Thursday, April 23, 2015

no one home







No one home
Fallen pine needles
scattered at the door.




~ Ryokan
from Sky Above, Great Wind
by Kazuaki Tanahashi


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

I have come into this world to see this








I have come into this world to see this: the sword drop from men's hands even at the height of their arc of anger because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound and it is the Beloved's.

I have come into this world to see this: all creatures hold hands as we pass through this miraculous existence we share on the way to an even greater being of soul, a being of just ecstatic light, forever entwined and at play with Him.

I have come into this world to hear this: every song the earth has sung since it was conceived in the Divine's womb and began spinning from His wish, every song by wing and fin and hoof, every song by hill and field and tree and woman and child, every song of stream and rock, every song of tool and lyre and flute, every song of gold and emerald and fire, every song the heart should cry with magnificent dignity to know itself as God: for all other knowledge will leave us again in want and aching - only imbibing the glorious Sun will complete us. 

I have come into this world to experience this: men so true to love they would rather die before speaking an unkind word, men so true their lives are His covenant - the promise of hope.

I have come into this world to see this: the sword drop from men's hands even at the height of their arc of rage because we have finally realized there is just one flesh we can wound.




~ Hafiz
from Love Poems from God: 
Twelve Sacred voices from East and West
edited by Daniel Ladinsky
with thanks to Love is a Place

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

completely empty






Settle down in your room at a moment when you have nothing else to do. Say “I am now with myself,” and just sit with yourself. After an amazingly short time you will most likely feel bored. This teaches us one very useful thing. It gives us insight into the fact that if after ten minutes of being alone with ourselves we feel like that, it is no wonder that others should feel equally bored! Why is this so? It is so because we have so little to offer to our own selves as food for thought, for emotion and for life. If you watch your life carefully you will discover quite soon that we hardly ever live from within outwards; instead we respond to incitement, to excitement. In other words, we live by reflection, by reaction… We are completely empty, we do not act from within ourselves but accept as our life a life which is actually fed in from the outside; we are used to things happening which compel us to do other things. How seldom can we live simply by means of the depth and the richness we assume that there is within ourselves.




~ Archbishop Anthony Bloom
from Beginning to Pray
with thanks to Intense City



Thursday, April 16, 2015

february 29





An extra day -

Like the painting's fifth cow,
who looks out directly,
straight toward you,
from inside her black and white spots

An extra day -

Accidental, surely:
the made calendar stumbling over the real
as a drunk trips over a threshold
too low to see.

An extra day -
With a second cup of black coffee.
A friendly but businesslike phone call.
A mailed-back package.
Some extra work, but not too much -
just one day's worth, exactly.

An extra day -

Not unlike the space
between a door and its frame
when one room is lit and another is not,
and one changes into the other
as a woman exchanges a scarf.

An extra day -

Extraordinarily like any other.
And still
there is some generosity to it,
like a letter re-readable after its writer has died.




~ Jane Hirshfield
from The Beauty


Friday, April 10, 2015

souvenir







I would like
to take something with me

but even one chair
is too awkward
too heavy

peeling paint
falls off in a suitcase
hinge sounds betray a theft
cheeses won't keep

the clothespin 
without its surroundings 
would be mediocre

the big thunder rolled elsewhere

the umbrella is for sale
but in a desert what you want is a soaking

the do not disturb sign is tattered

I have many times taken
some cafe's small packets of sugar
so that in Turkey
I might sweeten my coffee with China
and in Italy remember a Lithuanian pastry

but where is the coffee

hands left and right useless

Knees clattery
heart finally calm
as some hero at the end of a movie
squinting silently into the sun

you can't hold an umbrella there anyhow
and what would he hang from the clothespin



~ Jane Hirshfield
from The Beauty



Tuesday, April 7, 2015

a person protests to fate






A person protests to fate:

"The things you have caused
me most to want
are those that furthest elude me."

Fate nods.
Fate is sympathetic.

To tie the shoes, button a shirt,
are triumphs
for only the very young,
the very old.

During the middle:

conjugating a river
mastering tango
training the cat to stay off the table
preserving a single moment longer than this one
continuing to wake whatever has happened the day before

and the penmanships love practices inside the body.




~ Jane Hirshfield
from The Beauty


Monday, April 6, 2015

I'm working on the world






I’m working on the world,
revised, improved edition,
featuring fun for fools,
blues for brooders,
combs for bald pates,
tricks for old dogs.

Here’s one chapter: The Speech
of Animals and Plants.
Each species comes, of course,
with its own dictionary.
Even a simple “Hi there,”
when traded with a fish,
make both the fish and you
feel quite extraordinary.

The long-suspected meanings
of rustlings, chirps, and growls!
Soliloquies of forests!
The epic hoot of owls!
Those crafty hedgehogs drafting
aphorisms after dark,
while we blindly believe
they are sleeping in the park!

Time retains
its sacred right to meddle
in each earthly affair.
Still, time’s unbounded power
that makes a mountain crumble,
moves seas, rotates a star,
won’t be enough to tear
lovers apart: they are
too naked, too embraced,
too much like timid sparrows.

Old age is, in my book,
the price that felons pay,
so don’t whine that it’s steep:
you’ll stay young if you’re good.
Suffering doesn’t insult the body.
Death? It comes in your sleep,
exactly as it should.

When it comes, you’ll be dreaming
that you don’t need to breathe;
that breathless silence is
the music of the dark
and it’s part of the rhythm
to vanish like a spark.
Only a death like that. A rose
could prick you harder, I suppose;

you’d feel more terror at the sound
of petals falling to the ground.
Only a world like that. To die
just that much. And to live just so.
And all the rest is Bach’s fugue, played
for the time being
on a saw.




