Days pass here, weeks slip away,
and even when it isn't,
it seems to be Sunday,
irreal, subdued, the queer, slowed-down
feeling of late afternoon
spreading through the hours
of an entire day. Impersonal, yet benign,
the sun rains indiscriminately down
on everything, instead of singling out
particular objects, so that
even the rocks out by the tide line,
normally gray-brown, become heightened,
false, and I have to turn away.
- Elizabeth Spires
from Letter from Swan's Island
Those were the long afternoons when poetry left me.
The river flowed patiently, nudging lazy boats to sea.
Long afternoons, the coast of ivory.
Shadows lounged in the streets, haughty manikins in shopfronts
stared at me with bold and hostile eyes.
Professors left their schools with vacant faces,
as if the Iliad had finally done them in.
Evening papers brought disturbing news,
but nothing happened, no one hurried.
There was no one in the windows, you weren't there;
even nuns seemed ashamed of their lives.
Those were the long afternoons when poetry vanished
and I was left with the city's opaque demon,
like a poor traveler stranded outside the Gare du Nord
with his bulging suitcase wrapped in twine
and September's black rain falling.
Oh, tell me how to cure myself of irony, the gaze
that sees but doesn't penetrate; tell me how to cure myself
- Adam Zagajewski
"We are fast moving into something, we are fast flung into something like asteroids cast into space by the death of a planet, we the people of earth are cast into space like burning asteroids and if we wish not to disintegrate into nothingness we must begin to now hold onto only the things that matter while letting go of all that doesn't. For when all of our dust and ice deteriorates into the cosmos we will be left only with ourselves and nothing else. So if you want to be there in the end, today is the day to start holding onto your children, holding onto your loved ones; onto those who share your soul. Harbor and anchor into your heart justice, truth, courage, bravery, belief, a firm vision, a steadfast and sound mind. Be the person of meaningful and valuable thoughts. Don't look to the left, don't look to the right; we simply don't have the time. Never be afraid of fear."
- C. JoyBell C.
running cause i can't fly
Summer ends tonight.
Air cuts into our lungs
as frost cuts the field
into flowers. Stars catch
in the pond's dark water
drawing us farther
from the lighted houses.
We catch our arms
in circles round our chests
as if this were protection
Spiked firs border the road.
Behind each one are ghosts
whose names we don't know,
who watch us, who
who'd never hurt us.
They come to you in your sleep,
sit in a circle round your bed,
saying the things the living
want to say and can't.
You try to move your head, try
to move into their world of light
where the lace on the child's
white dress burns your skin
like a kiss. But no,
touching their lips to yours,
they go, wordlessly and without cause,
as only the dead might.
Mist spills from the trees
as you talk and we walk
from valley to hill, hill to valley,
till we come to the place
where we left off, unmarked road
crossing itself in the dark.
Blackened by frost, leaves
blow over the pond,
absorbing the water's stain,
sinking toward the stars' reflections.
You kneel, smooth the water
with your hands, and say nothing.
Perfect in their pain,
the dead surround us, holding
stones in their hands like coins.
Money they would lend us.
- Elizabeth Spires
"Note some odd things about the self's world. One is that it is not the same as the Cosmos-environment. The planet Venus may be a sign in the self's world as the evening star or the morning star, but the galaxy M31 may not be present at all. Another oddity is that the self's world contains things which have no counterpart in the Cosmos, such as centaurs, Big Foot, détente, World War I (which is past), World War III (which may not occur). Yet another odd thing is that the word apple which you utter is part of my world but it is not a singular thing like an individual apple. It is in fact understandable only insofar as it conforms to a rule for uttering apples. But the oddest thing of all is your status in my world. You - Betty, Dick - are like other items in my world - cats, dogs, and apples. But you have a unique property. You are also co-namer, co-discoverer, co-sustainer of my world - whether you are Kafka whom I read or Betty who reads this. Without you - Franz, Betty - I would have no world."
- Walker Percy
Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book
"Today, the sky's the soft blue of a work shirt washed a thousand times. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. On the interstate listening to NPR, I heard a Hubble scientist say, "The universe is not only stranger than we think, it's stranger than we can think." I think I've driven into spring, as the woods revive with a loud shout, redbud trees, their gaudy scarves flung over bark's bare limbs. Barely doing sixty, I pass a tractor trailer called Glory Bound, and aren't we just? Just yesterday, I read Li Po: "There is no end of things in the heart," but it seems like things are always ending - vacation or childhood, relationships, stores going out of business, like the one that sold jeans that really fit - And where do we fit in? How can we get up in the morning, knowing what we do? But we do, put one foot after the other, open the window, make coffee, watch the steam curl up and disappear. At night, the scent of phlox curls in the open window, while the sky turns red violet, lavender, thistle, a box of spilled crayons. The moon spills its milk on the black tabletop for the thousandth time."
