Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air –
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music – like the rain pelting the trees – like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds –
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?
– Mary Oliver
I have been studying the difference
between solitude and loneliness,
telling the story of my life
to the clean white towels taken warm from the dryer.
I carry them through the house
as though they were my children
asleep in my arms.
– Richard Jones
Everyone that 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
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?
– Hafiz [Persia, 1377 AD]
I have lived my life on the prairie and a line of oak trees can astonish me.
In those days, as I have said, I might spend most of a night reading.
Then, if I woke up still in my armchair, and if the clock said four or
five, I would still think how pleasant it was to walk through the streets in
the dark and let myself into the church and watch the dawn come into
the sanctuary. I loved the sound of the latch lifting. The building has
settled into itself so that when you walk down the aisle, you can hear
it yielding to the burden of your weight. It is a pleasanter sound than
an echo would be, an obliging accommodating sound . . .
After a while I did begin to wonder if I liked the church better with no
people in it. I was struck by the way the light felt that afternoon. I have
paid a good deal of attention to light, but no one could begin to do it
justice. There is a feeling of the weight of light, a pressing the damp
out of the grass and pressing the smell of sour old sap out of the boards
on the porch floor and burdening the trees a little as a late snow would do.
There is a reality in blessing, which I take baptism to be, primarily. It
does not enhance sacredness, but it acknowledges it, and there is a
power in that. I have felt it pass through me. The sensation is really
knowing a creature, I mean really feeling its mysterious life and your
own mysterious life at the same time.
– from Gilead, an Iowa novel by Marilynne Robinson
Every road you have ever taken, and
All the corners you have ever turned
Have led you to my gate.
To my way for you to paradise,
Once you open it with your prayers.
Wisdom articulates herself in my house.
She knows each one who enters.
She whispers from every corner.
She gives nourishment without fuss.
She will take off your shoes.
Enter this place carefully,
And Wisdom will teach you everything.
Hush your heart, become her intimate:
Wisdom will enter your soul
And make herself at home.
My walls are perfumed with the prayers
Of pilgrims here long before you.
Join ourself now to their prayers.
Find your own way on their sunlit map
While Wisdom illuminates your own road toward joy.
– Jonathon Mantaldo
Some were certainly following and were certain that the one they were then
following was one working and was one bringing out of himself then
something. Some were certainly following and were certain that the one they
were then following was one bringing out of himself then something that was
coming to be a heavy thing, a solid thing and a complete thing.
One whom some were certainly following was one working and certainly was
one bringing something out of himself then and was one who had been all his
living had been one having something coming out of him. Something had been
coming out of him, certainly it had been coming out of him, certainly it was
something, certainly it had been coming out of him and it had meaning, a
charming meaning, a solid meaning, a struggling meaning, a clear meaning.
This one was one who was working. This one was one being one having
something being coming out of him. This one was one going on having
something come out of him. This one was one going on working. This one was
one whom some were following. This one was one who was working.
– G. Stein
If poisonous minerals, and if that tree
Whose fruit threw death on else immortal us,
If lecherous goats, if serpents envious
Cannot be damned, alas, why should I be?
Why should intent or reason, born in me,
Make sins, else equal, in me more heinous?
And Mercy being easy, and glorious
To God; in his stern wrath, why threatens he?
But who am I, that dare dispute with thee
O God? Oh! of thine only worthy blood,
And my tears, make a heavenly Lethean flood,
And drown in it my sin´s black memory;
That thou remember them, some claim as debt,
I think it mercy, if thou wilt forget.
– John Donne
You don’t know what love is
but you know how to raise it in me
like a dead girl winched up from a river. How to
wash off the sludge, the stench of our past.
How to start clean. This love even sits up
and blinks; amazed, she takes a few shaky steps.
Any day now she’ll try to eat solid food. She’ll want
to get into a fast car, one low to the ground, and drive
to some cinderblock shithole in the desert
where she can drink and get sick and then
dance in nothing but her underwear. You know
where she’s headed, you know she’ll wake up
with an ache she can’t locate and no money
and a terrible thirst. So to hell
with your warm hands sliding inside my shirt
and your tongue down my throat
like an oxygen tube. Cover me
in black plastic. Let the mourners through.
– Kim Addonizio
He dreamt he stood atop the Main Street Bridge
For a record breaking whopper of a flood.
The evening’s water was nicely lit from below like
A Howard Johnson’s motel.
People were diving
Convinced it was a true splash party.
The river raged.
The party goers remained happy and unharmed.
His dreams grew wilder every night.
His wife had mostly left him;
Muttering out the door
Crimes within cultural patrimony
And being late
For endless personal sovereignty.
He dreamt the Bridge, he heard the river
The evening’s slurry plunges
Bridgewater light; effervescent from the river
Wilderness was truly on the scramble for now.
– Guillermo Ock
About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window
or just walking dully along . . .
In Brueghel’s ICARUS, for instance; how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.
– W. H. Auden
We stopped at perfect days
and got out of the car.
The wind glanced at her
It was as simple as that.
I turned to say something.
– Richard Brautigan
I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned campsites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through the wreckage,
a nimbus clouded voice
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.
– Stanley Kunitz