Friday, December 28, 2012

In Tenebris

All within is warm,
    Here without it's very cold,
    Now the year is grown so old
And the dead leaves swarm.

In your heart is light,
    Here without it's very dark,
    When shall I hear the lark?
When see aright?

Oh, for a moment's space!
    Draw the clinging curtains wide
    Whilst I wait and yearn outside
Let the light fall on my face.

- Ford Madox Ford

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Everyone Was in Love

One day, when they were little, Maud and Fergus
appeared in the doorway, naked and mirthful,
with a dozen long garter snakes draped over
each of them like brand-new clothes.
Snake tails dangled down their backs,
and snake foreparts in various lengths
fell over their fronts, heads raised
and swaying, alert as cobras. They writhed their dry skins
upon each other, as snakes like doing
in lovemaking, with the added novelty
of caressing soft, smooth, moist human skin.
Maud and Fergus were deliciously pleased with themselves.
The snakes seemed to be tickled too.
We were enchanted. Everyone was in love.
Then Maud drew down off Fergus’s shoulder,
as off a tie rack, a peculiarly
lumpy snake and told me to look inside.
Inside that double-hinged jaw, a frog’s green
webbed hind feet were being drawn,
like a diver’s, very slowly as if into deepest waters.
Perhaps thinking I might be considering rescue,
Maud said, “Don’t. Frog is already elsewhere.”

-Galway Kinnell

Friday, December 14, 2012

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

- Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

- Elizabeth Bishop

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Como lo Siento

I heard an owl at midday.
A crow flew, spiraled, drifted,
and I thought of the circle
my own life made, and how
at heart I'm a hoverer
the way I've always drifted
toward you.
Another owl lifted from the palm.
She showed me how I rose, caught
in the wind by your skin and tongue.
I feel scooped from the banks like clay,
smoked and fired by your eyes
til I ring. I'm paralyzed by joy
and I forget how to act.
I'm a shell in the cliffs.
a thousand miles from sea.
You tide me and I rise,
and there's no truth
more simple.

- Lorna Dee Cervantes

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Winding Up

I live on the water,
alone. Without wife and children,
I have circled every possibility
to come to this:

a low house by grey water,
with windows always open
to the stale sea. We do not choose such things,

but we are what we have made.
We suffer, the years pass,
we shed freight but not our need

for encumbrances. Love is a stone
that settled on the sea-bed
under grey water. Now, I require nothing

from poetry but true feeling,
no pity, no fame, no healing. Silent wife,
we can sit watching grey water,

and in a life awash
with mediocrity and trash
live rock-like.

I shall unlearn feeling,
unlearn my gift. That is greater
and harder than what passes there for life.

- Derek Walcott

Ferniehirst Castle

This was our first line of defense. It held
about five minutes. What could we throw at them?
A few chickens to trip over, a cow to block the road,
and one farmer who didn't want anyone hurt.
Sheep and maze remained neutral.
The priest who worked the chapel changed a few
key names in the sermon and went on.

Was there ever a better place to let the enemy through
and years later when he came back enroute home
to act as if nothing had changed?
Nothing has changed. Did you have trouble
fording the Jedwater river? 'Was there
a one eyed farmer, not quite right in the head?
He died. Come in and get warm.
Stay here until you are strong enough to go on.

Centuries have passed since then, all of them
just as bad. The sermon changed this way
and that and couldn't keep up with the times.
Despite architectural plans, rooks know
this castle will go to ruin. When they come for good
as they always do when they find broken stone,
they'll spend their lives on basics, searching for food
and flapping dark signals to the man taking notes.

We do best with short range plans,
so limited rooks take off bewildered.
In any century, to stay humane we lived
in one or another kind of isolation, far as we could
from highway and harm. Exert then,
too much ocean too long or forest, our eyes
started to see things and our blood turned to rain.
This is very old mortar. If we do this and not that
to the floor and don't get too smart with the ceiling
all who return with very old hurt in their eyes
will know they are welcome.

