POETRY: A Month Of Happiness by Robert Bly

November 9, 2018

A blind horse stands among cherry trees. And bones shine from cool earth. The heart leaps Almost up to the sky! But laments And filaments pull us back into the dark. Night takes us. But A paw Comes out of the dark To light the road. I’ll be all right. I follow my own fiery traces through the [...]

POETRY: Covers the Ground by Gary Snyder

November 3, 2018

When California was wild, it was one sweet bee-garden…. (John Muir) Down the Great Central valley’s blossoming almond orchard acres lines of tree-trunks shoot a glance through as the rows flash by— And the ground is covered with cement culverts standing on end, house-high & six feet wide culvert after culvert far as you can see covered with mobile homes, pint size portable housing, johnny-on-the-spots, concrete freeway, overpass, underpass, exit floreals, entrance curtsies, railroad bridge, long straight miles of divider oleanders; scrappy ratty grass and thistle, tumbled barn, another age, yards of tractors, combines lined up— new bright-painted units down at one end, old stuff broke and smashed down at the other, [...]

POETRY: The Resemblance Between Your Life And A Dog by Robert Bly

November 2, 2018

I never intended to have this life, believe me— It just happened. You know how dogs turn up At a farm, and they wag but can’t explain. It’s good if you can accept your life—you’ll notice Your face has become deranged trying to adjust To it. Your face thought your life would look Like your bedroom mirror when you were ten. That was a clear river touched by mountain wind. Even your parents can’t believe how much you’ve changed. Sparrows in winter, if you’ve ever held one, all feathers, Burst out of your hand with a fiery glee. You see them later in hedges. Teachers praise you, But you can’t quite get back to the winter sparrow. Your life is a dog. He’s been hungry for miles, Doesn’t [...]

POETRY: People Like Us by Robert Bly

October 5, 2018

for James Wright There are more like us. All over the world there are confused people, who can’t remember The name of their dog when they wake up, and people Who love God but can’t remember where He was when they went to sleep. It’s All right. The world cleanses itself this way. A wrong number occurs to you in the middle Of the night, you dial it, it rings just in time To save the house. And the second-story man Gets the wrong address, where the insomniac lives, And he’s lonely, and they talk, and the thief Goes back to college. Even in graduate school, You can wander into the wrong classroom, And hear great poems lovingly spoken By the wrong professor. And you find your soul, And greatness has a defender, and even in death [...]

POETRY: The Liar’s Psalm—Repentance by Andrew Hudgins

September 12, 2018

I repent the actual. It has never got me anywhere. It is nothing against principalities, against powers. My father will die and I will carry on. I dread his death more than mine because it will come sooner—knowledge I repent. In lies he will outlive the liar. And that’s me. The lie itself will carry on, is itself a child, a separate life, a blow against the gods of objects. Who are not happy with me or with their densities. They are not worth their flawed kingdoms. And neither do I love them. They are dangerous. They are too stupid to be insignificant, too proud of their ability to blister my hands and make them raw. I repent letting them, and I repent logic, which has no god: it will do anything, it will go anywhere. Tell it your [...]

POETRY: The Chimes Of Neverwhere by Les Murray

August 15, 2018

How many times did the Church prevent war? Who knows? Those wars did not occur. How many numbers don’t count before ten? Treasures of the Devil in Neverwhere. The neither state of Neverwhere is hard to place as near or far since all things that didn’t take place are there and things that have lost the place they took: Herr Hitler’s buildings, King James’s cigar, the happiness of Armenia, the Abelard children, the Manchu’s return are there with the Pictish Grammar Book. The girl who returned your dazzled look and the mornings you might have woke to her are your waterbed in Neverwhere. There shine the dukes of Australia and all the great poems that never were quite written, and every balked invention. There too are the Third AIF [...]

POETRY: Apple Fools by David Craig

August 1, 2018

Apple fools we are Ripe as cups of cider and the horse’s clodded wake let the wet mornings come ring out green beans beneath the leaves pumpkin piping on the vine Speckled corn aloft Indian feathered high on the door Squash squats on the rafters pot belly bent legged Buddha stove boots and coveralls Give us this grace and all this day the crowded table the pinions’ [...]

POETRY: The Birch Grove by Seamus Heaney

July 19, 2018

At the back of a garden, in earshot of river water, In a corner walled off like the baths or bake-house Of an unroofed abbey or broken-floored Roman villa, They have planted their birch grove. Planted it recently only, But already each morning it puts forth in the sun Like their own long grown-up selves, the white of the bark As suffused and cool as the white of the satin nightdress She bends and straightens up in, pouring tea, Sitting across from where he dandles a sandal On his big time-keeping foot, as bare as an abbot’s. Red brick and slate, plum tree and apple retain Their credibility, a CD of Bach is making the rounds Of the common or garden air. Above them a jet trail Tapers and waves like a willow wand or a taper. “If [...]

