Showing posts from November, 2010

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.