A Voice

They mutilated they torment each other
With silences with words
As if they had another
life to live

they do so
as if they had forgotten
that their bodies
are inclined to death
that the inside of men
easily break down

ruthless with each other
they are weaker
than plants and animals
they can be killed by a word
by a smile by a look

Tadeusz Rozewicz (1921- )

Like They Say

Underneath the tree on some
soft grass I sat, I

watched two happy
woodpeckers be dis-

turbed by my presence. And
why not, I thought to

myself, why

-Robert Creeley (1926-)


So this is utopia,
Is it? Well -
I beg your pardon;
I thought it was Hell

- Max Beerbohm

Rainbow's End

When we see a rainbow
We count colors
I think not
But when rainbows appear
I feel that says a lot
When love comes our way
Do we know that it will last
It's probably that rainbow
I spoke of with it's colors cast
Love does that to you now and again
If it's true love
That rainbow is just around the bend
And that love you find
Will be your rainbow to the end

- Robert Emmett Tansey


Man, introverted man, having crossed
In passage and but a little with the nature of things this
latter century
Has begot giants; but being taken up
Like a maniac with self-love and inward conflicts can-
not manage his hybrids.
Being used to deal with edgeless dreams,
Now he's bred knives on nature turns them also inward:
they have thirsty points though.
His mind forebodes his own destruction;
Actaeon who saw the goddess naked among leaves and
his hounds tore him.
A little knowledge, a pebble from a shingle,
A drop from the oceans: who would have dreamed this
infinitely little too much?

- Robinson Jeffers


Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work--
I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?

I am the grass.
Let me work.

- Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)

When We Teach Only Love

Each of us can make a difference
When we teach only love, not fear
When we put an end to indifference and
When we let go of selfish needs

Each of us can make a difference
When we teach only love
When we awaken each day
By showing each other the way

Each of us can make a difference
When we teach only love
When we commit ourselves to have a heart
That beats only with compassion
Where caring for one another becomes
Our only passion

Each of us can make a difference
When we teach only love
When giving, kindness, patience, gratitude
And tenderness are the way that we pray

When Love and Forgiveness become
Our song of the day
Each of us can make a difference
When we teach only love
When everything we think, say, and do
Becomes our gift of love to God

Each of us can make a difference
When we teach only love
When we commit our lives to joy
When we commit our hearts to peace

Each of us can make a difference
When we teach only love

- Gerald G. Jampolsky (1924-)

The Gray Whale

Before the advent of motorized sailing vessels,
it is believed that certain species of whales could
communicate across the hemispheres.


We climb to there, to what seems
only rock or rubble from a distance.
My friends want to play,
but I'm new to the coast, still afraid
of what comes with the waves, undulating--
the long strands of kelp, sea palms
and weeds, whatever curls in on itself.

It must have known it could not go back
to fluid motion and grace, even as it
rose from the deep, gave its bulk to the tide.
I was inland when it beached. I didn't witness
the passage of breath, the souvenir hunters,
the mourners. My friends saw
the helicopter lifting it in pieces.

No one warned me about this.
Above the sea now, it bakes in the sun
--flesh gone to the air, the rest
growing into the earth. We walk
the length of the spine in our small shoes,
we touch the stumps of its bones, we circle
the jaw, we give away our words.

I am nothing when I stand inside its head.

Santa Cruz, CA


The fisherman stands far out on the rocks.
He is past the cove and we're just two women
who haven't learned the ocean. We watch him
cast and cast again through our binoculars
--his rod glints, the rocks glisten,
waves fall and fall on each other.
This once was a whaling station. We came looking
for spouts, but find only a man fishing morning away.

When he waves his arms, we think he has fallen or is
trapped by the tide. The speck of him grows in our glasses.
He waves, and we follow a path along the spine of the cliff
past allysum and poppy, foam and crash of surf.
The wind whips our hair, our feet rattle stones
--past thorn and stubble of grass-- the sea
booms against the rocks as we go to save the fisherman.

When we stand above him, we still don't see.
He cups his hands and shout, but the wind
takes his voice. Then he points to the water
below us. It rises, gray
mottled skin. It heaves its weight up.
Side and fluke. Eye. It dives and explodes again.
It grazes the rocks. Dives and rises again
-- the sea churning, the wind blowing,
the four of us joined each time in the air.