-Richard Hugo

Becoming a Horse

It was dragging my hands along its belly,
loosing the bit and wiping the spit
from its mouth that made me
a snatch of grass in the thing's maw,
a fly tasting its ear. It was
touching my nose to his that made me know
the clover's bloom, my wet eye to his that
made me know the long field's secrets.
But it was putting my heart to the horse's that made me know
the sorrow of horses. Made me
forsake my thumbs for the sheen of unshod hooves.
And in the way drop my torches.
And in the way drop my knives.
Feel the small song in my chest
swell and my coat glisten and twitch.
And my face grow long.
And these words cast off, at last,
for the slow honest tongue of horses.

- Ross Gay

Monday, November 12, 2012

First Lesson

Lie back, daughter, let your head
be tipped back in the cup of my hand.
Gently, and I will hold you. Spread
your arms wide, lie out on the stream
and look high at the gulls. A dead-
man's float is face down. You will dive
and swim soon enough where this tidewater
ebbs to the sea. Daughter, believe
me, when you tire on the long thrash
to your island, lie up, and survive.
As you float now, where I held you
and let you go, remember when fear
cramps your heart what I told you:
lie gently and wide to the light-year
stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you.

- Philip Booth

Monday, October 15, 2012

After the e-mail saying you forgave me

It was about the time the first
poplar leaves turn yellow.
The cottonmouth, thick as a muscular arm,

slid into the water at my feet.
The marsh burst into autumn.
Motionless in the rushes,

a mother doe and her fawn stared
at me, necks slender, eyes intent.
Your heart would have overflowed.

The beaver arched its glossy
fan of a tail in the far shallows.

I looked in vain for its mate as
it disappeared, wild and beautiful,
into the black water, out of reach.

- Ralph Earle

Monday, September 10, 2012

Crossing Over

It was now early spring, and the river was swollen and turbulent; great cakes of floating ice were swinging heavily to and fro in the turbid waters. Owing to a peculiar form of the shore, on the Kentucky side, the land bending far out into the water, the ice had been lodged and detained in great quantities, and the narrow channel which swept round the bend was full of ice, piled one cake over another, thus forming a temporary barrier to the descending ice, which lodged, and formed a great undulating raft . . . Eliza stood, for a moment, contemplating this unfavorable aspect of things. - Uncle Tom's Cabin (Chapter VII, "The Mother's Struggle")/ Harriet Beecher Stowe

That's what love is like. The whole river
is melting. We skim along in great peril,

having to move faster than ice goes under
and still find foothold in the soft floe.

We are one another's floe. Each displaces the weight
of his own need. I am fat as a bloodhound,

hold me up. I won't hurt you. Though I bay,
I would swim with you on my back until the cold

seeped into my heart. We are committed, we
are going across this river willy-nilly.

No one, black or white, is free in Kentucky,
old gravity owns everybody. We're weighty.

I contemplate t his unfavorable aspect of things.
Where is something solid? Only you and me.

Has anyone ever been to Ohio?
Do the people there stand firmly on icebergs?

Here all we have is love, a great undulating
raft, melting steadily. We go out on it

anyhow. I love you, I love this fool's walk.
The thing we have to learn is how to walk light.

- William Meredith

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Zurich, at the Stork

Our talk was of Too Much, of
Too Little. Of Thou
and Yet-Thou, of
clouding through brightness, of
Jewishness, of
your God.

On the day of an ascension, the
Minster stood over there, it came
with some gold across the water.

Our talk was of your God, I spoke
against him, I let the heart
I had
his highest, death-rattled, his
wrangling word —

Your eye looked at me, looked away,
your mouth
spoke toward the eye, I heard:

really don't know, you know,
really don't know

--by Paul Celan
Translated by John Felstiner

Thursday, July 19, 2012

With that Moon Language

Admit something:
Everyone you see, you say to them, "Love me."
Of course you do not do this out loud,
otherwise someone would call the cops.

Still, though,
think about this,
this great pull in us to connect.

