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Showing posts from January, 2017

Waiting for the Barbarians

Originally posted 3/27/2010

When are you at war, and with whom?
What happens when you take sides?
What happens if you don't take a side?*


Waiting for the Barbarians
by C.P. Cavafy


The barbarians are to arrive today.

Why such inaction in the Senate?
Why do the Senators sit and pass no laws?

Because the barbarians are to arrive today.
What laws can the Senators pass any more?
When the barbarians come they will make the laws.

Why did our emperor wake up so early,
and sits at the greatest gate of the city,
on the throne, solemn, wearing the crown?

Because the barbarians are to arrive today.
And the emperor waits to receive
their chief. Indeed he has prepared
to give him a scroll. Therein he inscribed
many titles and names of honor.

Why have our two consuls and the praetors come out
today in their red, embroidered togas;
why do they wear amethyst-studded bracelets,
and rings with brilliant, glittering emeralds;
why are they carrying costly canes today,
wonderfully carved with silver and …

You Were Brave in that Holy War

by Hafiz for Jihad

You have done well In the contest of madness.

You were brave in that holy war.

You have all the honorable wounds Of one who has tried to find love Where the Beautiful Bird Does not drink.

May I speak to you Like we are close And locked away together?

Once I found a stray kitten And I used to soak my fingers In warm milk;

It came to think I was five mothers On one hand. Wayfarer, Why not rest your tired body? Lean back and close your eyes.

Come morning I will kneel by your side and feed you. I will so gently Spread open your mouth And let you taste something of my

Unfold your own myth

by Jelaluddin Rumi (trans. Coleman Barks)
Who gets up early to discover the moment light begins? Who finds us here circling, bewildered, like atoms? Who comes to a spring thirsty and sees the moon reflected in it? Who, like Jacob, blind with grief and age, smells the shirt of his son and can see again? Who lets a bucket down and brings up a flowing prophet? Or like Moses goes for fire and finds what burns inside the sunrise?
Jesus slips into a house to escape enemies, and opens a door to the other world. Solomon cuts open a fish, and there's a gold ring. Omar storms in to kill the prophet and leaves with blessings. Chase a deer and end up everywhere! An oyster opens his mouth to swallow one drop. Now there's a pearl.
A vagrant wanders empty ruins Suddenly he's wealthy.
But don't be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth, without complicated explanation,

The Beauty Of Hopelessness

by Rebecca del Rio

You are hanging from a branch by your teeth. No way to save yourself or others who hang, too. Arms that cannot reach any branch, legs stretch but cannot find the smooth safe trunk.

All around, your loved ones, friends, strangers hang-- teeth clamp bony twigs that suspend necessary hopes and plans.

It is hopeless. No rescue will arrive. So you relax, taste the clean, unfamiliar tang of sap, feel the forgiving wind against your waving arms, arms that swim through emptiness.

Without hope, life is focused, fluid, a ledge of fragile earth suspended over the ocean of unknowing, the end of the branch. Life is the glorious moment before the fall when all plans are abandoned, the love you give as you hang, loving those who hang with you.

* I think that the reader might be interested to know about Case 5 of the Mumonkan.

Democracy

by Leonard Cohen

It's coming through a hole in the air, from those nights in Tiananmen Square. It's coming from the feels that it ain't exactly real, or it's real, but it ain't exactly there. From the wars against disorder, from the sirens night and day, from the fires of the homeless, from the ashes of the gay: Democracy is coming to the U.S.A. It's coming through a crack in the wall, on a visionary flood of alcohol; from the staggering account of the Sermon on the Mount which I don't pretend to understand at all. It's coming from the silence on the dock of the bay, from the brave, the bold, the battered heart of Chevrolet: Democracy is coming to the U.S.A. It's coming from the sorrow on the street the holy places where the races meet; from the homicidal bitchin' that goes down in every kitchen to determine who will serve and who will eat.

IN A DARK TIME

by Theodore Roethke

In a dark time, the eye begins to see, I meet my shadow in the deepening shade; I hear my echo in the echoing wood— A lord of nature weeping to a tree. I live between the heron and the wren, Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.

What’s madness but nobility of soul At odds with circumstance? The day’s on fire! I know the purity of pure despair, My shadow pinned against a sweating wall. That place among the rocks—is it a cave, Or winding path? The edge is what I have.

A steady storm of correspondences! A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon, And in broad day the midnight come again! A man goes far to find out what he is— Death of the self in a long, tearless night, All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

In Memory of Leonard Cohen

Image
I saw you this morning. You were moving so fast. Can’t seem to loosen my grip On the past.
And I miss you so much. There’s no one in sight. And we’re still making love In my secret life.

Leonard Cohen (September 21, 1934 – November 7, 2016)