Saint George Episcopal Church


      Stillpoint will be resuming in July 2017 

     is a time of silence, poetry, writing and  simple food.  

      Please bring a simple food item such as a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts. 

All are welcome.


& Community Meals

Patricia Fargnoli: "Winter Grace"

 

If you have seen the snow
under the lamppost
piled up like a white beaver hat on the picnic table
or somewhere slowly falling
into the brook
to be swallowed by water,
then you have seen beauty
and know it for its transience.
And if you have gone out in the snow
for only the pleasure
of walking barely protected
from the galaxies,
the flakes settling on your parka
like the dust from just-born stars,
the cold waking you
as if from long sleeping,
then you can understand
how, more often than not,
truth is found in silence,
how the natural world comes to you
if you go out to meet it,
its icy ditches filled with dead weeds,
its vacant birdhouses, and dens
full of the sleeping.
But this is the slowed-down season
held fast by darkness
and if no one comes to keep you company
then keep watch over your own solitude.
In that stillness, you will learn
with your whole body
the significance of cold
and the night,
which is otherwise always eluding you.

Writing Prompt: This is the slowed down season...
 


 6/1/16  Mary Oliver "To begin with, the Sweet Grass"


Will the hungry ox stand in the field and not eat
    of the sweet grass?
Will the owl bite off its own wings?
Will the lark forget to lift its body in the air or
    forget to sing?
Will the rivers run upstream?

Behold, I say—behold
the reliability and the finery and the teachings
    of this gritty earth gift.

                                             2.
Eat bread and understand comfort.
Drink water, and understand delight.
Visit the garden where the scarlet trumpets
    are opening their bodies for the hummingbirds
who are drinking the sweetness, who are
    thrillingly gluttonous.

For one thing leads to another.
Soon you will notice how stones shine underfoot.
Eventually tides will be the only calendar you believe in.

And someone's face, whom you love, will be as a star
both intimate and ultimate,
and you will be both heart-shaken and respectful.

And you will hear the air itself, like a beloved, whisper:
oh, let me, for a while longer, enter the two
beautiful bodies of your lungs.

                                             3.
The witchery of living
is my whole conversation
with you, my darlings.
All I can tell you is what I know.


Look, and look again.
This world is not just a little thrill for the eyes.


It's more than bones.
It's more than the delicate wrist with its personal pulse.
It's more than the beating of the single heart.
It's praising.
It's giving until the giving feels like receiving.
You have a life—just imagine that!
You have this day, and maybe another, and maybe
   still another.

                                             4.
Someday I am going to ask my friend Paulus,
the dancer, the potter,
to make me a begging bowl
which I believe
my soul needs.

And if I come to you,
to the door of your comfortable house
with unwashed clothes and unclean fingernails,
will you put something into it?

I would like to take this chance.
I would like to give you this chance.

                                             5.
We do one thing or another; we stay the same, or we
   change.
Congratulations, if
   you have changed.

                                             6.
Let me ask you this.
Do you also think that beauty exists for some
   fabulous reason?

And, if you have not been enchanted by this adventure—
   your life—
what would do for you?

                                             7.
What I loved in the beginning, I think, was mostly myself.
Never mind that I had to, since somebody had to.
That was many years ago.
Since then I have gone out from my confinements,
   though with difficulty.
I mean the ones that thought to rule my heart.
I cast them out, I put them on the mush pile.
They will be nourishment somehow (everything is nourishment
somehow or another).

And I have become the child of the clouds, and of hope.
I have become the friend of the enemy, whoever that is.
I have become older and, cherishing what I have learned,
I have become younger.

And what do I risk to tell you this, which is all I know?
Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world.


Writing Prompt: This gritty earth gift


5/25/16


"Walking In Mountains in the Rain" by Wang Wei



In this quick cloudburst 
air thickens, the sky comes down 

dark mountains 
flashes of lightning 

out at sea new clouds 
have just started to form 
and this small brook I straddle 
is a river in flood somewhere 

rags and blankets of mist 
hang on these slopes and cliffs 

then the clouds open and vanish 
rain patters off
and moonlight silvers 
that whole reach of river 
foothills to ocean 

and even from this black mountain 
I can hear boatmen singing. 


Writing Prompt: Foothills to Ocean



5/11/16

"Directions" by Billy Collins

You know the brick path in back of the house, 
the one you see from the kitchen window, 
the one that bends around the far end of the garden 
where all the yellow primroses are? 
And you know how if you leave the path 
and walk up into the woods you come 
to a heap of rocks, probably pushed 
down during the horrors of the Ice Age, 
and a grove of tall hemlocks, dark green now 
against the light-brown fallen leaves? 
And farther on, you know 
the small footbridge with the broken railing 
and if you go beyond that you arrive 
at the bottom of that sheep’s head hill? 
Well, if you start climbing, and you 
might have to grab hold of a sapling 
when the going gets steep, 
you will eventually come to a long stone 
ridge with a border of pine trees 
which is as high as you can go 
and a good enough place to stop.

The best time is late afternoon 
when the sun strobes through 
the columns of trees as you are hiking up, 
and when you find an agreeable rock 
to sit on, you will be able to see 
the light pouring down into the woods 
and breaking into the shapes and tones 
of things and you will hear nothing 
but a sprig of birdsong or the leafy 
falling of a cone or nut through the trees, 
and if this is your day you might even 
spot a hare or feel the wing-beats of geese 
driving overhead toward some destination.

But it is hard to speak of these things 
how the voices of light enter the body 
and begin to recite their stories 
how the earth holds us painfully against 
its breast made of humus and brambles 
how we who will soon be gone regard 
the entities that continue to return 
greener than ever, spring water flowing 
through a meadow and the shadows of clouds 
passing over the hills and the ground 
where we stand in the tremble of thought 
taking the vast outside into ourselves.

Still, let me know before you set out. 
Come knock on my door 
and I will walk with you as far as the garden 
with one hand on your shoulder. 
I will even watch after you and not turn back 
to the house until you disappear 
into the crowd of maple and ash, 
heading up toward the hill, 
piercing the ground with your stick.

Writing Prompt: Taking the vast outside into myself


5/4/16 "Song for Going to the Water" (Anonymous)


If your heart is not well,
If your spirit is not well,
These words may help you.

Wake in the hour
Just before dawn.
Wake in the hours
Before first light.
Wake when the animals of the night
Have ended their songs,
When the animals of the day
Have not yet begun their songs.

Walk without words.
Follow the path
That leads to the stream.

Then, as the first light
Touches the stream,
Bend to the water,
Speak these words:

"Long Person, I come to ask your help."

Then hold up
A cup of that water
And drink the dawn.


Writing Prompt: Bend to the water....


3/15/16


"Adios" by Naomi Shihab Nye


It is a good word, rolling off the tongue
no matter what language you were born with,
Use it. Learn where it begins,
the small alphabet of departure,
how long it takes to think of it,
then say, then be heard.

Marry it. More than any golden ring,
it shines, it shines.
Wear it on every finger
till your hands dance,
touching everything easily,
letting everything, easily, go.

Strap it to your back like wings.
Or a kite-tail. The stream of air behind a jet.
If you are known for anything,
let it be the way you rise out of sight
when your work is finished.

Think of things that linger: leaves,
cartons and napkins, the damp smell of mold.

Think of things that disappear.

Think of what you love best,
what brings tears into your eyes.

Something that said adios to you 
before you knew what it meant
or how long it was for.

Explain little, the word explains itself.
Later perhaps. Lessons following lessons,
like silence following sound.


~Naomi Shihab Nye
from Words Under the Words


Writing Prompt: The way you rise out of sight.........


3/1/16

"The Unnamable River" by Arthur Sze


Part two

 In a crude theory of perception, the apple you
                        see is supposed to be a copy of the actual apple,
                        but who can step out of his body to compare the two?
                        Who can step out of his life and feel
                        the Milky Way flow out of his hands?

                        An unpicked apple dies on a branch;
                        that is all we know of it.
                        It turns black and hard, a corpse on the Ganges.
                        Then go ahead and map out three thousand miles of the Yangtze;
                        walk each inch, feel its surge and
                        flow as you feel the surge and flow in your own body.

                        And the spinning cone of a precessing top
                        is a form of existence that gathers and spins death and life into one.
                        It is in the duration of words, but beyond words--
                        river river river, river river.
                        The coal miner may not know he has it.
                        The steel worker may not know he has it.
                        The railroad engineer may not know he has it.
                        But it is there. It is in the smell
                        of an avocado blossom, and in the true passion of a kiss.


Writing prompt: "The apple you see ..."


2/23/16


"The Unnamable River"


by Arthur Sze


  Is it in the anthracite face of a coal miner,
                        crystalized in the veins and lungs of a steel
                        worker, pulverized in the grimy hands of a railroad engineer?
                        Is it in a child naming a star, coconuts washing
                        ashore, dormant in a volcano along the Rio Grande?

                        You can travel the four thousand miles of the Nile
                        to its source and never find it.
                        You can climb the five highest peaks of the Himalayas
                        and never recognize it.
                        You can gaze through the largest telescope
                        and never see it.

                        But it’s in the capillaries of your lungs.
                        It’s in the space as you slice open a lemon.
                        It’s in a corpse burning on the Ganges,
                        in rain splashing on banana leaves.

                        Perhaps you have to know you are about to die
                        to hunger for it. Perhaps you have to go
                        alone into the jungle armed with a spear
                        to truly see it. Perhaps you have to
                        have pneumonia to sense its crush.

                        But it’s also in the scissor hands of a clock.
                        It’s in the precessing motion of a top
                        when a torque makes the axis of rotation describe a cone:
                        and the cone spinning on a point gathers
                        past, present, future.

 
Writing Prompt: "As you slice open a lemon....."
                               


10/28/15

Sometimes things don’t go at 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 people 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

 

10/14/15


White Heron by John Ciardi



What lifts the heron leaning on the air 
I praise without a name. A crouch, a flare, 
a long stroke through the cumulus of trees, 
a shaped thought at the sky - then gone. O rare! 
Saint Francis, being happiest on his knees, 
would have cried Father! Cry anything you please

But praise. By any name or none. But praise 
the white original burst that lights 
the heron on his two soft kissing kites. 
When saints praise heaven lit by doves and rays, 
I sit by pond scums till the air recites 
It's heron back. And doubt all else. But praise. 

Writing Prompt: Cry anything you please...

10/7/15


Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal by Naomi Shihab Nye



After learning my flight was detained 4 hours, I heard the announcement: "If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately." Well -- one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there. An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly. "Help," said the flight service person. "Talk to her. What is her problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she did this." I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly. "Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick, Sho bit se-wee?" The minute she heard any words she knew -- however poorly used -- she stopped crying.   She thought our flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the following day. I said "No, no, we're fine, you'll get there, just late.  Who is picking you up? Let's call him and tell him." We called her son and I spoke with him in English. I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and would ride next to her -- SouthWest. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and found out, of course, that they had ten shared friends! Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours. She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering questions. Soon after, she pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies -- little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts -- out of her bag and was offering them to all the women at the gate. To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California, the lovely woman from Laredo -- we were all covered with the same powdered sugar. And smiling. There are no better cookies. And then the airline broke out the free (non-alcoholic) beverages from huge coolers and the two little girls for our flight -- one African American, one Mexican American -- ran around serving us all Apple Juice and Lemonade.  And they were covered with powdered sugar too. I noticed that my new best friend -- by now we were holding hands -- had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Ah, an old country traveling tradition: always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere. And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought, "This is the world I want to live in. The shared world." Not a single person in this gate -- once the cries of confusion stopped -- was apprehensive about any other person. They took to the cookies.  I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere.

Not everything is lost.


Writing Prompt: This can still happen



9/2/15

Sabbath Poems 

2007-IX by Wendell Berry

(I go by a field)

Writing Prompt: The forest that belongs here...



8/12/15

The Oak Tree Loves Patience by mary Oliver


Writing Prompt: The briefest of fires...




7/29/15

Salvation by Lynn Ungar

By what are you saved? And how?
Saved like a bit of string,
tucked away in a drawer?
Saved like a child rushed from
a burning building, already
singed and coughing smoke?
Or are you salvaged
like a car part — the one good door
when the rest is wrecked?

Do you believe me when I say
you are neither salvaged nor saved,
but salved, anointed by gentle hands
where you are most tender?
Haven’t you seen
the way snow curls down
like a fresh sheet, how it
covers everything,
makes everything
beautiful, without exception?


Writing Prompt: Annointed by gentle hands...


7/22/15

Cirrus by Jack Myers

I’d like to leave
an imprint
on the world
lighter than
I’d formerly meant.
Just a scent,
not the thud
of the thing
steaming on a plate.

Instead of “I told you so!”
let my epitaph be
the glance, the edge,
the mist. The delicately
attenuated swirl
of an innuendo
instead of the thunderhead.

The rain that fell
when I was ambitious
seemed conspiringly rushed
in my way. But the same rain
today tastes of here and now
because of where it’s been.

I’d like to be gentle
with small, great things.
They are larger
than what we think
we came here for.
I’d like to be an eye of light
that opens the air
and burns beyond ambition,
like the sun that can’t see us
and is beyond our human reach,
yet is in us trillions of times over.


Writing Prompt: Small great things....


7/1/15

Child Development by Billy Collins

As sure as prehistoric fish grew legs
and sauntered off the beaches into forests
working up some irregular verbs for their
first conversation, so three-year-old children
enter the phase of name-calling.

Every day a new one arrives and is added
to the repertoire. You Dumb Goopyhead,
You Big Sewerface, You Poop-on-the-Floor
(a kind of Navaho ring to that one)
they yell from knee level, their little mugs
flushed with challenge.
Nothing Samuel Johnson would bother tossing out
in a pub, but then the toddlers are not trying
to devastate some fatuous Enlightenment hack.

They are just tormenting their fellow squirts
or going after the attention of the giants
way up there with their cocktails and bad breath
talking baritone nonsense to other giants,
waiting to call them names after thanking
them for the lovely party and hearing the door close.

The mature save their hothead invective
for things: an errant hammer, tire chains,
or receding trains missed by seconds,
though they know in their adult hearts,
even as they threaten to banish Timmy to bed
for his appalling behavior,
that their bosses are Big Fatty Stupids,
their wives are Dopey Dopeheads
and that they themselves are Mr. Sillypants. 
 Writing Prompt: Irregular verbs crawl up the beach....