Davenport Landing, CA


Gale winds for a week. Now a drizzle
settles the sea and our rented boat
throbs over the bar, out of the harbor.
Binoculars and cameras hanging from our necks,
we pretend to be experts, not eager
for bubbles, for spouts, for seabirds flying low.

They are here, they are waiting.
They listen to out chatter, our jokes and our laughter.
Their shadows drift under the hull.

Now they rise to port, to port.
Now giants, now monsters

spangled with barnacles, five dancers leaping in unison
--buffalo, tiger, whatever has left us--
hill and rock, curve and sway of the universe.

Loop and slide of the dream, rolling over
and under, beside us, in front.
They touch. Body and drum, they sigh.
From the mouth of the Mad
to the mouth of the Eel River, past Table Bluff.

This we have lost.
All this, forgotten.

Eureka, CA

- Judith Minty


How can he dare cross me,
this oozing, footless tube,
lifting his alert pronged head
in the cuckold's gesture?

Long ago his nation
cast off the security of shells
and now go proudly naked
relying for safety
on the realpolitik
of sheer slug numbers.

Clearly he glories
in each nuance of slug calligraphy,
those sly paths of silver
that chronicle the progress
of appetite, and answer
the urgent appeals of the rain.

Perhaps he incarnates
the slug king of legend
who lay for seven days and seven nights
besotted in a saucer of beer
but did not drown
and who, by this test,
won his dappled queen
and with her dangled upside down
on a glittering rope
of commingled slime
convulsed and tranquil
as a hypnotist's pendulum.

Then together they passed
through the exorcist's circles
of slug bait unharmed
and will feast forever
on trilliums and tulips

if I choose to stay my foot.

I don't, but stand a moment musing,
their sticky deaths the mucilage
holding me earthbound
by all that is once

most vulnerable
most destructive.

- Gwen Head ()


Sometimes things don't go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don't fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A poeple sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man; decide they care
enough, that they can't leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.

- Sheenagh Pugh (1950-)

Young and Old

When all the world is young, lad,
And all the trees are green,
And every goose a swan, lad,
And every lass a queen;
Then hey for boot and horse, lad,
And round the world away,
Young blood must have its course, lad,
And every dog his day.

When all the world is old, lad,
And all the trees are brown;
And all the sport is stale, lad,
And all the wheels run down;
Creep home, and take your place there,
The spent and maimed among:
God grant you find one face there,
You loved when all was young.

- Charles Kingsley (1819-1875)

Music of Spheres

He was walking a frozen road
in his pocket iron keys were jingling
and with his pointed shoe absent-mindedly
he kicks the cylinder
of an old can
which for a few seconds rolled its cold emptiness
wobbled for a while and stopped
under the sky studded with stars.

- Jean Follain (1903-1971)


the difference between you and me
is as I bent over strangers toilet bowls,
the face that glared back at me
in these sedentary waters
was not my own,
but my mother's
brown head floating in a soap pool
of crystalline whiteness

she taught me how to clean
to get down on my hands and knees
and scrub, not beg

she taught me how to clean,
not live in this body

my reflection has always been
once removed.

- Cherrie Moraga (1952-)

The Potter

Your whole body has
a fullness or a gentleness destined for me.

When I move my hand up
I find in each place a dove
that was seeking me, as
if they had, love, made you of clay
for my own potter's hands.

Your knees, your breasts,
your waist
are missing parts of me like the hollow
of a thirsty earth
from which they broke off
a form,
and together
we are complete like a single river,
like a single grain of sand.

- Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)

Slum Lords

The superrich make lousy neighbors—
they buy a house and tear it down
and build another, twice as big, and leave.
They're never there; they own so many
other houses, each demands a visit.
Entire neighborhoods called fashionable,
bustling with servants and masters, such as
Louisburg Square in Boston or Bel Air in L.A.,
are districts now like Wall Street after dark
or Tombstone once the silver boom went bust.
The essence of superrich is absence.
They like to demonstrate they can afford
to be elsewhere. Don't let them in.
Their riches form a kind of poverty.

