in equal amounts.
will not build the temple.
will destroy its walls.
~ Maya Angelou ~
in equal amounts.
will not build the temple.
will destroy its walls.
~ Maya Angelou ~
Chiho brushed for me
three Chinese characters.
She sent them to me in the mail.
I have her calligraphy framed on the wall
in my room above my little homemade
altar where I sit every day.
The characters from top to bottom say:
Shu, which means keep or obey,
as in obey the teacher.
The second one is ha, which means
break, rebel, try things out, other than
what the teacher said.
The third one is ri, which means
depart on your own path,
go your own way.
Tell me why it is we don’t lift our voices these days
And cry over what is happening. Have you noticed
The plans are made for Iraq and the ice cap is melting?
I say to myself:
“Go on, cry. What’s the sense
Of being an adult and having no voice? Cry out!
See who will answer! This is Call and Answer!”
We will have to call especially loud to reach
Our angels, who are hard of hearing; they are hiding
In the jugs of silence filled during our wars.
Have we agreed to so many wars that we can’t
Escape from silence? If we don’t lift our voices, we allow
Others (who are ourselves) to rob the house.
How come we’ve listened to the great criers-Neruda,
Akhmatova, Thoreau, Frederick Douglass-and now
We’re silent as sparrows in the little bushes?
Some masters say our life lasts only seven days.
Where are we in the week? Is it Thursday yet?
Hurry, cry now! Soon Sunday night will come.
It's a gift, this cloudless November morning
warm enough for you to walk without a jacket
along your favorite path. The rhythmic shushing
of your feet through fallen leaves should be
enough to quiet the mind, so it surprises you
when you catch yourself telling off your boss
for a decade of accumulated injustices,
all the things you've never said circling inside you.
It's the rising wind that pulls you out of it,
and you look up to see a cloud of leaves
swirling in sunlight, flickering against the blue
and rising above the treetops, as if the whole day
were sighing, Let it go, let it go,
for this moment at least, let it all go.
Lord: it is time. The huge summer has gone by.
Now overlap the sundials with your shadows,
and on the meadows let the wind go free.
Command the fruits to swell on tree and vine;
grant them a few more warm transparent days,
urge them on to fulfillment then, and press
the final sweetness into the heavy wine.
Whoever has no house now, will never have one.
Whoever is alone will stay alone,
will sit, read, write letters through the evening,
and wander the boulevards, up and down,
restlessly, while the dry leaves are blowing.
--Ranier Maria Rilke, trans. By Stephen Mitchell
Books litter the bed,
leaves the lawn. It
lightly rains. Fall has
come: unpatterned, in
the shedding leaves.
The maple trees ripen. Apples
come home crisp in bags.
This pear tastes good.
It rains lightly on the
random leaf patterns.
The nimbus is spread
above our island. Rain
lightly patters on un-
shed leaves. The books
of fall litter the bed.
--James Schuyler (1923-1991)
A leaf, one of the last, parts from a maple branch:
it is spinning in the transparent air of October, falls
on a heap of others, stops, fades. No one
admired its entrancing struggle with the wind,
followed its flight, no one will distinguish it now
as it lies among other leaves, no one saw
what I did. I am
the only one.
--by Bronislaw Maj
I was born in the Moon of Falling Leaves,
that time when summer’s harvest
falls from every maple tree,
painting the forest trails
golden as sunlight
and crimson as Great Bear’s blood.
Each October brings back the scent
of fires burning on the hills,
the first etchings of frost
on my bedroom windows,
the departing wings
of a thousand geese
cutting the clear cold sky.
There is no time closer to my heart,
than this season of changes
when the balance tips between
darkness and light,
when the last flowers
nod in our garden,
when so many things
are about to end,
so many about to begin.
--by Joseph Bruchac
The summer ends, and it is time
To face another way. Our themes
Reversed, we harvest the last row
To store against the cold, undo
The garden that will be undone.
We grieve under the weakened sun
To see all earth’s green fountains dried,
And fallen all the works of light.
You do not speak, and I regret
This downfall of the good we sought
As though the fault were mine. I bring
The plow to turn the shattering
Leaves and bent stems into the dark,
From which they may return. At work,
I see you leaving our bright land,
The last cut flowers in your hand.
In this dark I rest,
unready for the light which dawns
day after day,
eager to be shared.
Black silk, shelter me.
more of the night before I open
eyes and heart
to illumination. I must still
grow in the dark like a root
not ready, not ready at all.