6/24/15


Stopping Along The Way  by David Wagoner

Heading south toward campus, my car
stops suddenly, abruptly, almost
on its own. My right foot
has found the brake pedal
before my eyes can admire
a very young possum strolling
across our right of way
at his personal intersection
of human cross-purposes,
some of whose brakes are squeaking 
behind us now. The possum
pauses, lowers his gray-pink-
and-sooty snout to drink in
the odor of something
among the fallen and flattened 
sycamore leaves. I've seen
too many of him lying down
even flatter than seemed
possible beside roads
and in gutters. I realize 
my car's mere presence looming 
over him won't quicken 
those four deliberate paws,
won't urge him out of danger,
but before I can think or make 
some warning sign, two cars
are honking. He lifts his head
dreamily, comparing
that sound to some distant sound
somewhere deep, far back
in his old, new mind, then begins
strolling forward again
and up onto the grass
among the unloaded, locked,
and abandoned bicycles
and empties and leaflets left
by fraternal and sisterly 
orders on their own ways
to and from understanding
or back to forbidden gardens
and holes in the ground. Again
a car behind me honks.
And another. It's what geese do
heading south at the beginning
of winter. They want to know
the one in front still believes
they're there and are trusting him
to be sure where they're all going.


Writing Prompt: Those four deliberate paws...


6/3/15

Go out one clear starlit night by G. I. Gurdjieff

Go out one clear starlit night
to some open space and look up
at the sky, at those millions of
worlds over your head.

Before all these worlds ask
yourself what are your aims
and hopes.

A long and difficult journey is
before you.

Remember where you are and
why you are here. Do not protect
yourselves and remember that no
effort is made in vain. And now
you can set out on the way.

Writing Prompt: "Look Up at the  sky..."

5/27/15

Winter by Greta Crosby

Let us not wish away the winter.
It is a season it itself,
Not simply the way to spring.

When trees rest, growing no leaves, gathering no light,
They let in sky and trace themselves delicately against dawns and sunsets.

The clarity and brilliance of the winter sky delight.
The loom of fog softens edges, lulls the eyes and ears of the quiet,
Awakens by risk the unquiet.
A low dark sky can snow, emblem of individuality, liberality, and aggregate power.
Snow invites to contemplation and to sport.

Winter is a table set with ice and starlight.

Winter dark tends to warm light: fire and candle;
Winter cold to hugs and huddles; winter want to gifts and sharing;
Winter danger to visions, plans, and common endeavoring --
And the zest of narrow escapes; winter tedium to merrymaking.

Let us therefore praise winter,
Rich in beauty, challenge, and pregnant negativities.


Writing Prompt: A low dark sky can snow...


5/13/15


Watering The Stones by Mary Oliver


Every summer I gather a few stones from 

 ​the river....


Writing Prompt: "I  gather a few stones..." 



4/29/15


April Wind by Kendra Ford

Branches crack and fall.
High wind
cleans the trees
of winter weight.

Unburden yourself.
Let the wind ride through you.
Open your mouth:
Let the spring wind blow every word
down the alleys and into the fields.
Let loose your dead wood.
Bloom small in the mud.


Writing Prompt: Bloom small...


4/22/15

Summons by Robert Francis


Keep me from going to sleep too soon
Or if I go to sleep too soon
Come wake me up. Come any hour
Of night. Come whistling up the road.
Stomp on the porch. Bang on the door.
Make me get out of bed and come
And let you in and light a light.
Tell me the northern lights are on
And make me look. Or tell me clouds
Are doing something to the moon
They never did before, and show me.
See that I see. Talk to me till
I'm half as wide awake as you
And start to dress wondering why
I ever went to bed at all.
Tell me the walking is superb.
Not only tell me but persuade me.
You know I'm not too hard persuaded.


Writing Prompt: "Talk to me..."


4/8/15

Easter Exultet  by James Broughton


 Shake out your qualms. 
                                                Shake up your dreams. 
                                                Deepen your roots. 
                                                Extend your branches. 
                                                Trust deep water 
                                                and head for the open, 
                                                even if your vision 
                                                shipwrecks you. 
                                                Quit your addiction 
                                                to sneer and complain. 
                                                Open a lookout. 
                                                Dance on a brink. 
                                                Run with your wildfire. 
                                                You are closer to glory 
                                                leaping an abyss 
                                                than upholstering a rut. 
                                                Not dawdling. 
                                                Not doubting. 
                                                Intrepid all the way 
                                                Walk toward clarity. 
                                                At every crossroad 
                                                Be prepared 
                                                to bump into wonder. 
                                                Only love prevails. 
                                                En route to disaster 
                                                insist on canticles. 
                                                Lift your ineffable 
                                                out of the mundane. 
                                                Nothing perishes; 
                                                nothing survives; 
                                                everything transforms! 
                                                Honeymoon with Big Joy!
Writing Prompt: "Nothing perishes, nothing survives..." 


4/1/15

To The Thawing Wind   by Robert Frost

Come with rain, O loud Southwester! Bring the singer, bring the nester; Give the buried flower a dream; Make the settled snow-bank steam; Find the brown beneath the white; But whate'er you do to-night, Bathe my window, make it flow, Melt it as the ice will go; Melt the glass and leave the sticks Like a hermit's crucifix; Burst into my narrow stall; Swing the picture on the wall; Run the rattling pages o'er; Scatter poems on the floor; Turn the poet out of door.


Writing Prompt: "Find the brown beneath the snow..."


3/11/15
What’s Left
(for Peter Hennessy)

I used to wait for the flowers,
my pleasure reposed on them.
Now I like plants before they get to the blossom.
Leafy ones – foxgloves, comfrey, delphiniums –
fleshy tiers of strong leaves pushing up
into air grown daily lighter and more sheened
with bright dust like the eyeshadow
that tall young woman in the bookshop wears,
its shimmer and crumble on her white lids.


The washing sways on the line, the sparrows pull
at the heaps of drying weeds that I’ve left around.
Perhaps this is middle age.  Untidy, unfinished,
knowing there’ll never be time now to finish,
liking the plants – their strong lives –
not caring about flowers, sitting in weeds
to write things down, look at things,
watching the sway of shirts on the line,
the cloth filtering light.


I know more or less
how to live through my life now.
But I want to know how to live what’s left
with my eyes open and my hands open;
I want to stand at the door in the rain
listening, sniffing, gaping.
Fearful and joyous,
like an idiot before God.- Kerrie Hardie
Writing Prompt: "with my eyes open and my hands open..."

3/4/15
The owl rides the meadow at his hunting hour.
The fox clears out the pheasants
 and the partridges in the cornfield. 
Jupiter rests above Antares,
 and the fall moon hooks itself into the prairie sod.
  A dark wind flows down from Mandan
 as the Indians slowly move out of the summer campground
 to go back to the reservation. 
Aries, buck of the sky, leaps to the outer rim
 and mates with earth.
  Root and seed turn into flesh. 
We turn back to each other
 in the dark together,
in the short days,
 in the dangerous cold,
on the rim of a perpetual wilderness.

Writing Prompt: "Root and seed turn into flesh..."

2/11/15

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.
And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

beannacht - john o'donohue

Writing prompt: "Across the Waters..."

2/4/15
Variation On A Theme By Rilke by Denise Levertov
(The Book of Hours, Book I, Poem 1, Stanza 1)
 A certain day became a presence to me;
 there it was, confronting me
— a sky, air, light: a being.
 And before it started to descend
 from the height of noon,
it leaned over and struck my shoulder
as if with the flat of a sword,
 granting me honor and a task.
 The day’s blow rang out, metallic
— or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.
Writing Prompt: "It was I, a bell awakened..."

1/28/15
Can You Imagine? by Mary Oliver
 For example, what the trees do
 not only in lightning storms or the watery dark
 of a summer’s night or under the white
 nets of winter but now, and now, and now
– whenever we’re not looking.
Surely you can’t imagine they don’t dance,
 from the root up, wishing to travel a little,
not cramped so much as wanting a better view,
 or more sun, or just as avidly more shade
 – surely you can’t imagine they just stand there
 loving every minute of it,
the birds or the emptiness,
 the dark rings of the years slowly
and without a sound thickening,
 and nothing different unless the wind,
 and then only in its own mood,comes to visit,
surely you can’t imagine patience, and happiness, like that.
Writing Prompt: "Whenever we're not looking..."
1/14/15
So Much Happiness      by Naomi Shihab Nye           
It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.                
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you,    
you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands,   
like ticket stubs or change.
But happiness floats.
It doesn't need you to hold it down.
It doesn't need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
it too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records…..
Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known.
Prompt: The night sky takes no credit for the moon......

1/7/15
Quietness
by Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks

Inside this new love, die.
Your way begins on the other side.
Become the sky.
Take an axe to the prison wall.
Escape.
Walk out like someone suddenly born into color.
Do it now.
You're covered with thick clouds.
Slide out the side. Die,
and be quiet. Quietness is the surest sign
that you've died.
Your old life was a frantic running
from silence.
The speechless full moon
comes out now.

Writing Prompt: "Like someone suddenly born into color..."

 

12/10/14
Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.          
Writing Prompt: "What the river says..."                   
12/3/14  
Coleman's Bed by David Whyte
        Make a nesting now, a place to which
the birds can come, think of Kevin's
prayerful palm holding the blackbird's egg
and be the one, looking out from this place
who warms interior forms into light.
Feel the way the cliff at your back
gives shelter to your outward view
and then bring in from those horizons
all discordant elements that seek a home.

Be taught now, among the trees and rocks,
how the discarded is woven into shelter,
learn the way things hidden and unspoken
slowly proclaim their voice in the world.
Find that far inward symmetry
to all outward appearances, apprentice
yourself to yourself, begin to welcome back
all you sent away, be a new annunciation,
make yourself a door through which
to be hospitable, even to the stranger in you.

See with every turning day,
how each season makes a child
of you again, wants you to become
a seeker after rainfall and birdsong,
watch now, how it weathers you
to a testing in the tried and true,
admonishes you with each falling leaf,
to be courageous, to be something
that has come through, to be the last thing
you want to see before you leave the world.

Above all, be alone with it all,
a hiving off, a corner of silence
amidst the noise, refuse to talk,
even to yourself, and stay in this place
until the current of the story
is strong enough to float you out.

Ghost then, to where others
in this place have come before,
under the hazel, by the ruined chapel,
below the cave where Coleman slept,
become the source that makes
the river flow, and then the sea
beyond. Live in this place
as you were meant to and then,
surprised by your abilities,
become the ancestor of it all,
the quiet, robust and blessed Saint
that your future happiness
will always remember

Writing Prompt: "under the Hazel beside the ruined chapel..."

10/29/14
Silence by Billy Collins

There is the sudden silence of the crowd
above a player not moving on the field,
and the silence of the orchid.

The silence of the falling vase
before it strikes the floor,
the silence of the belt when it is not striking the child.

The stillness of the cup and the water in it,
the silence of the moon
and the quiet of the day far from the roar of the sun.

The silence when I hold you to my chest,
the silence of the window above us,
and the silence when you rise and turn away.

And there is the silence of this morning
which I have broken with my pen,
a silence that had piled up all night

like snow falling in the darkness of the house—
the silence before I wrote a word
and the poorer silence now.

Writing Prompt: "A Silence that had piled up all night..."

10/22/14
Calling

by Nancy Schaffer

When you heard that voice and
Knew finally it called for you
And what it was saying – where
Were you?  Were you in the shower,
Wet and soapy, or chopping cabbage
Late for dinner?  Were you planting radish
Seeds or seeking one lost sock?  Maybe
Wiping handprints off a window
Or coaxing words into a sentence.

Or coming upon a hyacinth or one last No.
Where were you when you heard that ancient
Voice, and did Yes get born right then
And did you weep?  Had it called you since
Before you even were, and when you
Knew that, did your joy escape all holding?
Where were you when you heard that
Calling voice, and how, in the moment,
Did you mark it?  How, ever after,
Are you changed?

Tell us, please, all you can about that voice.
Teach us how to listen, how to hear.
Teach us all you can of saving Yes.

Writing Prompt: "Where were you?"

10/8/14
Pablo Neruda
(1904—1973)

Poetry
And it was at that age . . . poetry arrived
in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don't know how or when,
no, they were not voices, they were not
words, not silence,
but from a street it called me,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among raging fires
or returning alone,
there it was, without a face,
and it touched me.
I didn't know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names,
my eyes were blind.
Something knocked in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
deciphering
that fire,
and I wrote the first, faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
nonsense,
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing;
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
unfastened
and open,
planets,
palpitating plantations,
the darkness perforated,
riddled
with arrows, fire, and flowers,
the overpowering night, the universe.
And I, tiny being,
drunk with the great starry
void,
likeness, image of
mystery,
felt myself a pure part
of the abyss.
I wheeled with the stars.
My heart broke loose with the wind. 
Writing Prompt: "There it was, without a face...."

10/1/14
Hurricane
by Mary Oliver

It didn’t behave
like anything you had
ever imagined. The wind
tore at the trees, the rain
fell for days slant and hard.
The back of the hand
to everything. I watched
the trees bow and their leaves fall
and crawl back into the earth.
As though, that was that.
This was one hurricane
I lived through, the other one
was of a different sort, and
lasted longer. Then
I felt my own leaves giving up and
falling. The back of the hand to
everything. But listen now to what happened
to the actual trees;
toward the end of that summer they
pushed new leaves from their stubbed limbs.
It was the wrong season, yes,
but they couldn’t stop. They
looked like telephone poles and didn’t
care. And after the leaves came
blossoms. For some things
there are no wrong seasons.
Which is what I dream of for me.
writing prompt: "It was the wrong season..."

9/24/14
Wendell Berry
1990 (1)
The two, man and boy, wait
by their lantern, the hounds already
loose in the nearby dark.
The man calls again: "Oh Mart!"
Soon, near the lighted window
of an invisible house beyond
he flooded creek, another light
appears, moving with the motion
of a man walking.  It slants down
along the far slope, steps
onto swinging footboards
strung above the flood, crosses
slowly, swaying with the sways
of the lithe bridge, bends
around the old road
and up the bank.  Having traced
so far a man's way in this
dark world, the lantern lifts
to light the faces of the two
and of its bearer.  "Yessir!
How you fellows this evenin?"
writing prompt: "The hounds already loose..."

9/10/14
In Blackwater Woods by Mary Oliver
Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Prompt: "the rich fragrance of cinnamon and fulfillment..."

9/3/14
A Morning Offering
by John O'Donohue
I bless the night that nourished my heart
To set the ghosts of longing free
Into the flow and figure of dream
That went to harvest from the dark
Bread for the hunger no one sees.

All that is eternal in me
Welcome the wonder of this day,
The field of brightness it creates
Offering time for each thing
To arise and illuminate.

I place on the altar of dawn:
The quiet loyalty of breath,
The tent of thought where I shelter,
Wave of desire I am shore to
And all beauty drawn to the eye.