- John Updike (1932-2009)


to reach here
gliding into old age
the decades gone
without ever meeting one person
truly evil
without ever meeting one person
truly exceptional
without ever meeting one person
truly good

gliding into old age

the mornings are the worst.

-Charles Bukowski (1920-1994)

Walking Across the Atlantic

I wait for the holiday crowd to clear the beach
before stepping onto the first wave.

Soon I am walking across the Atlantic
thinking about Spain,
checking for whales, waterspouts.

I feel the water holding up my shifting weight.
Tonight I will sleep on its rocking surface.

But for now I try to imagine what
this must look like to the fish below,
the bottoms of my feet appearing, disappearing.

-Billy Collins (1941-)

Hegel for Dummies

working by day, school at night
(though more cafeteria than class)
I didn't know... had not seen
"choice" taxidermied into trophy--
our wild dreams, cascades of complaints
(male chauvinist pigs, bourgeois privilege,
TV-watching pathetic parents)
heady delusional, talk of revolution
-- we read Baldwin Ginsberg Malcolm Che
Millett Leary Laing and Plath--
the sparkle of the not-yet
beckoned big: if it exists, it stinks

years morphed into decades
scrambling codes, perfect night rides
windows down, wind in our hair
car lapping up the road
carapace of community
living in the center, Manhattan downtown
round-the-clock friends, sex, music, drugs
demonstrations, midnight feasts in Chinatown
after double bills of French film
evenings of art --Met or LaMama--
leaning over the spiral balcony
at the Guggenheim (giant flower pot)
listening to Charlotte Moorman
play cello (topless) while someone read Artaud

when what was really happening...

- Dion Farquhar

Proletarian Portriat

A big bareheaded woman
in an apron

Her hair slicked back standing
on the street

One stockinged foot toeing
the sidewalk

Her shoe in her hand. Looking
intently into it

She pulls out the paper insole
to find the nail

That has been hurting her

- William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)

Black Islands

for Darío

At Isla Negra,
between Neruda's tomb
and the anchor in the garden,
a man with stonecutter's hands
lifted up his boy of five
so the boy's eyes could search mine.
The boy's eyes were black olives.
Son, the father said, this is a poet,
like Pablo Neruda.
The boy's eyes were black glass.
My son is called Darío,
for the poet of Nicaragua,
the father said.
The boy's eyes were black stones.
The boy said nothing,
searching my face for poetry,
searching my eyes for his own eyes.
The boy's eyes were black islands.

- Martin Espanda (1957)

To the Stone-Cutters

Stone-cutters fighting time with marble, you foredefeated
Challengers of oblivion
Eat cynical earnings, knowing rock splits, records fall
The square-limbed Roman letters
Scale in the thaws, wear in the rain. The poet as well
Builds his monument mockingly;
For manwill be blotted out, the blithe earth die, the
brave sun
Die blind and blacken to the heart:
Yet stones have stood for a thousand years, and pained
thoughts found
The honey of peace in old poems.

-Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962)

Too Much Snow

Unlike the Eskimos we only have one word for snow but we have a
lot of
modifiers for that word. There is too much snow, which, unlike rain,
does not
immediately run off. It falls and stays for months. Someone wished for
snow. Someone got a deal, five cents on the dollar, and spent the
entire family
fortune. It's the simple solution, it covers everything. We are never
with the arrangement of the snow so we spend hours moving the snow from
place to another. Too much snow. I box it up and send it to family and
I send a big box to my cousin in California. I send a small box to my
She writes "Don't send so much. I'm all alone now. I'll never be able
to use so
much." To you I send a single snowflake, beautiful, complex and
different from all the others.

- Louis Jenkins (1942-)


Love comes back to his vacant dwelling,--
The old, old Love that we knew of yore!
We see him stand by the open door,
With his great eyes sad, and his bosom swelling.

He makes as though in our arms repelling,
He fain would lie as he lay before;--
Love comes back to his vacant dwelling,--
The old, old Love that we knew of yore!

Ah, who shall help us from over-spelling
That sweet forgotten, forbidden lore!
E'en as we doubt in our heart once more,
With a rush of tears to our eyelids welling,
Love comes back to vacant dwelling.

