Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Be with those who help your being

Be with those who help your being.
Don’t sit with indifferent people, whose breath
comes cold out of their mouths.
Not these visible forms, your work is deeper.

A chunk of dirt thrown in the air breaks to pieces.
If you don’t try to fly,
and so break yourself apart,
you will be broken open by death,
when it’s too late for all you could become.

Leaves get yellow. The tree puts out fresh roots
and makes them green.
Why are you so content with a love that turns you yellow?

Rumi 1207 – 1273

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Cinnamon Peeler

If I were a cinnamon peeler
I would ride your bed
and leave the yellow bark dust
on your pillow.

Your breasts and shoulders would reek
you could never walk through markets
without the profession of my fingers
floating over you. The blind would
stumble certain of whom they approached
though you might bathe
under the rain gutters, monsoon.

Here on the upper thigh
at this smooth pasture
neighbour to your hair
or the crease
that cuts your back. This ankle.
You will be known among strangers
as the cinnamon peeler's wife.

I could hardly glance at you
before marriage
never touch you
- your keen nosed mother, your rough brothers.
I buried my hands
in saffron, disguised them
over smoking tar,
helped the honey gatherers...

When we swam once
I touched you in the water
and our bodies remained free,
you could hold me and be blind of smell.
You climbed the bank and said

this is how you touch other women
the grass cutter's wife, the lime burner's daughter.
And you searched your arms
for the missing perfume

and knew

what good is it
to be the lime burner's daughter
left with no trace
as if not spoken to in the act of love
as if wounded without the pleasure of a scar.

You touched
your belly to my hands
in the dry air and said
I am the cinnamon
peeler's wife. Smell me.

Michael Ondaatje (born 1943)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Requiescat

Tread lightly, she is near
Under the snow,
Speak gently, she can hear
The daisies grow.

All her bright golden hair
Tarnished with dust,
She that was young and fair
Fallen to dust.

Lily-white, white as snow,
She hardly knew
She was a woman, so
Sweetly she grew.

Coffin-board, heavy stone,
Lie on her breast.
I vex my heart alone,
She is at rest.

Peace, Peace, she cannot hear
Lyre or sonnet.
All my life's buried here,
Heap earth upon it.

Oscar Wilde, Avignon, 1854 – 1900

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Way Through the Woods

They shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees.
It is underneath the coppice and heath,
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.

Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
Where the otter whistles his mate.
(They fear not men in the woods,
Because they see so few)
You will hear the beat of a horse's feet,
And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods . . . .
But there is no road through the woods.

Rudyard Kipling 1865 – 1936

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Love's Trinity

Soul, heart, and body, we thus singly name,
Are not in love divisible and distinct,
But each with each inseparably link'd.
One is not honour, and the other shame,
But burn as closely fused as fuel, heat, and flame.

They do not love who give the body and keep
The heart ungiven; nor they who yield the soul,
And guard the body. Love doth give the whole;
Its range being high as heaven, as ocean deep,
Wide as the realms of air or planet's curving sweep.

Alfred Austin 1835 – 1913

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Within You Without You

We were talking
about the space between us all
and people who hide themselves
behind a wall of illusion
never glimpse the truth
then it's far too late
when they pass away

We were talking
about the love we all could share
When we find it
to try our best to hold it there
with our love, with our love
we could save the world
if they only knew

Try to realize it's all within yourself
no one else can make you change
And to see you're really only very small
and life flows on within you and without you

We were talking
about the love that's gone so cold
and the people who gain the world
and lose their soul
They don't know, they can't see
Are you one of them

When you've seen beyond yourself
then you may find
peace of mind is waiting there
And the time will come
when you see we're all one
and life flows on within you and without you

George Harrison 1943 - 2001

Friday, August 10, 2007

Tears, Idle Tears

Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.

Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld,
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.

Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns
The earliest pipe of half-awaken'd birds
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square;
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.

Dear as remembered kisses after death,
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feign'd
On lips that are for others; deep as love,
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
O Death in Life, the days that are no more!

