Saturday, June 19, 2010

St Romuald (c.951 - 1027), they say, preferred solitude. One writer wrote that Romuald "... died in a monastery he himself had founded at Val di Castro – as he wished, alone in his cell." (Universalis, Saturday 19 June 2010)

Solitude is a kind of poetry.

Spare and undiagramed, solitude points to something other than itself to express its own nature. The skill in solitude as in poetry is the realization that one is within everything in existence.

My sense now is that when people begin to speak, when language develops, there are two essential instincts: one of the instincts says, 'What is this?'; the other one says, 'So what happens?' So what happens is the beginning of syntax, of storytelling. The other feeling, where you are confronted by some aspect of reality for which language is always inadequate, is the instinct that goes into poetry." Poetry, he suggests, "begins with a cry" – of anguish, fear or frustration. Szirtes quotes Emily Dickinson's maxim that "a poem is a house that tries to be haunted". A poem should not deliver all its secrets at once, if ever; it is not there to be solved.
(Al Alvarez] worries that we are losing the ability to read closely. "People don't know how to read any more," he says. "You can't read poetry diagonally the way you read a newspaper." For Alvarez, a poem represents the search for perfection. "It's like one of those bank locks with God knows how many numbers," he says. "The point is that until every single word is in the right place, it's not finished and you know it's not finished. But when you've finally got it, a door swings open and you think, wow, that was wonderful, and you send it out to be published or you don't. You don't get that ever with prose. You can get near to it, but you don't actually get it. It's about getting something perfect."

(--from, What is the future of poetry?, by Stephen Moss, The Guardian, Friday 18 June 2010)
We shy from the word 'perfect' because we remember fruitless attempts to attain perfection -- whether in needlepoint, the moral life, or horseshoes. We falter, are humbled and frustrated, and either resolve to improve or lapse into seeming failure.

'Perfect' is a trick reference. Firstly, we all share perfection, we are perfect, whole, and incommensurable. Secondly, 'perfect' is a fool's errand. It's like trying to find in external fragments what is only interiorly whole.

St Cyprian's treatise on the Lord's Prayer

Why should we be surprised, beloved brethren, that this is the nature of the prayer that God taught, seeing that he condensed all our prayer into one saving sentence of his teaching? This had already been foretold by the prophet Isaiah, who, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke of the majesty and loving kindness of God: completing and shortening his word in righteousness, because God will make a shortened word in the whole earth. For when the word of God, that is, our Lord Jesus Christ, came to all of us, bringing together the learned and the unlearned, and gave the precepts of salvation to those of every age and sex, he made a compendium of his precepts, so that his pupils’ memories should not be burdened by the heavenly teaching but might quickly learn what was necessary for a simple faith.
Thus, when he taught what eternal life was, he wrapped up the sacrament of life in an all-embracing and divine brevity, saying: This is eternal life, to know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. And also, when he had to gather from the law and the prophets the first and greatest commandments, he said: Hear, O Israel: the Lord your God is one God, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment; and the second is like it: you shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and all the prophets. And again: Whatever good you wish men to do to you, do it to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
It was not only in words that God taught us to pray, but in actions as well, for he himself prayed frequently and imploringly, showing us his example so that we should follow it, as it is written: But he himself went off to a solitary place and prayed; or, He went out onto the mountain to pray, and continued all night praying to God.
The Lord prayed and beseeched not for himself – for what reason has the guiltless one pray for himself? – but for our sins, as he made clear when he said to Peter, See, Satan wants to sift you as if you were wheat: but I have prayed for you so that your faith should not fail. Later, too, he beseeches the Father for all people, saying: I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in me through their words: may they all be one. As you, Father, are in me, and I in you, so may they also be one in us. God’s mercy and desire for our salvation are so great that he is not content to redeem us with his blood, but also prays for us over and over again. And now you should see what it was he was praying for: that just as the Father and the Son are one, so too we should be part of that same unity.
(--from Office of Readings, Feast of St. Romuald 19June2010)

As you are.

In yourself.

In me.

In everything.

If we listen to the sound of what is being said, we are listening to poetry.

Is what is ...being... said?

Even in silence; even in solitude?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Spring tries on summer.
Fields we saw
Blooming with
So many different flowers,
Frost-withered now
To a single hue.

- Saigyo
Hot, sunny.

Everything is green.

Birds chant. Bookselling farmer brings yield from soil.

In prison this morning there was talk about common sense.

Dale thought it can't be taught.

Stupidity, he thinks, is the worst enemy.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Nothing happens after. Nothing happened before. Everything, as odd as it sounds, is occurring just now right here in (what is called) your mind. My mind. Our mind.
After spring, the mountain is empty;
Clouds rise when people
Visit the temple.
Because I don't care
About comings and goings,
I won't be known to the world.

- Choeui Eusoon (1786-1866)
We don't know what to call it. It is what is called.

(Do you see? It is What Is. Called.)

Maybe it's the difference between chance and faith. Chance being the accidents of coincidence. Faith being the mystery of trust.