POETRY: The Turnip-Snedder by Seamus Heaney

July 11, 2018

For Hughie O’Donoghue In an age of bare hands and cast iron, the clamp-on meat-mincer, the double flywheeled water-pump, it dug its heels in among wooden tubs and troughs of slops, hotter than body heat in summertime, cold in winter as winter’s body armour, a barrel-chested breast-plate standing guard on four braced greaves. “this is the way that God sees life,” it said, “from seedling-braird to snedder,” as the handle turned and turnip-heads were let fall and fed to the juiced-up inner blades, “This is the turnip-cycle,” as it dropped its raw sliced mess, bucketful by glistering [...]

POETRY: A Herbal by Seamus Heaney

July 6, 2018

After Guillevic’s “Herbier de Bretagne” Everywhere plants Flourish among graves, Sinking their roots In all the dynasties Of the dead. * Was graveyard grass In our place Any different? Different from ordinary Field grass? Remember how you wanted The sound recordist To make a loop, Wildtrack of your feet Through the wet At the foot of a field? * Yet for all their lush Compliant dialect No way have plants here Arrived at a settlement. Not the mare’s tail, Not the broom or whins. It must have to do With the wind. * Not that the grass itself Ever rests in peace. It too takes issue, Now sets its face. To the wind, Now turns its back. * “See me?” it says. “The wind Has me well rehearsed In the ways of [...]

POETRY: An Ulster Twilight by Seamus Heaney

June 23, 2018

The bare bulb, a scatter of nails, Shelved timber, glinting chisels: In a shed of corrugated iron Eric Dawson stoops to his plane At five o’clock on a Christmas Eve. Carpenter’s pencil next, the spoke-shave, Fretsaw, auger, rasp and awl, A rub with a rag of linseed oil. A mile away it was taking shape, The hulk of a toy battleship, As waterbuckets iced and frost Hardened the quiet on roof and post. Where is he now? There were fifteen years between us two That night I strained to hear the bells Of a sleigh of the mind and heard him pedal Into our lane, get off at the gable, Steady his Raleigh bicycle Against the whitewash, stand to make sure The house was quiet, knock at the door And hand his parcel to a peering woman: “I [...]

POETRY: A Dog Was Crying Tonight In Wicklow Also by Seamus Heaney

June 16, 2018

In memory of Donatus Nwoga When human beings found out about death They sent the dog to Chukwu with a message: They wanted to be let back to the house of life. They didn’t want to end up lost forever Like burnt wood disappearing into smoke Or ashes that get blown away to nothing. Instead they saw their souls in a flock at twilight Cawing and headed back to the same old roosts And the same bright airs and wing-stretchings each morning. Death would be like a night spent in the wood: At first light they’d be back in the house of life. (The dog was meant to tell all this to Chukwu.) But death and human beings took second place When he trotted off the path and started barking At another dog in broad daylight just barking Back at him from [...]

POETRY: Prayer by Carol Ann Duffy

June 15, 2018

Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer utters itself. So, a woman will lift her head from the sieve of her hands and stare at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift. Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth enters our hearts, that small familiar pain; then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth in the distant Latin chanting of a train. Pray for us now. Grade I piano scales console the lodger looking out across a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls a child’s name as though they named their loss. Darkness outside. Inside, the radio’s prayer— Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.*   *The poet is English, and these geographical markers are a well-known feature of the local shipping [...]

POETRY: October by David Brendan Hopes

June 13, 2018

It’s nuthatch on the box elder outside the window. He’s making his clown’s voice, nnink, nning, nnink, pecking to grubs, seeds, scraps. The first snow powdered down last night while he slept, and as birds have dreams there’s snow in his song now. Nighthawk heard it. He is gone. Warbler heard it. She is gone. Thrasher went. Finch went. You could hear them at night, little bells so far off you thought they were the stars ringing. I sat on an empty hill and said goodbye. The geese, like tragic actresses, keep nothing to themselves. They eat down the center of the air crying, and crying, how the white north snaps behind them, how their nests are shoveled under, how their circle is broken by fox, bullet, and cold. The [...]

POETRY: Seeing Things by Seamus Heaney

June 9, 2018

I Inishbofin on a Sunday morning. Sunlight, turfsmoke, seagulls, boatslip, diesel. One by one we were being handed down Into a boat that slipped and shilly-shallied Scaresomely every time. We sat tight On short cross-benches, in nervous twos and threes, Obedient, newly close, nobody speaking Except the boatmen, as the gunwales sank And seemed they might ship water any minute. The sea was very calm but even so, When the engine kicked and our ferryman Swayed for balance, reaching for the tiller, I panicked at the shiftiness and heft Of the craft itself. What guaranteed us— That quick response and buoyancy and swim— Kept me in agony. All the time As we went sailing evenly across The deep, still, seeable-down-into water, It was as if I [...]