Austin Dobson (1880)

Jade Stairs Resentment

On steps of jade
White dew forms.
It creeps within
Her stocking of fine silk
As night grows long.

She lowers then
The water-crystal blind,
And through its glittering gems
She gazes
At the autumn moon.

Li Bai (740 A.D.)

the Third Wonder

Two things said Kant, 'fill me with breathless awe:
The starry heavens and the moral law.'
I know a thing more awful and obscure --
The long, long patience of the plundered poor.

Edwin Markham (1852-1940)

No Girls Allowed

When we're playing tag
and the girls want to play,
we yell and we scream
and we chase them away.

When we're playing stickball
or racing our toys
and the girls ask to join,
we say "Only for boys."

We play hide-and-go-seek
and the girls wander near.
They say, "Please let us hide."
We pretend not to hear.

We don't care for girls
so we don't let them in,
we think that they're dumb--
and besides, they might win.

- Jack Prelutsky (2011)

Epinician Ode 1 (excerpt)

Listen: you have your health
and enough to live on? What else can you want?
You are one of the lucky few
and ought to enjoy it.
Life, if you aren't sick or destitute,
is good, but we waste our time
in this golden sunshine looking
always to someone else and thinking,
"he must be happy".
It's not so.
The rich are never content.
They want as fervently as we do,
more, more.
It's how men are made.
They want what they don't have,
whatever is hard to attain,
and they spend their strength
reaching out, mostly for baubles and toys,
wealth and power.
But these are trivial things,
and the bone yards are full
of utter non-entities
who had more than their share.
Virtue is different, difficult, real:
those who have earned that have it forever,
in life and after, forever.
True distinction, fame, glory,
that never dies.

Bacchylides (500 B.C. ?)

Not Henry Miller but Mother

Passion is the letter "p." A jeweled pear, another Guernica shattering
our souls, a giant liced with Lilliputians. Passion fell flat on its face when a date
used too much tongue. Passion ran, shotput into the air past the scoreboard,
past the empty lots where children brawled silently, past the manicured
lawns of Silicon Valley's royalty and past my sweaty, consumptive
grasp. Following the flock, I traveled to Europe and scaled the Catalan steps
to view a landscape of stone. It was cold. I left early. Later in Paris,
I searched for passion in the vessel of a Frenchman and only found a janitor
who cleaned the toilets of Notre Dame and whispered "I have many, many
flaws." She was the one who hoarded passion. Mother, who shaved my
head when I was three, who dieted on tears and Maalox, who shouted in
hyena rage and one minute later cradled my face and whispered a song in
my ear, while I watched the clock in front of me, ticking.

- Cathy Park Hong

Paradoxes and Oxymorons

This poem is concerned with language on a very plain level.
Look at talking to you. You look out a window
Or pretend to fidget. You have it but you don't have it.
You miss it, it misses you. You miss each other.

The poem is sad because it wants to be yours, and cannot.
What's a plain level? It is that and other things,
Bringing a system of them into play. Play?
Well, actually, yes, but I consider play to be

A deeper outside thing, a dreamed role-pattern,
As in the division of grace these long August days
Without proof. Open-ended. And before you know
It gets lost in the steam and chatter of typewriters.

It has been played once more. I think you exist only
To tease me into doing it, on your level, and then you aren't there
Or have adopted a different attitude. And the poem
Has set me softly down beside you. The poem is you.

- John Ashbery (1927)

Parachutes, My Love, Could Carry Us Higher

I just said I didn't know
And now you are holding me
In your arms,
How kind.
Parachutes, my love could carry us higher.
Yet around the net I am floating
Pink and pale blue fish are caught in it,
They are beautiful,
But they are not good for eating.
Parachutes, my love, could carry us higher
Than this mid-air in which we tremble,
Having exercised our arms in swimming,
Now the suspension, you say,
Is exquisite. I do not know.
There is coral below the surface,
There is sand and berries
Like pomegranates grow.
The wide net, I am treading water
Near it, bubbles are rising and salt
Drying on my lashes, yet I am no nearer
Air than water. I am closer to you
Than land and I am in a stranger ocean
Than I wished.