~ Wislawa Szymborska
translated by S. Baranczak and C. Cavanagh





When I pronounce the word Future,
the first syllable already belongs to the past.

When I pronounce the word Silence,
I destroy it.

When I pronounce the word Nothing,
I make something no nonbeing can hold.

– Wislawa Szymborska Polish Poet (Born July 1923)/Nobel Literature Prize 1996



Excerpt from her Nobel Lecture
December 1996

Poets, if they’re genuine, must also keep repeating “I don’t know.” Each poem marks an effort to answer this statement, but as soon as the final period hits the page, the poet begins to hesitate, starts to realize that this particular answer was pure makeshift that’s absolutely inadequate to boot. So the poets keep on trying, and sooner or later the consecutive results of their self-dissatisfaction are clipped together with a giant paperclip by literary historians and called their “oeuvre” …

The Poet and the World by Wislawa Szymborska
©THE NOBEL FOUNDATION 1996

with thanks to https://mybanyantree.wordpress.com/


Sunday, April 5, 2015

like the small hole by the path-side something lives in






Like the small hole by the path-side something lives in,
in me lives I do not know the names of,

nor the fates of,
nor the hungers of or what they eat.

They eat of me.
Of small and blemished apples in low fields of me
whose rocky streams and droughts I do not drink.

And in my streets - the narrow ones,
unlabeled on the self-map -
they follow stairs down music ears can't follow,

and in my tongue borrowed by darkness,
in hours uncounted by the self-clock,
they speak in restless syllables of other losses, other loves.

There too have been the hard extinctions,
missing birds once feasted on and feasting.

There too must be machines
like loud ideas with tungsten bits that grind the day,

A few escape, A mercy,

They leave behind
small holes that something unweighed by the self-scale lives in.





~ Jane Hirshfield 
from The Beauty
Fremont rock painting from San Raphael Swell
2000-1000 BC Caves Painting



Saturday, April 4, 2015

before listening







Before listening to the way, do not fail to wash your ears.
Otherwise it will be impossible to listen clearly.
What is washing your ears?
Do not hold on to  your view.
If you cling to it even a little bit,
you will lose your way.
What is similar to you but wrong, you regard as right.
What is different from you but right, you regard as wrong.
You begin with ideas of right and wrong.
But the way is not so.
Seeking answers with closed ears is
like trying to touch the ocean bottom with a pole.




~ Ryokan
from Sky Above, Great Wind

Friday, April 3, 2015

I knew










Although from the beginning
I knew
the world is impermanent,
not a moment passes
when my sleeves are dry.




~ Ryokan
from Sky Above, Great Wind



in praise of being peripheral









Without philosophy,
tragedy,
history,

a gray squirrel
looks 
very busy.

Light as a soul
released
from a painting by Bosch,
its greens
and vermilions stripped off it.

He climbs a tree
that is equally ahistoric.

His heart works harder.




~ Jane Hirshfield
from The Beauty




Thursday, April 2, 2015

if someone asks







If someone asks
about the mind of this monk,
say it is no more than 
a passage of wind
in a vast sky.




~ Ryokan
from The Life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryokan
by Kazuaki Tanahashi


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

my species








even
a small purple artichoke
boiled
in its own bittered
and darkening
waters
grows tender,
grows tender and sweet

patience, I think,
my species

keep testing the spiny leaves

the spiny heart




~ Jane Hirshfield
from The Beauty

Friday, March 27, 2015

two golden birds







Like two golden birds perched on the selfsame tree,
Intimate friends, the ego and the Self
Dwell in the same body.  The former eats 
The sweet and sour fruits of the tree of life
While the other looks on in detachment.

As long as we think we are the ego,
We feel attached and fall into sorrow.
But realize that you are the Self, the Lord
Of life, and you will be freed from sorrow.
When you realize that you are the Self,
Supreme source of light, supreme source of love,
You transcend the duality of life
And enter into the unitive state. 

The Lord of Love shines in the hearts of all.
Seeing him in all creatures, the wise
Forget themselves in the service of all.
The Lord is their joy, the Lord is their rest;
Such as they are the lovers of the Lord.



~ Mundaka Upanishad
Modes of Knowing 
translation by Eknath Easwaran
art by Jane Rosen






as one listens to the rain








Listen to me as one listens to the rain,
not attentive, not distracted,
light footsteps, thin drizzle,
water that is air, air that is time,
the day is still leaving,
the night has yet to arrive,
figurations of mist
at the turn of the corner,
figurations of time
at the bend in this pause,
listen to me as one listens to the rain,
without listening, hear what I say
with eyes open inward, asleep
with all five senses awake,
it’s raining, light footsteps, a murmur of syllables,
air and water, words with no weight:
what we are and are,
the days and years, this moment,
weightless time and heavy sorrow,
listen to me as one listens to the rain,
wet asphalt is shining,
steam rises and walks away,
night unfolds and looks at me,
you are you and your body of steam,
you and your face of night,
you and your hair, unhurried lightning,
you cross the street and enter my forehead,
footsteps of water across my eyes,
listen to me as one listens to the rain,
the asphalt’s shining, you cross the street,
it is the mist, wandering in the night,
it is the night, asleep in your bed,
it is the surge of waves in your breath,
your fingers of water dampen my forehead,
your fingers of flame burn my eyes,
your fingers of air open eyelids of time,
a spring of visions and resurrections,
listen to me as one listens to the rain,
the years go by, the moments return,
do you hear the footsteps in the next room?
not here, not there: you hear them
in another time that is now,
listen to the footsteps of time,
inventor of places with no weight, nowhere,
listen to the rain running over the terrace,
the night is now more night in the grove,
lightning has nestled among the leaves,
a restless garden adrift—go in,
your shadow covers this page.



~ Octavio Paz
from A Tree Within
Eliot Weinberger translation