Alfred, Lord Tennyson 1809 – 1892

Monday, August 6, 2007

Fiftieth Birthday Eve

The figure alone is enough to keep me wide awake,
the five with its little station master's belly
and cap with the flat visor, followed by the zero,
oval of looking glass, porthole on a ghost ship,
an opening you stick your arm into and feel nothing.

I want to daydream here in the dark, listening
to the trees behind the house reciting their poems,
bare anonymous beings, murmuring to themselves
in lines that reach out like long branches in spring.
I want my mind to be a sail, susceptible to any breeze
that might be blowing across the lake of consciousness.

But I keep picturing the number, round and daunting:
I drop a fifty-dollar bill on a crowded street,
I carry a fifty-pound bag of wet sand on my shoulders.
I see fifty yearlings leaping a fence in a field,
I fan the five decades before me like a poker hand.

I try contemplating the sufferings of others, Rossini,
for example, considered by many to be the Father
of Modern Insomnia for his prolonged sleeplessness
during the composition of the William Tell Overture.

But even a long meditation on the life of Brahms,
widely recognized as the Father of the Modern Lullaby,
will not dispel the fives and zeros, gnomes in the night,
perched on the bedposts, one straddling a closet doorknob.

By dawn, I have become a Catholic again,
the oldest altar boy in the parish, complete
with surplice and cassock, cruet, thurible, and candle.
And this day, whose first light is gilding the windows,
has become another one of the sorrowful mysteries,

following the agony in the garden of childhood
and preceding the crucifixion,
the letter X removed from the word and nailed to a cross,

the rest of the alphabet standing witness
on the rocky hillside, marveling at all the lightning
that is cutting silently across the dark sky.

Billy Collins 1941 -

Monday, July 30, 2007

Hope

It hovers in dark corners
before the lights are turned on
it shakes sleep from its eyes
and drops from mushroom gills,
it explodes in the starry heads
of dandelions turned sages,
it sticks to the wings of green angels
that sail from the tops of maples.

It sprouts in each occluded eye
of the many-eyed potato,
it lives in each earthworm segment
surviving cruelty,
it is the motion that runs
from the eyes to the tail of a dog,
it is the mouth that inflates the lungs
of the child that has just been born.

It is the singular gift
we cannot destroy in ourselves,
the argument that refutes death,
the genius that invents the future,
all we know about God.

It is the serum which makes us swear
not to betray one another;
it is in this poem, trying to speak.

Lisel Mueller 1924 -

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Echo

Come to me in the silence of the night;
Come in the speaking silence of a dream;
Come with soft rounded cheeks and eyes as bright
As sunlight on a stream;
Come back in tears,
O memory of hope, love of finished years.

O dream how sweet, too sweet, too bitter-sweet,
Whose wakening should have been in Paradise,
Where souls brim-full of love abide and meet;
Where thirsting longing eyes
Watch the slow door
That opening, letting in, lets out no more.

Yet come to me in dreams, that I may live
My very life again though cold in death;
Come back to me in dreams, that I may give
Pulse for pulse, breath for breath:
Speak low, lean low,
As long ago, my love, how long ago.

Christina Georgina Rossetti 1830 – 1894

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love

Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.

And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;

A belt of straw and ivy buds,
With coral clasps and amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me, and be my love.

The shepherds' swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.

Christopher Marlowe 1564 – 1593

Saturday, June 23, 2007

What Is So Rare as a Day in June?

And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,
And over it softly her warm ear lays;
Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten;
Every clod feels a stir of might,
An instinct within it that reaches and towers,
And, groping blindly above it for light,
Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers;
The flush of life may well be seen
Thrilling back over hills and valleys;
The cowslip startles in meadows green,
The buttercup catches the sun in its chalice,
And there's never a leaf nor a blade too mean
To be some happy creature's palace;
The little bird sits at his door in the sun,
Atilt like a blossom among the leaves,
And lets his illumined being o'errun
With the deluge of summer it receives;
His mate feels the eggs beneath her wings,
And the heart in her dumb breast flutters and sings;
He sings to the wide world, and she to her nest,
In the nice ear of Nature which song is the best?

