"At least a flash of sanity: the momentary realization that there is no need to come to certain conclusions about persons, events, conflicts, trends, even trends toward evil and disaster, as if from day to day and even from moment to moment I had to know and declare (at least to myself): This is so and so, this is good, this is bad; we are heading for a "new era" or we are heading for destruction.
What do such judgments mean? Little or nothing. Things are as they are, in an immense whole of which I am a part, and which I cannot pretend to grasp. To say I grasp it is immediately to put myself in a false position, as if I were "outside" it. Whereas to be in it is to seek truth in my own life and action, by moving where movement is possible and keeping still when movement is unnecessary, realizing that things will continue to define themselves - and will be more clear to me if I am silent and attentive, rather than constantly formulating statements in this age which is smothered in language, in meaningless and inconclusive debate, and in which, in the last analysis, nobody listens to anything except what agrees with his own prejudices."
- Thomas Merton
the hammock papers
Because we time-travel into the future
at a blistering sixty minutes an hour,
I ask you to sit down and write me
one beautiful sentence I might carry
in my pocket on the journey when I go,
and in the window of the train unfold
O you were the best of all my days.
Never knowing if the thing is broken
or the door between us is still open,
you would like me to sit down and write
you one beautiful sentence you might
carry in your wallet when you leave,
and in the cab you take it out and read
Permit me voyage, love, into your hands.
Depending where one stands, each circle
back is a possible fall, a fail, a spiral,
and I would like you to take a few seconds
to write me out one beautiful sentence
to carry now across the night and ocean,
and held up at the gate I sit down and open
Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.
- Nick Laird
Note: Includes lines by Frank O'Hara, Hart Crane and Kurt Vonnegut.
Five Branch Tree
The world you see is just a movie in your mind.
Rocks don't see it.
Bless and sit down.
Forgive and forget.
Practice kindness all day to everybody
and you will realize you're already
in heaven now.
That's the story.
That's the message.
Nobody understands it,
nobody listens, they're
all running around like chickens with heads cut
off. I will try to teach it but it will
be in vain, s'why I'll
end up in a shack
praying and being
cool and singing
by my woodstove
- Jack Kerouac
"Read poetry every day of your life. Poetry is good because it flexes muscles you don't use often enough. Poetry expands the senses and keeps them in prime condition. It keeps you aware of your nose, your eye, your ear, your tongue, your hand. And, above all, poetry is compacted metaphor or simile. Such metaphors, like Japanese paper flowers, may expand outward into gigantic shapes.
What poetry? Any poetry that makes your hair stand up along your arms. Don't force yourself too hard. Take it easy. Over the years you may catch up to, move even with, and pass T. S. Eliot on your way to other pastures. You say you don't understand Dylan Thomas? Yes, but your ganglion does, and your secret wits, and all your unborn children. Read him, as you can read a horse with your eyes, set free and charging over an endless green meadow on a windy day."
- Ray Bradbury
Zen in the Art of Writing
From the window I saw the horses.
I was in Berlin, in winter. The light
had no light, the sky had no heaven.
The air was white like wet bread.
And from my window a vacant arena,
bitten by the teeth of winter.
Suddenly driven out by a man,
ten horses surged through the mist.
Like waves of fire, they flared forward
and to my eyes filled the whole world,
empty till then. Perfect, ablaze,
they were like ten gods with pure white hoofs,
with manes like a dream of salt.
Their rumps were worlds and oranges.
Their color was honey, amber, fire.
Their necks were towers
cut from the stone of pride,
and behind their transparent eyes
energy raged, like a prisoner.
There, in silence, at mid-day,
in that dirty, disordered winter,
those intense horses were the blood
the rhythm, the inciting treasure of life.
I looked. I looked and was reborn:
for there, unknowing, was the fountain,
the dance of gold, heaven
and the fire that lives in beauty.
I have forgotten that dark Berlin winter.
I will not forget the light of the horses.
- Pablo Neruda
Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon
translated by Stephen Mitchell
Not Only The Eskimos
Not only the Eskimos
We have only one noun
but as many different kinds:
the grainy snow of the Puritans
and snow of soft, fat flakes,
guerrilla snow, which comes in the night
and changes the world by morning,
rabbinical snow, a permanent skullcap
on the highest mountains,
snow that blows in like the Lone Ranger,
riding hard from out of the West,
surreal snow in the Dakotas,
when you can't find your house, your street,
though you are not in a dream
or a science-fiction movie,
snow that tastes good to the sun
when it licks black tree limbs,
leaving us only one white stripe,
a replica of a skunk,
the blizzard that strikes on the tenth of April,
the false snow before Indian summer,
the Big Snow on Mozart's birthday,
when Chicago became the Elysian Fields
and strangers spoke to each other,
paper snow, cut and taped,
to the inside of grade-school windows,
in an old tale, the snow
that covers a nest of strawberries,
small hearts, ripe and sweet,
the special snow that goes with Christmas,
whether it falls or not,
the Russian snow we remember
along with the warmth and smell of furs,
though we have never traveled
to Russia or worn furs,
Villon's snows of yesteryear,
lost with ladies gone out like matches,
the snow in Joyce's "The Dead,"
the silent, secret snow
in a story by Conrad Aiken,
which is the snow of first love,
the snowfall between the child
and the spacewoman on TV,
snow as idea of whiteness,
as in snowdrop, snow goose, snowball bush,
the snow that puts stars in your hair,
and your hair, which has turned to snow,
the snow Elinor Wylie walked in
in velvet shoes,
the snow before her footprints
and the snow after,
the snow in the back of our heads,
whiter than white, which has to do
with childhood again each year.
