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

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(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—


(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 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.


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.


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?”