May my mind come alive today
To the invisible geography
That invites me to new frontiers,
To break the dead shell of yesterdays,
To risk being disturbed and changed.

May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love,
To postpone my dream no longer
But do at last what I came here for
And waste my heart on fear no more.

~ John O’Donohue ~
Writing Prompt: "The quiet loyalty of breath..."

3/12/14
Keeping Quiet

Now we will count to twelve and we will all keep still

 for once on the face of the earth, let's not speak in any language;

 let's stop for a second, and not move our arms too much.

It would be an exotic moment without rush, without engines;

 we would all be together in a sudden strangeness.

 Fisherman in the cold sea would not harm the whales

and the man gathering salt would not hurt his hands.

Those who prepare green wars, wars with gas, wars with fire,

 victories with no survivors, would put on clean clothes

 and walk about with their brothers in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused with total inactivity.

Life is what it is about...

If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving,

 and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence

 might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves                                          and of threatening ourselves with death.                                                                          Perhaps the earth can teach us as when everything
 seems to be dead in winter and later proves to be alive. 
Now I'll count to twelve and you keep quiet and I will go.  - Pablo Neruda
Writing prompt: "a sudden strangeness...." 

2/12/14
Fire In The Earth by David Whyte

And we know, when Moses was told,
in the way he was told,
“Take off your shoes!” He grew pale from the simple

reminder of fire in the dusty earth.
He never recovered
his complicated way of loving again

and was free to love in the same way
he felt the fire licking at his heels loved him.
As if the lion earth could roar

and take him in one movement.
Every step he took
from there was carefully placed.

Everything he said mattered as if he knew
the constant witness of the ground
and remembered his own face in the dust

the moment before revelation.
Since then thousands have felt
the same immobile tongue with which he tried to speak.

Like the moment you too saw, for the first time,
your own house turned to ashes.
Everything consumed so the road could open again.

Your entire presence in your eyes
and the world turning slowly
into a single branch of flame.
Writing Prompt: "Take off your shoes..."

1/8/14
Rilke:  The Tenth Elegy

 

Some day, in the emergence from this fierce insight,

let me sing jubilation and praise to assenting Angels.

Let not a single one of the cleanly-struck hammers of my heart

deny me, through a slack, or a doubtful, or

a broken string. Let my streaming face

make me more radiant: let my secret weeping

bear flower. O, how dear you will be to me, then, Nights

of anguish. Inconsolable sisters, why did I not

kneel more to greet you, lose myself more

in your loosened hair? We, squanderers of pain.

How we gaze beyond them into duration’s sadness,

to see if they have an end. Though they are nothing but

our winter-suffering foliage, our dark evergreen,

one of the seasons of our inner year – not only

season - : but place, settlement, camp, soil, dwelling.

Writing Prompt: "Let me sing out jubilation and praise to assenting angels...."


10/9/13

“God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke's Book of Hours:
writing prompt: "Go to the limits of your longing...."

10/2/13
A Hand
  by Jane Hirshfield
A hand is not four fingers and a thumb.
Nor is it palm and knuckles,
not ligaments or the fat's yellow pillow,
not tendons, star of the wristbone, meander of veins.
A hand is not the thick thatch of its lines
with their infinite dramas,
nor what it has written,
not on the page,
not on the ecstatic body.
Nor is the hand its meadows of holding, of shaping
not sponge of rising yeast-bread,
not rotor pin's smoothness,
not ink.
The maple's green hands do not cup
the proliferant rain.
What empties itself falls into the place that is open.
A hand turned upward holds only a single, transparent question.
Unanswerable, humming like bees, it rises, swarms, departs.

Writing Prompt: "A single, transparent question....."

7/24/13
The Patience of Ordinary Things
by Pat Schneider

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
how the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
how the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
or toes. How soles of feet know
where they're supposed to be.
I've been thinking about the patience
of ordinary things, how clothes
wait respectfully in closets
and soap dries quietly in the dish,
and towels drink the wet
from the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?

from 'Another River: New and Selected Poems'

"writing prompt: More generous than a window"


7/10/13
"Carmel Point" by Robinson Jeffers
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 rock-heads -
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.
Writing prompt: "The rock and ocean we were made from..."

7/3/13
"Cathedral" by Annie Livingston-Garrett

Caverns blasted out, torn by hand from the mountain
making way for some ancient railroad.
Driving through, today, light pours between the hills
like sun through stained glass.

fulfilling, a benediction
... peace
but there was not always peace here                                 as the tunnels were excavated
men set the charges                                                         and broke up the stone with their bodies.
who were these men?
were they dark-skinned or light,                           immigrant or Coloradan?

One suspects that blood spilled during this dangerous work.
what happened to the families left behind?
were their lives valued by the Lords of Industry who build the railroad?
how are these workers remembered?

caverns blasted out, torn by hand from the mountain
making way for some ancient railroad
driving through, today, light pours between the hills
like sunlight through stained glass

fulfilling, a benediction
...may peace be upon them.

Writing prompt: "Caverns blasted out..."


6/26/13

Last night, as I was sleeping

by Antonio Machado (1875 – 1939)

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt — marvelous error!—
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt — blessed illusion!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt — blessed illusion!—
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night, as I slept,
I dreamt — blessed illusion!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.
Lead sentence: "along what secret aqueduct..."

6/05/13
"Listen"
by Barbara Crooker
I want to tell you something.
This morning is bright after all the steady rain,
and every iris, peony, rose, opens its mouth, rejoicing. 
I want to say, wake up, open your eyes,
there's a snow-covered road ahead,
 a field of blankness, a sheet of paper, an empty screen.  Even the smallest insects are singing,
vibrating their entire bodies,
tiny violins of longing and desire.
  We were made for song. 
I cant tell you what prayer is,
 but I can take the breath of the meadow into my mouth, and I can release it for the leaves' green need.
I want to tell you your life is a blue coal,
a slice of orange in your mouth,
cut hay in your nostrils. 
The cardinal's red song dances in your blood.
  Look, every month the moon blossoms into a peony, then shrinks to a sliver of garlic. 
And then it blooms again.

Writing prompt: "A slice of orange in my mouth...."

5/29/13
"The Swan" by Rilke
This clumsy living
that moves lumbering
as if in ropes through what is not done,
reminds us of the awkward way
the swan walks.
and to die,
which is the letting go
of the ground we stand on
and cling to every day
is like the swan
when he nervously lets himself down
into the water, which receives him gaily
and which flows
joyfully under and after him
wave after wave
while the swan
unmoving and marvellously calm
is pleased to be carried
each moment more fully grown
more like a King
further and further on

lead sentence: this clumsy living...

5/22/13
"Metamorphosis" by May Sarton
Always it happens when we are not there-
the tree leaps up alive in the air,
small open parasols of Chinese green
wave on each twig.
But who has ever seen
the latch sprung, the bud as it burst?
Spring always manages to get there first.
Lovers of wind, who will have been aware
of a faint stirring in the empty air,
Look up one day
through a dissolving screen
to find no star, but this multiplied green,
shadow on shadow,
singing sweet and clear.
Listen, lovers of wind,
the leaves are here!

Writing prompt:  "Always it happens when I am not there"

5/8/13
Is my soul asleep?

Is my soul asleep?

Have those beehives that work

in the night stopped? And the water-

wheel of thought, is it

going around now, cups

empty, carrying only shadows?

 

No, my soul is not asleep.

It is awake, wide awake.

It neither sleeps nor dreams, but watches,

its eyes wide open

far-off things, and listens

at the shores of the great silence.

 

~Antonio Machado

Writing prompt: "At the shores of the great silence...."

4/24/13



 "Packing for the Future: Instructions by Lorna Crozier".







Take the thickest socks.



Wherever you're going



you'll have to walk.







There may be water.



There may be stones.



There may be high places



you cannot go without



the hope socks bring you,



the way they hold you



to the earth.







At least one pair must be new,



must be as blue as a wish



hand-knit by your mother



in her sleep.







Take a leather satchel,



a velvet bag and an old tin box--



a salamander painted on the lid.







This is to carry that small thing



you cannot leave. Perhaps the key



you've kept though it doesn't fit



any lock you know,



the photograph that keeps you sane,



a ball of string to lead you out



though you can't walk back



into that light.







In your bag leave room for sadness,



leave room for another language.







There may be doors nailed shut.



There may be painted windows.



There may be signs that warn you



to be gone. Take the dream



you've been having since



you were a child, the one



with open fields and the wind



sounding.







Mistrust no one who offers you



water from a well, a songbird's feather,



something that's been mended twice.



Always travel lighter



than the heart.



Lead Sentence: "something that's been mended twice..."

4/10/13
"We have not come here to take prisoners"
We have not come here to take prisoners,
But to surrender ever more deeply
To freedom and joy.
We have not come into this exquisite world
To hold ourselves hostage from love.
Run my dear,
From anything
That may not strengthen
Your precious budding wings.
Run like hell my dear,
From anyone likely
To put a sharp knife
Into the sacred, tender vision
Of your beautiful heart.
We have a duty to befriend
Those aspects of obedience
That stand outside of our house
And shout to our reason
"O please, O please,
Come out and play."
For we have not come here to take prisoners
Or to confine our wondrous spirits,
But to experience ever and ever more deeply
Our divine courage, freedom and
Light!
~ Hafiz ~
Lead Sentence: "Come out and play...."

4/3/13
"Sleeping In The Forest" by Mary Oliver
I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms 
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water, 
grappling with a luminous doom.  By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.  
Lead sentence: "A stone on the riverbed..."

3/27/13
I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet around me
like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places where I left them
 asleep like cattle.
Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings and I hear its song.
Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings and I hear its song. 
-Wendell Berry

Lead Sentence:I go among trees and sit still....

3/13/13
"My Old Enemy Waits" by TR Ritchie
My old enemy waits patiently
all it takes is one mistake
one careless moment
and there it is
the double guess of
uncertainty
the beautiful lies
of reason
and I
defenseless
in the face of those
must accept the blows
be staggered
take the hard fall
then find it in myself
to rise
shake it off
offer a blood-lipped grin
and ask
so is that all you've got?

Lead sentence: "The beautiful lies of reason..."

3/06/13 
I Ask You
What scene would I want to be enveloped in
more than this one,
an ordinary night at the kitchen table,
floral wallpaper pressing in,
white cabinets full of glass,
the telephone silent,
a pen tilted back in my hand?

It gives me time to think
about all that is going on outside--
leaves gathering in corners,
lichen greening the high grey rocks,
while over the dunes the world sails on,
huge, ocean-going, history bubbling in its wake.

But beyond this table
there is nothing that I need,
not even a job that would allow me to row to work,
or a coffee-colored Aston Martin DB4
with cracked green leather seats.

No, it's all here,
the clear ovals of a glass of water,
a small crate of oranges, a book on Stalin,
not to mention the odd snarling fish
in a frame on the wall,
and the way these three candles--
each a different height--
are singing in perfect harmony.

So forgive me
if I lower my head now and listen
to the short bass candle as he takes a solo
while my heart
thrums under my shirt--
frog at the edge of a pond--
and my thoughts fly off to a province
made of one enormous sky
and about a million empty branches. -Billy Collins

Lead sentence: "No, it's all here....."

2/27/13  "How Would You Live Then?" by Mary Oliver
What if a hundred rose-breasted grosbeaks
blew in circles around your head? What if
the mockingbird came into the house with you and
became your advisor? What if
the bees filled your walls with honey and all
you needed to do was ask them and they would fill
the bowl? What if the brook slid downhill just
past your bedroom window so you could listen
to its slow prayers as you fell asleep? What if
the stars began to shout their names, or to run
this way and that way above the clouds? What if
you painted a picture of a tree, and the leaves
began to rustle, and a bird cheerful sang
from its painted branches? What if you suddenly saw
that the silver of water was brighter than the silver
of money? What if you finally saw
that the sunflowers, turning toward the sun all day
and every day -- who knows how, but they do it -- were
more precious, more meaningful than gold?

~ Mary Oliver ~


Writing Prompt: Who knows how, but they do it.

2/20/13 

Electrons

26Jun2011

 

Atoms within your body
spin.
What seems solid –
knees, nose, hair –
moves swiftly. Particles
orbit each other. Dart like meteors
through vast spaces.

Air about you
made of same.
You take from it
and you give.
Drawing in atoms and molecules
to form
your ever changing image.

Your lips move.
Your tongue speaks your name.
you take it on faith your words will make sense.
Meaning flows out effortlessly.

Electrons
skip like rocks on water
between your solid body
and your electromagnetic thoughts.
You look through a window.
Listen to voices within and without.

Dazzled by what you perceive,
you wonder about causes and effects.

When a wave of love takes you by surprise,
your eyes well up with tears.

~ Assef Al‐Jundi"
Writing Prompt: "Voices within and without..."

 

2/13/13

"Arrivals"  -David Whyte
Imagine the confines of a long grey corridor
just before immigration at Washington Dulles
airport. Imagine two Ethiopian women amid
a sea of familiar international plastic blandness,
entering America for the first time. Think of
their undulating multi-colored turbans raised
atop graceful heads, transforming us,
a grey line of travelers behind them, into followers
and mendicants, mere drab, impatient, moneyed
and perplexed attendants to their bright,
excited, chattered arrival.
Imagine a sharp plexi-gass turn left and suddenly
before them, in biblical astonishment, like a vertical
red sea churning, like the waters barring Moses from
The Promised Land, like Jacob standing before the ladder,
a moving escalator, a mode of rising, a form of ascension,
a way to go up they'd never seen before, its steel grey
interlocking invitation on and up to who knows what,
bringing them and everyone behind them, to a bemused,
complete, and utter standstill.

So that you saw it for the first time as they saw it
and for what it was, a grated river of lifting steel,
an involuntary, moving ascension into who knows what.
An incredible surprise. And you knew, even through
your tiredness, why it made them raise their hands
to their mouths, why it made them give low breathy
screams of surprise and delighted terror. You saw it
as they saw it, a staircase of invisible interlocking
beckoning hands asking them to rise up
independent of their history, their legs or their wills.
And we stopped as we knew we had to now
and watched the first delighted be-turbaned
woman put a sandaled foot on the flat grey
plain at the foot of the moving stair and sure
enough quickly withdraw it with a strangled scream,
leaving her sandal to ascend strangely without her
into heaven, into America, into her new life.

Then, holding her friend away, who tried to grab
her, to save her, to hold her back, who pointed
and shouted, telling her not to risk herself,
not to be foolish, she silently watched her shoe,
that willful child, running ahead, its sole intent
to enter the country oblivious to visas and immigration,
above the need for a job, uncaring of healthcare,
pointing toward some horizon she had never dreamt,
intent on leaving only its winged footprint
for her to follow, like a comet's tail, like an omen
of necessity, like a signaled courage, like an uncaring
invitation, to make her entrance with sould and style.

