Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sometimes

Sometimes you think you are a caterpillar.
That you have the benefit of me-ta-mor-pho-sis.
That you can start afresh.
That wings will grow out of your back.
That you will have visions of tree-tops.

Sometimes you think you are a worm.
That you will always crawl among dead leaves.
That you can never escape.
That you will never be of the sky.
That this is it.

Sometimes.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Sit. Feast on your life.

Love after Love
Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Why you cannot lie to an aphasiac

This is just so stunning!!!!

Context: "Aphasia is an acquired language disorder in which there is an impairment of any language modality. This may include difficulty in producing or comprehending spoken or written language."

"....Thus the feeling I sometimes have - which all of us who work closely with aphasiacs have - that one cannot lie to an aphasiac. He cannot grasp your words, and so cannot be deceived by them; but what he grasps he grasps with infallible precision, namely the expression that goes with the words, that total, spontaneous, involuntary expressiveness which can never be simulated or faked, as words alone can, all too easily....

We recognize this with dogs, and often use them for this purpose - to pick up falsehood, or malice, or equivocal intentions, to tell us who can be trusted, who is integral, who makes sense, when we - so susceptible to words - cannot trust our own instincts.

...In this, then, lies their (the aphasiacs') power of understanding - understanding, without words, what is authentic or inauthentic. (AM: Context here - they are watching the President's speech on TV, at the hospital) Thus it was the grimaces, the histrionisms, the false gestures and, above all, the false tones and cadences of the voice, which rang false for these wordless but immensely sensitive patients. It was to these (for them) most glaring, even grotesque, incongruities and improprieties that my aphasic patients responded, undeceived and undeceivable by words.

This is why they laughed at the President's speech."

Page 86, 'Losses', from the book 'The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat' by Oliver Sacks

Thursday, April 15, 2010

may my heart always be open to little birds

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old

may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
and even if it's sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young

and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there's never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile

e.e.cummings

The space for hypocrisy

"...In a village, the difference between what is known about a person and what is unknown is slight. There may be a number of well-guarded secrets but, in general, deceit is rare because impossible. Thus there is little inquisitiveness - in the prying sense of the term, for there is no need for it. Inquisitiveness is the trait of the city concierge who can gain a little power or recognition by telling X what he doesn't know about Y. In the village X already knows it. And thus too there is little performing: peasants do not play roles as urban characters do.

This is not because they are 'simple' or more honest or without guile, it is simply because the space between what is unknown about a person and what is generally known - and this is the space for all performance - is too small.

That is why the village's continual portrait of itself is mordant, frank, sometimes exaggerated but seldom idealized or hypocritical. And the significance of this is that hypocrisy and idealization close questions, whereas realism leaves them open."

Essay: The Storyteller
Chapter 2: Leaving Home

from 'The Sense of Sight' by John Berger

Till then my windows ache


Matilde, where are you? Down there I noticed,
under my necktie and just above the heart,
a certain pang of grief between the ribs,
you were gone that quickly.

I needed the light of your energy,
I looked around, devouring hope.
I watched the void without you that is like a house,
nothing left but tragic windows.

Out of sheer taciturnity the ceiling listens
to the fall of the ancient leafless rain,
to feathers, to whatever the night imprisoned:

so I wait for you like a lonely house
till you will see me again and live in me.
Till then my windows ache.

Pablo Neruda

Asymmetry

In a perfectly symmetrical world, we wouldn't exist. In the beginning, creation consisted of almost equal doses of matter and antimatter. When these two substances came together, they annihilated each other. Had the balance between the two been exact, the universe would have destroyed itself.

'Lucifer's Legacy - The Meaning of Asymmetry
Frank Close

Adventure

"……but the greatest sorrow of our lives is the absence of adventure. Ulysses fought at Troy, came back crossing the seas, guided his ship himself, had a mistress in each island- no, our lives are not like that. The odyssey of Homer has moved inwards; it has been internalized. The islands, the sea, the sirens who seduce us, Ithacca that calls us back, these, now, are only the voices of our inner being…."