- Barbara Guest (1920)

November Surf

Some lucky day each November great waves awake and are drawn
Like smoking mountains bright from the west
And come and cover the cliff with white violent cleanness: then
The old granite forgets half a year's filth:
The orange-peel, eggshells, papers, pieces of clothing, the clots
Of dung in corners of the rock, and used
Sheaths that make light love safe in the evenings: all the droppings
of the summer
Idlers washed off in a winter ecstasy:
I think this cumbered continent envies its cliff then.... But all
The earth, in her childlike prophetic sleep,
Keeps dreaming of the bath of a storm that prepares up the long
Of the future to scour more than her sea-lines:
The cities gone down, the people fewer and the hawks more nu-
The rivers mouth to source pure; when the two-footed
Mammal, being someways one of the nobler animals, regains
The dignity of room, the value of rareness.

- Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962)

The Fishing-Tackle

In mu room, on the whitewashed wall
Hangs a short bamboo stick bound with cord
With an iron hook designed
To snag fishing-nets from the water. The stick
Came from a second-hand store downtown. My son
Gave it to me for my birthday. It is worn.
In salt water the hook's rust has eaten through the binding.
These traces of use and of work
Lend great dignity to the stick. I
Like to think that this fishing-tackle
Was left behind by those Japanese fishermen
Whom they have now driven from the West Coast into camps
As suspect aliens; that it came into my hands
To keep me in mind of so many
Unsolved but not insoluble
Questions of humanity.

- Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956)

Carmel Point

The extraordinary patience of things!
This beautiful place defaced with a crop of suburban houses--
How beautiful when we first beheld it,
Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs;
No intrusion but two or three horses pasturing,
Or a few milch cows rubbing their flanks on the outcrop rockheads--
Now the spoiler has come: does it care?
Not faintly. It has all time. It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve. Meanwhile the image of the pristine beauty
Lives in the very grain of the granite,
Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff. --As for us:
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.

- Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962)

Californian Autumn

In my garden
Are nothing but evergreens. If I want to see autumn
I drive to my friend's country house in the hills. There
I can stand for five minutes and see a tree
Stripped of its foliage, and foliage stripped of its truck.

I saw a big autumn leaf which the wind
Was driving along the road, and I thought; tricky
To reckon that leaf's future course.

- Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956)

Obedience of the Corpse

The midwife puts a rag in the dead woman's hand,
takes the hairpins out.

She smells apples,
wonders where she keeps them in the house.
Nothing is under the sink
but a broken sack of potatoes
growing eyes in the dark.

She hopes the mother's milk is good a while longer,
and the woman up the road is still nursing.
But she remembers the neighbor
and the dead woman never got along.

A limb breaks,
She knows it's not the wind.
Somebody needs to set out some poison.

She looks to see if the woman wrote down any names,
finds a white shirt to wrap the baby in in.
It's beautiful she thinks
like snow nobody has walked on.

- C.D. Wright (1949)

a song in the front yard

I’ve stayed in the front yard all my life.
I want a peek at the back
Where it’s rough and untended and hungry weed grows.
A girl gets sick of a rose.

I want to go in the back yard now
And maybe down the alley,
To where the charity children play.
I want a good time today.

They do some wonderful things.
They have some wonderful fun.
My mother sneers, but I say fine
How they don’t have to go in at quarter to nine.
My mother, she tells me that Johnnie Mae
Will grow up to be a bad woman.
That George’ll be taken to Jail soon or late
(On account of last winter he sold our back gate.)

But I say it’s fine. Honest, I do.
And I’d like to be a bad woman, too,
And wear the brave stockings of night-black lace
And strut down the streets with paint on my face.

- Gwendolyn Brooks (1917)

An Airplane Whistle (After Heine)

The rose, the lily and the dove got withered
in you sunlight or in the soot, maybe of New York
and ceased to be lovable as odd sounds are lovable
say blowing on a little airplane's slot
which is the color of the back of your knee
a particular sound, fine, light and slightly hoarse

- Frank O'Hara (1926-1966)

New Religion

This morning no sound the loud
breathing of the sea. Suppose that under
all that salt water lived the god
that humans have spent ten thousand years
trawling the heavens for.
We caught the wrong metaphor.
Real space is wet and underneath,
the church of shark and whale and cod.
The noise of those vast lungs
exhaling: the plain chanting of monkfish choirs.
Heaven's not up but down, and hell
is to evaporate in air. Salvation,
to drown and breathe
forever with the sea.

