Category Archives: poetry

Of Love

I have been in love more times than one,
thank the Lord. Sometimes it was lasting
whether active or not. Sometimes
it was all but ephemeral, maybe only
an afternoon, but not less real for that.
They stay in my mind, these beautiful people,
or anyway beautiful people to me, of which
there are so many. You, and you, and you,
whom I had the fortune to meet, or maybe
missed. Love, love, love, it was the
core of my life, from which, of course, comes
the word for the heart. And, oh, have I mentioned
that some of them were men and some were women
and some – now carry my revelation with you –
were trees. Or places. Or music flying above
the names of their makers. Or clouds, or the sun
which was the first, and the best, the most
loyal for certain, who looked so faithfully into
my eyes, every morning. So I imagine
such love of the world – its fervency, its shining, its
innocence and hunger to give of itself – I imagine
this is how it began.

– Mary Oliver

You Learn

You Learn

You learn.

After a while you learn the subtle difference

between holding a hand and chaining a soul,

and you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning

and company doesn’t mean security.

And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts

and presents aren’t promises,

and you begin to accept your defeats

with your head up and your eyes open

with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,

and you learn to build all your roads on today

because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans

and futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.

After a while you learn

that even sunshine burns if you get too much.

So you plant your garden and decorate your own soul,

instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

And you learn that you really can endure.

That you really are strong.

And you really do have worth.

And you learn. And learn.

With every good-bye you learn.

– Jorge Luis Borges

via whiskey river.

Silence

My Silence

My silence bridges the gulf between my life’s success
and my life’s failure.
My silence does not magnify my defects.
Nor does it connive at them.
My silence transforms my defects into strength indomitable.

My silence is a climbing flame that warms my world of despair.
My silence is my inner light.
No problem of mine can defy solution.
My silence is a selfless distributor of joy to ever-widening horizons.

In my silence I become a man of sterling character,
a prolific writer, a voracious reader, a divine lover,
a profound inspirer and a triumphant liberator.

In my deep silence I never become a victim to ignorance,
the greatest calamity that can befall any human being.
In my growing silence I am convinced that even as a man on this earth
I shall be able to reach heights, transcendental, divine.

Excerpt from “Songs of the Soul” by Sri Chinmoy

Silence II

Silence is not a lack of words.
Silence is not a lack of music.
Silence is not a lack of curses.
Silence is not a lack of screams.
Silence is not a lack of colors
or voices or bodies or whistling wind.
Silence is not a lack of anything.

Silence is resting, nestling
in every leaf of every tree,
in every root and branch.
Silence is the flower sprouting
upon the branch.

Silence is seeing and singing praises.
Silence is the roar of ocean waves.
Silence is the sandpiper dancing
on the shore.
Silence is the vastness of a whale.
Silence is a blade of grass.

Silence is the healer dreaming
the plant, the drummer drumming
the dream. It is the lover’s
exhausted fall into sleep.
It is the call of morning birds.

Silence is the star kissing a flower.

Silence is a word, a hope, a candle
lighting the window of home.

Silence is everything –the renewing sleep
of Earth, the purifying dream of Water,
the purifying rage of Fire, the soaring
and spiraling flight of Air. It is all
things dissolved into no-thing–Silence
is with you always…..the Presence
of I AM

– Elaine Maria Upton

“Why do you stay in prison
when the door is so wide open?

Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
Live in silence.”

— Jalal ad-Din Rumi

“Silences make the real conversations between friends. Not the saying but the never needing to say is what counts.” — Margaret Lee Runbeck

“In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth.” — Mahatma Gandhi

When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” –- Ansel Adams

You are the One which is aware
of the awareness of objects and ideas.
You are the One that is even more silent than awareness.
You are the Life which precedes the concept of life.
Your nature is silence and it is not attainable,
It always Is.

‘This – Prose and Poetry of Dancing Emptiness’
– Sri H. W. L. Poonja (Papaji)

True Vows, and True Love

All the True Vows (via Hecate)
by David Whyte

All the true vows
are secret vows
the ones we speak out loud
are the ones we break.

There is only one life
you can call your own
and a thousand others
you can call by any name you want.

Hold to the truth you make
every day with your own body,
don’t turn your face away.

Hold to your own truth
at the center of the image
you were born with.

Those who do not understand
their destiny will never understand
the friends they have made
nor the work they have chosen

nor the one life that waits
beyond all the others.

By the lake in the wood
in the shadows
you can
whisper that truth
to the quiet reflection
you see in the water.

Whatever you hear from
the water, remember,

it wants you to carry
the sound of its truth on your lips.

