beautiful Mother Her green lap Immense Her brown embrace Eternal Her blue body Everything we know.

Harvest of Thorns

by Scott O'Brien Whom are they arresting? Today, for the bomb in Times Square, the one that did not go off, except in people’s hearts and exploded faith - after calling us back from the borders of daily care to stand and watch in horror. Whom did they arrest? Not the insatiable hatred, not this misplaced passion, obsessed with righting wrongs at the expense of all that is right. Not the shadow of revenge, which knows no solace, runs from loving caresses, spits out the cloying taste of reconciliation. No, they never arrest the right one: that shadow fleeing over there, just now disappearing down the subway, rounding that corner, the one who has never yet been caught in all these millennia of wars, murderous martyrs, and lunacy. Each springs boxes him in, every butterfly is a bomber, fixing him in her sights, every child’s smile a vicious attack; only a cemetery feels like home to him. Such a strange universe, calling for help, holding so c


by Wislawa Szymborska Look, how constantly capable and how well maintained in our century: hatred. How lightly she regards high impediments. How easily she leaps and overtakes. She's not like other feelings. She's both older and younger than they. She herself gives birth to causes which awaken her to life. If she ever dozes, it's not an eternal sleep. Insomnia does not sap her strength, but adds to it. Religion or no religion, as long as one kneels at the starting-block. Fatherland or no fatherland, as long as one tears off at the start. She begins as fairness and equity. Then she propels herself. Hatred. Hatred. She veils her face with a mien of romantic ecstasy. Oh, the other feelings -- decrepit and sluggish. Since when could that brotherhood count on crowds? Did ever empathy urge on toward the goal? How many clients did doubt abduct? Only she abducts who knows her own. Talented, intelligent, very industrious. Do we need to say how


by Robert Hass If I said—remembering in summer, The cardinal’s sudden smudge of red In the bare gray winter woods— If I said, red ribbon on the cocked straw hat Of the girl with pooched-out lips Dangling a wiry lapdog In the painting by Renoir— If I said fire, if I said blood welling from a cut— Or flecks of poppy in the tar-grass scented summer air On a wind-struck hillside outside Fano— If I said, her one earring tugging at her silky lobe, If she tells fortunes with a deck of fallen leaves Until it comes out right— Rouged nipple, mouth— (How could you not love a woman Who cheats at the Tarot?) Red, I said. Sudden, red.


by Robert Hass “Tender Little Buddha,” she said Of my least Buddha-like member. She was probably quoting Allen Ginsberg. Who was probably paraphrasing Walt Whitman. After the Civil War, after the death of Lincoln, That was a good time to own railroad stocks. But Whitman was in the Library of Congress, Researching alternative Americas, Reading up on the curiosities of Hindoo philosophy, Studying the etchings of stone carvings Of strange couplings in a book. She was taking off a blouse, Almost transparent, the color of a silky tangerine. From Capitol Hill Walt Whitman must have been able to see Willows gathering the river haze In the cooling and still-humid twilight. He was in love with a trolley conductor In the summer of—what was it?—1867? 1868? [from Time and Materials, Poems 1997-2005]

From: “Leaves of Grass,” Song of the Open Road

by Walt Whitman 5 From this hour, freedom!   From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,   Going where I list, my own master, total and absolute, Listening to others, and considering well what they say,   Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,   Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.      I inhale great draughts of space;   The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine. I am larger, better than I thought;   I did not know I held so much goodness.      All seems beautiful to me;   I can repeat over to men and women, You have done such good to me, I would do the same to you.      I will recruit for myself and you as I go; I will scatter myself among men and women as I go;   I will toss the new gladness and roughness among them;   Whoever denies me, it shall not trouble me;   Whoever accepts me, he or she shall be blessed, and

Ecclesiastes II:I

by Richard Wilbur We must cast our bread Upon the waters , as the Ancient preacher said, Trusting that it may Amply be restored to us After many a day. That old metaphor, Drawn from rice farming on the River's flooded shore, Helps us believe That it's no great sin to give, Hoping to receive. Therefore I shall throw Broken bread, this sullen day, Out across the snow, Betting crust and crumb That birds will gather, and that One more spring will come.


by Robert Pinsky [for my fellow Christians of the pagan persuasion]   Easter was the old North    Goddess of the dawn.    She rises daily in the East    And yearly in spring for the great    Paschal candle of the sun.    Her name lingers like a spot    Of gravy in the figured vestment    Of the language of the Britains.    Her totem the randy bunny.    Our very Thursdays and Wednesdays    Are stained by syllables of thunder    And Woden's frenzy.    O my fellow-patriots loyal to this    Our modern world of high heels,    Vaccination, brain surgery—    May they pass over us, the old    Jovial raptors, Apollonian flayers,    Embodiments. Egg-hunt,    Crucifixion. Supper of encrypted    Dishes: bitter, unrisen, a platter    Compass of martyrdom,    Ground-up apples and walnuts    In sweet wine to embody mortar    Of affliction, babies for bricks.    Legible traces of the species    That devises the angel of death   

This One Precious Human Life

by Ken Ireland for Grant Dillon “One theory says you won’t remember dying any more than being born.” – Franz Wright At noon they sat the lama down in front of TV. Some real experience of life outside a meditation crib seemed like a simple request. Remote control in hand, he flipped to All My Children. Stop. “Stop! “Oh watch out!” he cried inside. “Amanda, you can’t hide your lies, silly bitch. “Jake knows David is the daddy. “You’ll never get away with it. “How can you be that stupid?” Where did that thought come from? These families, really? Westerners, really. Love your momma. Flip more. One Life to Live. Now we’re getting somewhere. Better title— Too Many Lives to Live . "No—Oh no, David, don’t kiss Oliver! “Please don’t! “That Path leads in only one direction— “All the Teachings agree, male or female, “male and male, female and female, no difference, "but... “Good luck. Looks like trouble ahead.” R

Outside My Window

by Ken Ireland dedicated to Chris Wilson, head of practice at Spring sesshin, a generous, guiding spirit and friend The constant light rain clears momentarily.  Cold. A bird's three bare notes— infinite variations flood over me. Red Camilla blossoms fall upside down. to read more of my poems