Why this?

The occasional poem of my own and a generous helping of work by others that I find inspiring. Site is named for a beloved book by one of my favorite writers, Italo Calvino, whose fanciful work lights--and delights--my soul.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Robert Kelly

Super duper lengthy interview w/ him here (only about halfway through it myself), but man does goodness await you.

Tip of the iceberg--

I’m not very interested in my childhood as a religion or a government--for me, my childhood is a kind of weird foreign country I spend an hour or two in, then hurry home to now, remembering some strange cheese I once tasted, or the sharp taste of sour rye.

--

A city is such a beautiful place to be alone.

One thing I beg with all my heart that all parents would learn: leave the child alone. The child needs hours every day alone with his body, his sense of order, rhythm, movement, time.

Don’t imprison the child in programmed activity. Organized play is not play at all. Leave the kid alone. Don’t make him be present in every family moment. It’s not television, you’re not A Family. The child is a person. Leave the child to know his own time. There is nothing in the world more precious than time of your own.

--

I found slowly but certainly through poetry that poetry was the altar to which names are brought, where they give the most light, isolated as they are in the silence around each word in a poem. God, poems should be printed one word on a page, and then we’d really begin to understand them.

And then, in another way, all the spaces should fall away and we read all the syllables as one continuous breath of one single word. A poem is a single word, naming a sensual unknown.

Matthew Arnold

Nice.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Before

I always thought death would be like traveling
in a car, moving through the desert,
the earth a little darker than sky at the horizon,
that your life would settle like the end of a day
and you would think of everyone you ever met,
that you would be the invisible passenger,
quiet in the car, moving through the night,
forever, with the beautiful thought of home.

--Carl Adamshick

Friday, March 18, 2011

Thank you, rr, for, among countless other things, your patience

BREAKING BLOOM

Blue chambray button-up/
tiny white anchors on repeat,
plucked off store rack
with puzzled urgency,
worn days straight, even slept in.
Toward the end of its run
(been weeks since I last
wrapped it around),
I sat beside a mountain lake.
Whether to do with setting sun
(an angle, that magenta),
dusk-drunk insects, or
something else entirely
isn’t clear; but life’s motion—
wave of mid-decision—
stilled, leaving me with sense of
settling in, taking root,
breaking bloom.

--me [happy (re)engagement, babe!]

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Chance

"You only get one chance. You have one journey through life; you cannot repeat even one moment or retrace one footstep. It seems that we are meant to inhabit and live everything that comes toward us." --John O'Donohue

"To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself." --Soren Kierkegaard

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Letter to James Hansen from Boulogne

Somewhere near here there's something
called Stalin's Furnace--a friend mentioned it
but I forgot what he meant. I closed the shutters
this morning, just as the pigeons stopped cooing
& I said are those mourning doves, & A. said,
No, they're pigeons. She was so sad
to find the peaches hairy with mold
& when she left for work I cut chunks of green
spores from the flesh. Remember
watching the snow in your end of Manhattan?
I wanted every roof in the city a field
of crocus or poppy, & you, humoring me,
took out maps of heat signatures--deep red
for heat islands, the parks cool green--
to imagine the meadowed roofs from orbit.
Man, if I could have brought my twelve-year-old
self to that meeting. NASA. No shit.
You had this blue bowl of bamboo shoots,
the kind you buy on Canal Street, three
for a dollar, & I thought, Isn't it
a thing, that we can see ourselves from space?
It isn't though, is it?--no one seems
to care. How close did that comet come
yesterday, Jim? Close as the damn moon,
& we didn't feel a thing. I liked when you said
we're making the Earth a different planet. And no one
gives a fuck. Outside, someone's dropped
a load of pipes on the concrete. I need a shower
& I've been trying to translate a book of bird
poems by a scientist in Toulouse.
They launch rockets there, don't they? Somehow
we manage to note the northern shift of Sprague's
pipit, McCown's longspur with everything else
going on. Would their extinction make
such a difference? Being even this
mindful of their absence in west Texas,
where Elizabeth watches controlled burns
cook baby rabbits alive, make it so?
This morning our astronauts wait
to be lifted free of the earth, the earth
beneath them beginning to shudder. We haven't been
as far as the moon since, what, Carter?
Ford? I don't feel like trying to translate
une conscience ascendante to mean what it does,
so I watch them jack up the sidewalk.
I can feel the day warming & listen
to Komunyakaa's poem where he can't tell
whether the waft of jasmine comes
from a valley in in Asia or a woman's body brushing
against him on the street. I like that
terror: forgetting the radiant tar, acres
of pavement, the share of rain the maples
give back to the air. It's the fourth of July
& I ate slices of peach with yogurt & thought
about the birds in marshes by Canaveral,
how if they suddenly disappeared I couldn't begin
to tell you how anything at all had changed.

