4.23.2014

You cannot look in his eyes Because your pulse must not say What must not be said

To be in love
Is to touch with a lighter hand.

In yourself you stretch, you are well.

You look at things
Through his eyes.
A cardinal is red.
A sky is blue.
Suddenly you know he knows too.
He is not there but
You know you are tasting together
The winter, or a light spring weather.

His hand to take your hand is overmuch.
Too much to bear.

You cannot look in his eyes
Because your pulse must not say
What must not be said.

When he
Shuts a door-
Is not there--
Your arms are water.

And you are free
With a ghastly freedom.

You are the beautiful half
Of a golden hurt.

You remember and covet his mouth
To touch, to whisper on.

Oh when to declare
Is certain Death!

Oh when to apprize
Is to mesmerize,

To see fall down, the Column of Gold,
Into the commonest ash.

[Gwendolyn Brooks, 'To Be in Love', from Selected Poems]

4.22.2014

if, Deprived of solitude, you chafe, It's clear you're not the virtuous sort

When I was a child, I thought,
Casually, that solitude
Never needed to be sought.
Something everybody had,
Like nakedness, it lay at hand,
Not specially right or specially wrong,
A plentiful and obvious thing
Not at all hard to understand.

Then, after twenty, it became
At once more difficult to get
And more desired - though all the same
More undesirable; for what
You are alone has, to achieve
The rank of fact, to be expressed
In terms of others, or it's just
A compensating make-believe.

Much better stay in company!
To love you must have someone else,
Giving requires a legatee,
Good neighbours need whole parishfuls
Of folk to do it on - in short,
Our virtues are all social; if,
Deprived of solitude, you chafe,
It's clear you're not the virtuous sort.

Viciously, then, I lock my door.
The gas-fire breathes. The wind outside
Ushers in evening rain. Once more
Uncontradicting solitude
Supports me on its giant palm;
And like a sea-anemone
Or simple snail, there cautiously
Unfolds, emerges, what I am.

[Philip Larkin, 'Best Society', from Solitude - Everyman's Library Pocket Poets]

4.21.2014

I know this room, I've walked this floor.

I've heard there was a secret chord
that David played to please the Lord,
but you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this: the fourth, the fifth
the minor fall, the major lift;
the baffled king composing Hallelujah!

Your faith was strong but you needed proof.
You saw her bathing on the roof;
her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you.
She tied you to a kitchen chair
she broke your throne, she cut your hair,
and from your lips she drew the Hallelujah!

You say I took the Name in vain;
I don't even know the name.
But if I did, well, really, what's it to you?
There's a blaze of light in every word;
it doesn't matter what you heard,
the holy, or the broken Hallelujah!

I did my best; it wasn't much.
I couldn't feel, so I learned to touch.
I told the truth, I didn't come to fool you.
And even though it all went wrong,
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
with nothing on my lips but Hallelujah!

Baby, I have been here before.
I know this room, I've walked this floor.
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I've seen your flag on the marble arch,
love is not a victory march,
it's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah!

There was a time when you let me know
what's really going on below
but now you never show it to me, do you?
I remember when I moved in you,
the holy dove was moving too,
and every breath we drew was Hallelujah!

Now maybe there’s a God above
but all I ever learned from love
is how to shoot at someone who outdrew you.
And it’s no complaint you can hear tonight,
and it’s not some pilgrim who's seen the light--
it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah!

[Leonard Cohen, 'Hallelujah', from Leonard Cohen {Everyman's Library Pocket Poets}]

4.20.2014

do not despise your own place and hour. Every place is under the stars, every place is the center of the world

Today was a beautiful day. Absolutely glorious, especially after the varying shades of dreadful, surprising, and middling irritating through which we've slogged for the past ten months or so. Last weekend was a doozy, with everything from the upper 60s and sun to thunderstorms and hail to snow (see below) within two days. 75 and sunny with not too much wind was just right. I spent the day reading, mostly, with a spot in the middle for repotting some plants that desperately needed it. Turned a couple of root-bound African Violets back into plants (well, turned two into eight, which is more than I really wanted or have room for, but one does what one must) and just made a couple of others happier and healthier. Ran out of potting soil and empty pots (again) in the process. How does this keep happening?!

If you look closely at the upper left side of the windshield, you'll see hail...

...which also shows up a little better in this photo, ...


...and here's some very apparent snow.


I'm reading a very good book, and I can't recommend it highly enough. It's the sort of thing that I wish I could buy in bulk and just plop into the hands of everyone I care about, so that y'all can read it with me.


When Your Life is On Fire: What Would You Save? was written by Erik Kolbell. My review for Goodreads.com [which I write primarily for myself, as notes for what I've written, and if it's of incidental use to anyone else, so be it] follows.

Borrowed it from the library, got about a third of the way through, and returned it. Why? Because I needed to own it. Ordered it for my e-reader, because I was too impatient to wait the two days for it to arrive in print.