Milan Kundera
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

Bridges

"We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered."

Tom Stoppard

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Terminal

For every departure
there is an arrival.
It is the law of the axe
Whose handle was a tree
It is the secret
The fire caves in upon
Whose smoke disappears
Along its own trail....
The leaves push off again-
A whole fleet of small sails-
And no one knows where they land.
Children wave from train windows
Their years growing
Heavy on their backs.
But somewhere a cloud is forming
That will flower here in petals
Of snow
And light from a star
That started towards us
A million years ago
Arrives at last........

Linda Pastan

Can you hold out?

Questions

By Bertold Brecht

(-From the collection written during the second world war
-translated from the German)

Write me what you’re wearing. Are you warm?
Write me how you sleep. Is your bed soft?
Write me how you look. Are you the same?
Write me what you miss. Is it my arms?

Tell me: are they letting you alone?
Can you hold out? What will their next move be?
What are you doing? Is it what should be done?
What are you thinking of? Is it of me?

Questions are all that I can give you, and
I take what answers come, because I must.
If you are tired, I cant give you a hand;
Or hungry, feed you. Thus, it is as though
I’m not in the world; did not exist;
It is as though I had forgotten you.........

Place

Everything has its own place and function. That applies to people, although many don’t seem to realize it, stuck as they are in the wrong job, the wrong marriage, or the wrong house. When you know and respect your own inner nature, you know where you belong. You also know where you don’t belong. One man’s food is often another man’s poison, and what is glamorous and exciting to some can be a dangerous trap to others. An incident in the life of Chuang-tse can serve as an example:

“While sitting on the banks of the P’u river, Chuang-tse was approached by two representatives of the Prince of Ch’u, who offered him a position at court. Chuang-tse watched the water flowing by as if he had not heard. Finally he remarked, “I am told that the Prince has a sacred tortoise, over two thousand years old, which is kept in a box, wrapped in silk and brocade.” “That is true” the officials replied. “If the tortoise had been given a choice”, Chuang-tse continued, “which do you think he would have liked better- to have been alive in the mud, or dead within the palace?” “To have been alive in the mud, of course,” the men answered. “I too prefer the mud”, said Chuang-tse. “Good-bye”.

The Tao of Pooh & The Te of Piglet
Benjamin Hoff

Variation on the Word Sleep

I would like to watch you sleeping.
I would like to watch you,
sleeping. I would like to sleep
with you, to enter
your sleep as its smooth dark wave
slides over my head
and walk with you through that lucent
wavering forest of bluegreen leaves
with its watery sun and three moons
towards the cave where you must descend,
towards your worst fear
I would like to give you the silver
branch, the small white flower, the one
word that will protect you
from the grief at the center
of your dream, from the grief
at the center. I would like to follow
you up the long stairway
again & become
the boat that would row you back
carefully, a flame
in two cupped hands
to where your body lies
beside me, and you enter
it as easily as breathing in
I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed
and that necessary.

Margaret Atwood

Changes

Whirl me
Like the leaf I would like to become
Borne on a constantly changing wind
Let’s not dwell in the past
The layers of vanished dreams
have vast striations
Of fossilized bones
Crushed in with memory.
Not that we should live for the moment
But let’s at least
Feel it go by.

Gwen Davis

Living a story

"In all pre-industrial societies people have believed that living is a way of living a story. In this story one is always the protagonist and occasionally the teller, but the inventor of the story, the designer of the plot, is elsewhere. People who believe this, and who lead the story of their life in this way, are often natural storytellers.

Just as, if they happen to be shepherds who spend a great deal of time alone, championed only animals and the spirit of the landscape, they are often natural poets: poetry being that form of language which addresses itself to that which is beyond speaking."

Page 261, Sicilian Lives

John Berger, The Sense of Sight

April is the cruellest month

"April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers...."