Because she looked up at this orphaned, onward
messenger with her eyes ablaze, threw off the panicked
clamboring arms of her friend, raised her chin
in noble profile, and with all that other hurrying
clamor of the world behind her, with a busy,
unknowing, corporate crowd at her back and questions
beginning to be asked out loud, she lifted her arms,
clapped her hands, threw back her head and with
a queenly unbidden grace, strode on to the ascending
heaven bound steel like a newly struck film star,
singing the old, high pitched song her children
would hear when she told the story again.

And as her friend below sang,
applauded, danced on the spot
and ululated her companion's arrival,
we stood there behind her,
transfixed, travel weary,
and crammed into the corridor
like extras from some
miraculous scene in the Bible.
While
she ascended,
her arms straight out,
wide eyed and singing.
Into America.

Lead Sentence: "An involuntary moving ascension into who knows what....."

1/30/13
"Famous" -By Naomi Shihab Nye 

The river is famous to the fish. 
The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so. 
The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
 watching him from the birdhouse. 
The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.
 The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom. 
The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors. 
The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured. 
I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back. 
I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

Lead Sentence: "Famous to shuffling men...."

1/23/13  Shoveling Snow With Buddha
In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over a  
  mountain of his bare, round shoulder,   
         his hair tied in a knot, a model of concentration.

Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.

Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
   We feel the cold mist on our faces. 
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
                                                              in these sudden clouds of our own making,                 
                             these fountain-bursts of snow.

This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside his generous pocket of silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.

After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?

Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck.
and our boots stand dripping by the door.

Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade again
deep into the glittering white snow.   -Billy Collins

Writing Prompt: "And our boots stand dripping by the door"

12/12/12

"I have a feeling that my boat

has struck, down there in the depths,

against a great thing. And nothing happens!

Nothing . . . Silence . . . Waves . . .

-Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,

and am now standing quietly, in my new life?"

Juan Ramon Jimenez

Writing prompt:  Nothing happens.....

6/12/12

Morning (by Billy Collins)

Why do we bother with the rest of the day,
the swale of the afternoon,
the sudden dip into evening,

then night with his notorious perfumes,
his many-pointed stars?

This is the best—
throwing off the light covers,
feet on the cold floor,
and buzzing around the house on espresso—

maybe a splash of water on the face,
a palmful of vitamins—
but mostly buzzing around the house on espresso,

dictionary and atlas open on the rug,
the typewriter waiting for the key of the head,
a cello on the radio,

and if necessary, the windows—
trees fifty, a hundred years old
out there,
heavy clouds on the way
and the lawn steaming like a horse
in the early morning.

Writing Prompt:  Steaming like a horse....

6/5/12

Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.

Hello, you who made the morning

and spread it over the fields

and into the faces of the tulips

and the nodding morning glories,

and into the windows of, even, the

miserable and the crotchety –

best preacher that ever was,

dear star, that just happens

to be where you are in the universe

to keep us from ever-darkness,

to ease us with warm touching,

to hold us in the great hands of light –

good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day

in happiness, in kindness.

~ Mary Oliver ~ (Why I Wake Early, )
      Writing Prompt: Hello, sun in my face.....
 4/18/12

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:

The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,

 

Hath had elsewhere its setting,

And cometh from afar:

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come

-shakespeare
writing prompt: trailing clouds of glory

4/11/12 "Quiet Friend Who Has Come So Far"  (Rilke)

Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing
makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell.
As you ring,
what batters you
becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter,
turn yourself into wine.
In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery
at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.
And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
to the rushing water, speak: I am.

Writing prompt: If the world has ceased to hear you...

3/7/12

 

"Escape"
"When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego,
and when we escape
like squirrels in the cage of our personality
and get into the forest again, we shall shiver
with cold and fright.
But things will happen to us
so that we don't know ourselves.
Cool, undying life will rush in,
and passion will make our
bodies taut with power.
We shall laugh, and
institutions will curl up
like burnt paper."

- D.H. Lawrence

Writing Prompt:  "When we escape like squirrels"


2/15/12
"Setting Out at Dusk" by David Whyte
The kayak sits on the black water
covered by trees.
Late October leaves drift by its bow.

Paddling out for weekend days away from noise
this silence leaves me unsure,
an old friend I havent met for years.

I sit, rudder pulled up, getting to know him,
double bladed paddle
dipping slowly in cold water

and looking up, see a single otter, skittering
on the grassy bank, stop,
look around, see me, low shape on still water,

roll back into the trees, leave me with silence.
I watch clouds gather between islands,
the wind pick up, shearwaters lift on the grey sea.

Through the sip-slap of waves on the lifting hull
I prick my ears for the small sounds
at the very edge of silence and then

I pull the bow out into the wide sea
paddle dipping
toward darkness and enter again. The quiet.

writing prompt: "This silence leaves me unsure....."

2/8/12 "Boy and Egg" by naomi shihab nye
Every few minutes, he wants
to march the trail of flattened rye grass
back to the house of muttering
hens.  He too could make
a bed in hay.  Yesterday the egg so fresh
it felt hot in his hand and he pressed it
to his ear while the other children
laughed and ran with a ball, leaving him,
so little yet, too forgetful in games,
ready to cry if the ball brushed him,
riveted to the secret of birds
caught up inside his fist,
not ready to give it over
to the refrigerator
or the rest of the day.

Writing Prompt:    "Back to the house of muttering hens...."

2/1/12 "The Awakening" by Faud Rifka, in the book, "The Space Between our Footsteps" by Naomi Shihab Nye
What happened
to the wood gatherer?
In old times he used to sing
like a bird on the shoulder of a mountain
early in the morning.
And today he doesn't speak,
he became mute
like a stone in a cave.
Who knows? Maybe he got tired.
When the river gets tired
it loves the flat lands
and the darkness of the sea.

Writing prompt: In old times he used to sing......


1/25/12 "Resolve to Listen" by TR Ritchie
resolve to listen
to the voice within
that speaks to you
in quiet tones
like wind in the grass
like rain on the pines
like the sound
of the wild creatures
breathing
that says to you
isnt it time....
what if....
is it possible....
move toward
the thing you were
born to do
as for the voices 
who nag or scream
or threaten or shame
know them for the 
liars they are
show compassion
for their desperate ways
forgive them
turn away

move then
toward the thing
you were born to do
 
Writing Prompt: Like rain on the pines...


1/18/12 "The Appointment" by Mark Nepo

 

What if, on the first sunny day,
on your way to work, a colorful bird
sweeps in front of you down a
street you’ve never heard of.

You might pause and smile,
a sweet beginning to your day.

Or you might step into that street
and realize there are many ways to work.

You might sense the bird knows some-
thing you don’t and wander after.

You might hesitate when the bird
turns down an alley. For now
there is a tension: Is what the
bird knows worth being late?

You might go another block or two,
thinking you can have it both ways.
But soon you arrive at the edge
of all your plans.

The bird circles back for you
and you must decide which
appointment you were
born to keep.

Writing prompt: "A colorful bird sweeps in front of me, down a street I've never heard of...

1/11/12 "The Peace of Wild Things" by Wendell Berry

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For the time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry

Writing Prompt:  I come into the Peace of wild things.......

12/7 From Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet" pg 23
"Allow your judgements their own silent, undisturbed development, which, like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be forced or hastened.  Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of ones own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as in creating."

Writing prompt: Beyond the reaches....

11/30/11 Dawna Markova, from her book, "I Will Not Die and Unlived Life" (from the perspective of a pinecone):
I am hard and very dried out now, ordinary brown and made of hundreds of scales. The fall winds were so intense that I was blown down from a big old tree. The sticky stuff that held all of me together has dried out too, and I fall apart at the slightest touch, losing my shape altogether. When the snow comes, if you care enough to look closely, you’ll notice that those scales are really little brown wings, and each holds a seed. The winds will carry them in many directions. Some will be eaten by birds, but some will be buried and hidden beneath the snow, dor

 This week's poem, writing prompt:

 

3/11/15
What’s Left
(for Peter Hennessy)

I used to wait for the flowers,
my pleasure reposed on them.
Now I like plants before they get to the blossom.
Leafy ones – foxgloves, comfrey, delphiniums –
fleshy tiers of strong leaves pushing up
into air grown daily lighter and more sheened
with bright dust like the eyeshadow
that tall young woman in the bookshop wears,
its shimmer and crumble on her white lids.


The washing sways on the line, the sparrows pull
at the heaps of drying weeds that I’ve left around.
Perhaps this is middle age.  Untidy, unfinished,
knowing there’ll never be time now to finish,
liking the plants – their strong lives –
not caring about flowers, sitting in weeds
to write things down, look at things,
watching the sway of shirts on the line,
the cloth filtering light.


I know more or less
how to live through my life now.
But I want to know how to live what’s left
with my eyes open and my hands open;
I want to stand at the door in the rain
listening, sniffing, gaping.
Fearful and joyous,
like an idiot before God.- Kerrie Hardie
Writing Prompt: "with my eyes open and my hands open..."

3/4/15
The owl rides the meadow at his hunting hour.
The fox clears out the pheasants
 and the partridges in the cornfield. 
Jupiter rests above Antares,
 and the fall moon hooks itself into the prairie sod.
  A dark wind flows down from Mandan
 as the Indians slowly move out of the summer campground
 to go back to the reservation. 
Aries, buck of the sky, leaps to the outer rim
 and mates with earth.
  Root and seed turn into flesh. 
We turn back to each other
 in the dark together,
in the short days,
 in the dangerous cold,
on the rim of a perpetual wilderness.

Writing Prompt: "Root and seed turn into flesh..."

2/11/15

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.
And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

beannacht - john o'donohue

Writing prompt: "Across the Waters..."

2/4/15
Variation On A Theme By Rilke by Denise Levertov
(The Book of Hours, Book I, Poem 1, Stanza 1)
 A certain day became a presence to me;
 there it was, confronting me
— a sky, air, light: a being.
 And before it started to descend
 from the height of noon,
it leaned over and struck my shoulder
as if with the flat of a sword,
 granting me honor and a task.
 The day’s blow rang out, metallic
— or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.
Writing Prompt: "It was I, a bell awakened..."

1/28/15
Can You Imagine? by Mary Oliver
 For example, what the trees do
 not only in lightning storms or the watery dark
 of a summer’s night or under the white
 nets of winter but now, and now, and now
– whenever we’re not looking.
Surely you can’t imagine they don’t dance,
 from the root up, wishing to travel a little,
not cramped so much as wanting a better view,
 or more sun, or just as avidly more shade
 – surely you can’t imagine they just stand there
 loving every minute of it,
the birds or the emptiness,
 the dark rings of the years slowly
and without a sound thickening,
 and nothing different unless the wind,
 and then only in its own mood,comes to visit,
surely you can’t imagine patience, and happiness, like that.
Writing Prompt: "Whenever we're not looking..."
1/14/15
So Much Happiness      by Naomi Shihab Nye           
It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.                
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you,    
you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands,   
like ticket stubs or change.
But happiness floats.
It doesn't need you to hold it down.
It doesn't need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
it too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records…..
Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known.
Prompt: The night sky takes no credit for the moon......

1/7/15
Quietness
by Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks

Inside this new love, die.
Your way begins on the other side.
Become the sky.
Take an axe to the prison wall.
Escape.
Walk out like someone suddenly born into color.
Do it now.
You're covered with thick clouds.
Slide out the side. Die,
and be quiet. Quietness is the surest sign
that you've died.
Your old life was a frantic running
from silence.
The speechless full moon
comes out now.

Writing Prompt: "Like someone suddenly born into color..."

 

12/10/14
Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.          
Writing Prompt: "What the river says..."                   
12/3/14  
Coleman's Bed by David Whyte
        Make a nesting now, a place to which
the birds can come, think of Kevin's
prayerful palm holding the blackbird's egg
and be the one, looking out from this place
who warms interior forms into light.
Feel the way the cliff at your back
gives shelter to your outward view
and then bring in from those horizons
all discordant elements that seek a home.

Be taught now, among the trees and rocks,
how the discarded is woven into shelter,
learn the way things hidden and unspoken
slowly proclaim their voice in the world.
Find that far inward symmetry
to all outward appearances, apprentice
yourself to yourself, begin to welcome back
all you sent away, be a new annunciation,
make yourself a door through which
to be hospitable, even to the stranger in you.

See with every turning day,
how each season makes a child
of you again, wants you to become
a seeker after rainfall and birdsong,
watch now, how it weathers you
to a testing in the tried and true,
admonishes you with each falling leaf,
to be courageous, to be something
that has come through, to be the last thing
you want to see before you leave the world.

Above all, be alone with it all,
a hiving off, a corner of silence
amidst the noise, refuse to talk,
even to yourself, and stay in this place
until the current of the story
is strong enough to float you out.

Ghost then, to where others
in this place have come before,
under the hazel, by the ruined chapel,
below the cave where Coleman slept,
become the source that makes
the river flow, and then the sea
beyond. Live in this place
as you were meant to and then,
surprised by your abilities,
become the ancestor of it all,
the quiet, robust and blessed Saint
that your future happiness
will always remember

Writing Prompt: "under the Hazel beside the ruined chapel..."

10/29/14
Silence by Billy Collins

There is the sudden silence of the crowd
above a player not moving on the field,
and the silence of the orchid.

The silence of the falling vase
before it strikes the floor,
the silence of the belt when it is not striking the child.

The stillness of the cup and the water in it,
the silence of the moon
and the quiet of the day far from the roar of the sun.

The silence when I hold you to my chest,
the silence of the window above us,
and the silence when you rise and turn away.

And there is the silence of this morning
which I have broken with my pen,
a silence that had piled up all night

like snow falling in the darkness of the house—
the silence before I wrote a word
and the poorer silence now.

Writing Prompt: "A Silence that had piled up all night..."

10/22/14
Calling

by Nancy Schaffer

When you heard that voice and
Knew finally it called for you
And what it was saying – where
Were you?  Were you in the shower,
Wet and soapy, or chopping cabbage
Late for dinner?  Were you planting radish
Seeds or seeking one lost sock?  Maybe
Wiping handprints off a window
Or coaxing words into a sentence.

Or coming upon a hyacinth or one last No.
Where were you when you heard that ancient
Voice, and did Yes get born right then
And did you weep?  Had it called you since
Before you even were, and when you
Knew that, did your joy escape all holding?
Where were you when you heard that
Calling voice, and how, in the moment,
Did you mark it?  How, ever after,
Are you changed?

Tell us, please, all you can about that voice.
Teach us how to listen, how to hear.
Teach us all you can of saving Yes.

Writing Prompt: "Where were you?"