Now is the high-tide of the year,
And whatever of life hath ebbed away
Comes flooding back with a ripply cheer,
Into every bare inlet and creek and bay;
Now the heart is so full that a drop overfills it,
We are happy now because God wills it;
No matter how barren the past may have been,
'Tis enough for us now that the leaves are green;
We sit in the warm shade and feel right well
How the sap creeps up and the blossoms swell;
We may shut our eyes but we cannot help knowing
That skies are clear and grass is growing;
The breeze comes whispering in our ear,
That dandelions are blossoming near,
That maize has sprouted, that streams are flowing,
That the river is bluer than the sky,
That the robin is plastering his house hard by;
And if the breeze kept the good news back,
For our couriers we should not lack;
We could guess it all by yon heifer's lowing,
And hark! How clear bold chanticleer,
Warmed with the new wine of the year,
Tells all in his lusty crowing!

Joy comes, grief goes, we know not how;
Everything is happy now,
Everything is upward striving;
'Tis as easy now for the heart to be true
As for grass to be green or skies to be blue,
'Tis for the natural way of living:
Who knows whither the clouds have fled?
In the unscarred heaven they leave not wake,
And the eyes forget the tears they have shed,
The heart forgets its sorrow and ache;
The soul partakes the season's youth,
And the sulphurous rifts of passion and woe
Lie deep 'neath a silence pure and smooth,
Like burnt-out craters healed with snow.

James Russell Lowell 1819 – 1891

Monday, June 18, 2007

First Loss

Ah! who'll e'er those days restore,

Those bright days of early love
Who'll one hour again concede,

Of that time so fondly cherish'd!
Silently my wounds I feed,
And with wailing evermore

Sorrow o'er each joy now perish'd.
Ah! who'll e'er the days restore

Of that time so fondly cherish'd.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 1749 – 1832

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Alas, I thought I knew so much

Alas, I thought I knew so much
Of love, and yet I know so little!
For I cannot stop myself loving her
From whom I shall never have joy.
My whole heart, and all of me from myself
She has taken, and her own self,
and all the world,
For when she took herself from me,
she left me nothing
But desire and a yearning heart.

Bernard de Ventadour 1130-1140 – 1190-1200

The Beloved: Reflections on the Path of the Heart

Tell me, O people, tell me! Who among you would not wake from the sleep of life if love were to brush your spirit with its fingertips?
Who among you would not forsake your father and your mother and your home if the girl whom your heart loved were to call to him?
Who among you would not cross the seas, traverse deserts, go over mountains and valleys to reach the woman whom his spirit has chosen?
What youth would not follow his heart to the ends of the earth to breathe the sweetness of his lover's breath, feel the soft touch of her hands, delight in the melody of her voice?
What man would not immolate his soul that its smoke might rise to a god who would hear his plea and answer his prayer?

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Her Voice

The wild bee reels from bough to bough
With his furry coat and his gauzy wing,
Now in a lily-cup, and now
Setting a jacinth bell a-swing,
In his wandering;
Sit closer love: it was here I trow
I made that vow,

Swore that two lives should be like one
As long as the sea-gull loved the sea,
As long as the sunflower sought the sun, -
It shall be, I said, for eternity
'Twixt you and me!
Dear friend, those times are over and done;
Love's web is spun.

Look upward where the poplar trees
Sway and sway in the summer air,
Here in the valley never a breeze
Scatters the thistledown, but there
Great winds blow fair
From the mighty murmuring mystical seas,
And the wave-lashed leas.

Look upward where the white gull screams,
What does it see that we do not see?
Is that a star? or the lamp that gleams
On some outward voyaging argosy, -
Ah! can it be
We have lived our lives in a land of dreams!
How sad it seems.

Sweet, there is nothing left to say
But this, that love is never lost,
Keen winter stabs the breasts of May
Whose crimson roses burst his frost,
Ships tempest-tossed
Will find a harbour in some bay,
And so we may.