- Bill Holm (1943-2009)

the Death of a Soldier

Life contracts and death is expected,
As in a season of autumn.
The soldier falls.

He does not become a three-days personage,
Imposing his separation,
Calling for pomp.

Death is absolute and without memorial,
As in a season of autumn,
When the wind stops,

When the wind stops and over the heavens,
The clouds go, nevertheless,
In their direction.

- Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)

Anecdote of the Jar

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion everywhere,
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.

- Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)

the Secret Sits

We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

- Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Meditation at Lagunitas

All the new thinking is about loss.
In this it resembles all the old thinking.
The idea, for example, that each particular erases
the luminous clarity of a general idea. That the clown-
faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunk
of that black birch is, by his presence,
some tragic falling off from a first world
of undivided light. Or the other notion that,
because there is in this world no one thing
to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,
a word is elegy to what is signifies.
We talked about it late last night and in the voice
of my friend, there was a think wire of grief, a tone
almost querulous. After a while I understood that,
talking this way, everything dissolves: justice,
pine, hair, woman, you and I. There was a woman
I made love to and I remembered how, holding
her small shoulders in my hands sometimes,
I felt a violent wonder at her presence
like a thirst for salt, for my childhood river
with its island willows, silly music from the pleasure boat,
muddy places where we caught the little orange-silver fish
called pumpkinseed. It hardly had to do with her.
Longing, we say, because desire is full
of endless distances. I must have been the same to her.
But I remember so much, the way her hands dismantled bread,
the thing her father said that hurt her, what
she dreamed. There are moments when the body is as numinous
as words, days that are the good flesh continuing.
Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings,
saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.

- Robert Hass (1941)


Not birds touching down,
no petals falling.

The sharpened stars are
throwing weapons,
metal cold.

Moon, disintegrated in light,
countless escape ships of invasion

land its image
on each branch, each lawn,
all the roads

closed. Snow.

- Ed Roberson


Reality being too thorny for my great personality.
- I found myself nevertheless at my lady's,
an enormous gray-blue bird soaring toward the moldings
of the ceiling and trailing my wings
through the shadows of the evening.
At the foot of the canopy supporting her adored gems
and her physical masterpieces, I was a great bear
with violet gums, fur hoary with sorrow,
eyes on the silver and crystal of the consoles.
Everything became shadow and ardent aquarium.
In the morning, -- bellicose dawn of June,--
a donkey, I rushed into the fields,
braying and brandishing my grievance,
until the Sabine women of the suburbs
came and threw themselves on my neck.

- Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891)

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

- Robert Frost (1874-1963)

the Only Teaching

For lovers, the only teaching is the beauty of the
their only book and lecture is the Face,
Outwardly they are silent,
but their penetrating remembrance rises
to the high throne of their Friend.
Their only lesson is enthusiasm, whirling, and
not the minor details of law.

- Jelaluddin Rumi (1207-1273)

Tao Te Ching #8

The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.
It is content with the low places that people disdain
Thus it is like the Tao.

In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don't try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present.

When you are content to be simply yourself
and don't compare or compete,
everybody will respect you.

- Lao Tzu(350 B.C.E.?)

Frederick Douglass

When it is finally ours, this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful
and terrible thing, needful to man as air,
usable as earth; when it belongs at last to all,
when it is truly instinct, brain matter, diastole, systole,
reflex action; when it is finally won; when it is more
than gaudy mumbo jumbo of politicians:
this man, this Douglass, this former slave, this Negro
beaten to his knees, exiled, visioning a world
where none is lonely, none hunted, alien,
this man, superb in love and logic, this man
shall be remembered. Oh, not with statues' rhetoric,
not with legends and poems and wreaths of bronze alone,
but with the lives grown out of his life, the lives
fleshing his dream of the beautiful, needful thing.