10/8/14
Pablo Neruda
(1904—1973)

Poetry
And it was at that age . . . poetry arrived
in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don't know how or when,
no, they were not voices, they were not
words, not silence,
but from a street it called me,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among raging fires
or returning alone,
there it was, without a face,
and it touched me.
I didn't know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names,
my eyes were blind.
Something knocked in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
deciphering
that fire,
and I wrote the first, faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
nonsense,
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing;
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
unfastened
and open,
planets,
palpitating plantations,
the darkness perforated,
riddled
with arrows, fire, and flowers,
the overpowering night, the universe.
And I, tiny being,
drunk with the great starry
void,
likeness, image of
mystery,
felt myself a pure part
of the abyss.
I wheeled with the stars.
My heart broke loose with the wind. 
Writing Prompt: "There it was, without a face...."

10/1/14
Hurricane
by Mary Oliver

It didn’t behave
like anything you had
ever imagined. The wind
tore at the trees, the rain
fell for days slant and hard.
The back of the hand
to everything. I watched
the trees bow and their leaves fall
and crawl back into the earth.
As though, that was that.
This was one hurricane
I lived through, the other one
was of a different sort, and
lasted longer. Then
I felt my own leaves giving up and
falling. The back of the hand to
everything. But listen now to what happened
to the actual trees;
toward the end of that summer they
pushed new leaves from their stubbed limbs.
It was the wrong season, yes,
but they couldn’t stop. They
looked like telephone poles and didn’t
care. And after the leaves came
blossoms. For some things
there are no wrong seasons.
Which is what I dream of for me.
writing prompt: "It was the wrong season..."

9/24/14
Wendell Berry
1990 (1)
The two, man and boy, wait
by their lantern, the hounds already
loose in the nearby dark.
The man calls again: "Oh Mart!"
Soon, near the lighted window
of an invisible house beyond
he flooded creek, another light
appears, moving with the motion
of a man walking.  It slants down
along the far slope, steps
onto swinging footboards
strung above the flood, crosses
slowly, swaying with the sways
of the lithe bridge, bends
around the old road
and up the bank.  Having traced
so far a man's way in this
dark world, the lantern lifts
to light the faces of the two
and of its bearer.  "Yessir!
How you fellows this evenin?"
writing prompt: "The hounds already loose..."

9/10/14
In Blackwater Woods by Mary Oliver
Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Prompt: "the rich fragrance of cinnamon and fulfillment..."

9/3/14
A Morning Offering
by John O'Donohue
I bless the night that nourished my heart
To set the ghosts of longing free
Into the flow and figure of dream
That went to harvest from the dark
Bread for the hunger no one sees.

All that is eternal in me
Welcome the wonder of this day,
The field of brightness it creates
Offering time for each thing
To arise and illuminate.

I place on the altar of dawn:
The quiet loyalty of breath,
The tent of thought where I shelter,
Wave of desire I am shore to
And all beauty drawn to the eye.

May my mind come alive today
To the invisible geography
That invites me to new frontiers,
To break the dead shell of yesterdays,
To risk being disturbed and changed.

May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love,
To postpone my dream no longer
But do at last what I came here for
And waste my heart on fear no more.

~ John O’Donohue ~
Writing Prompt: "The quiet loyalty of breath..."

3/12/14
Keeping Quiet

Now we will count to twelve and we will all keep still

 for once on the face of the earth, let's not speak in any language;

 let's stop for a second, and not move our arms too much.

It would be an exotic moment without rush, without engines;

 we would all be together in a sudden strangeness.

 Fisherman in the cold sea would not harm the whales

and the man gathering salt would not hurt his hands.

Those who prepare green wars, wars with gas, wars with fire,

 victories with no survivors, would put on clean clothes

 and walk about with their brothers in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused with total inactivity.

Life is what it is about...

If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving,

 and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence

 might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves                                          and of threatening ourselves with death.                                                                          Perhaps the earth can teach us as when everything
 seems to be dead in winter and later proves to be alive. 
Now I'll count to twelve and you keep quiet and I will go.  - Pablo Neruda
Writing prompt: "a sudden strangeness...." 

2/12/14
Fire In The Earth by David Whyte

And we know, when Moses was told,
in the way he was told,
“Take off your shoes!” He grew pale from the simple

reminder of fire in the dusty earth.
He never recovered
his complicated way of loving again

and was free to love in the same way
he felt the fire licking at his heels loved him.
As if the lion earth could roar

and take him in one movement.
Every step he took
from there was carefully placed.

Everything he said mattered as if he knew
the constant witness of the ground
and remembered his own face in the dust

the moment before revelation.
Since then thousands have felt
the same immobile tongue with which he tried to speak.

Like the moment you too saw, for the first time,
your own house turned to ashes.
Everything consumed so the road could open again.

Your entire presence in your eyes
and the world turning slowly
into a single branch of flame.
Writing Prompt: "Take off your shoes..."

1/8/14
Rilke:  The Tenth Elegy

 

Some day, in the emergence from this fierce insight,

let me sing jubilation and praise to assenting Angels.

Let not a single one of the cleanly-struck hammers of my heart

deny me, through a slack, or a doubtful, or

a broken string. Let my streaming face

make me more radiant: let my secret weeping

bear flower. O, how dear you will be to me, then, Nights

of anguish. Inconsolable sisters, why did I not

kneel more to greet you, lose myself more

in your loosened hair? We, squanderers of pain.

How we gaze beyond them into duration’s sadness,

to see if they have an end. Though they are nothing but

our winter-suffering foliage, our dark evergreen,

one of the seasons of our inner year – not only

season - : but place, settlement, camp, soil, dwelling.

Writing Prompt: "Let me sing out jubilation and praise to assenting angels...."


10/9/13

“God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke's Book of Hours:
writing prompt: "Go to the limits of your longing...."

10/2/13
A Hand
  by Jane Hirshfield
A hand is not four fingers and a thumb.
Nor is it palm and knuckles,
not ligaments or the fat's yellow pillow,
not tendons, star of the wristbone, meander of veins.
A hand is not the thick thatch of its lines
with their infinite dramas,
nor what it has written,
not on the page,
not on the ecstatic body.
Nor is the hand its meadows of holding, of shaping
not sponge of rising yeast-bread,
not rotor pin's smoothness,
not ink.
The maple's green hands do not cup
the proliferant rain.
What empties itself falls into the place that is open.
A hand turned upward holds only a single, transparent question.
Unanswerable, humming like bees, it rises, swarms, departs.

Writing Prompt: "A single, transparent question....."

7/24/13
The Patience of Ordinary Things
by Pat Schneider

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
how the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
how the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
or toes. How soles of feet know
where they're supposed to be.
I've been thinking about the patience
of ordinary things, how clothes
wait respectfully in closets
and soap dries quietly in the dish,
and towels drink the wet
from the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?

from 'Another River: New and Selected Poems'

"writing prompt: More generous than a window"


7/10/13
"Carmel Point" by Robinson Jeffers
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 rock-heads -
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.
Writing prompt: "The rock and ocean we were made from..."

7/3/13
"Cathedral" by Annie Livingston-Garrett

Caverns blasted out, torn by hand from the mountain
making way for some ancient railroad.
Driving through, today, light pours between the hills
like sun through stained glass.

fulfilling, a benediction
... peace
but there was not always peace here                                 as the tunnels were excavated
men set the charges                                                         and broke up the stone with their bodies.
who were these men?
were they dark-skinned or light,                           immigrant or Coloradan?

One suspects that blood spilled during this dangerous work.
what happened to the families left behind?
were their lives valued by the Lords of Industry who build the railroad?
how are these workers remembered?

caverns blasted out, torn by hand from the mountain
making way for some ancient railroad
driving through, today, light pours between the hills
like sunlight through stained glass

fulfilling, a benediction
...may peace be upon them.

Writing prompt: "Caverns blasted out..."


6/26/13

Last night, as I was sleeping

by Antonio Machado (1875 – 1939)

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt — marvelous error!—
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt — blessed illusion!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt — blessed illusion!—
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night, as I slept,
I dreamt — blessed illusion!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.
Lead sentence: "along what secret aqueduct..."

6/05/13
"Listen"
by Barbara Crooker
I want to tell you something.
This morning is bright after all the steady rain,
and every iris, peony, rose, opens its mouth, rejoicing. 
I want to say, wake up, open your eyes,
there's a snow-covered road ahead,
 a field of blankness, a sheet of paper, an empty screen.  Even the smallest insects are singing,
vibrating their entire bodies,
tiny violins of longing and desire.
  We were made for song. 
I cant tell you what prayer is,
 but I can take the breath of the meadow into my mouth, and I can release it for the leaves' green need.
I want to tell you your life is a blue coal,
a slice of orange in your mouth,
cut hay in your nostrils. 
The cardinal's red song dances in your blood.
  Look, every month the moon blossoms into a peony, then shrinks to a sliver of garlic. 
And then it blooms again.

Writing prompt: "A slice of orange in my mouth...."

5/29/13
"The Swan" by Rilke
This clumsy living
that moves lumbering
as if in ropes through what is not done,
reminds us of the awkward way
the swan walks.
and to die,
which is the letting go
of the ground we stand on
and cling to every day
is like the swan
when he nervously lets himself down
into the water, which receives him gaily
and which flows
joyfully under and after him
wave after wave
while the swan
unmoving and marvellously calm
is pleased to be carried
each moment more fully grown
more like a King
further and further on

lead sentence: this clumsy living...

5/22/13
"Metamorphosis" by May Sarton
Always it happens when we are not there-
the tree leaps up alive in the air,
small open parasols of Chinese green
wave on each twig.
But who has ever seen
the latch sprung, the bud as it burst?
Spring always manages to get there first.
Lovers of wind, who will have been aware
of a faint stirring in the empty air,
Look up one day
through a dissolving screen
to find no star, but this multiplied green,
shadow on shadow,
singing sweet and clear.
Listen, lovers of wind,
the leaves are here!

Writing prompt:  "Always it happens when I am not there"

5/8/13
Is my soul asleep?

Is my soul asleep?

Have those beehives that work

in the night stopped? And the water-

wheel of thought, is it

going around now, cups

empty, carrying only shadows?

 

No, my soul is not asleep.

It is awake, wide awake.

It neither sleeps nor dreams, but watches,

its eyes wide open

far-off things, and listens

at the shores of the great silence.

 

~Antonio Machado

Writing prompt: "At the shores of the great silence...."

4/24/13



 "Packing for the Future: Instructions by Lorna Crozier".







Take the thickest socks.



Wherever you're going



you'll have to walk.







There may be water.



There may be stones.



There may be high places



you cannot go without



the hope socks bring you,



the way they hold you



to the earth.







At least one pair must be new,



must be as blue as a wish



hand-knit by your mother



in her sleep.







Take a leather satchel,



a velvet bag and an old tin box--



a salamander painted on the lid.







This is to carry that small thing



you cannot leave. Perhaps the key



you've kept though it doesn't fit



any lock you know,



the photograph that keeps you sane,



a ball of string to lead you out



though you can't walk back



into that light.







In your bag leave room for sadness,



leave room for another language.







There may be doors nailed shut.



There may be painted windows.



There may be signs that warn you



to be gone. Take the dream



you've been having since



you were a child, the one



with open fields and the wind



sounding.







Mistrust no one who offers you



water from a well, a songbird's feather,



something that's been mended twice.



Always travel lighter



than the heart.



Lead Sentence: "something that's been mended twice..."

4/10/13
"We have not come here to take prisoners"
We have not come here to take prisoners,
But to surrender ever more deeply
To freedom and joy.
We have not come into this exquisite world
To hold ourselves hostage from love.
Run my dear,
From anything
That may not strengthen
Your precious budding wings.
Run like hell my dear,
From anyone likely
To put a sharp knife
Into the sacred, tender vision
Of your beautiful heart.
We have a duty to befriend
Those aspects of obedience
That stand outside of our house
And shout to our reason
"O please, O please,
Come out and play."
For we have not come here to take prisoners
Or to confine our wondrous spirits,
But to experience ever and ever more deeply
Our divine courage, freedom and
Light!
~ Hafiz ~
Lead Sentence: "Come out and play...."

4/3/13
"Sleeping In The Forest" by Mary Oliver
I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms 
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water, 
grappling with a luminous doom.  By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.  
Lead sentence: "A stone on the riverbed..."

3/27/13
I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet around me
like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places where I left them
 asleep like cattle.
Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings and I hear its song.
Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings and I hear its song. 
-Wendell Berry

Lead Sentence:I go among trees and sit still....

3/13/13
"My Old Enemy Waits" by TR Ritchie
My old enemy waits patiently
all it takes is one mistake
one careless moment
and there it is
the double guess of
uncertainty
the beautiful lies
of reason
and I
defenseless
in the face of those
must accept the blows
be staggered
take the hard fall
then find it in myself
to rise
shake it off
offer a blood-lipped grin
and ask
so is that all you've got?

Lead sentence: "The beautiful lies of reason..."

3/06/13 
I Ask You
What scene would I want to be enveloped in
more than this one,
an ordinary night at the kitchen table,
floral wallpaper pressing in,
white cabinets full of glass,
the telephone silent,
a pen tilted back in my hand?

It gives me time to think
about all that is going on outside--
leaves gathering in corners,
lichen greening the high grey rocks,
while over the dunes the world sails on,
huge, ocean-going, history bubbling in its wake.

But beyond this table
there is nothing that I need,
not even a job that would allow me to row to work,
or a coffee-colored Aston Martin DB4
with cracked green leather seats.

No, it's all here,
the clear ovals of a glass of water,
a small crate of oranges, a book on Stalin,
not to mention the odd snarling fish
in a frame on the wall,
and the way these three candles--
each a different height--
are singing in perfect harmony.

So forgive me
if I lower my head now and listen
to the short bass candle as he takes a solo
while my heart
thrums under my shirt--
frog at the edge of a pond--
and my thoughts fly off to a province
made of one enormous sky
and about a million empty branches. -Billy Collins

Lead sentence: "No, it's all here....."

2/27/13  "How Would You Live Then?" by Mary Oliver
What if a hundred rose-breasted grosbeaks
blew in circles around your head? What if
the mockingbird came into the house with you and
became your advisor? What if
the bees filled your walls with honey and all
you needed to do was ask them and they would fill
the bowl? What if the brook slid downhill just
past your bedroom window so you could listen
to its slow prayers as you fell asleep? What if
the stars began to shout their names, or to run
this way and that way above the clouds? What if
you painted a picture of a tree, and the leaves
began to rustle, and a bird cheerful sang
from its painted branches? What if you suddenly saw
that the silver of water was brighter than the silver
of money? What if you finally saw
that the sunflowers, turning toward the sun all day
and every day -- who knows how, but they do it -- were
more precious, more meaningful than gold?