Why not become the one who lives with a full moon in each eye
that is always saying,
with that sweet moon language,
what every other eye in this world
is dying to hear?


Thursday, July 5, 2012

I Know the Way You Can Get

I know the way you can get
When you have not had a drink of Love:

Your face hardens,
Your sweet muscles cramp.
Children become concerned
About a strange look that appears in your eyes
Which even begins to worry your own mirror
And nose.

Squirrels and birds sense your sadness
And call an important conference in a tall tree.
They decide which secret code to chant
To help your mind and soul.

Even angels fear that brand of madness
That arrays itself against the world
And throws sharp stones and spears into
The innocent
And into one's self.

O I know the way you can get
If you have not been drinking Love:

You might rip apart
Every sentence your friends and teachers say,
Looking for hidden clauses.

You might weigh every word on a scale
Like a dead fish.

You might pull out a ruler to measure
From every angle in your darkness
The beautiful dimensions of a heart you once

I know the way you can get
If you have not had a drink from Love's

That is why all the Great Ones speak of
The vital need
To keep remembering God,
So you will come to know and see Him
As being so Playful
And Wanting,
Just Wanting to help.

That is why Hafiz says:
Bring your cup near me.
For all I care about
Is quenching your thirst for freedom!

All a Sane man can ever care about
Is giving Love! 


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Report to Crazy Horse

All the Sioux were defeated. Our clan
got poor, but a few got richer.
They fought two wars. I did not
take part. No one remembers our vision
or even your real name. Now
the children go to town and like
loud music. I married a Christian.

Crazy Horse, it is not fair
to hide a new vision from you.
In our schools we are learning
to take aim when we talk, and we have
found out our enemies. They shift when
words do; they even change and hide
in every person. A teacher here says
hurt or scorned people are places
where real enemies hide. He says
we should not hurt or scorn anyone,
but help them. And I will tell you
in a brave way, the way Crazy Horse
talked: that teacher is right.

I will tell you a strange thing:
at the rodeo, close to the grandstand,
I saw a farm lady scared by a blown
piece of paper; and at that place
horses and policemen were no longer
frightening, but suffering faces were,
and the hunched-over backs of the old.

Crazy Horse, tell me if I am right:
these are the things we thought we were
doing something about.

In your life you saw many strange things,
and I will tell you another: now I salute
the white man's flag. But when I salute
I hold my hand alertly on the heartbeat
and remember all of us and how we depend
on a steady pulse together. There are those
who salute because they fear other flags
or mean to use ours to chase them:
I must not allow my part of saluting
to mean this. All of our promises,
our generous sayings to each other, our
honorable intentions - these I affirm
when I salute. At these times it is like
shutting my eyes and joining a religious
colony at prayer in the gray dawn
in the deep aisles of a church.

Now I have told you about new times.
Yes, I know others will report
different things. They have been caught
by weak ways. I tell you straight
the way it is now, and it is our way,
the way we were trying to find.

The chokecherries along our valley
still bear a bright fruit. There is good
pottery clay north of here. I remember
our old places. When I pass the Musselshell
I run my hand along those old grooves in the rock.

- William Stafford

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save.

~ Mary Oliver ~

Friday, June 29, 2012


Black milk of daybreak we drink it at evening
we drink it at midday and morning we drink it at night
we drink and we drink
we shovel a grave in the air there you won't lie too cramped
A man lives in the house he plays with his vipers he writes
he writes when it grows dark to Deutschland your golden hair Marguerite
he writes it and steps out of doors and the stars are all sparkling
he whistles his hounds to come close
he whistles his Jews into rows has them shovel a grave in the ground
he orders us strike up and play for the dance

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at morning and midday we drink you at evening
we drink and we drink
A man lives in the house he plays with his vipers he writes
he writes when it grows dark to Deutschland your golden hair Margeurite
your ashen hair Shulamith we shovel a grave in the air there you won't lie too cramped
He shouts jab this earth deeper you lot there you others sing up and play
he grabs for the rod in his belt he swings it his eyes are blue
jab your spades deeper you lot there you others play on for the dancing