--Colin Cheney

Landfill Orchids

Finding a swallow chick
fallen on the floor of the barn
by a pool of cobalt grease
leaked from the Ford 8-N

we gave her to the compost, feeding
the landfill orchids & thistles
with her cold, lake body.
When my sister drank poison

from under the bathroom sink
I flew through each room, bewildered
as the poison control officer
talked my parents through

how to purge her stomach,
or maybe telling them not to,
some poisons doing a second damage
that way. What a musical notation

her dreams must have been, her liver
breaking the chemical down, as starlings
turn the oil of poison ivy berries
into bruise-glossed feathers or

owls boil the flesh from skulls
of voles into the pure calories
of their night-seeing. In our barn
we've a chest marked "Bird Skins"

our father found at the landfill
& my sister & I wonder what became
of the specimen shrouds that lined the trays,
one to each typed label: chimney swift,

cactus wren, vireo, barn owl
& barn swallow. Making dinner
tonight, we fold corn, red onion
& peppers into discs of dough

she rolls out, & I brush a yolk
over each turnover, listen for the birds
burrowing under the orchids, in the oven
of the compost drum.

--Colin Cheney

*Note: Blogger didn't retain indentations specific to this poem's formatting. Boo. (Pardon.)

Words of the poet-mystic Anna Kamienska

There's no art in giving what you have. The art is giving what you haven't got. The gift of empty hands.

***

Accidents often change he course of science. But you need someone who can read the "accidents'" meanings. It's just the same with life's accidents. You need to decode their script.

***

Holy nothingness, have mercy on us.

***

Human hands are sometimes more intelligent than faces.

Tracing

I

O those years! The green light of morning
and the still unswept pavements of pleasure—
summer yelled from every surface of the city
and supped at a horn
refilled from above.

Silent hour. Watery colors
of a pale green eye’s diluted stream
pictures in that magic green, glass dances,
shepherds and streams, a dome, pigeons—
woven, dispatched, shining, faded—
mutable clouds of happiness!

So you faced the day: the font
without bubbles, dawdling
buildings and staircases; the houses
locked up, it was for you to create
the morning, early jasmine,
its yelps, its incipient aboriginal
stream—still without end—O those years!

Something unquenchable in the heart,
complement to heaven and earth;
playing to you from reeds and gardens,
evening storms
drenched the brassy umbels,
darkly they burst, taut with seeds,
and sea and strands,
wimpled with tents,
full of burning sand,
weeks bronzing, tanning everything
to pelts for kisses landing
indiscriminately like cloudbursts
and soon over!

Even then
a weight overhead
grapes bunching
you pulled down the boughs and let them bounce up,
only a few berries
if you wanted
first—

not yet so bulging and overhung with
plate-sized fruit,
old heavy grape flesh—

O those years!

II

Dark days of spring,
unyielding murk in the leaves;
drooping lilacs, barely looking up
narcissus color, and smelling strongly of death,
loss of content,
untriumphant sadness of the unfulfilled.

And in the rain
falling on the leaves,
I hear an old forest song,
from forests I crossed
and saw again, but I didn’t return
to the hall where they were singing,
the keys were silent,
the hands were resting somewhere
apart from the arms that held me,
moved me to tears,
hands from the eastern steppes,
long since trampled and bloody—
only the forest song
in the rain
dark days of spring
the everlasting steppes.