~ Mary Oliver ~


Writing Prompt: Who knows how, but they do it.

2/20/13 

Electrons

26Jun2011

 

Atoms within your body
spin.
What seems solid –
knees, nose, hair –
moves swiftly. Particles
orbit each other. Dart like meteors
through vast spaces.

Air about you
made of same.
You take from it
and you give.
Drawing in atoms and molecules
to form
your ever changing image.

Your lips move.
Your tongue speaks your name.
you take it on faith your words will make sense.
Meaning flows out effortlessly.

Electrons
skip like rocks on water
between your solid body
and your electromagnetic thoughts.
You look through a window.
Listen to voices within and without.

Dazzled by what you perceive,
you wonder about causes and effects.

When a wave of love takes you by surprise,
your eyes well up with tears.

~ Assef Al‐Jundi"
Writing Prompt: "Voices within and without..."

 

2/13/13

"Arrivals"  -David Whyte
Imagine the confines of a long grey corridor
just before immigration at Washington Dulles
airport. Imagine two Ethiopian women amid
a sea of familiar international plastic blandness,
entering America for the first time. Think of
their undulating multi-colored turbans raised
atop graceful heads, transforming us,
a grey line of travelers behind them, into followers
and mendicants, mere drab, impatient, moneyed
and perplexed attendants to their bright,
excited, chattered arrival.
Imagine a sharp plexi-gass turn left and suddenly
before them, in biblical astonishment, like a vertical
red sea churning, like the waters barring Moses from
The Promised Land, like Jacob standing before the ladder,
a moving escalator, a mode of rising, a form of ascension,
a way to go up they'd never seen before, its steel grey
interlocking invitation on and up to who knows what,
bringing them and everyone behind them, to a bemused,
complete, and utter standstill.

So that you saw it for the first time as they saw it
and for what it was, a grated river of lifting steel,
an involuntary, moving ascension into who knows what.
An incredible surprise. And you knew, even through
your tiredness, why it made them raise their hands
to their mouths, why it made them give low breathy
screams of surprise and delighted terror. You saw it
as they saw it, a staircase of invisible interlocking
beckoning hands asking them to rise up
independent of their history, their legs or their wills.
And we stopped as we knew we had to now
and watched the first delighted be-turbaned
woman put a sandaled foot on the flat grey
plain at the foot of the moving stair and sure
enough quickly withdraw it with a strangled scream,
leaving her sandal to ascend strangely without her
into heaven, into America, into her new life.

Then, holding her friend away, who tried to grab
her, to save her, to hold her back, who pointed
and shouted, telling her not to risk herself,
not to be foolish, she silently watched her shoe,
that willful child, running ahead, its sole intent
to enter the country oblivious to visas and immigration,
above the need for a job, uncaring of healthcare,
pointing toward some horizon she had never dreamt,
intent on leaving only its winged footprint
for her to follow, like a comet's tail, like an omen
of necessity, like a signaled courage, like an uncaring
invitation, to make her entrance with sould and style.

Because she looked up at this orphaned, onward
messenger with her eyes ablaze, threw off the panicked
clamboring arms of her friend, raised her chin
in noble profile, and with all that other hurrying
clamor of the world behind her, with a busy,
unknowing, corporate crowd at her back and questions
beginning to be asked out loud, she lifted her arms,
clapped her hands, threw back her head and with
a queenly unbidden grace, strode on to the ascending
heaven bound steel like a newly struck film star,
singing the old, high pitched song her children
would hear when she told the story again.

And as her friend below sang,
applauded, danced on the spot
and ululated her companion's arrival,
we stood there behind her,
transfixed, travel weary,
and crammed into the corridor
like extras from some
miraculous scene in the Bible.
While
she ascended,
her arms straight out,
wide eyed and singing.
Into America.

Lead Sentence: "An involuntary moving ascension into who knows what....."

1/30/13
"Famous" -By Naomi Shihab Nye 

The river is famous to the fish. 
The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so. 
The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
 watching him from the birdhouse. 
The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.
 The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom. 
The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors. 
The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured. 
I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back. 
I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

Lead Sentence: "Famous to shuffling men...."

1/23/13  Shoveling Snow With Buddha
In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over a  
  mountain of his bare, round shoulder,   
         his hair tied in a knot, a model of concentration.

Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.

Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
   We feel the cold mist on our faces. 
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
                                                              in these sudden clouds of our own making,                 
                             these fountain-bursts of snow.

This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside his generous pocket of silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.

After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?

Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck.
and our boots stand dripping by the door.

Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade again
deep into the glittering white snow.   -Billy Collins

Writing Prompt: "And our boots stand dripping by the door"

12/12/12

"I have a feeling that my boat

has struck, down there in the depths,

against a great thing. And nothing happens!

Nothing . . . Silence . . . Waves . . .

-Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,

and am now standing quietly, in my new life?"

Juan Ramon Jimenez

Writing prompt:  Nothing happens.....

6/12/12

Morning (by Billy Collins)

Why do we bother with the rest of the day,
the swale of the afternoon,
the sudden dip into evening,

then night with his notorious perfumes,
his many-pointed stars?

This is the best—
throwing off the light covers,
feet on the cold floor,
and buzzing around the house on espresso—

maybe a splash of water on the face,
a palmful of vitamins—
but mostly buzzing around the house on espresso,

dictionary and atlas open on the rug,
the typewriter waiting for the key of the head,
a cello on the radio,

and if necessary, the windows—
trees fifty, a hundred years old
out there,
heavy clouds on the way
and the lawn steaming like a horse
in the early morning.

Writing Prompt:  Steaming like a horse....

6/5/12

Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.

Hello, you who made the morning

and spread it over the fields

and into the faces of the tulips

and the nodding morning glories,

and into the windows of, even, the

miserable and the crotchety –

best preacher that ever was,

dear star, that just happens

to be where you are in the universe

to keep us from ever-darkness,

to ease us with warm touching,

to hold us in the great hands of light –

good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day

in happiness, in kindness.

~ Mary Oliver ~ (Why I Wake Early, )
      Writing Prompt: Hello, sun in my face.....
 4/18/12

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:

The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,

 

Hath had elsewhere its setting,

And cometh from afar:

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come

-shakespeare
writing prompt: trailing clouds of glory

4/11/12 "Quiet Friend Who Has Come So Far"  (Rilke)

Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing
makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell.
As you ring,
what batters you
becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter,
turn yourself into wine.
In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery
at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.
And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
to the rushing water, speak: I am.

Writing prompt: If the world has ceased to hear you...

3/7/12

 

"Escape"
"When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego,
and when we escape
like squirrels in the cage of our personality
and get into the forest again, we shall shiver
with cold and fright.
But things will happen to us
so that we don't know ourselves.
Cool, undying life will rush in,
and passion will make our
bodies taut with power.
We shall laugh, and
institutions will curl up
like burnt paper."

- D.H. Lawrence

Writing Prompt:  "When we escape like squirrels"


2/15/12
"Setting Out at Dusk" by David Whyte
The kayak sits on the black water
covered by trees.
Late October leaves drift by its bow.

Paddling out for weekend days away from noise
this silence leaves me unsure,
an old friend I havent met for years.

I sit, rudder pulled up, getting to know him,
double bladed paddle
dipping slowly in cold water

and looking up, see a single otter, skittering
on the grassy bank, stop,
look around, see me, low shape on still water,

roll back into the trees, leave me with silence.
I watch clouds gather between islands,
the wind pick up, shearwaters lift on the grey sea.

Through the sip-slap of waves on the lifting hull
I prick my ears for the small sounds
at the very edge of silence and then

I pull the bow out into the wide sea
paddle dipping
toward darkness and enter again. The quiet.

writing prompt: "This silence leaves me unsure....."

2/8/12 "Boy and Egg" by naomi shihab nye
Every few minutes, he wants
to march the trail of flattened rye grass
back to the house of muttering
hens.  He too could make
a bed in hay.  Yesterday the egg so fresh
it felt hot in his hand and he pressed it
to his ear while the other children
laughed and ran with a ball, leaving him,
so little yet, too forgetful in games,
ready to cry if the ball brushed him,
riveted to the secret of birds
caught up inside his fist,
not ready to give it over
to the refrigerator
or the rest of the day.

Writing Prompt:    "Back to the house of muttering hens...."

2/1/12 "The Awakening" by Faud Rifka, in the book, "The Space Between our Footsteps" by Naomi Shihab Nye
What happened
to the wood gatherer?
In old times he used to sing
like a bird on the shoulder of a mountain
early in the morning.
And today he doesn't speak,
he became mute
like a stone in a cave.
Who knows? Maybe he got tired.
When the river gets tired
it loves the flat lands
and the darkness of the sea.

Writing prompt: In old times he used to sing......


1/25/12 "Resolve to Listen" by TR Ritchie
resolve to listen
to the voice within
that speaks to you
in quiet tones
like wind in the grass
like rain on the pines
like the sound
of the wild creatures
breathing
that says to you
isnt it time....
what if....
is it possible....
move toward
the thing you were
born to do
as for the voices 
who nag or scream
or threaten or shame
know them for the 
liars they are
show compassion
for their desperate ways
forgive them
turn away

move then
toward the thing
you were born to do
 
Writing Prompt: Like rain on the pines...


1/18/12 "The Appointment" by Mark Nepo

 

What if, on the first sunny day,
on your way to work, a colorful bird
sweeps in front of you down a
street you’ve never heard of.

You might pause and smile,
a sweet beginning to your day.

Or you might step into that street
and realize there are many ways to work.

You might sense the bird knows some-
thing you don’t and wander after.

You might hesitate when the bird
turns down an alley. For now
there is a tension: Is what the
bird knows worth being late?

You might go another block or two,
thinking you can have it both ways.
But soon you arrive at the edge
of all your plans.

The bird circles back for you
and you must decide which
appointment you were
born to keep.

Writing prompt: "A colorful bird sweeps in front of me, down a street I've never heard of...

1/11/12 "The Peace of Wild Things" by Wendell Berry

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For the time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry

Writing Prompt:  I come into the Peace of wild things.......

12/7 From Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet" pg 23
"Allow your judgements their own silent, undisturbed development, which, like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be forced or hastened.  Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of ones own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as in creating."

Writing prompt: Beyond the reaches....

11/30/11 Dawna Markova, from her book, "I Will Not Die and Unlived Life" (from the perspective of a pinecone):
I am hard and very dried out now, ordinary brown and made of hundreds of scales. The fall winds were so intense that I was blown down from a big old tree. The sticky stuff that held all of me together has dried out too, and I fall apart at the slightest touch, losing my shape altogether. When the snow comes, if you care enough to look closely, you’ll notice that those scales are really little brown wings, and each holds a seed. The winds will carry them in many directions. Some will be eaten by birds, but some will be buried and hidden beneath the snow, dormant until the air turns warm and tender green and the world melts, ready for a grand sprouting.

Writing Prompt: "If you care enough to look closely, you'll notice....."



 

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 This week's poem, writing prompt:

 

3/11/15
What’s Left
(for Peter Hennessy)

I used to wait for the flowers,
my pleasure reposed on them.
Now I like plants before they get to the blossom.
Leafy ones – foxgloves, comfrey, delphiniums –
fleshy tiers of strong leaves pushing up
into air grown daily lighter and more sheened
with bright dust like the eyeshadow
that tall young woman in the bookshop wears,
its shimmer and crumble on her white lids.


The washing sways on the line, the sparrows pull
at the heaps of drying weeds that I’ve left around.
Perhaps this is middle age.  Untidy, unfinished,
knowing there’ll never be time now to finish,
liking the plants – their strong lives –
not caring about flowers, sitting in weeds
to write things down, look at things,
watching the sway of shirts on the line,
the cloth filtering light.


I know more or less
how to live through my life now.
But I want to know how to live what’s left
with my eyes open and my hands open;
I want to stand at the door in the rain
listening, sniffing, gaping.
Fearful and joyous,
like an idiot before God.- Kerrie Hardie
Writing Prompt: "with my eyes open and my hands open..."

3/4/15
The owl rides the meadow at his hunting hour.
The fox clears out the pheasants
 and the partridges in the cornfield. 
Jupiter rests above Antares,
 and the fall moon hooks itself into the prairie sod.
  A dark wind flows down from Mandan
 as the Indians slowly move out of the summer campground
 to go back to the reservation. 
Aries, buck of the sky, leaps to the outer rim
 and mates with earth.
  Root and seed turn into flesh. 
We turn back to each other
 in the dark together,
in the short days,
 in the dangerous cold,
on the rim of a perpetual wilderness.

Writing Prompt: "Root and seed turn into flesh..."

2/11/15

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.
And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

beannacht - john o'donohue

Writing prompt: "Across the Waters..."

2/4/15
Variation On A Theme By Rilke by Denise Levertov
(The Book of Hours, Book I, Poem 1, Stanza 1)
 A certain day became a presence to me;
 there it was, confronting me
— a sky, air, light: a being.
 And before it started to descend
 from the height of noon,
it leaned over and struck my shoulder
as if with the flat of a sword,
 granting me honor and a task.
 The day’s blow rang out, metallic
— or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.
Writing Prompt: "It was I, a bell awakened..."

1/28/15
Can You Imagine? by Mary Oliver
 For example, what the trees do
 not only in lightning storms or the watery dark
 of a summer’s night or under the white
 nets of winter but now, and now, and now
– whenever we’re not looking.
Surely you can’t imagine they don’t dance,
 from the root up, wishing to travel a little,
not cramped so much as wanting a better view,
 or more sun, or just as avidly more shade
 – surely you can’t imagine they just stand there
 loving every minute of it,
the birds or the emptiness,
 the dark rings of the years slowly
and without a sound thickening,
 and nothing different unless the wind,
 and then only in its own mood,comes to visit,
surely you can’t imagine patience, and happiness, like that.
Writing Prompt: "Whenever we're not looking..."
1/14/15
So Much Happiness      by Naomi Shihab Nye           
It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.                
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you,    
you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands,   
like ticket stubs or change.
But happiness floats.
It doesn't need you to hold it down.
It doesn't need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
it too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records…..
Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known.
Prompt: The night sky takes no credit for the moon......

1/7/15
Quietness
by Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks

Inside this new love, die.
Your way begins on the other side.
Become the sky.
Take an axe to the prison wall.
Escape.
Walk out like someone suddenly born into color.
Do it now.
You're covered with thick clouds.
Slide out the side. Die,
and be quiet. Quietness is the surest sign
that you've died.
Your old life was a frantic running
from silence.
The speechless full moon
comes out now.

Writing Prompt: "Like someone suddenly born into color..."