- Robert Hayden (1913-1980)

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

- Ezra Pound (1885-1972)

Calling the Magician: A Few Words for a Caribbean Civilization

From all our machines put together, from all our roads charted in miles, from all our accumulated tonnage, from all our arrayed aeroplanes, from our regulations, from our conditioning, not the slightest feeling could emerge. That is of another order, and real, and infinitely more exalted.
From all your manufactured thoughts, from all your graded concepts, from all your concerted measures, not the slightest frisson of genuine civilization could result.
That is of another order, infinitely more exalted and sur-rational.

I cannot stop admiring the great Caribbean silence, our insolent wealth, our cynical poverty.

You have encircled the globe. You have yet to embrace it. Warmly.

True civilizations are poetic shocks: the shock of the stars, of the sun, the plant, the animal, the shock of the round globe, of the rain, of the light, of numbers, the shock of life, the shock of death.
Since the sun temple, since the mask, since the Indian, since the African man, too much distance has been calculated here, has been granted here, between things and ourselves.

The true manifestation of civilization is myth.
Social organization, religion, partnerships, philosophies, morals, architecture and sculpture are the representations and expressions of myth.

Civilization is dying all around the world because myths are dead or dying or being born.
We must wait for the powdery frost of outdated or emaciated myths to blow apart. We are awaiting the debacle.

...And we shall be fulfilled.

In the current state of things, the only avowed refuge of the mythic spirit is poetry.
And poetry is an insurrection against society because it is a devotion to abandoned or exiled or obliterated myth.

Civilization is not built by means of schools, clinics and statistical calculations.
Only the poetic spirit corrodes and builds, erases and invigorates.

The Caribbean has no civilization because the Caribbean suns poetry. Scandalously.
We has lost the meaning of the symbol. The literal has devoured our world. Scandalously.

Civilization is generalized participation in essence.
Civilization is a wondrous generalized communion.
We are at its mass stage. And the essence of facts, like that of the real, escapes us, initiated as we are to application alone: crude application.
Only the poetic spirit links and reunites.

The vital thing is to re-establish a personal, fresh, compelling, magical contact with things.
The revolution will be social and poetic or will not be.

I don’t hide the fact that I expect everything from a new barbarism.

True civilization is in the realm of obsession.
Civilization is an absurd idea which, felt and lived in its entirety, by that very fact and by that fact alone, becomes true.
I preach obsession.
The true ideal: the ‘possessed’ woman.

To resituate joy and pain, acceptance and creation in the cosmos.

Civilization is born of individual sincerity, individual daring, from that part of individual disorder that everyone carries within him and that he owes it to himself to expand and communicate and that gradually takes over like irresistible tall flames.
Keep your distance, wet blankets.
Give us back our power of wonderment.

I’m calling upon the magician.

Civilization is neither a policeman nor a mechanic. Its foundation is neither order as order, nor work as work.
I admire the perspicacity of poets. Baudelaire celebrating the useless and the dandy. Mallarme pouring scorn on bread. Rimbaud spewing on the ‘centuries of hands’.
And Breton announcing:
‘Professions are withering away.’
The true poet does not preach work. He preaches availability.
To be better able to reach the heart of things.
I demand the right to indolence.

A new attitude towards the object. After the exploitative nonsense that is our bourgeois, comfortable attitude, it is healthy and profoundly important that Andre Breton restores liberating, catalysing and dangerous power to the object, that he gives back the profaned object its dignity of mystery and its radiant force, that, when all’s said and done, he makes of it again what it should never have ceased to be: the Great Intercessor.
Once generalized, this attitude will lead us to the great mad sweep of renewal.

I’m calling upon the Enraged.

- Aime Cesaire(1913-2008)

the Witnesses

This morning, stirred beneath the agitation of rain
came three white-collar magpies to my lawn.
Jehovah's Witness-like they knocked
they knocked upon my window pane,
stood black demanding entrance. I held my ground
but they were smart and oh-so-keen,
so upright, firm they pushed their song at me,
surprised my shrinking soul.

'Spare my breath,' I said, 'you've fangled
on my lawn all night. Enough's enough.
What more have you to tell me?'
'O foolish pale and puny earthling,
save your wit - our glamorous warbling
has unlocked the last old secrets of the soul.
Go warm your winters fast against the
rising dark, the setting sun,
the climbing moon, the mourning grasses
and the chill of dusk.'

- Fay Zwicky (1933)