1. Part 1 - Burial of the Dead
The Wasteland, T.S.Eliot

The Right Hemisphere

"Indeed, the entire history of neurology and neuropsychology can be seen as a history of the investigation of the left hemisphere.

One important reason for the neglect of the right, or 'minor' hemisphere, as it has always been called, is that while it is easy to demonstrate the effects of variously located lesions on the left side, the corresponding syndromes of the right hemisphere are much less distinct. It was presumed, usually contemptously, to be more 'primitive' than the left, the latter being seen as the unique flower of human evolution.

And in a sense this is correct: the left hemisphere is more sophisticated and specialised, a very late outgrowth of the primate, and especially hominid, brain. On the other hand, it is the right hemisphere which controls the crucial powers of recognising reality which every living creature must have in order to survive.

The left hemisphere, like a computer tacked onto the basic creatural brain, is designed for programmes and schematics; and classical neurology was more concerned with schematics than with reality, so that when, at last, some of the right-hemisphere syndromes emerged, they were considered bizarre."

Page 4, 'Losses', from the book 'The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat' by Oliver Sacks

In popular culture (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Man_Who_Mistook_His_Wife_for_a_Hat)

"Peter Brook adapted Sacks's book into an acclaimed theatrical production, "L'Homme Qui...", which premiered at the Theatre des Bouffes du Nord, Paris, in 1993.
An Indian theatre company, performed a play The Blue Mug, based on the book, starring Rajat Kapoor, Konkona Sen Sharma, Ranvir Shorey and Vinay Pathak."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Once in a Poem

Poems, even when narrative, do not resemble stories. All stories are about battles, of one kind or another, which end in victory and defeat. Everything moves towards the end, when the outcome will be known.

Poems, regardless of any outcome, cross the battlefields, tending the wounded, listening to the wild monologues of the triumphant or the fearful. They bring a kind of peace. Not by anaesthesia or easy reassurance, but by recognition and the promise that what has been experienced cannot disappear as if it had never been. Yet the promise is not of a monument. (Who, still on a battlefield, wants monuments?) The promise is that language has acknowledged, has given shelter, to the experience which demanded, which cried out.

i thank You God for most this amazing day

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginably You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

e.e.cummings

Introduction

"The poems to come are for you and for me and are not for mostpeople-- it's no use trying to pretend that mostpeople and ourselves are alike. Mostpeople have less in common with ourselves than the squarerootofminusone.

...you and I are not snobs. We can never be born enough. We are human beings;for whom birth is a supremely welcome mystery,the mystery of growing:which happens only and whenever we are faithful to ourselves. You and I wear the dangerous looseness of doom and find it becoming. Life,for eternal us,is now, and now is much too busy being a little more than everything to seem anything,catastrophic included.

...Miracles are to come. With you I leave a remembrance of miracles: they are somebody who can love and who shall be continually reborn,a human being;somebody who said to those near him,when his fingers would not hold a brush "tie it to my hand"--

...Never the murdered finalities of wherewhen and yesno,impotent nongames of wrongright and rightwrong;never to gain or pause,never the soft adventure of undoom,greedy anguishes and cringing ecstasies of inexistence;never to rest and never to have;only to grow.

Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question."

e.e.cummings

i carry your heart with me

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go, my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apartv
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)

e.e.cummings

since feeling is first

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world
my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
-the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says
we are for each other: then
laugh leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph
And death i think is no parenthesis

e.e.cummings

when hair falls off and eyes blur

when hair falls off and eyes blur
And thighs forget(when clocks whisper
and night shouts)
When minds shrivel and hearts grow brittler every Instant
(when of a morning Memory stands, with clumsily wilted fingers
emptying youth colour and what was into a dirtied glass)
Pills for Ills (a recipe against Laughing Virginity Death)

then dearest, the way trees are made,
leaves open,
Clouds take sun,
mountains stand,
And oceans do Not sleep,
matters nothing; then
(then the only hands so to speak are they always which creep budgingly over some numbered face capable of a largest nonglance the least unsmile or whatever weeds feel and fish think of)

e.e.cummings

somewhere i have never travelled

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully, misteriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

e.e.cummings

In spite of everything

in spite of everything
which breathes and moves, since Doom
(with white longest hands
neatening each crease)
will smooth entirely our minds

-before leaving my room
i turn, and(stooping
through the morning)kiss
this pillow, dear
where our heads lived and were.

e.e.cummings


Clenched Soul


We have lost even this twilight.
No one saw us this evening hand in hand
while the blue night dropped on the world.