Remember,
in this place
no one can hear you

and out of the silence
you can make a promise
it will kill you to break,

that way you’ll find
what is real and what is not.

I know what I am saying.
Time almost forsook me
and I looked again.

Seeing my reflection
I broke a promise
and spoke
for the first time
after all these years

in my own voice,

before it was too late
to turn my face again.

“Dreams are illustrations… from the book your soul is writing about you.” -– Marsha Norman

“The truth is, we are meant to be bountiful and live. The universe will always support affirmative action. Our truest dream for ourselves is always the Goddess’ will for us.” — Julia Cameron

You are just perfect the way you are, and you already have everything you want — you just have to say yes to it and open the door.

When you stop fighting against the flow, the flow stops fighting you, too.

Love is not giving in to all someone’s whims — love is bringing out the best in someone, teaching them to love what is difficult for them. Love what is difficult to love in yourself, and in others, and it will help you to bring out the best in yourself and in others, as well.

Breakthrough (repost)


Autumn Wind in Gemstone Trees, Tang Dynasty, China

In late summer, heaven’s breath is damply hot.
It smothers the earth with dullness.
Suddenly, thick clouds gather:
A wave of polar air passes like a frigid rake.
Acorns fall like bullets,
And a new wind breaks through.

When the air is hot and humid, there is a feeling of dullness and stagnation. Everyone is oppressed by lassitude. As the seasons begin changing, fresh air comes from the arctic. Clouds that have been building up begin to dispense rain, and damp air is exchanged for fresh, cool breezes. At night, the heavens are changing so quickly that lightening flashes from colliding clouds, and thunder heralds the revolving of the skies.

The same is true of human life. If the heavens cannot endure stagnation for long, how can stagnation last with us? If we find ourselves blocked and frustrated in life, we must look for the inevitable outlet. Nothing is permanent, so how can our obstacles last? We need to look for the first opportunity to set things moving again.

On the other hand, sometimes stagnation comes from our own laziness or incompetence. In this case, then it is we who must show initiative and stimulate a breakthrough in dull circumstances. As soon as we see a chance, we must act. Unless we engage ourselves and events fully, we cannot expect to act sufficiently.

Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

“What you really want for yourself is always trying to break through, just as a cooling breeze flows through an open window on a hot day. Your part is to open the windows of your mind.” — Vernon Howard

“Oh, my God, this amazing cool breeze is coming through my window and the sun is shining. I’m happy.” — Liv Tyler

“O sweet September, the first breezes bring the dry leaf’s rustle and the squirrel’s laughter, the cool fresh air whence health and vigor spring and promise of exceeding joy hereafter.” — George Arnold

“We spend most of our time and energy in a kind of horizontal thinking. We move along the surface of things… but there are times when we stop. We sit sill. We lose ourselves in a pile of leaves or its memory. We listen and breezes from a whole other world begin to whisper.” — James Carroll

“I learned what is obvious to a child. That life is simply a collection of little lives, each lived one day at a time. That each day should be spent finding beauty in flowers and poetry and talking to animals. That a day spent with dreaming and sunsets and refreshing breezes cannot be bettered.” — Nicholas Sparks

I’ve been fighting my obstacles and stagnation for a while now, waiting for this to happen and that to happen, to have time, I tell myself. For what, I don’t really know. But, I have time, I just don’t have motivation. I need to get back to my art, back to my reading projects and writing. Yes, I can open the windows now and feel the cool breezes of autumn beginning to blow, feel how refreshingly cool and crisp the air is becoming. And it is energizing, to some extent. I still seem stuck in my laziness, though, my tiredness. The mundane tasks of life get done, but not much else, nothing really grand or wonderful. But then, I have to come back to the Zen saying:

“Before enlightenment – eat rice, clean bowl.
After enlightenment – eat rice, clean bowl.”

Perhaps, like children, we simply need to realize the grand and wonderful in everyday things – the flowers, the animals, the poetry of life, our daydreams, the sunsets and breezes. Is there really anything so much more wonderful than that?

This is a poem I write a few years ago, inspired by my own children:

Choices

There isn’t black or white
Anymore today,
I suddenly woke up
To a thousand shades of gray.
I’ve lost the either/or,
And now forever more
I will know there is more
I have yet to explore.

I looked into your eyes
And I saw the past
And then I realized
It goes much too fast.
You’re not a child now
I’ll turn around and how
You’ll have grown
And have flown
And I’ll never have known.