POETRY: Whole Wheat, Decaf Black, A Morbid Curiosity by David Citino

June 6, 2018

We study the paper, fingers darkening with the stinking ink of the daily news, as Dad bangs Mommy’s head against the bedroom wall, the thud like coming thunder, as baby’s shaken until the crying stops, as the sniper’s scope X’s-out another enemy of the tribe, all for ethnic cleaning, as, at the mall, boys dressed in street colors change forever the face of other boys with semi-automatic rage, as women of the village bind the girl, legs spread wide, the oyster cut from its delicate shell, so she can know holiness. It’s not that we relish the blood, as the Romans did— is it? Somewhere, someone knows a suffering too terrible for words, nearly. Thank God it’s not us. There but for fortune. Give us the [...]

POETRY: A Drink Of Water by Seamus Heaney

June 2, 2018

She came every morning to draw water Like an old bat staggering up the field: The pump’s whooping cough, the bucket’s clatter And slow diminuendo as it filled, Announced her. I recall Her grey apron, the pocked white enamel Of the brimming bucket, and the treble Creak of her voice like the pump’s handle. Nights when a full moon lifted past her gable It fell back through her window and would lie Into the water set out on the table. Where I have dipped to drink again, to be Faithful to the admonishment on her cup, Remember the Giver, fading off the [...]

POETRY: Letter From Santa Cruz by Maura Eichner

May 30, 2018

I do not know the date. Calendars have no meaning here. One hundred miles north (or maybe more) from Santa Cruz our families live or try to live (and fail) farming rice. Five years ago only monkeys talked and swung in jungle trees. There is a road, but not when there is rain. It had been raining long when Marta died. Months ago, a doctor passing through told Marta that she ought to get to Santa Cruz. Some time, some time, Marta said, she would. She was busy at the well when the growth was big enough to stop the last thin breath from edging up her throat. Sunsets in the tropics go like that—gold, amber, scarlet— then the dark. That night Felipe came, sat in silence, said the child must be removed from Marta’s body otherwise Marta [...]

POETRY: Vesper Sparrows by Deborah Digges

May 17, 2018

I love to watch them sheathe themselves mid-air, shut wings and ride the light’s poor spine to earth, to touch down in gutters, in the rainbowed urine of suicides, just outside Bellevue’s walls. From in there the ransacked cadavers are carried up the East River to Potter’s Field as if they were an inheritance, gleaned of savable parts, their diseases jarred and labeled, or incinerated, the ashes of metastasized vision professing the virus that lives beyond the flesh, in air… The first time I saw the inside of anything alive, a downed bird opened cleanly under my heel. I knelt to watch the spectral innards shine and quicken, the heart-whir magnify. And though I can’t say now what kind of bird it was, nor the [...]

POETRY: In Pilgrim Life Our Rest by Edwin Sandys

November 21, 2017

For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled. Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance. For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath. So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. Return, O Lord, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants. O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all [...]

POETRY: Proverbs by Thomas Merton

November 10, 2017

For Robert Lax 1. I will tell you what you can do ask me if you do not understand what I just said 2. One thing you can do be a manufacturer make appliances 3. Be a Man-u-fac-tu-rer 4. Make appliances sell them for a high price 5. I will tell you about industry make appliances 6. Make appliances that move 7. Ask me if you do not understand what is move 8. First get the facts 9. Where to apply? Ask industry 10. Do not expect to get by without Mr. and Mrs. Consumer 11. Man-u-fic-tion 12. I am wondering if you got the idea be a manu 13. MAKE FALSE GODS 14. Apply mind energy they will move 15. Mention one of the others see what happens 16. Now apply that to our problem 17. Try not to understand 18. Be a mounte-fictioner 19. Surpass all others [...]

POETRY: On The Spirit Adulterated By The Flesh by Henry Colman

October 31, 2017

Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counselors.  My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken thou me according to thy word. (Psalm 119:24-25) How do I spin my time away In caring how to get Ungodly wealth, and fret My self to sweat, As if thou Lord hadst meant this clay No after life, no reckoning day. What graceless fool would love his Earth So, as with all his might To pamper with delight The same ‘gainst right, Forgetting his divine soul’s birth Was nobler, and of greater worth? Thou Lord didst frame this soul of mine Only to honor thee, Not basely fond to be Of vanity, Unflesh it then, and so refine It Lord it may be all divine. Quicken my dull-drooping spirit That it may praise thy name, Cleanse it from sin and blame, [...]