--Gottfried Benn

Re: Home

"You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it's all right." --Maya Angelou

"People say you have to travel to see the world. Sometimes I think that if you just stay in one place and keep your eyes open, you're going to see just about all that you can handle." --Paul Auster

"If you lived in your heart, you'd be home by now." --unknown source

Measurements

"There are two types of people--those who come into a room and say, 'Well, here I am!' and those who come in and say, 'Ah, there you are.'" --Frederick L. Collins

"The only man I know who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me. The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them." --George Bernard Shaw

"If you cannot be a poet, be the poem." --David Carradine

Noise

"When I get home, the neighbor's dog is barking. When I go to sleep, my lovely wife is snoring. At five in the morning, I'm awakened by NPR telling me one more thing I don't want to know. What a noisy world! And inside my head, Sy drones on and on: his plans for the future; his regrets about the past. It's still easier for me to work hard all day than to sit still for twenty minutes each morning, observing the thoughts and feelings that arise in me. How instantly I label them mine. How quick I am to deny or defend them."

"Pablo Neruda: 'If we were not so singleminded 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.'"

--Sy Safransky

Double Exposure

Sometimes you see us
Run into each other in a place
Where we cannot simply pass,
Say at a party, and you overhear
Our breath quiveringly collect
To shape a voice sure enough
To play out some pleasantry;
Something humorous is preferable,
It covers perfectly and shows
That everything is as it should be.
As smoothly as possible
We allow ourselves to be waylaid
By some other conversation and escape.
Though we move around the room,
We always know where we stand,
Still strangely bound to each other
In this intermittent dance
Between the music, each careful
To hold up the other side of all
We were to each other before
It stopped, and let nothing slip
From the invisible ruin
We carry between us.

--John O'Donohue

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Ocean Wind

Through its mouth at Gleann Corrain, the rising
Ocean can see into Fermoyle valley
That never moves from the absence opened
By the cut of its glacier parent.
With wind the ocean bends each lone blackthorn
To a dark sickle facing the mountain.

The wind would like to breathe its crystal breath
Into the mind of the mountain's darkness
And riddle the certainty of its stone;
It lashes the cliffs with doubt, its sand lips
Deepen the question each crevice opens
And sow hoards of fern seed in the scailps.

There is no satisfaction for the wind.
To blow through doors and windows of ruins
Only reminds it how empty it is.
Above Caherbeanna's ruined village
The wind waits all year for the Garrai Cle
To fill with its tribe of golden corn.

Weary from the ghost geometry of the fog
And heaping itself blindly against walls,
The wind unfolds its heart in yellow dance;
Only now in circles, spirals and waves
Of corn can the wind see itself, swift
As the glance of moonlight on breaking tide.

--John O'Donohue

At the Edge

Sometimes, behind the lines
Of words giving voice to the blue wind
That blows across the amber fields
Of your years, whispering the hungers
Your dignity conceals, and the caves
Of loss opening along shores forgotten
By the ocean, you almost hear the depth
Of white silence, rising to deny everything.

--John O'Donohue

The Transparent Border

There is a strange edge to the wind today,
Some irritation with the patient strain
Of trees, the 'willing to bend with anything'
Trick of the rushes, the shoals of shadow
Perplexing the lake and all the silent
Aloofness of the stones, something
Very old, perhaps, resentment towards
These bog fields, each rooted in its dark
Continuum and known to people by name
And season, from which many stones
Have been claimed to make houses
Where they grow warm with human echoes,
And the lake, to which the mountains come
To mirror themselves, where twilights linger
Before night sends everything to rest;
A resentment at the way they all somehow
Slipped across the transparent border
From idea into individual thing,
Glistening with name, colour and form
At the beginning, when the wind would have
Felt breath was where presence lived.

--John O'Donohue

The Coronation

It was a long time ago in another land.
Who can tell how it really was before belief
Came towards you with a hunger that could not see you
Except against white air cleansed of the shadow of earth?

