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.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Chorus

The wet bamboo clacking in the night rain
crying in the darkness whimpering softly
as the hollow columns touch and slide
along each other swaying with the empty
air these are sounds from before there were voices
gestures older than grief from before there was
pain as we know it the impossibly tall
stems are reaching out groping and waving
before longing as we think of it or loss
as we are acquainted with it or feelings
able to recognize the syllables
that might be their own calling out to them
like names in the dark telling them nothing
about loss or about longing nothing
ever about all that has yet to answer

--W.S. Merwin

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Image of light

"For many years I would make a light in my heart while in meditation. I did variations on this, too. I would go and sit in the sunlight and imagine myself surrounded by sunlight... I made the image of light in my heart as an image of God's love. The only way I can describe what happened is that it stopped being an image. Something asserted itself through that image as if it were love." --Robert Corin Morris

Hard

"It's hard to be religious when certain people are never incinerated by bolts of lightning." --Bill Watterson

Simple

"God is a metaphor for that which transcends all levels of intellectual thought. It's as simple as that." --Joseph Campbell

In either case

"Sometimes I think we're alone. Sometimes I think we're not. In either case, the thought is staggering." --R. Buckminster Fuller

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Balance

Balance is noticed most when almost failed of-

in an elephant's delicate wavering
on her circus stool, for instance,
or that moment
when a ladder starts to tip but steadies back.

There are, too, its mysterious departures.

Hours after the dishes are washed and stacked,
a metal bowl clangs to the floor,
the weight of drying water all that altered;
a painting vertical for years
one morning-why?-requires a restoring tap.

You have felt it disappearing
from your own capricious heart-
a restlessness enters, the smallest leaning begins.

Already then inevitable,
the full collision,
the life you will describe afterwards always as "after."

--Jane Hirshfield

Moments as enough

"As a culture we're coming to face our spiritual poverty, which is an important first step, as it would be for any seeker. But we tend to look at religion the way we look at football--we want our side to win! Even atheists want science to win over God. I'm all for scientific atheism in the sense that it encourages people to question the egoistic content of religion, but we don't need to throw out God so much as we need a new concept of God: a concept that's free of myth, superstition, and fear, and that brings us into real presence with each other. When that happens, it transforms everything, at least for a moment." --Jacob Needleman

...and shorter still

"Human reason has this peculiar fate that in one species of its knowledge it is burdened by questions which, as prescribed by the very nature of reason itself, it is not able to ignore, but which, as transcending all its powers, it is also not able to answer." --Immanuel Kant

The mind falls short

"Why is it so difficult for us to accept total love and forgiveness? In the course of ordinary life we can find in ourselves a kind of acceptance of our flaws and peccadilloes, although that often involves some ignorance or denial of our bigger problems. But complete acceptance of the totality of our being is actually impossible at the level of our mind. It has to come from a higher level, from a consciousness that's both within us and far beyond us at the same time." --Jacob Needleman

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Drop Dead

You spat it out like venom
at your playground enemy
and it felt so good to say
Drop dead! Late in life

it becomes a sweet mercy
to imagine: one minute
you're treading the earth
as ever, the next you're gone!

No hospitals, MRIs, CAT scans,
surgery, no loved ones
standing around wondering
if you're still breathing

and what to do with you
in case you are. And though
I'll never be ready for you to go,
as long as it is your wish

to leave this way, it is mine.
And may it happen on a day
when you are singing with friends,
laughing at a joke, dancing

in your living room.
May it come to you before
you know it and you'll find
yourself flying, a balloon

cut loose, taking one last glance
at this fond world that you have loved.
Though it will feel so cold to us,
this world without you, still

with all my heart here is my wish
for you dear friend, mother,
kindred soul: when the time comes,
Drop dead!

--Tamara Madison

Simply Lit

Often toward evening,
after another day, after
another year of days,
in the half dark on the way home
I stop at the food store
and waiting in line I begin
to wonder about people—I wonder
if they also wonder about how
strange it is that we
are here on the earth.
And how in order to live
we all must sleep.
And how we have beds for this
(unless we are without)
and entire rooms where we go
at the end of the day to collapse.
And I think how even the most
lively people are desolate
when they are alone
because they too must sleep
and sooner or later die.
We are always looking to acquire
more food for more great meals.
We have to have great meals.
Isn't it enough to be a person buying
a carton of milk? A simple
package of butter and a loaf
of whole wheat bread?
Isn't it enough to stand here
while the sweet middle-aged cashier
rings up the purchases?
I look outside,
but I can't see much out there
because now it is dark except
for a single vermilion neon sign
floating above the gas station
like a miniature temple simply lit
against the night.

--Malena Morling

Monday, November 7, 2011

Dogs

Looking foolish next to the tree in a one o'clock rain:
umbrella aloft, the leash in my other hand—
I wanted my late-coming neighbor to understand
that dogs are worth the expense, inconvenience, and pain;

their tails are truthful, no coiled rebellion beneath
a loving look; they are quick to kiss you, and quick
to fetch for you, and should you raise a stick
threateningly—they are quick to show their teeth;

and better still (but this I never revealed),
when you bring downfall home, the death of a hope,
their nonchalant manner does more for you than a drink;
and best of all, when triumph's to be unsealed,
such lack of respect they show for the envelope,
—your fingers halt, the brain cools, and you think.

After Ritsos

You know that moment in the summer dusk
when the sunbathers have all gone home to mix drinks
and you are alone on the beach

when the waves begin to nibble
on the abandoned sand castles—
And further out, over the erupted face

of the water stained almost pink
there are a few clouds that hold
entire rooms inside of them—rooms where no one lives—

in the hair
of the light that soon will go
grey and then black. It is the moment

when even the man who mops the floor
in the execution room of the prison
stops to look up into the silence

that grows like smoke or the dusk itself.
And your mind becomes almost visible
and you know there is nothing

that is not mysterious. And that no moment
is less important than this moment.
And that imprisonment is not possible.

Skipping

A carburetor skips, and rocks
will skip along the surface of
a pond. A fugitive will skip
the country if he can, and crooks
will skip the payment of their debts.
And one can walk content or run
with joy across a summer field.
But why omitting steps is such
a sign of pleasure's hard to say,
as if the gap and shift, the quick
eliding interruption of
a stride, reflects the shiver jolt,
releasing dance; accentuates,
as heart is said to skip a beat,
the lift, arrhythmic, breathless gasp
and rush and reach of crossing first
one threshold then another in
the vivid hop from foot to foot,
the hurrying toward and with delight.