And there is nothing left to do
But to kiss once again, and part,
Nay, there is nothing we should rue,
I have my beauty, - you your Art,
Nay, do not start,
One world was not enough for two
Like me and you.

Oscar Wilde 1854 - 1900

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Chambered Nautilus

This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,
Sails the unshadowed main,--
The venturous bark that flings
On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings
In gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings,
And coral reefs lie bare,
Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair.

Its webs of living gauze no more unfurl;
Wrecked is the ship of pearl!
And every chambered cell,
Where its dim dreaming life was wont to dwell,
As the frail tenant shaped his growing shell,
Before thee lies revealed,--
Its irised ceiling rent, its sunless crypt unsealed!

Year after year beheld the silent toil
That spread his lustrous coil;
Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year's dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
Built up its idle door,
Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.

Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee,
Child of the wandering sea,
Cast from her lap, forlorn!
From thy dead lips a clearer note is born
Than ever Triton blew from wreath├Ęd horn!
While on mine ear it rings,
Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:--

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea!

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Ballad of Dreamland

In the world of dreams, I have chosen my part
To sleep for a season and hear no word
Of true love's truth or of light love's art,
Only the song of a secret bird.

Algernon Charles Swinburne 1837 – 1909
A Ballad of Dreamland - Envoi

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Dinosaur Crush

I have a monster crush on you,
A super-dinosaur!
It sits upon my chest and throat
And yet I beg for more.
When you're away I miss you so
My heart is full of sand.
Yet when you're here my stupid fear
Won't let me touch your hand.

I cannot sleep, I cannot eat,
I'm so wrapped up in you.
My thoughts drift up, away from words,
And fade into the blue.

I know this crush is not your fault;
The dinosaur is mine.
Yet if you could, please rescue me,
And put your arms around me, and hold me, and say
you love me, and Oh! God! Would that be good!

Samatha Smith

Monday, June 11, 2007

The First Snow of the Year

The old man, listening to the careful
Steps of his old wife as she came,
Up, up, so slowly, then her slippered
Progress down the long hall to their door--

Outside the wind, wilder suddenly,
Whirled the first snow of the year; danced
Round and round with it, coming closer
And closer, peppering the panes; now here she was--

Said "Ah, my dear, remember?" But his tray
Took all of her attention, having to hold it
Level. "Ah, my dear, don't you remember?"
"What?" "That time we walked in the white woods."

She handed him his napkin; felt the glass
to make sure the milk in it was warm;
Sat down; got up again; brought comb and brush
To tidy his top hair: "Yes, I remember."

He wondered if she saw now what he did.
Possibly not. An afternoon so windless,
The huge flakes rustled upon each other,
Filling the woods, the world, with cold, cold--

They shivered, having a long way to go,
And then their mittens touched; and touched again;
Their eyes, trying not to meet, did meet;
They stopped, and in the cold held out their arms.

Till she came into his: awkwardly,
as girl to boy that never kissed before.
The woods, the darkening world, so cold, so cold,
While these two burned together. He remembered,

And wondered if she did, how like a sting,
A hidden heat it was; while there they stood
And trembled, and the snow made statues of them.
"Ah, me dear, remember?" "Yes, I do."

She rocked and thought: he wants me to say something
But we said nothing then. The main thing is,
I'm with him still; he still calls me and I come.
But slowly. Time makes sluggards of us all.

"Yes, I do remember." The wild wind
Was louder, but a sweetness in her speaking
Stung him, and he heard. While round and round
The first snow of the year danced on the lawn.

Mark Van Doren 1894 – 1972

from The Crystal Image, ed. by Paul Janeczko

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Helpless Heart (Excerpt)

But darlin' I know though we're far apart
The signal is strong
This helpless heart will always belong to you
Only to you
No one but you

David Crosby (born 1941)

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Medallion

The brass medallion profile of your face I keep always.
It is not jingling with loose change in my pockets.
It is not stuck up in a show place on the office wall.
I carry it in a special secret pocket in the day
And it is under my pillow at night.
The brass came from a long ways off: it was up against hell and high water, fire and flood, before the
face was put on it.
It is the side of a head; a woman wishes; a woman waits; a woman swears behind silent lips that the
sea will bring home what is gone.