I have seen from my window
the fiesta of sunset in the distant mountain tops.

Sometimes a piece of sun
burned like a coin in my hand.

I remembered you with my soul clenched
in that sadness of mine that you know.
Where were you then?
Who else was there?
Saying what?

Why will the whole of love come on me suddenly
when I am sad and feel you are far away?

The book fell that always closed at twilight
and my blue sweater rolled like a hurt dog at my feet.

Always, always you recede through the evenings
toward the twilight erasing statues.

Pablo Neruda

Love

Because of you, in gardens of blossoming flowers I ache from the
perfumes of spring.

I have forgotten your face, I no longer remember your hands;
how did your lips feel on mine?

Because of you, I love the white statues drowsing in the parks,
the white statues that have neither voice nor sight.

I have forgotten your voice, your happy voice; I have forgotten
your eyes.

Like a flower to its perfume, I am bound to my vague memory of
you. I live with pain that is like a wound; if you touch me, you will
do me irreparable harm.

Your caresses enfold me, like climbing vines on melancholy walls.
I have forgotten your love, yet I seem to glimpse you in every
window.

Because of you, the heady perfumes of summer pain me; because
of you, I again seek out the signs that precipitate desires: shooting
stars, falling objects.

Pablo Neruda

Every Day You Play

Every day you play with the light of the universe.
Subtle visitor, you arrive in the flower and the water.
You are more than this white head that I hold tightly
as a cluster of fruit, every day, between my hands.

You are like nobody since I love you.
Let me spread you out among yellow garlands.
Who writes your name in letters of smoke among the stars of the south?
Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.

Suddenly the wind howls and bangs at my shut window.
The sky is a net crammed with shadowy fish.
Here all the winds let go sooner or later, all of them.
The rain takes off her clothes.

The birds go by, fleeing.
The wind. The wind.
I can contend only against the power of men.
The storm whirls dark leaves
and turns loose all the boats that were moored last night to the sky.

You are here. Oh, you do not run away.
You will answer me to the last cry.
Cling to me as though you were frightened.
Even so, at one time a strange shadow ran through your eyes.

Now, now too, little one, you bring me honeysuckle,
and even your breasts smell of it.
While the sad wind goes slaughtering butterflies
I love you, and my happiness bites the plum of your mouth.

How you must have suffered getting accustomed to me,
my savage, solitary soul, my name that sends them all running.
So many times we have seen the morning star burn, kissing our eyes,
and over our heads the gray light unwind in turning fans.
My words rained over you, stroking you.

A long time I have loved the sunned mother-of-pearl of your body.
I go so far as to think that you own the universe.
I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, bluebells,
dark hazels, and rustic baskets of kisses.

I want to do with you
what spring does with the cherry trees.

Pablo Neruda

Tonight I Can Write

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example, 'The night is shattered
and the blue stars shiver in the distance.'

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through the nights like this one I held her in my arms.
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is shattered and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight searches for her as though to go to her.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another’s. She will be another’s. Like my kisses before.
Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.

Pablo Neruda (translated by W.S. Merwin)

To repay vileness with doves...

...I am a poor man willing to love his fellow men.
I don't know who you are. I love you.
I don't give away thorns, and I don't sell them.

Maybe someone will know that I didn't weave crowns
to draw blood; that I fought against mockery;
that I did fill the high tide of my soul with the truth.
I repaid vileness with doves.

I have no never, because I was different-
was, am, will be.