I’ve got to find a way
To make this moment stay!
I’ve got to find the time
To really make it mine.
I look behind me and it’s gone
I’ve got to carry on
And find the path
That takes me back…

It’s there in your eyes
It’s such a surprise
To see the world again
As if it were new!
The joy that you show to me
Now you have set me free
And I see that at last
I can reach to the past.

And so I carry on
With the chores today,
But somehow now I know
There is more to say.
I’ll find my voice again
I’ll have a choice again
You have shown my how
I know even now.

That life is what you make it –
The chance is there so take it!
And when you turn around,
Then at last you’ve found
There’s an open door
Into nevermore …
But what you’ve done here
Will not disappear.

Optimism

Optimism

More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another.
A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers, mitochondria, figs–all this resinous, unretractable earth.

Jane Hirshfield
(thanks to Whiskey River)

See those trees
Bend in the wind
I feel they’ve got a lot more sense than me
You see I try to resist — “Rubberband Girl”, Kate Bush

There was an old man who began an orchard upon his retirement. Everyone laughed at him. Why plant trees? They told him that he would never live to see a mature crop. Undaunted, he planted anyway, and he has seen them blossom and has eaten their fruit. We all need that type of optimism. That is the innocence and hope of childhood.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

In the beginning, all things are hopeful. We prepare ourselves to start anew. Though we may be intent on the magnificent journey ahead, all things are contained in this first moment of our optimism, our faith, our resolution, our innocence.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

A flower’s fragrance declares to all the world that it is fertile,
available, and desirable, its sex organs oozing with nectar.
Its smell reminds us in vestigial ways of fertility, vigor, life-force,
all the optimism, expectancy, and passionate bloom of youth.
We inhale its ardent aroma and, no matter what our ages,
we feel young and nubile in a world aflame with desire.

— Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses

“These are the soul’s changes. I don’t believe in aging. I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun. Hence my optimism.” — Virginia Woolf

“When the aerials are down, and your spirit is covered with snows of cynicism and the ice of pessimism, then you are grown old, even at twenty, but as long as your aerials are up, to catch the waves of optimism, there is hope you may die young at eighty.” — Samuel Ullman

“Optimism is a seed sown in the soil of faith; pessimism is a seed hoarded in the vault of doubt.” — William Arthur Ward

I don’t think there’s anything on this planet that more trumpets life that the sunflower. For me that’s because of the reason behind its name. Not because it looks like the sun but because it follows the sun. During the course of the day, the head tracks the journey of the sun across the sky. A satellite dish for sunshine. Wherever light is, no matter how weak, these flowers will find it. And that’s such an admirable thing. And such a lesson in life.” — John Clarke, Calendar Girls

For Once, Then, Something

For Once, Then, Something

Others taught me with having knelt at well-curbs
Always wrong to the light, so never seeing
Deeper down in the well than where the water
Gives me back in a shining surface picture
Me myself in the summer heaven godlike
Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs.
Once, when trying with chin against a well-curb,
I discerned, as I thought, beyond the picture,
Through the picture, a something white, uncertain,
Something more of the depths–and then I lost it.
Water came to rebuke the too clear water.
One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple
Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom,
Blurred it, blotted it out. What was that whiteness?
Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something.

Robert Frost

Desire


Desire — Justin Simoni

That was no beast that stirred,
That was my heart you heard
Pacing to and fro
In the ambush of my desire.
To the music my flute let fall.

– “Neither Spirit Nor Bird” (Shoshone Love Song), trans. Mary Austin

The Tao is infinite, eternal.
Why is it eternal?
It was never born;
thus it can never die.
Why is it infinite?
It has no desires for itself;
thus it is present for all beings.

The Master stays behind;
that is why she is ahead.
She is detached from all things;
that is why she is one with them.
Because she has let go of herself,
she is perfectly fulfilled.

— Tao Te Ching: Chapter 7
translated by Stephen Mitchell

Heaven and Earth last for ever.
Why do Heaven and Earth last for ever?
They are unborn,
So ever living.
The sage stays behind, thus he is ahead.
He is detached, thus at one with all.
Through selfless action, he attains fulfillment.

— translated by Gia-fu Feng and Jane English

Transcending the ego is equivalent to transcending suffering. Your ego, which is your false self, keeps you identified with your mind. The ego keeps you tied in thinking about your past and it also makes you think about the future. The ego wants you to be anywhere other than where you are at this moment. The ego makes you believe that something is lacking in this current moment that is keeping you from being at peace. Maybe you believe that you need a new car or a dog or a shirt in order to feel better. There is nothing wrong with purchasing any of these things or wanting any of these things but if you believe that they will make you feel better then the desire is probably ego-based. Unfortunately, under the rein of the ego you will never be at peace and you will never transcend suffering.

