Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"I don't know where prayers go..."



I Happened To Be Standing

I don't know where prayers go,
      or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
      half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it
      crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
      growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
      along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
      of little importance, in full
self-attendance. A condition I can't really
      call being alive.
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
      or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that's their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep. Maybe not.

While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don't know why. And yet, why not.
I wouldn't persuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don't. That's your business.
But I thought, of the wren's singing, what could this be
      if it isn't a prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air.

"I Happened To Be Standing" by Mary Oliver from A Thousand Mornings. © The Penguin Press, 2012. buy now)

Monday, April 21, 2014

"Evening and the flat land, Rich and sombre and always silent;..."

Prairie Spring

Evening and the flat land,
Rich and sombre and always silent;
The miles of fresh-plowed soil,
Heavy and black, full of strength and harshness;
The growing wheat, the growing weeds,
The toiling horses, the tired men;
The long empty roads,
Sullen fires of sunset, fading,
The eternal, unresponsive sky.
Against all this, Youth,
Flaming like the wild roses,
Singing like the larks over the plowed fields,
Flashing like a star out of the twilight;
Youth with its insupportable sweetness,
Its fierce necessity,
Its sharp desire,
Singing and singing,
Out of the lips of silence,
Out of the earthy dusk.

"Prairie Spring" by Willa Cather from Stories, Poems, and Other Writings. © Library of America, 1992.  (buy now)

Monday, April 14, 2014

"Waiting patiently to be named..."

The World Seems…

 
Gregory Orr
The world seems so palpable
And dense: people and things
And the landscapes
They inhabit or move through.
 
Words, on the other hand,
Are so abstract—they’re
Made of empty air
Or black scratches on a page
That urge us to utter
Certain sounds.
                           And us:
Poised in the middle, aware
Of the objects out there
Waiting patiently to be named,
As if the right words
Could save them.
                               And don’t
They deserve it?     
So much hidden inside each one,
Such a longing
To become the beloved.
 
And inside us: the sounds
That could extend that blessing—
How they crowd our mouths,
How they press up against
Our lips, which are such
A narrow exit for a joy so desperate.
 


 
 
 
Copyright © 2014 by Gregory Orr.

Friday, April 11, 2014

" I have not been happy enough..."

   A Purification


At the start of spring I open a trench
in the ground. I put into it
the winter’s accumulation of paper,
pages I do not want to read
again, useless words, fragments,
errors. And I put into it
the contents of the outhouse:
light of the sun, growth of the ground, 
finished with one of their journeys.
To the sky, to the wind, then,
and to the faithful trees, I confess
my sins: that I have not been happy
enough, considering my good luck;
have listened to too much noise;
have been inattentive to wonders;
have lusted after praise.
And then upon the gathered refuse
of mind and body, I close the trench,
folding shut again the dark,
the deathless earth. Beneath that seal
the old escapes into the new.

Wendell Berry
Source: Collected Poems: 1957-1982

Add your thoughts at inward/outward

Monday, April 07, 2014

"perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness"...

Keeping Quiet


Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single-minded
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.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.


Pablo Neruda
Source: translated by Alistair Reid in Extravagaria

Add your thoughts at inward/outward

The toad and I have not moved...

Plains Spadefoot Toad

Toads are smarter than frogs. Like all of us who are not good-
looking they have to rely on their wits. A woman around the
beginning of the last century who was in love with frogs wrote
a wonderful book on frogs and toads. In it she says if you place
a frog and a toad on a table they will both hop. The toad will
stop just at the table's edge, but the frog with its smooth skin
and pretty eyes will leap with all its beauty out into nothing-
ness. I tried it out on my kitchen table and it is true. That may
explain why toads live twice as long as frogs. Frogs are better at
romance though. A pair of spring peepers were once observed
whispering sweet nothings for thirty-four hours. Not by me.
The toad and I have not moved.

"Plains Spadefoot Toad" by Tom Hennen, from Darkness Sticks to Everything. © Copper Canyon Press, 2013.  (buy now)

From "The Writer's Almanac"

Friday, March 21, 2014

"A fire grows simply because the space is there..."

John Bill tending fire
What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing,
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water would.
So building fires
require attention
to the spaces in between,
as much as to the wood.
When we are able to build
open spaces
in the same way
we have learned
to pile on the logs,
then we can come to see how
it is fuel, and absence of the fuel
together, that make fire possible.
We only need to lay a log
lightly from time to time.
A fire
grows
simply because the space is there,
with openings
in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn
can find its way.

Judy Brown
Source: Teaching With Fire edited by Intrator and Scribner

From inward/outward

Thursday, March 13, 2014

VII

I know I am getting old and I say so,
but I don't think of myself as an old man.
I think of myself as a young man
with unforeseen debilities. Time is neither
young nor old, but simply new, always
counting, the only apocalypse. And the clouds
—no mere measure or geometry, no cubism,
can account for clouds or, satisfactorily, for bodies.
There is no science for this, or art either.
Even the old body is new—who has known it
before?—and no sooner new than gone, to be
replaced by a body yet older and again new.
The clouds are rarely absent from our sky
over this humid valley, and there is a sycamore
that I watch as, growing on the riverbank,
it forecloses the horizon, like the years
of an old man. And you, who are as old
almost as I am, I love as I loved you
young, except that, old, I am astonished
at such a possibility, and am duly grateful.


"VII." by Wendell Berry from Leavings. © Counterpoint, 2010.  (buy now)

From "The Writer's Almanac"