Carl Sandburg 1878 – 1967

Friday, June 8, 2007

Love Is Reckless

Love is reckless; not reason.
Reason seeks a profit.
Love comes on strong,
consuming herself, unabashed.

Yet, in the midst of suffering,
Love proceeds like a millstone,
hard surfaced and straightforward.

Having died of self-interest,
she risks everything and asks for nothing.
Love gambles away every gift God bestows.

Without cause God gave us Being;
without cause, give it back again.

Rumi 1207 – 1273

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Wild Nights - Wild Nights!

Wild Nights - Wild Nights!
Were I with thee
Wild Nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile - the winds -
To a heart in port -
Done with the compass -
Done with the chart!

Rowing in Eden -
Ah, the sea!
Might I moor - Tonight -
In thee!

Emily Dickinson 1830 – 1886

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Wanderer

I saw the sunset-colored sands,
The Nile like flowing fire between,
Where Rameses stares forth serene,
And Ammon's heavy temple stands.

I saw the rocks where long ago,
Above the sea that cries and breaks,
Swift Perseus with Medusa's snakes
Set free the maiden white like snow.

And many skies have covered me,
And many winds have blown me forth,
And I have loved the green, bright north,
And I have loved the cold, sweet sea.

But what to me are north and south,
And what the lure of many lands,
Since you have leaned to catch my hands
And lay a kiss upon my mouth.

Sara Teasdale 1884 – 1933

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

If We Only Have Love

If we only have love
Then tomorrow will dawn
And the days of our years
Will rise on that morn
If we only have love
To embrace without fears
We will kiss with our eyes
We will sleep without tears
If we only have love
With our arms open wide
Then the young and the old
Will stand at our side
If we only have love
Love that's falling like rain
Then the parched desert earth
Will grow green again
If we only have love
For the hymn that we shout
For the song that we sing
Then we'll have a way out
If we only have love
We can reach those in pain
We can heal all our wounds
We can use our own names
If we only have love
We can melt all the guns
And then give the new world
To our daughters and sons
If we only have love
Then Jerusalem stands
And then death has no shadow
There are no foreign lands
If we only have love
We will never bow down
We'll be tall as the pines
Neither heroes nor clowns
If we only have love
Then we'll only be men
And we'll drink from the Grail
To be born once again
Then with nothing at all
But the little we are
We'll have conquered all time
All space, the sun, and the stars.

Jacques Brel 1929 - 1978

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Time and Again

Time and again, however well we know the landscape of love,
and the little church-yard with lamenting names,
and the frightfully silent ravine wherein all the others
end: time and again we go out two together,
under the old trees, lie down again and again
between the flowers, face to face with the sky.

Rainer Maria Rilke 1875 – 1926

Friday, June 1, 2007

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your depair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese,
high in the clean blue air
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Mary Oliver 1935 -

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Lies About Love

We are a liars, because
the truth of yesterday becomes a lie tomorrow,
whereas letters are fixed,
and we live by the letter of truth.
The love I feel for my friend, this year,
is different from the love I felt last year.
If it were not so, it would be a lie.
Yet we reiterate love! love! love!
as if it were a coin with a fixed value
instead of a flower that dies, and opens a different bud.

David Herbert Lawrence 1885 – 1930

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

My Pretty Rose Tree

A flower was offered to me,
Such a flower as May never bore;
But I said "I've a pretty rose tree,"
And I passed the sweet flower o'er.

Then I went to my pretty rose tree,
To tend her by day and by night;
But my rose turned away with jealousy,
And her thorns were my only delight.

William Blake 1757 – 1827

The Moon Has Sunk

The moon has sunk and the Pleiads,
And midnight is gone,
And the hours are passing, passing,
And I lie alone.

Sappho 630 BC - 570 BC?

Monday, May 28, 2007

Excerpt from Sonnet LXI

When love like a huge wave
carried us, crashed us against the boulder,
it milled us into a single flour.

Pablo Neruda 1904 – 1973