LXXVIII Evening/Tarde
Pablo Neruda

There's No Forgetting (Sonata)

If you should ask me where I've been all this time
I have to say 'Things happen.'
I have to dwell on stones darkening the earth,
on the river ruined in its own duration:
I know nothing save things the birds have lost,
the sea I left behind, or my sister crying.
Why this abundance of places? Why does day lock
with day? Why the dark night swilling round
in our mouths? And why the dead?

Should you ask me where I come from, I must talk
with broken things,
with fairly painful utensils,
with great beasts turned to dust as often as not
and my afflicted heart.

These are not memories that have passed each other
nor the yellowing pigeon asleep in our forgetting;
these are tearful faces
and fingers down our throats
and whatever among leaves falls to the ground:
the dark of a day gone by
grown fat on our grieving blood.

Here are violets, and here swallows,
all things we love and which inform
sweet messages seriatim
through which time passes and sweetness passes.

We don't get far, though, beyond these teeth:
Why waste time gnawing the husks of silence?
I know not what to answer:
there are so many dead,
and so many dikes the red sun breached,
and so many heads battering hulls
and so many hands that have closed over kisses
and so many things that I want to forget.

Pablo Neruda

I do not love you as if you were brine-rose, topaz

Ah, I haven't stored my Neruda collection.

I do not love you as if you were brine-rose, topaz,
XVII From: ‘Cien sonetos de amor’

I do not love you as if you were brine-rose, topaz,
or barbed carnations thrown off by the fire.
I love you as certain hidden things are loved,
secretly, between night and soul.

I love you like the flower-less plant
carrying inside itself the light of those flowers,
and, graced by your love, a fierce perfume
risen from earth, is alive, concealed in my flesh.

I love you without knowing how, whence, when.
I love you truly, without doubts, without pride,
I love you so, and know, no other way to love,

none but this mode of neither You nor I,
so close that your hand over my chest is my hand,
so close they are your eyes I shut when I sleep.

Pablo Neruda

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean--
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down--
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver

Road Song

At the big traffic signal, you stop, as usual, resigned to the long wait, this is a daily morning ritual. And then you hear someone singing, in a strange echoing voice. You look to your right, and you see this man on a bike, singing to himself, inside the closed-stereo-system of his helmet with visor.

He's completely immersed in the song, swaying - you see wires going up, probably he's listening to music, and singing with it. And he's not a young kid either, looks like an office worker. And he's singing on his way to work.

You remember that you used to sing on the bike too, a long time ago. And you try hard to sing again, searching for old familiar songs, within your own helmet-stereo. It is ages since you have heard yourself sing, who is this person you had almost lost?

And you also remember Mathias Duplessy, the French singer, who said that he used to practise Mongolian throat singing while on his motorcycle, the helmet serving as a private studio.

Road song, an antidote to Road rage? Is anyone listening?

Exhale

"Bhikshu, empty your boat! It will go faster." - 'The Dhammapada'

Yoga stresses a lot on the act of exhalation. On emptying. On letting go. For we tend to exhale less efficiently than we inhale.

We want to keep, to store, to hold. We think possession, owning, keeping - spells safety, security, happiness.

And we learn, again and again; that it does not.

Positive news. Happy Stories. Unsung Heroes.

The Better India
Positive news. Happy Stories. Unsung Heroes.
http://www.thebetterindia.com/about/

"On a day to day basis we have been reading the Indian newspapers and magazines. Almost all of them devote their prime space to negative stories. Stories of murder, arson, scandals and gossip. However, we found that hidden inside, in the deep annals of these publications are the happier stories. Stories, to use a cliched phrase, that kindle your heart and tell you that all is not lost.

The Better India is an attempt to bring out those happy stories, those unsung heroes and heroines, those small good deeds, and showcase them to the world. Over here, you will be able to read about the incremental progress being made by the industrious people of this country, the developments happening on the social and economic front. We hope that by showcasing these here, we might be able to inspire at least one amongst you, the readers, to do something that leaves an impact. Small or big. But, an impact.