This is a profound book, and it's having a profound effect on me. I'm reading no more than one chapter a day and then taking time to reflect on it before moving on to the next. The thesis of the book is deceptively simple: if your life were on fire and you could save one thing, whether a physical object or something of value within yourself (e.g. an aspect of your intellect or your personality), what would you save? Each chapter comes in the form of an interview between the author (a Congregational minister with a concentration in Judaic studies) and various people--famous and "regular"--about the one thing that each of those people would save, and why. Each chapter is followed by a short group of discussion questions, which I've simply considered further topics for thought.

Is this a religion book? Sort of, but not really. There are religious aspects to it, but each of the chosen saved "objects" is certainly not from that category. The prose has a spiritual quality, in the sense that what is considered is the essential nature of a person's life. Is it a philosophy book? Sort of, but not really. It is grounded in practical reality, in what the interviewed people do on a daily basis, rather than the theoretical constructs and possibilities that most readers would consider philosophy.

It is a thoughtful, readable book that is making me reconsider some things that I thought I knew about myself and my own life, and to look at my own values in a different way. And I've already pushed it into the hands of two of my favorite reader-friends, so they can do the same.

Very highly recommended.

When I bought the book for my e-reader, I started reading again at the beginning so that I could take notes and highlight, which I obviously could not do in the library's copy. I'm still making steady progress but haven't yet finished. It's just as compelling the second time through.

The latest on the wedding front involves trying to find shoes to wear with my dress (blush-pink suede sandals are the front-runners) and negotiating via the groom-to-be for a hotel room on the night that we all arrive in The Big City. Our rental house will not be available until night number two.

It will all come together. Unless something else comes together first....

[the title quotation is by John Burroughs, from Studies in Nature and Literature]

standing on a little ceremony near a little cemetery

With open arms? Cache of weapons to arrive on an onyx barge.
Like my hands retrofitted to play with a brain surgeon's hands.
I took you though you weren't with me to sit on a rock by the river.
You threw all the coins you carried in your pocket into the water.
We were standing on a little ceremony near a little cemetery though
You weren't with me. You took off your hat to salute every gravestone.
With bells & whistles? Stash of poisons transported by poor post.
Like a sifter employed in the hands of someone dreamily sifting.
I took you with me but you weren't with me as we went through the
Turnstiles in the underground tunnels. You turned to kiss me as
A door slid between us. My face was reflected on yours in blue glass.
With fanfare and feasting? Rations gone bad in some barrels.
Like your hands going through the motions of come-here-to-me.
I took you with me where you weren't going to a place by the river.

[Dara Wier, 'At Issue Were the Ways We Would Welcome Them', from You Good Thing]

4.19.2014

drunk with its own perfume and the night

The secret drops of love run through my mind:
Midnight is filled with sounds of the full sea
That has risen softly among the rocks:
Air stirs the cedar-tree.

Somewhere a fainting sweetness is distilled:
It is the moonflower hanging in its tent
Of twisted broad-leaved branches by the stony path
That squanders the cool scent.

Pallid, long as a lily, it swings a little
As if drunk with its own perfume and the night,
Which draws its perfume out and leaves the flower
The weaker for its flight.

Detached from my desires, in an oblivion
Of this world that surrounds me, in weariness
Of all but darkness, silence, starry solitude,
I too feel that caress--

Delicate, serene and peaceful, lonely, strange
To the intellect and the imagination,
The touch with which reality wounds and ravishes
Our inmost desolation.

All being like the moonflower is dissatisfied
For the dark kiss that the night only gives,
And night gives only to the soul that waits in longing
And in that only lives.


[F.T. Prince, 'The Moonflower,' from Dark Horses: Poets on Overlooked Poems]

4.18.2014

Because you are mine, I imagine that I suffer with you.

You, Cesar Vallejo, can go to hell.
The prisons in your eyes never
give way to ladies with parasols, and
my ears ring with the clanging
of you monotonously slamming the cells closed.

I, too, am reminded of my death
every day of my life,
growing weary of the cost of
printing pages of sad poetry,
stung eternally by Existence's hornets, but I,
unlike you, Cesar Vallejo,
would suffer this exodus privately.

Somewhere, Cesar Vallejo, a guitar plays while
a girl with skin like moonlight
dances and sings. Her voice is
like a crow's, but,
because she is beautiful, we
blend her voice with
the voices of angels we
imagine she hears.

Somewhere, I find you writing
poems about yourself. I imagine
you sitting, perhaps, at
the side table in a Parisian cafe.
Because you are mine, I
imagine that I suffer with you.
Goddamn you, Cesar Vallejo.
Goddamn you, brother.

[Jason Macey, 'Love Song for Cesar Vallejo', from Best New Poets 2013]

4.17.2014

Are you waiting for time to show you some better thoughts?

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life-–

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

[William Stafford, 'You Reading This, Be Ready' from Ask Me]