The ego is the source of desire. When you remove desire you can remove the ego. This is definitely easier said than done; however, just being aware of the impact your ego will help to remove its grip in your life.

The next two hindrances are raga (attachment, desire) and dvesha (aversion). Within these are the more specific hindrances of attachment to pleasure, or sukha, and aversion to pain, or duhkha. Sukha and duhkha in themselves are simply natural human reactions. Sukha and duhkha become raga and dvesha when attachment is present, for it is in the attachment to pleasure and the aversion to pain that we get into trouble. — Rolf Gates, Meditations from the Mat

“The man whom desires enter as rivers flow into the sea, filled yet always unmoving — that man finds lasting peace.” — Bhagavad Gita

So much desire in the world today
So much of everything you can’t give it away
You could be happy but you’re feeling so bad
About what you never have
Because you can’t look at nothing without wanting it
And you know that’s the truth

There’s always some scene you think you got to break into
Or a new sensation to intoxicate you
Ain’t it a drag
Staring through the glass at something doesn’t touch you really
Or bring you laughter or roses or stroke your hair so tenderly

Desire
Stealing you away from me
Desire
You’re living in a dream
Desire
Is getting the best of you…

Who was it told you
You have to have everything you see
Same one who sold you that last fantasy
Roll up your sleeves and use those hands for something
That’s gonna work for you baby
To fill your arms and your heart with joy

Desire, Boz Scaggs

Other Worlds

Other Worlds

What is it that we seek
In all these other worlds?
Is it just to escape
The mundane parts of life?
Or is it to break the rules —
At least for a little while
At least in our minds.

We enter these alternate realities
And admire their creators —
Maybe even hope to make
Worlds of our own one day
They give us new ideas
And play out our fantasies —
Safe little games of fiction.

But where is the guidebook
For those of us who really
Want to change the world —
Not just imagine what we want
But make it real — “make it so”
Not just to make a nice world
In our heads, but in reality?

The hero’s journey is always hard —
To fight the things that are wrong
That everyone else seems to accept.
What they never tell you is that
The hardest part is coming back
To the real world, after you’ve seen
The peace and beauty of your own soul.

_______________

Other Worlds is a poem I wrote many years ago — came back into my head this morning as I was thinking of another poem that was forming this morning as I woke up. It starts like this

The Real World

Projected images on the cave wall
Become more real than our own world
For a brief moment in time…

{And these words I add now…}

Take us away from ourselves
Others watch with us
And this world we all understand

We think so anyway
Share in common an experience
Created just for us —
Hot sex scenes on the screen,
Mass destruction later on
A desolate world left to some

To others their new fantasized reality
Some can’t accept it
And are destroyed in the end.
We all come away with our own thoughts
“He killed kitty!”
Stuck in mine.

Lights up and we part ways
Back to our own spaces
Our own cave walls
To play out our images
In our dreams
And wake again today

The breeze blows in the trees
And the sun shines down
And the birds sing
Breathe in and out
Enjoy a cup of tea…
Isn’t life pleasant…

But his nose is buried in a book
And I clack on my keyboard
Separate in our thoughts
Not sharing this life
Though we share the space.
At least I’m aware of it…

Then we converse,
Talk about our own kitty,
He complains about dog farts
And the cold..
“Turn up the heat”, I say.
I suppose it’s a life.

At last he notices the wind
As he starts to make breakfast
Scrambles the eggs,
Adds the salt and pepper
Same things as always
It’s never different…

The dogs share my eggs
As he goes back to his book
And I turn to my screen
Off to read the worlds’ thoughts
See what is happening
Elsewhere in the real world….

Random Bits of Poetry

This is just a collection of bits of poetry that have popped up lately in various places in my life.

The poetry is coming back to me, I feel it coming…

I made no vows, but vows
Were then made for me; bond unknown to me
Was given, that I should be, else sinning greatly,
A dedicated Spirit. On I walked
In thankful blessedness, which yet survives.

— William Wordsworth

And though thou notest from thy safe recess old friends burn dim,
like lamps in noisome air love them for what they are;
nor love them less,
because to thee they are not what they were.
-– Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Why then, have to be human?
Oh not because happiness exists,
Not out of curiosity…
But because being here means so much;
because everything here,
vanishing so quickly, seems to need us,
and strangely keeps calling to us… To have been
here, once, completely, even if only once,
to have been at one with the earth –
this is beyond undoing.

Rainer Maria Rilke (different translation)