 

12/10/14
Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.          
Writing Prompt: "What the river says..."                   
12/3/14  
Coleman's Bed by David Whyte
        Make a nesting now, a place to which
the birds can come, think of Kevin's
prayerful palm holding the blackbird's egg
and be the one, looking out from this place
who warms interior forms into light.
Feel the way the cliff at your back
gives shelter to your outward view
and then bring in from those horizons
all discordant elements that seek a home.

Be taught now, among the trees and rocks,
how the discarded is woven into shelter,
learn the way things hidden and unspoken
slowly proclaim their voice in the world.
Find that far inward symmetry
to all outward appearances, apprentice
yourself to yourself, begin to welcome back
all you sent away, be a new annunciation,
make yourself a door through which
to be hospitable, even to the stranger in you.

See with every turning day,
how each season makes a child
of you again, wants you to become
a seeker after rainfall and birdsong,
watch now, how it weathers you
to a testing in the tried and true,
admonishes you with each falling leaf,
to be courageous, to be something
that has come through, to be the last thing
you want to see before you leave the world.

Above all, be alone with it all,
a hiving off, a corner of silence
amidst the noise, refuse to talk,
even to yourself, and stay in this place
until the current of the story
is strong enough to float you out.

Ghost then, to where others
in this place have come before,
under the hazel, by the ruined chapel,
below the cave where Coleman slept,
become the source that makes
the river flow, and then the sea
beyond. Live in this place
as you were meant to and then,
surprised by your abilities,
become the ancestor of it all,
the quiet, robust and blessed Saint
that your future happiness
will always remember

Writing Prompt: "under the Hazel beside the ruined chapel..."

10/29/14
Silence by Billy Collins

There is the sudden silence of the crowd
above a player not moving on the field,
and the silence of the orchid.

The silence of the falling vase
before it strikes the floor,
the silence of the belt when it is not striking the child.

The stillness of the cup and the water in it,
the silence of the moon
and the quiet of the day far from the roar of the sun.

The silence when I hold you to my chest,
the silence of the window above us,
and the silence when you rise and turn away.

And there is the silence of this morning
which I have broken with my pen,
a silence that had piled up all night

like snow falling in the darkness of the house—
the silence before I wrote a word
and the poorer silence now.

Writing Prompt: "A Silence that had piled up all night..."

10/22/14
Calling

by Nancy Schaffer

When you heard that voice and
Knew finally it called for you
And what it was saying – where
Were you?  Were you in the shower,
Wet and soapy, or chopping cabbage
Late for dinner?  Were you planting radish
Seeds or seeking one lost sock?  Maybe
Wiping handprints off a window
Or coaxing words into a sentence.

Or coming upon a hyacinth or one last No.
Where were you when you heard that ancient
Voice, and did Yes get born right then
And did you weep?  Had it called you since
Before you even were, and when you
Knew that, did your joy escape all holding?
Where were you when you heard that
Calling voice, and how, in the moment,
Did you mark it?  How, ever after,
Are you changed?

Tell us, please, all you can about that voice.
Teach us how to listen, how to hear.
Teach us all you can of saving Yes.

Writing Prompt: "Where were you?"

10/8/14
Pablo Neruda
(1904—1973)

Poetry
And it was at that age . . . poetry arrived
in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don't know how or when,
no, they were not voices, they were not
words, not silence,
but from a street it called me,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among raging fires
or returning alone,
there it was, without a face,
and it touched me.
I didn't know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names,
my eyes were blind.
Something knocked in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
deciphering
that fire,
and I wrote the first, faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
nonsense,
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing;
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
unfastened
and open,
planets,
palpitating plantations,
the darkness perforated,
riddled
with arrows, fire, and flowers,
the overpowering night, the universe.
And I, tiny being,
drunk with the great starry
void,
likeness, image of
mystery,
felt myself a pure part
of the abyss.
I wheeled with the stars.
My heart broke loose with the wind. 
Writing Prompt: "There it was, without a face...."

10/1/14
Hurricane
by Mary Oliver

It didn’t behave
like anything you had
ever imagined. The wind
tore at the trees, the rain
fell for days slant and hard.
The back of the hand
to everything. I watched
the trees bow and their leaves fall
and crawl back into the earth.
As though, that was that.
This was one hurricane
I lived through, the other one
was of a different sort, and
lasted longer. Then
I felt my own leaves giving up and
falling. The back of the hand to
everything. But listen now to what happened
to the actual trees;
toward the end of that summer they
pushed new leaves from their stubbed limbs.
It was the wrong season, yes,
but they couldn’t stop. They
looked like telephone poles and didn’t
care. And after the leaves came
blossoms. For some things
there are no wrong seasons.
Which is what I dream of for me.
writing prompt: "It was the wrong season..."

9/24/14
Wendell Berry
1990 (1)
The two, man and boy, wait
by their lantern, the hounds already
loose in the nearby dark.
The man calls again: "Oh Mart!"
Soon, near the lighted window
of an invisible house beyond
he flooded creek, another light
appears, moving with the motion
of a man walking.  It slants down
along the far slope, steps
onto swinging footboards
strung above the flood, crosses
slowly, swaying with the sways
of the lithe bridge, bends
around the old road
and up the bank.  Having traced
so far a man's way in this
dark world, the lantern lifts
to light the faces of the two
and of its bearer.  "Yessir!
How you fellows this evenin?"
writing prompt: "The hounds already loose..."

9/10/14
In Blackwater Woods by Mary Oliver
Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Prompt: "the rich fragrance of cinnamon and fulfillment..."

9/3/14
A Morning Offering
by John O'Donohue
I bless the night that nourished my heart
To set the ghosts of longing free
Into the flow and figure of dream
That went to harvest from the dark
Bread for the hunger no one sees.

All that is eternal in me
Welcome the wonder of this day,
The field of brightness it creates
Offering time for each thing
To arise and illuminate.

I place on the altar of dawn:
The quiet loyalty of breath,
The tent of thought where I shelter,
Wave of desire I am shore to
And all beauty drawn to the eye.

May my mind come alive today
To the invisible geography
That invites me to new frontiers,
To break the dead shell of yesterdays,
To risk being disturbed and changed.

May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love,
To postpone my dream no longer
But do at last what I came here for
And waste my heart on fear no more.

~ John O’Donohue ~
Writing Prompt: "The quiet loyalty of breath..."

3/12/14
Keeping Quiet

Now we will count to twelve and we will all keep still

 for once on the face of the earth, let's not speak in any language;

 let's stop for a second, and not move our arms too much.

It would be an exotic moment without rush, without engines;

 we would all be together in a sudden strangeness.

 Fisherman in the cold sea would not harm the whales

and the man gathering salt would not hurt his hands.

Those who prepare green wars, wars with gas, wars with fire,

 victories with no survivors, would put on clean clothes

 and walk about with their brothers in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused with total inactivity.

Life is what it is about...

If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving,

 and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence

 might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves                                          and of threatening ourselves with death.                                                                          Perhaps the earth can teach us as when everything
 seems to be dead in winter and later proves to be alive. 
Now I'll count to twelve and you keep quiet and I will go.  - Pablo Neruda
Writing prompt: "a sudden strangeness...." 

2/12/14
Fire In The Earth by David Whyte

And we know, when Moses was told,
in the way he was told,
“Take off your shoes!” He grew pale from the simple

reminder of fire in the dusty earth.
He never recovered
his complicated way of loving again

and was free to love in the same way
he felt the fire licking at his heels loved him.
As if the lion earth could roar

and take him in one movement.
Every step he took
from there was carefully placed.

Everything he said mattered as if he knew
the constant witness of the ground
and remembered his own face in the dust

the moment before revelation.
Since then thousands have felt
the same immobile tongue with which he tried to speak.

Like the moment you too saw, for the first time,
your own house turned to ashes.
Everything consumed so the road could open again.

Your entire presence in your eyes
and the world turning slowly
into a single branch of flame.
Writing Prompt: "Take off your shoes..."

1/8/14
Rilke:  The Tenth Elegy

 

Some day, in the emergence from this fierce insight,

let me sing jubilation and praise to assenting Angels.

Let not a single one of the cleanly-struck hammers of my heart

deny me, through a slack, or a doubtful, or

a broken string. Let my streaming face

make me more radiant: let my secret weeping

bear flower. O, how dear you will be to me, then, Nights

of anguish. Inconsolable sisters, why did I not

kneel more to greet you, lose myself more

in your loosened hair? We, squanderers of pain.

How we gaze beyond them into duration’s sadness,

to see if they have an end. Though they are nothing but

our winter-suffering foliage, our dark evergreen,

one of the seasons of our inner year – not only

season - : but place, settlement, camp, soil, dwelling.

Writing Prompt: "Let me sing out jubilation and praise to assenting angels...."


10/9/13

“God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke's Book of Hours:
writing prompt: "Go to the limits of your longing...."

10/2/13
A Hand
  by Jane Hirshfield
A hand is not four fingers and a thumb.
Nor is it palm and knuckles,
not ligaments or the fat's yellow pillow,
not tendons, star of the wristbone, meander of veins.
A hand is not the thick thatch of its lines
with their infinite dramas,
nor what it has written,
not on the page,
not on the ecstatic body.
Nor is the hand its meadows of holding, of shaping
not sponge of rising yeast-bread,
not rotor pin's smoothness,
not ink.
The maple's green hands do not cup
the proliferant rain.
What empties itself falls into the place that is open.
A hand turned upward holds only a single, transparent question.
Unanswerable, humming like bees, it rises, swarms, departs.

Writing Prompt: "A single, transparent question....."

7/24/13
The Patience of Ordinary Things
by Pat Schneider

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
how the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
how the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
or toes. How soles of feet know
where they're supposed to be.
I've been thinking about the patience
of ordinary things, how clothes
wait respectfully in closets
and soap dries quietly in the dish,
and towels drink the wet
from the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?

from 'Another River: New and Selected Poems'

"writing prompt: More generous than a window"


7/10/13
"Carmel Point" by Robinson Jeffers
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 rock-heads -
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.
Writing prompt: "The rock and ocean we were made from..."

7/3/13
"Cathedral" by Annie Livingston-Garrett

Caverns blasted out, torn by hand from the mountain
making way for some ancient railroad.
Driving through, today, light pours between the hills
like sun through stained glass.

fulfilling, a benediction
... peace
but there was not always peace here                                 as the tunnels were excavated
men set the charges                                                         and broke up the stone with their bodies.
who were these men?
were they dark-skinned or light,                           immigrant or Coloradan?

One suspects that blood spilled during this dangerous work.
what happened to the families left behind?
were their lives valued by the Lords of Industry who build the railroad?
how are these workers remembered?

caverns blasted out, torn by hand from the mountain
making way for some ancient railroad
driving through, today, light pours between the hills
like sunlight through stained glass

fulfilling, a benediction
...may peace be upon them.

Writing prompt: "Caverns blasted out..."


6/26/13

Last night, as I was sleeping

by Antonio Machado (1875 – 1939)

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt — marvelous error!—
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt — blessed illusion!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt — blessed illusion!—
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night, as I slept,
I dreamt — blessed illusion!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.
Lead sentence: "along what secret aqueduct..."

6/05/13
"Listen"
by Barbara Crooker
I want to tell you something.
This morning is bright after all the steady rain,
and every iris, peony, rose, opens its mouth, rejoicing. 
I want to say, wake up, open your eyes,
there's a snow-covered road ahead,
 a field of blankness, a sheet of paper, an empty screen.  Even the smallest insects are singing,
vibrating their entire bodies,
tiny violins of longing and desire.
  We were made for song. 
I cant tell you what prayer is,
 but I can take the breath of the meadow into my mouth, and I can release it for the leaves' green need.
I want to tell you your life is a blue coal,
a slice of orange in your mouth,
cut hay in your nostrils. 
The cardinal's red song dances in your blood.
  Look, every month the moon blossoms into a peony, then shrinks to a sliver of garlic. 
And then it blooms again.

Writing prompt: "A slice of orange in my mouth...."

5/29/13
"The Swan" by Rilke
This clumsy living
that moves lumbering
as if in ropes through what is not done,
reminds us of the awkward way
the swan walks.
and to die,
which is the letting go
of the ground we stand on
and cling to every day
is like the swan
when he nervously lets himself down
into the water, which receives him gaily
and which flows
joyfully under and after him
wave after wave
while the swan
unmoving and marvellously calm
is pleased to be carried
each moment more fully grown
more like a King
further and further on

lead sentence: this clumsy living...

5/22/13
"Metamorphosis" by May Sarton
Always it happens when we are not there-
the tree leaps up alive in the air,
small open parasols of Chinese green
wave on each twig.
But who has ever seen
the latch sprung, the bud as it burst?
Spring always manages to get there first.
Lovers of wind, who will have been aware
of a faint stirring in the empty air,
Look up one day
through a dissolving screen
to find no star, but this multiplied green,
shadow on shadow,
singing sweet and clear.
Listen, lovers of wind,
the leaves are here!

Writing prompt:  "Always it happens when I am not there"

5/8/13
Is my soul asleep?

Is my soul asleep?

Have those beehives that work

in the night stopped? And the water-

wheel of thought, is it

going around now, cups

empty, carrying only shadows?

 

No, my soul is not asleep.

It is awake, wide awake.

It neither sleeps nor dreams, but watches,

its eyes wide open

far-off things, and listens

at the shores of the great silence.

 

~Antonio Machado

Writing prompt: "At the shores of the great silence...."

4/24/13



 "Packing for the Future: Instructions by Lorna Crozier".







Take the thickest socks.



Wherever you're going



you'll have to walk.







There may be water.



There may be stones.



There may be high places



you cannot go without



the hope socks bring you,



the way they hold you



to the earth.







At least one pair must be new,



must be as blue as a wish



hand-knit by your mother



in her sleep.







Take a leather satchel,



a velvet bag and an old tin box--



a salamander painted on the lid.







This is to carry that small thing



you cannot leave. Perhaps the key



you've kept though it doesn't fit



any lock you know,



the photograph that keeps you sane,



a ball of string to lead you out



though you can't walk back



into that light.







In your bag leave room for sadness,



leave room for another language.







There may be doors nailed shut.



There may be painted windows.



There may be signs that warn you



to be gone. Take the dream



you've been having since



you were a child, the one



with open fields and the wind



sounding.







Mistrust no one who offers you



water from a well, a songbird's feather,



something that's been mended twice.



Always travel lighter



than the heart.



Lead Sentence: "something that's been mended twice..."

