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.