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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 time
he tried to kill hi…

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.

HIER, L’INACHEVABLE

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!

ITHAKA

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 your mind. Arriving there is what you’re destined for. But don’t hur…

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.

SONNET LXXIII: THAT TIME OF YEAR THOU MAYST IN ME BEHOLD

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.