(In Memoriam M.K.H. (1911-1984)
When all the others were away at Mass
I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
They broke the silence, let fall one by one
Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
Cold comforts set between us, things to share
Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
From each other’s work would bring us to our senses.
So while the parish priest at her bedside
Went hammer and tongs at the prayers of the dying
And some were responding and some were crying
I remember her head bent towards my head,
Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives—
Never closer the whole rest of our lives.
When I think how far
the onion has traveled
just to enter my stew today,
I could kneel and praise
all small forgotten miracles,
crackly paper peeling on the drainboard,
pearly layers in smooth agreement,
the way knife enters onion
and onion falls apart
on the chopping block,
a history revealed.
And I would never scold the onion
for causing tears.
It is right that tears fall
for something small and forgotten.
How at meal, we sit to eat,
commenting on texture of meat
or herbal aroma
but never on the translucence of onion,
now limp, now divided,
or its traditionally honorable career:
For the sake of others,
--Naomi Shihab Nye
Zimmer no longer wishes to write
About the dimming of his lights,
Recounting all his small terrors.
Instead he tells of brilliance,
Walking home from first grade
In springtime, light descending
To hold itself and dazzle him
In an outburst of dandelions.
It was then he learned that
He would always love yellow,
Its warm dust on his knuckles,
The memory of gathering pieces
To carry home in his lunch pail
As a love gift for his mother.
All colors come from the sun. And it does not have
Any particular color, for it contains them all.
And the whole Earth is like a poem
While the sun above represents the artist.
Whoever wants to paint the variegated world
Let him never look straight up at the sun
Or he will lose the memory of things he has seen.
Only burning tears will stay in his eyes.
Let him kneel down, lower his face to the grass,
And look at light reflected by the ground.
There he will find everything we have lost:
The stars and the roses, the dusks and the dawns.
Imagine you wake up
with a second chance: the blue jay
hawks his pretty wares
and the oak still stands, spreading
glorious shade. If you don’t look back,
the future never happens.
How good to ride in sunlight,
in the prodigal smell of biscuits--
eggs and sausage on the grill.
The whole sky is yours
to write on, blown open
to a blank page. Come on,
shake a leg! You’ll never know
who’s down there, frying those eggs,
if you don’t get up and see.
What luck—an open bookstore up ahead
as rain lashed awnings over Royal Street,
and then to find the books were secondhand,
with one whole wall assigned to poetry;
and then, as if that wasn't luck enough,
to find, between Jarrell and Weldon Kees,
the blue-on-cream, familiar backbone of
my chapbook, out of print since '83—
its cover very slightly coffee-stained,
but aging (all in all) no worse than flesh
though all those cycles of the seasons since
its publication by a London press.
Then, out of luck, I read the name inside:
The man I thought would love me till I died.
On the fruit stand.
We eat the smile
And spit out the teeth.
I would love to live
Like a river flows,
Carried by the surprise
Of its own unfolding.
~ John O'Donohue~
Some springs, apples bloom too soon.
The trees have grown here for a hundred years, and are still quick
to trust that the frost has finished. Some springs
pink petals turn black. Those summers, the orchards are empty
and quiet. No reason for the bees to come.
Other summers, red apples beat hearty in the trees, golden apples
grow in sheer skin. Their weight breaks branches,
the ground rolls with apples, and you fall in fruit.
You could say, I have been foolish. You could say, I have been fooled.
You could say, Some years, there are apples.
I stand in the advancing light,
my hands hungry, the world beautiful.
My eyes can’t get enough of the trees—
they’re so hopeful, so green.
A sunny road runs through the mulberries,
I’m at the window of the prison infirmary.
I can’t smell the medicines---
carnations must be blooming nearby.
It’s this way:
being captured is beside the point,
the point is not to surrender.
--Nazim Hikmet, Trans. by Randy Blasing
A woman and her young daughter were destitute
and traveling to another country
where they hoped to find
a new life.
Three men stole them while they were camping.
They were brought to a city
and sold as slaves; each to a different
They were given one minute more together,
before their fates became unknown.
My soul clings to God like that,
the way they held
I’m not ashamed at my age to stick a flower in my hair.
The flower is the embarrassed one, topping an old man’s head.
People laugh as I go home drunk, leaning on friends—
ten miles of elegant blinds raised halfway for watching.
In the next century
or the one beyond that
are valleys, pastures.
We can meet there in peace
if we make it.
To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:
learn the flowers
Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back as the evening darkens, and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.