The spirit of The Better India is kept alive by Anuradha Parekh and Dhimant Parekh, a Bangalore based couple."

Use Google Reader to keep track of updates to this site - www.google.com/reader

To My Son's Girlfriend

I'm tempted to ask
what you see in him.
Although you probably
see the good that I see
I wonder if you realize
how much he is my handiwork,
or which of the qualities
you daydream about in class
are the ones that I take pride in,
his cordiality, for example,
or love of silliness.

It's uncomfortable for me
to think of anyone else
loving him the way I do,
possessing him in a way
that only his mother and I
have ever possessed him,
and I can't deny being jealous,
not so much reluctant
to share or relinquish him
as resolved to remind you
that he's been around
longer than your love,
under construction if you will,
and that each cute trait
or whatever occurs to you
when you hear his name
I feel proprietary about,
like a woodworker
who makes a table
intending to sell it
but prays that no buyer
will recognize its worth.

"To My Son's Girlfriend" by Michael Milburn, from Drive By Heart. © Word Press, 2009.

Rough Road

From this cd that a Rasta man recommended to me in an under-the-staircase, hole-in-the-wall, Marley-curio-and-possibly-dope shop in Kensington Market, Toronto, one zero-degree Spring evening in April 2006...

Warrior King: Rough Road

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tp_RwpWCM90

Actions result in other actions

"I’m majoring in physics and see many parallels between physics and Buddhism. I like how Buddhism is very logical. Karma is like physics—actions result in other actions.”

Lisa Kolde

http://www.volunteerglobal.com/blog-100329-guest-post-welcome-to-the-jungle-of-peace

Purple to Red

After the pink and the yellow, now the purple - and the beginnings of the red, announcing impending May. A flower calendar I follow.

Yesterday, though the tear-drop tree was still covered with dense foliage, and did not show any signs of flowering, noticed a few white flowers on the ground beneath. Aha. I am waiting. The suffocating heat will give way to the rain, and then there will be white tear-drop carpets in the morning, white against black tar.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hands

My grandfather grew up holding rags,
pounding his fist into the pocket
of a ball glove, gripping a plumb line
for his father who built what anyone
needed.

At sixteen, wanting to work on
his own, he lied about his age
and for forty-nine years carried his lunch
to the assembly line where he stood
tightening bolts on air brake after
air brake along the monotonous belt.

I once asked him how he did that all
those years. He looked at me, said,
"I don't understand. It was only
eight hours a day," then closed
his fists.

Every night after dinner
and a pilsner, he worked some more.
In the summer, he'd turn the clay,
grow tomatoes, turnips, peas,
and potatoes behind borders
of bluebells and English daisies,
and marigolds to keep away the rabbits.

When the weather turned to frost,
he went to the basement where,
until the seeds came in March,
he made perfect picture frames, each
glistening with layers of sweet shellac.

His hands were never bored. Even
in his last years, arthritis locking every
knuckle, he sat in the kitchen carving
wooden houses you could set on a shelf,
one after another, each one different.

"Hands" by Jack Ridl, from Broken Symmetry. © Wayne State University Press, 2006

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The youngest

At the orphanage where you go to give your old clothes, little boy walks in, while you are talking to the nun. "Our youngest kid", she says. Orphan. No father, mother abandoned him and ran away with someone. He comes and shakes hands with you, at the nun's behest.

And stays and looks at you while you talk to her. She says that he wants to go out, he's always stuck inside, and too young for school. People keep promising him that they'll take him out, and they don't. And they can't let him go with outsiders.

He doesn't say a word, just sticks to the wall. Watches you with those blank eyes, while you go away, too.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Pushkin

The old cat sleeps
in the newly arrived sun. One more spring
has come his way
dropping a solar bath
on failing kidneys, old cat bones.
I check for the rise and fall of breath.

Once he stalked hares
across the yard, tracked down
chicken hearts with split-lentil eyes.
Fearless, disinterested, a poseur, a demideity.
He and the dog are strangers still
after years of eating side by side.

