These are the four lessons I have learned,
One from Martha Graham,
three others from here and there -
Walk as though you'd been given one brown eye and one blue,
Think as though you thought best with somebody else's brain,
Write as though you had in hand the last pencil on earth,
Pray as though you were praying with someone else's soul.
- Charles Wright
Suppose for a moment you live in a land,
Amazed at what happens during summer solstice.
Very strange things begin to occur,
Instantly, there is little darkness,
Night that we are so used to
Gone; what is left is the brilliant colors.
Daylight from dusk to dawn to dusk again,
Alight in all its energy and brightness.
Yes, we are north of the sixtieth parallel;
Land of the midnight sun.
I have been here before and seen things,
Gazed upon the horizon, waiting for darkness to reappear,
Holding on to summer in all its life, love and beauty;
To see it ebb once more as daylight fades to night.
- C. M. Davidson Pickett
Ten Things I Need to Know
The brightest stars are the first to explode. Also hearts. It is important to pay attention to love's high voltage signs. The mockingbird is really ashamed of its own feeble song lost beneath all those he has to imitate. It's true, the Carolina Wren caught in the bedroom yesterday died because he stepped on a glue trap and tore his wings off. Maybe we have both fallen through the soul's thin ice already. Even Ethiopia is splitting off from Africa to become its own continent. Last year it moved 10 feet. This will take a million years. There's always this nostalgia for the days when Time was so unreal it touched us only like the pale shadow of a hawk. Parmenedes transported himself above the beaten path of the stars to find the real that was beyond time. The words you left are still smoldering like the cigarette left in my ashtray as if it were a dying star. The thin thread of its smoke is caught on the ceiling. When love is threatened, the heart crackles with anger like kindling. It's lucky we are not like hippos who fling dung at each other with their ridiculously tiny tails. Okay, that's more than ten things I know. Let's try twenty five, no, let's not push it, twenty. How many times have we hurt each other not knowing? Destiny wears her clothes inside out. Each desire is a memory of the future. The past is a fake cloud we've pasted to a paper sky. That is why our dreams are the most real thing we possess. My logic here is made of your smells, your thighs, your kiss, your words. I collect stars but have no place to put them. You take my breath away only to give back a purer one. The way you dance creates a new constellation. Off the Thai coast they have discovered a new undersea world with sharks that walk on their fins. In Indonesia, a kangaroo that lives in a tree. Why is the shadow I cast always yours? Okay, let's say I list 33 things, a solid symbolic number. It's good to have a plan so we don't lose ourselves, but then who has taken the ladder out of the hole I've dug for myself? How can I revive the things I've killed inside you? The real is a sunset over a shanty by the river. The keys that lock the door also open it. When we shut out each other, nothing seems real except the empty caves of our hearts, yet how arrogant to think our problems finally matter when thousands of children are bayoneted in the Congo this year. How incredible to think of those soldiers never having loved. Nothing ever ends. Will this? Byron never knew where his epic, Don Juan, would end and died in the middle of it. The good thing about being dead is that you don't have to go through all that dying again. You just toast it. See, the real is what the imagination decants. You can be anywhere with the turn of a few words. Some say the feeling of out-of-the-body travel is due to certain short circuits in parts of the brain. That doesn't matter because I'm still drifting towards you. Inside you are cumulous clouds I could float on all night. The difference is always between what we say we love and what we love. Tonight, for instance, I could drink from the bowl of your belly. It doesn't matter if our feelings shift like sands beneath the river, there's still the river. Maybe the real is the way your palms fit against my face, or the way you hold my life inside you until it is nothing at all, the way this plant droops, this flower called Heart's Bursting Flower, with its beads of red hanging from their delicate threads any breeze might break, any word might shatter, any hurt might crush.
- Richard Jackson
The Summer You Read Proust
Remember the summer you read Proust?
In the hammock tied to the apple trees
your daughters climbed, their shadows
merging with the shadows of the leaves
spilling onto those long arduous sentences,
all afternoon and into the evening - robins,
jays, the distant dog, the occasional swaying,
the way the hours rocked back and forth,
that gigantic book holding you in its woven nest -
you couldn't get enough pages, you wished
that with every turning a thousand were added,
the words falling you into sleep, the sleep
waking you into words, the summer you read
Proust, which lasted the rest of your life.
- Philip Terman
"A steep and unaccountable transition," Thoreau has described it "from what is called a common sense view of things, to an infinitely expanded and liberating one, from seeing things as men describe them, to seeing them as men cannot describe them.""Man's mind, like the expanding universe itself, is engaged in pouring over limitless horizons. At its heights of genius it betrays all the miraculous unexpectedness which we try vainly to eliminate from the universe. The great artist, whether he be musician, painter, or poet, is known for this absolute unexpectedness. One does not see, one does not hear, until he speaks to us out of that limitless creativity which is his gift."
- Loren Eiseley
The Night Country
Yesterday, strangely, began with showers,
laying the heat demons down and out
for a moment and the air, wet
with the ghost of something old.
Whispers like clouds of aimless particles
which one day could form something solid,
whispers and the slight reverberation
of planets softly colliding,
showering each other with dust,
which they have been trying to avoid,
hoping for a poem about something greener.
As if rock didn't survive,
and dust didn't dance on air.
- Jill Jones
from When Planets Softly Collide
Screens Jets Heaven
five branch tree
The fish are drifting calmly in their tank
between the green reeds, lit by a white glow
that passes for the sun. Blindly, the blank
glass that holds them in displays their slow
progress from end to end, familiar rocks
set into the gravel, murmuring rows
of filters, a universe the flying fox
and glass cats, Congo tetras, bristle-nose
pleocostemus all take for granted. Yet
the platys, gold and red, persist in leaping
occasionally, as if they can't quite let
alone a possibility - of wings,
maybe, once they reach the air? They die
on the rug. We find them there, eyes open in surprise.
- Kim Addonizio
The Philosopher's Club