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at midday and morning we drink you at evening
we drink and we drink
a man lives in the house your goldenes Haar Margeurite
your aschenes Haar Shulamith he plays with his vipers
He shouts play death more sweetly Death is a master from Deutschland
he shouts scrape your strings darker you'll rise then in smoke to the sky
you'll have a grave then in the clouds there you won't lie too cramped

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at midday Death is a master aus Deutschland
we drink you at evening and morning we drink and we drink
this Death is ein
Meister aus Deutschland his eye it is blue
he shoots you with shot made of lead shoots you level and true
a man lives in the house your goldenes Haar Margarete
he looses his hounds on us grants us a grave in the air
he plays with his vipers and daydreams
der Tod is ein Meister aus Deutschland
dein goldenes Haar Margarete
dein aschenes Haar Shulamith

--by Paul Celan
Translated by John Felstiner

Saturday, June 23, 2012

This World is not Conclusion.
A Species stands beyond --
Invisible, as Music --
But positive, as Sound --
It beckons, and it baffles --
Philosophy -- don't know --
And through a Riddle, at the last --
Sagacity, must go --
To guess it, puzzles scholars --
To gain it, Men have borne Contempt of Generations
 And Crucifixion, shown --
Faith slips -- and laughs, and rallies --
Blushes, if any see --
Plucks at a twig of Evidence --
And asks a Vane, the way --
Much Gesture, from the Pulpit --
Strong Hallelujahs roll --
Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul --

--Emily Dickinson

Saturday, June 16, 2012


You are the Sun in drag.

You are God hiding from yourself.

Remove all the "mine"—that is the veil.

Why ever worry about


Listen to what your friend Hafiz

Knows for certain:

The appearance of this world

Is a Magi's brilliant trick, though its affairs are

Nothing into nothing.

You are a divine elephant with amnesia

Trying to live in an ant


Sweetheart, O sweeteart

You are God in



Saturday, June 9, 2012


At night in crumbling rockmass.

In trouble's rubble and scree,
in slowest tumult,
the wisdom-pit named Never.

Water needles
stitch up the split
shadow — it fights its way
deeper down,
--by Paul Celan
Translated by John Felstiner

Monday, February 13, 2012

To Lingering Regrets

Without wanting to
I have come slowly
to admit that I know
who you are one by one
O lovely and mournful
with downcast eyes
appearing to me as
you are turning away
to stand silent and late
in a remembered light
touched with amber
as the sun is going
from a day that it brought
you come to me again
and again to wait
as beautiful as ever
at the edge of the light
you have not changed at all
as far as I can tell
and you learn nothing from me
who do not talk with you
but see you waiting there
without once moving toward you
O forever hopeful
and forever young
you are the foolish virgins
with no oil for your lamps
and no one else to lead you
where you want to go

--W.S. Merwin

Thursday, February 9, 2012

To Days of Winter

Not enough has been said 
ever in your praise 
hushed mornings
before the year turns new
and for a while afterward
passing behind the sounds
oh light worn thin 
until the eye can 
almost see through you 
still words continuing 
to bloom out of yourselves 
in the way of the older stars 
your ancestors  
season from before knowledge 
days when the sun is loved most 
--W.S. Merwin

Sunday, January 15, 2012

To the Air

Just when I needed you
there you were
I cannot say
how long you had been
present all at once
color of the day
as it comes to be seen
color of before
face of forgetting
color of heaven
out of sight within
myself leaving me
all the time only
to return without
question never
could I live without you
never have you
belonged to me
never do I want
you not to be with me
you who have been
the breath of everyone
and of each word spoken
without needing to know
the meaning of any of them
or who was speaking
when you are the wind
where do you start from
when you are still
where do you go
you who became
all the names I have known
and the lives in which
they came and went
invisible friend
go on telling me
again again

--W.S. Merwin