- Lisel Mueller
"Stop worrying about your identity and concern yourself with the people you care about, ideas that matter to you, beliefs you can stand by, tickets you can run on. Intelligent humans make those choices with their brain and hearts and they make them alone. The world does not deliver meaning to you. You have to make it meaningful . . . and decide what you want and need and must do. It's a tough, unimaginably lonely and complicated way to be in the world. But that's the deal: you have to live; you can't live by slogans, dead ideas, clichés, or national flags. Finding an identity is easy. It's the easy way out."
- Zadie Smith
"I'm sorry I won't be around a hundred years from now. I'd like to
see how it all turns out. What language most of you are speaking.
What country is swaggering across the globe. I'm curious to know
if your medicines cure what ails us now. And how intelligent your
children are as they parachute down through the womb. Have
you invented new vegetables? Have you trained spiders to do your
bidding? Have baseball and opera merged into one melodic sport?
A hundred years . . . My grandfather lived almost that long. The
doctor who came to the farmhouse to deliver him arrived in a
horse-drawn carriage. Do you still have horses?"
- David Shumate
Kimonos in the Closet
"Each smallest act of kindness - even just words of hope when they are needed, the remembrance of a birthday, a compliment that engenders a smile - reverberates across great distances and spans of time, affecting lives unknown to the one whose generous spirit was the source of this good echo, because kindness is passed on and grows each time it's passed, until a simple courtesy becomes an act of selfless courage years later and far away. Likewise, each small meanness, each thoughtless expression of hatred, each envious and bitter act, regardless of how petty, can inspire others, and is therefore the seed that ultimately produces evil fruit, poisoning people whom you have never met and never will. All human lives are so profoundly and intricately entwined - those dead, those living, those generations yet to come - that the fate of all is the fate of each, and the hope of humanity rests in every heart and in every pair of hands. Therefore, after every failure, we are obliged to strive again for success, and when faced with the end of one thing, we must build something new and better in the ashes, just as from pain and grief, we must weave hope, for each of us is a thread critical to the strength - to the very survival of the human tapestry. Every hour in every life contains such often-unrecognized potential to affect the world that the great days and thrilling possibilities are combined always in this momentous day."
- Dean Koontz
From The Corner of His Eye
"Doesn't matter what the press says. Doesn't matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn't matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: The requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world - "No, YOU move."
- J. Michael Straczynski
Living With the News
Can I get used to it day after day
a little at a time while the tide keeps
coming in faster the waves get bigger
building on each other breaking records
this is not the world that I remember
then comes the day when I open the box
that I remember packing with such care
and there is the face that I had known well
in little pieces staring up at me
it is not mentioned on the front pages
but somewhere far back near the real estate
among the things that happen every day
to someone who now happens to be me
and what can I do and who can tell me
then there is what the doctor comes to say
endless patience will never be enough
the only hope is to be the daylight
- W. S. Merwin
I Am Waiting
I am waiting for my case to come up
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting for someone
to really discover America
and I am waiting
for the discovery
of a new symbolic western frontier
and I am waiting
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right
and I am waiting
for the Age of Anxiety
to drop dead
and I am waiting
for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe
and I am waiting
for the final withering away
of all governments
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder
- Lawrence Ferlinghetti
from I Am Waiting
A Coney Island of the Mind
Shorter American Memory of the Declaration of Independence
We holler these trysts to be self-exiled that all manatees are credited equi-distant, that they are endured by their Creditor with cervical unanswerable rims. that among these are lightning, lice, and the pushcart of harakiri. That to seduce these rims, graces are insulated among manatees, descanting their juvenile pragmatism from the consistency of the graced. That whenever any formula of grace becomes detained of these endives, it is the rim of the peppery to aluminize or to abominate it. and to insulate Newtonian grace. leaching its fountain pen on such printed matter and orienting its pragmatism in such formula, as to them shall seize most lilac to effuse their sage and harakiri.
- Rosmarie Waldrop
Shorter American Memory