I remember times of wailing
into my couch, alone
and utterly baffled by life,
when suddenly a cat
would be sitting on my head.

Last week I pulled him snarling
from under a chair in Dr. Bacon's office,
held him while she examined his dull coat,
felt his ribs. Pressed where it hurt.
Eight pounds of fur and bone and mad as hell
but "He's certainly less anxious in your lap,"
she murmured, astonishing me.
I had no idea. Old cat, old friend,
have I reached some place inside,
added to your life
as you have to mine?

"Pushkin" by Marjorie Kowalski Cole, from Inside, Outside, Morningside. © Ester Republic Press, 2009.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Kalyanamitta

From 'Letters from Burma' by Aung San Suu Kyi:

"During the hectic days of late May and early June, when a series of critical political events were triggered off by the arrests of the NLD members elected to parliament, a stream of foreign correspondents came to find out how we were coping with the situation. One of them commented on the fact that we did not appear to be unhappy. "U Tin U is smiling broadly and U Kyi Maung is cracking jokes, " he said. "Why are you not in a state of distress? Isn't the situation rather grim?" I suppose some would have seen the situation as grim, but to us, it was just another challenge; and the knowledge that we were facing it together with proven friends was simple reason for good cheer.

A doctor once recommended thinking happy thoughts as a most effective remedy for diverse illnesses. Certainly one of the happiest of thoughts is one's friends; old friends with whom you have shared youthful dreams of an ideal world, new friends with whom you are striving to achieve a realistic version of that ideal. It is comforting to know that friends you have not met for several decades, leading secure lives in countries where their rights are protected by the law, care as much for your welfare now as they did in the days when the Beatles were young and you argued over Dag Hammerskjold's Markings.

...According to the teachings of Buddhism, a good friend is one who gives things hard to give, does what is hard, bears hard words, tells you his secrets, guards your secrets assiduously, does not forsake you in times of want and does not condemn you when you are ruined. With such friends, one can travel the roughest road and not be defeated by hardship. Indeed, the rougher the path, the greater the delight in the company of kalyanamitta, good and noble friends who stand by us in times of adversity."

Page 132, 'A Friend in Need'

Continuity

"Darwinian evolution tells us that we are incipient compost: assemblages of complex molecules that - for no greater purpose than to secure sources of energy against competing claims - have developed the ability to speculate. After a few score years, the molecules disaggregate and return whence they came. Period.

As a gardener and ecologist, I find this oddly comforting. I like the idea of literal reincarnation: that the molecules of which I am composed will, once I have rotted, be incorporated into other organisms. Bits of me will be pushing through the growing tips of trees, will creep over them as caterpillars, will hunt those caterpillars as birds. When I die, I would like to be buried in a fashion which ensures that no part of me is wasted. Then I can claim to have been of some use after all.

Is this not better than the awful lottery of judgement? Is a future we can predict not more comforting than one committed to the whims of inscrutable authority? Is eternal death not a happier prospect than eternal life? The atoms of which we are composed, which we have borrowed momentarily from the ecosphere, will be recycled until the universe collapses.

This is our continuity, our eternity. Why should anyone want more?"

'A life with no Purpose', George Monbiot

Once upon a time in Rajasthan

http://www.munnaontherun.com/2010/02/once-upon-time-in-rajasthan.html

Walking a Songline

"Imagine a beginning, when man and woman first named the world. A "Songline" or "Dreaming Track" in the Australian outback can still be walked, perhaps by the Arrernte or Pintupi or other Aboriginal peoples, and for them, it is nothing less than creation, the world sung into existence by naming all plants and animals and the landscape itself.

Reaching back at least 40,000 years, a singer can find his or her way along the ancient path of one of the "Ancestors" retracing a Lizard Dreaming, or a Kangaroo Dreaming, or a Rain-Maker Dreaming, refreshing existence and "singing up the land".

http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2010/mar/07/david-vann-aborigines-songs-legends-past-future

The old storybook

http://www.munnaontherun.com/2010/03/old-storybook.html

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