- Barbara Crooker
"Why is it we want so badly to memorialize ourselves? Even while we're still alive. We wish to assert our existence, like dogs peeing on fire hydrants. We put on display our framed photographs, our parchment diplomas, our silver-plated cups; we monogram our linen, we carve our names on trees, we scrawl them on washroom walls. It's all the same impulse. What do we hope from it? Applause, envy, respect? Or simply attention, of any kind we can get?
At the very least we want a witness. We can't stand the idea of our own voices falling silent finally, like a radio running down."
- Margaret Atwood
The Blind Assassin
"Even if we were very good at making everything outside of ourselves be just the way we ourselves want it to be (a ludicrous thought, you must admit), we could fundamentally never get everything perfect: because our desires are always changing, because they are often conflicting, and because the changes of the environment can never keep up with the pace of the wanting mind. The satisfaction of desire as a strategy for happiness will always be a doomed enterprise."
- Andrew Olendzki
The Seven Sorrows
The first sorrow of autumn
Is the slow goodbye
Of the garden who stands so long in the evening -
A brown poppy head,
The stalk of a lily,
And still cannot go.
The second sorrow
Is the empty feet
Of a pheasant who hangs from a hook with his brothers.
The woodland of gold
Is folded in feathers
With its head in a bag.
And the third sorrow
Is the slow goodbye
Of the sun who has gathered the birds and who gathers
The minutes of evening,
The golden and holy
Ground of the picture.
The fourth sorrow
Is the pond gone black
Ruined and sunken the city of water -
The beetle's palace,
Of the dragonfly.
And the fifth sorrow
Is the slow goodbye
Of the woodland that quietly breaks up its camp.
One day it's gone.
It has only left litter -
And the sixth sorrow
Is the fox's sorrow
The joy of the huntsman, the joy of the hounds,
The hooves that pound
Till earth closes her ear
To the fox's prayer.
And the seventh sorrow
Is the slow goodbye
Of the face with its wrinkles that looks through the window
As the year packs up
Like a tatty fairground
That came for the children.
- Ted Hughes
"The silence is so intense that you can hear your own blood roar in your ears but louder than that by far is the mysterious roar which I always identify with the roaring of the diamond wisdom, the mysterious roar of silence itself, which is a great Shhhh reminding you of something you've seemed to have forgotten in the stress of your days since birth."
- Jack Kerouac
the vale of soul-making
"Well, the terrible fact is that though we are all more or less thinking of something or other all the time, some of us are thinking more and some less.
Some brains are battling and working and remembering and puzzling things over all the time and other brains are just lying down, snoring and occasionally turning over. It is to the lazy minds that I am now speaking, and from my own experience I imagine this includes nineteen people out of every twenty. I am one of that clan myself and always have been."
- Ted Hughes
The Goddess who created this passing world
Said Let there be lightbulbs & liquefaction
Life spilled out onto the street, colors whirled
Cars & the variously shod feet were born
And the past & future & I born too
Light as airmail paper away she flew
To Annapurna or Mt. McKinley
Or both but instantly
Clarified, composed, forever was I
Meant by her to recognize a painting
As beautiful or a movie stunning
And to adore the finitude of words
And understand as surfaces my dreams
Know the eye the organ of affection
And depths to be inflections
Of her voice & wrist & smile
- Alice Notley
"Art is an engagement of the senses; art sharpens the acuity with which emotions, and the other senses, are felt or imagined (and again, here, it challenges reality: What is the difference between feeling happy and really being happy? What is the difference between imagining you can taste something and really tasting it? A hair's breadth; a measurement less than the thickness of a dried work-skein of ink on paper).
And then the kicker is this: in passing from the real to the imagined, in following that trail, you learn that both sides have a little of the other in each, that there are elements of the imagined inside your experience of the 'real' world - rock, bone, wood, ice - and elements of the real - not the metaphorical, but the actual thing itself - inside stories and tales and dreams."
- Rick Bass
"Everyone has their own reality in which, if one is not too cautious, timid, or frightened, one swims. This is the only reality there is. If you can get it down on paper, in words, notes, or color, so much the better. The great artists don't even bother to put it down on paper: they live with it silently, they become it."
- Henry Miller
Stand Still Like The Hummingbird
This house has been far out at sea all night,
The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills,
Winds stampeding the fields under the window
Floundering black astride and blinding wet
Till day rose; then under an orange sky
The hills had new places, and wind wielded
Blade-light, luminous black and emerald,
Flexing like the lens of a mad eye.
At noon I scaled along the house-side as far as
The coal-house door. Once I looked up -
Through the brunt wind that dented the balls of my eyes
The tent of the hills drummed and strained its guy rope,
The fields quivering, the skyline a grimace,
At any second to bang and vanish with a flap;
The wind flung a magpie away and a black-
Back gull bent like an iron bar slowly. The house
Rang like some fine green goblet in the note
That any second would shatter it. Now deep
In chairs, in front of the great fire, we grip
Our hearts and cannot entertain book, thought,
Or each other. We watch the fire blazing,
And feel the roots of the house move, but sit on,
Seeing the window tremble to come in,
Hearing the stones cry out under the horizons.
- Ted Hughes
The Hawk in the Rain