POETRY: The Heart Is Deep by Roger Wolcott

October 24, 2017

Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer: preserve my life from fear of the enemy. Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked; from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity: who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words: that they may shoot in secret at the perfect: suddenly do they shoot at him, and fear not. They encourage themselves in an evil matter: they commune of laying snares privily; they say, Who shall see them? They search out iniquities; they accomplish a diligent search: both the inward thought of every one of them, and the heart, is deep. (Psalm 64:1-6) He that can trace a ship making her way, Amidst the threatening surges on the sea; Or track a towering eagle in the air, Or [...]

POETRY: Ground Swell by Mark Jarman

October 18, 2017

Is nothing real but when I was fifteen, Going on sixteen, like a corny song? I see myself so clearly then, and painfully— Knees bleeding through my usher’s uniform Behind the candy counter in the theater After a morning’s surfing; paddling frantically To top the brisk outsiders coming to wreck me, Trundle me clumsily along the beach floor’s Gravel and sand; my knees aching with salt. Is that all I have to write about? You write about the life that’s vividest. And if that is your own, that is your subject. And if the years before and after sixteen Are colorless as salt and taste like sand— Return to those remembered chilly mornings, The light spreading like a great skin on the water, And the blue water scalloped with [...]

SATURDAY READING: Screaming by Dan Wakefield

October 15, 2017

From Returning: A Spiritual Journey One balmy spring morning in Hollywood, a month or so before my forty-eighth birthday, I work up screaming.  I got out of bed, went into the next room, sat down on a couch, and screamed again.  This was not, in other words, one of those waking nightmares left over from sleep that is dispelled by the comforting light of day.  It was, rather, a response to the reality that another morning had broken in a life I could only deal with sedated by wine, loud noise, moving images, and wired to electronic games that further distracted my fragmented attention from a growing sense of blank, nameless pain in the pit of my very being, my most essential self.  It was the beginning of a year in which I would have [...]

POETRY: The End Of The World by Scott Cairns

September 30, 2017

The end of the world occurs with the first thaw. Waking from his first restful night in many months—a night without shivering, without cramp- ing muscles—the last man lifts his head from the straw, hears snow-melt trickling, sees morning light through the window’s ice, smells the scent of earth, lies back, and dies because he cannot bear to go through it all again. But that is a very limited view of the event. The end was more than the final exhaustion of the last man. Actually, some of the most interesting events of human history occurred just prior to this last gesture, which is not surprising if you take into account the fact that, in the last years of human experience, irony flourished. The last man was a Jew, a fact that he [...]

GOD 101: From His Bookshelf, or, Watch your backs

September 29, 2017

More and more it becomes fascinating to me how old I am.  Both because most serious mystics die young (it is very hard on the body), and because I can sit quietly and trace themes and currents that have been with me all my life. One set of visions I have found mostly annoying, to be honest.  Until very recently. At a very busy point in my mystical adventures I felt a sharp poke in my mystical rib-cage.  Poke.  Sharp.  Repeated. It was the insistence that I stop what I was doing and read a certain book. Which I thought was absurd. Now I have thought God’s instructions ridiculous, even stupid, throughout my life, but this one so astounded me that I reasoned that it proved that my visions my whole life were nothing more than the [...]

POETRY: Another Song by Scott Cairns

September 13, 2017

Most mornings I wake up slowly. That’s just the way I am. I wake up slow as I can, listening first to one thing, then another. The milk bottles chiming just outside the door, then the milktruck idling in the street. If I’m lucky, the girl through the wall will be singing and I’ll hear her next, singing while she dresses. Maybe she’s brushing her hair, or tying the ribbon for her stocking —that would be nice. And out in the hall, some man will probably kiss Miss Weitz good-bye again—yes, I believe those are their lowered voices now, and that is his cough. Others are coming out now, their doors opening and closing so variously, too many to sort out. Why sort them out? And now the factory whistle is telling the [...]

POETRY: The Great Black Heron by Denise Levertov

August 27, 2017

Since I stroll in the woods more often than on this frequented path, it’s usually trees I observe; but among fellow humans what I like best is to see an old woman fishing alone at the end of a jetty, hours on end, plainly content. The Russians mushroom-hunting after a rain trail after themselves a world of red sarafans, nightingales, samovars, stoves to sleep on (though without doubt those are not what they can remember). Vietnamese families fishing or simply sitting as close as they can to the water, make me recall that lake in Hanoi in the amber light, our first, jet-lagged evening, peace in the war we had come to witness. This woman engaged in her pleasure evokes an entire culture, tenacious field-flower growing itself among the [...]

POETRY: Success Is Counted Sweetest by Emily Dickinson

August 26, 2017

Success is counted sweetest By those who ne’er succeed. To comprehend a nectar Requires sorest need. Not one of all the purple Host Who took the Flag today Can tell the definition So clear of Victory As he defeated—dying— On whose forbidden ear The distant strains of triumph Burst agonized and [...]