4/10/13
"We have not come here to take prisoners"
We have not come here to take prisoners,
But to surrender ever more deeply
To freedom and joy.
We have not come into this exquisite world
To hold ourselves hostage from love.
Run my dear,
From anything
That may not strengthen
Your precious budding wings.
Run like hell my dear,
From anyone likely
To put a sharp knife
Into the sacred, tender vision
Of your beautiful heart.
We have a duty to befriend
Those aspects of obedience
That stand outside of our house
And shout to our reason
"O please, O please,
Come out and play."
For we have not come here to take prisoners
Or to confine our wondrous spirits,
But to experience ever and ever more deeply
Our divine courage, freedom and
Light!
~ Hafiz ~
Lead Sentence: "Come out and play...."

4/3/13
"Sleeping In The Forest" by Mary Oliver
I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms 
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water, 
grappling with a luminous doom.  By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.  
Lead sentence: "A stone on the riverbed..."

3/27/13
I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet around me
like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places where I left them
 asleep like cattle.
Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings and I hear its song.
Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings and I hear its song. 
-Wendell Berry

Lead Sentence:I go among trees and sit still....

3/13/13
"My Old Enemy Waits" by TR Ritchie
My old enemy waits patiently
all it takes is one mistake
one careless moment
and there it is
the double guess of
uncertainty
the beautiful lies
of reason
and I
defenseless
in the face of those
must accept the blows
be staggered
take the hard fall
then find it in myself
to rise
shake it off
offer a blood-lipped grin
and ask
so is that all you've got?

Lead sentence: "The beautiful lies of reason..."

3/06/13 
I Ask You
What scene would I want to be enveloped in
more than this one,
an ordinary night at the kitchen table,
floral wallpaper pressing in,
white cabinets full of glass,
the telephone silent,
a pen tilted back in my hand?

It gives me time to think
about all that is going on outside--
leaves gathering in corners,
lichen greening the high grey rocks,
while over the dunes the world sails on,
huge, ocean-going, history bubbling in its wake.

But beyond this table
there is nothing that I need,
not even a job that would allow me to row to work,
or a coffee-colored Aston Martin DB4
with cracked green leather seats.

No, it's all here,
the clear ovals of a glass of water,
a small crate of oranges, a book on Stalin,
not to mention the odd snarling fish
in a frame on the wall,
and the way these three candles--
each a different height--
are singing in perfect harmony.

So forgive me
if I lower my head now and listen
to the short bass candle as he takes a solo
while my heart
thrums under my shirt--
frog at the edge of a pond--
and my thoughts fly off to a province
made of one enormous sky
and about a million empty branches. -Billy Collins

Lead sentence: "No, it's all here....."

2/27/13  "How Would You Live Then?" by Mary Oliver
What if a hundred rose-breasted grosbeaks
blew in circles around your head? What if
the mockingbird came into the house with you and
became your advisor? What if
the bees filled your walls with honey and all
you needed to do was ask them and they would fill
the bowl? What if the brook slid downhill just
past your bedroom window so you could listen
to its slow prayers as you fell asleep? What if
the stars began to shout their names, or to run
this way and that way above the clouds? What if
you painted a picture of a tree, and the leaves
began to rustle, and a bird cheerful sang
from its painted branches? What if you suddenly saw
that the silver of water was brighter than the silver
of money? What if you finally saw
that the sunflowers, turning toward the sun all day
and every day -- who knows how, but they do it -- were
more precious, more meaningful than gold?

~ Mary Oliver ~


Writing Prompt: Who knows how, but they do it.

2/20/13 

Electrons

26Jun2011

 

Atoms within your body
spin.
What seems solid –
knees, nose, hair –
moves swiftly. Particles
orbit each other. Dart like meteors
through vast spaces.

Air about you
made of same.
You take from it
and you give.
Drawing in atoms and molecules
to form
your ever changing image.

Your lips move.
Your tongue speaks your name.
you take it on faith your words will make sense.
Meaning flows out effortlessly.

Electrons
skip like rocks on water
between your solid body
and your electromagnetic thoughts.
You look through a window.
Listen to voices within and without.

Dazzled by what you perceive,
you wonder about causes and effects.

When a wave of love takes you by surprise,
your eyes well up with tears.

~ Assef Al‐Jundi"
Writing Prompt: "Voices within and without..."

 

2/13/13

"Arrivals"  -David Whyte
Imagine the confines of a long grey corridor
just before immigration at Washington Dulles
airport. Imagine two Ethiopian women amid
a sea of familiar international plastic blandness,
entering America for the first time. Think of
their undulating multi-colored turbans raised
atop graceful heads, transforming us,
a grey line of travelers behind them, into followers
and mendicants, mere drab, impatient, moneyed
and perplexed attendants to their bright,
excited, chattered arrival.
Imagine a sharp plexi-gass turn left and suddenly
before them, in biblical astonishment, like a vertical
red sea churning, like the waters barring Moses from
The Promised Land, like Jacob standing before the ladder,
a moving escalator, a mode of rising, a form of ascension,
a way to go up they'd never seen before, its steel grey
interlocking invitation on and up to who knows what,
bringing them and everyone behind them, to a bemused,
complete, and utter standstill.

So that you saw it for the first time as they saw it
and for what it was, a grated river of lifting steel,
an involuntary, moving ascension into who knows what.
An incredible surprise. And you knew, even through
your tiredness, why it made them raise their hands
to their mouths, why it made them give low breathy
screams of surprise and delighted terror. You saw it
as they saw it, a staircase of invisible interlocking
beckoning hands asking them to rise up
independent of their history, their legs or their wills.
And we stopped as we knew we had to now
and watched the first delighted be-turbaned
woman put a sandaled foot on the flat grey
plain at the foot of the moving stair and sure
enough quickly withdraw it with a strangled scream,
leaving her sandal to ascend strangely without her
into heaven, into America, into her new life.

Then, holding her friend away, who tried to grab
her, to save her, to hold her back, who pointed
and shouted, telling her not to risk herself,
not to be foolish, she silently watched her shoe,
that willful child, running ahead, its sole intent
to enter the country oblivious to visas and immigration,
above the need for a job, uncaring of healthcare,
pointing toward some horizon she had never dreamt,
intent on leaving only its winged footprint
for her to follow, like a comet's tail, like an omen
of necessity, like a signaled courage, like an uncaring
invitation, to make her entrance with sould and style.

Because she looked up at this orphaned, onward
messenger with her eyes ablaze, threw off the panicked
clamboring arms of her friend, raised her chin
in noble profile, and with all that other hurrying
clamor of the world behind her, with a busy,
unknowing, corporate crowd at her back and questions
beginning to be asked out loud, she lifted her arms,
clapped her hands, threw back her head and with
a queenly unbidden grace, strode on to the ascending
heaven bound steel like a newly struck film star,
singing the old, high pitched song her children
would hear when she told the story again.

And as her friend below sang,
applauded, danced on the spot
and ululated her companion's arrival,
we stood there behind her,
transfixed, travel weary,
and crammed into the corridor
like extras from some
miraculous scene in the Bible.
While
she ascended,
her arms straight out,
wide eyed and singing.
Into America.

Lead Sentence: "An involuntary moving ascension into who knows what....."

1/30/13
"Famous" -By Naomi Shihab Nye 

The river is famous to the fish. 
The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so. 
The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
 watching him from the birdhouse. 
The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.
 The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom. 
The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors. 
The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured. 
I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back. 
I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

Lead Sentence: "Famous to shuffling men...."

1/23/13  Shoveling Snow With Buddha
In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over a  
  mountain of his bare, round shoulder,   
         his hair tied in a knot, a model of concentration.

Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.

Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
   We feel the cold mist on our faces. 
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
                                                              in these sudden clouds of our own making,                 
                             these fountain-bursts of snow.

This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside his generous pocket of silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.

After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?

Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck.
and our boots stand dripping by the door.

Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade again
deep into the glittering white snow.   -Billy Collins

Writing Prompt: "And our boots stand dripping by the door"

12/12/12

"I have a feeling that my boat

has struck, down there in the depths,

against a great thing. And nothing happens!

Nothing . . . Silence . . . Waves . . .

-Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,

and am now standing quietly, in my new life?"

Juan Ramon Jimenez

Writing prompt:  Nothing happens.....

6/12/12

Morning (by Billy Collins)

Why do we bother with the rest of the day,
the swale of the afternoon,
the sudden dip into evening,

then night with his notorious perfumes,
his many-pointed stars?

This is the best—
throwing off the light covers,
feet on the cold floor,
and buzzing around the house on espresso—

maybe a splash of water on the face,
a palmful of vitamins—
but mostly buzzing around the house on espresso,

dictionary and atlas open on the rug,
the typewriter waiting for the key of the head,
a cello on the radio,

and if necessary, the windows—
trees fifty, a hundred years old
out there,
heavy clouds on the way
and the lawn steaming like a horse
in the early morning.

Writing Prompt:  Steaming like a horse....

6/5/12

Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.

Hello, you who made the morning

and spread it over the fields

and into the faces of the tulips

and the nodding morning glories,

and into the windows of, even, the

miserable and the crotchety –

best preacher that ever was,

dear star, that just happens

to be where you are in the universe

to keep us from ever-darkness,

to ease us with warm touching,

to hold us in the great hands of light –

good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day

in happiness, in kindness.

~ Mary Oliver ~ (Why I Wake Early, )
      Writing Prompt: Hello, sun in my face.....
 4/18/12

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:

The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,

 

Hath had elsewhere its setting,

And cometh from afar:

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come

-shakespeare
writing prompt: trailing clouds of glory

4/11/12 "Quiet Friend Who Has Come So Far"  (Rilke)

Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing
makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell.
As you ring,
what batters you
becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter,
turn yourself into wine.
In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery
at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.
And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
to the rushing water, speak: I am.

Writing prompt: If the world has ceased to hear you...

3/7/12

 

"Escape"
"When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego,
and when we escape
like squirrels in the cage of our personality
and get into the forest again, we shall shiver
with cold and fright.
But things will happen to us
so that we don't know ourselves.
Cool, undying life will rush in,
and passion will make our
bodies taut with power.
We shall laugh, and
institutions will curl up
like burnt paper."

- D.H. Lawrence

Writing Prompt:  "When we escape like squirrels"


2/15/12
"Setting Out at Dusk" by David Whyte
The kayak sits on the black water
covered by trees.
Late October leaves drift by its bow.

Paddling out for weekend days away from noise
this silence leaves me unsure,
an old friend I havent met for years.

I sit, rudder pulled up, getting to know him,
double bladed paddle
dipping slowly in cold water

and looking up, see a single otter, skittering
on the grassy bank, stop,
look around, see me, low shape on still water,

roll back into the trees, leave me with silence.
I watch clouds gather between islands,
the wind pick up, shearwaters lift on the grey sea.

Through the sip-slap of waves on the lifting hull
I prick my ears for the small sounds
at the very edge of silence and then

I pull the bow out into the wide sea
paddle dipping
toward darkness and enter again. The quiet.

writing prompt: "This silence leaves me unsure....."

2/8/12 "Boy and Egg" by naomi shihab nye
Every few minutes, he wants
to march the trail of flattened rye grass
back to the house of muttering
hens.  He too could make
a bed in hay.  Yesterday the egg so fresh
it felt hot in his hand and he pressed it
to his ear while the other children
laughed and ran with a ball, leaving him,
so little yet, too forgetful in games,
ready to cry if the ball brushed him,
riveted to the secret of birds
caught up inside his fist,
not ready to give it over
to the refrigerator
or the rest of the day.

Writing Prompt:    "Back to the house of muttering hens...."

2/1/12 "The Awakening" by Faud Rifka, in the book, "The Space Between our Footsteps" by Naomi Shihab Nye
What happened
to the wood gatherer?
In old times he used to sing
like a bird on the shoulder of a mountain
early in the morning.
And today he doesn't speak,
he became mute
like a stone in a cave.
Who knows? Maybe he got tired.
When the river gets tired
it loves the flat lands
and the darkness of the sea.

Writing prompt: In old times he used to sing......


1/25/12 "Resolve to Listen" by TR Ritchie
resolve to listen
to the voice within
that speaks to you
in quiet tones
like wind in the grass
like rain on the pines
like the sound
of the wild creatures
breathing
that says to you
isnt it time....
what if....
is it possible....
move toward
the thing you were
born to do
as for the voices 
who nag or scream
or threaten or shame
know them for the 
liars they are
show compassion
for their desperate ways
forgive them
turn away

move then
toward the thing
you were born to do
 
Writing Prompt: Like rain on the pines...


1/18/12 "The Appointment" by Mark Nepo

 

What if, on the first sunny day,
on your way to work, a colorful bird
sweeps in front of you down a
street you’ve never heard of.

You might pause and smile,
a sweet beginning to your day.

Or you might step into that street
and realize there are many ways to work.

You might sense the bird knows some-
thing you don’t and wander after.

You might hesitate when the bird
turns down an alley. For now
there is a tension: Is what the
bird knows worth being late?

You might go another block or two,
thinking you can have it both ways.
But soon you arrive at the edge
of all your plans.

The bird circles back for you
and you must decide which
appointment you were
born to keep.

Writing prompt: "A colorful bird sweeps in front of me, down a street I've never heard of...

1/11/12 "The Peace of Wild Things" by Wendell Berry

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For the time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry

Writing Prompt:  I come into the Peace of wild things.......

12/7 From Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet" pg 23
"Allow your judgements their own silent, undisturbed development, which, like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be forced or hastened.  Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of ones own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as in creating."

Writing prompt: Beyond the reaches....

11/30/11 Dawna Markova, from her book, "I Will Not Die and Unlived Life" (from the perspective of a pinecone):
I am hard and very dried out now, ordinary brown and made of hundreds of scales. The fall winds were so intense that I was blown down from a big old tree. The sticky stuff that held all of me together has dried out too, and I fall apart at the slightest touch, losing my shape altogether. When the snow comes, if you care enough to look closely, you’ll notice that those scales are really little brown wings, and each holds a seed. The winds will carry them in many directions. Some will be eaten by birds, but some will be buried and hidden beneath the snow, dormant until the air turns warm and tender green and the world melts, ready for a grand sprouting.

Writing Prompt: "If you care enough to look closely, you'll notice....."



 

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the beach and keep them in a glass bowl.

Now and again I cover them with water,

and they drink.  There's no question about

this; I put tinfoil over the bowl, tightly,

yet the water disappears.  This doesn't

mean we ever have a conversation, or that

they have the kind of feelings we do, yet

it might mean something.  Whatever the

stones are, they dont lie in the water

and do nothing.

Some of my friends refuse to believe it

happens, even though they've seen it.  But

a few others - I've seen them walking down

the beach holding a few stones, and they

look at them rather more closely now.

Once in awhile, I swear, I've even heard

one or two of them saying "Hello."

Which, I think, does no harm to anyone or

anything, does it?