No inkling that you were a free spirit who loved
The danger of seeing the world with an open mind,
How you strove to be faithful to uncertainty
And let nothing unquestioned settle in your heart.

You loved to throw caution to the wind when you danced.
To be outside in the dawn before people were,
Letting the blue tides of your dreaming settle ashore.
The village said you put the whole thing into his head.

In the glow of your silence, the heart grows tranquil.
No one will ever know where you had to travel.

--John O'Donohue

The Stillness Above Is Listening

Rooted in the quiet earth beneath
Which enjoys the quiver as harebells

Relinquish perfect scoops of breeze
Absorbs the syllables when rain lowers

Its silver chorus to coalesce
With granite rocks terse with thirst

And tight with the force of unfreed voice
Feels the moon on its fields brightening

The length of night out in the nowhere
That would love a name like Conamara

The mountain remains a temple of listening
Over years its contours concede to the lonesome

Voices brittle with the threat of what is gathering
Towards their definite houses below

Harvesting the fragments of sound
Into its weight of stillness.

--John O'Donohue

Untitled [The more I go, the harder it becomes to return]

The more I go, the harder it becomes to return. To anywhere. There is no one at the
ocean this morning. I walked by the campsites and smelled eggs and pancakes. And
there were sweet Oregon cherries and watermelon. I wonder if I can go back—what
purpose there would be in it—or in any other thing? There's something expensive both
ways. Yesterday a woman told me to get a tide schedule and if the people refused to
give it to me, I had to insist. She usually gets hers from the Hilton but I don't know
where that is so I just imagine the schedule. There is a tide. I can tell that much about
anything. What's before me, what isn't. How it got there is a mystery involving only
itself—I have no part in that, none at all—my job remains in the thing as it is in the
moment it's before me, having left all of its other places, having come this far to show
up at all.

--Jennifer Denrow

Monday, March 14, 2011

World Needs

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." --Gil Bailie

Saturday, March 5, 2011

W. Berry Redux / In Memoriam

THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of 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 for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

--

SABBATHS 1998, V

In a single motion the river comes and goes.
At times, living beside it, we hardly notice it
as it noses calmly along within its bounds
like the family pig. But a day comes
when it swiftens, darkens, rises, flows over
its banks, spreading its mirrors out upon
the flat fields of the valley floor, and then
it is like God’s love or sorrow, including
at last all that had been left out.

--

SABBATHS 1998, IV

What a consolation it is, after
the explanations and the predictions
of further explanations still
to come, to return unpersuaded
to the woods, entering again
the presence of the blessed trees.
A tree forms itself in answer
to its place and to the light.
Explain it how you will, the only
thing explainable will be
your explanation. There is
in the woods on a summer's
morning, birdsong all around
from guess where, nowhere
that rigid measure which predicts
only humankind's demise.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Moon in Time Lapse

The moon in time lapse sliding over skyline
the way a remote frisbee might wheel through air
as slowly as a banjo once floated across the wide
Missouri River in my mind when as a boy
the devil to pay permitted me to dream-up
my get-away from home, far from my parents'
witchy vigilance & the wine-barrel cellars
of their household—this after my experimental
stuffing of a dinner fork into a light socket
in the green gazebo under backyard grapevines.
That fuse box blown & blackened was the bliss
of departure—it was thrilling, but sometimes
I have to stop to touch my life & see if it's real.
How surprising to find that I wanted so much,
and mostly got it. My fantasies are fewer now
(one involves living through a day without
resentments, the other getting seated next to
gorgeous Fanny Ardant on a puddle jumper).
No need to see my life as a story the world
has to read, no need for sentimental
mooning & nostalgia—blessed with a bit
of amnesia anyway, I don't recall much
of what went down. I know that it's engraved
there on some cellular level, & that I can't
command the consequences. Like a spider
who has climbed atop a survey stake in a bull-
dozed field, I feel slightly truer in any case.

--David Rivard