Trust? Trust is the suspicion someone is helping. However beyond imagination. Or understanding.
Voices from the Other World

Presently at our touch the teacup stirred,
Then circled lazily about
From A to Z. The first voice heard
(If they are voices, these mute spellers-out)
Was that of an engineer

Originally from Cologne.
Dead in his 22nd year
Of cholera in Cairo, he had KNOWN
NO HAPPINESS. He once met Goethe, though.
Goethe had told him: PERSEVERE.

Our blind hound whined. With that, a horde
Of voices gathered above the Ouija board,
Some childish and, you might say, blurred
By sleep; one little boy
Named Will, reluctant possibly in a ruff

Like a large-lidded page out of El Greco, pulled
Back the arras for that next voice,
Cold and portentous: ALL IS LOST.

Frightened, we stopped; but tossed
Till sunrise striped the rumpled sheets with gold.
Each night since then, the moon waxes,
Small insects flit round a cold torch
We light, that sends them pattering to the porch . . .

But no real Sign. New voices come,
Dictate addresses, begging us to write;
Some warn of lives misspent, and all of doom
In way’s that so exhilarate
We are sleeping sound of late.

Last night the teacup shattered in a rage.
Indeed, we have grown nonchalant
Towards the other world. In the gloom here,
our elbows on the cleared
Table, we talk and smoke, pleased to be stirred

Rather by buzzings in the jasmine, by the drone
Of our own voices and poor blind Rover’s wheeze,
Than by those clamoring overhead,
Obsessed or piteous, for a commitment
We still have wit to postpone

Because, once looked at lit
By the cold reflections of the dead
Risen extinct but irresistible,
Our lives have never seemed more full, more real,
Nor the full moon more quick to chill.

(-- Poem by James Merrill)
It's hard to sit in the middle of the proposition that everything is happening now. We're all pretty smart. We know before and after. We have ticket stubs, high school yearbooks, and old calendars from insurance companies. There are dishes in the sink with crusted food from last meal. Along the edge of the road cigarette butts are strewn next to beer cans and fast food wrappers. Surely, something has preceded!

Maybe this is the reason so many among us do not believe in God. The churches didn't have it nailed. The preachers were too frightened to preach what grabbed them by the throat in their night dreams. There was no answer to the question "Why?"

God is now. And only now. God is what now is. Or, put differently: There is only God because there is only Now.

Now is God is Now.

So, what are we to do? I'll guess: We are to live.

Of course.


(There is no 'why.')
Landscape with Self-Portrait

A shading porch, that's open to the west
Whence the weather comes, and giving on a lawn
Won from the meadow where the hay's been baled
In cubes like building blocks of dusty gold,
And further down, through trees, the streaming creek
With three still pools by passagework
Of rapids and rills in fretted rhythms linked;

And on the porch the life-defeated self
And reciprocating engine of reverie
Translating to time the back and forth of Space,
The foot's escapement measuring the mind
In memories while the whole antic machine
Processes across the floor and towards the edge
And has to be hitched back from time to time;
And there to watch the tarnished silver cloud
Advancing up the valley on a wind
That shudders the leaves and turns them silverside
While shadows sweep over the stubble and grass,
And sudden the heavy silver of the first
Raindrops blown slanting in and summer cold
And turning continuous in silver strings;

And after that, the clarified serene
Of the little of daylight that remains to make
Distinct the details of the fading sight:
The laddered blue on blue of the bluejay's tail,
The sweeping swallows low above the swale
Among the insect victims as they rise
To be picked off, and peace is satisfied.

(-- Poem by Howard Nemerov, in his War Stories)
We've been looking for God's tracks through history and scripture. In our fading sight this quest dims and divides. Clinging to the literal we forget the metaphoric, the allegorical, and the mystical. Much of what we think and do is a dream. The notion that life is a dream surfaces again.

Will you take part in
My life, my love
That is my dream

Life is but a dream
It's what you make it
Always try to give
Don't ever take it
Life has it's music
Life has it's songs of love

Life is but a dream
And I dream of you
Strange as it seems
All night I see you
I'm trying to tell you
Just what you mean to me

I love you
With all my heart
Adore you
And all your charms
I want you
To do your part
Come here to my open arms

Life is but a dream
And we can live in
We can make our love
None to compare with

Will you take part in
My life, my love
That is my dream
Life is but a dream

(Song lyrics by Raul Cita and Hy Weiss, performed by The Harptones, 1955)
All night we see. But in daylight, our sight grows dim.

"Now" is not time, not a measurement of time, not a pause in duration. Now is more curious than these encapsulating phrases. I've always wondered why it is said no one can see God...and live. If you meet the Buddha on the road, you're going the wrong way. If you see God, you are dead. Not "I'm in heaven" dead. Rather, dead in the manner that you have not yet awakened and are therefore not yet alive.

'Awake,' God is not seen. 'Awake,' God is what is awake.

Is all that we consider momentous and/or debilitating merely our mistaken inclination to gather up the past or project into the future? Both of which do not exist? And..never have, never will?
6. To Himself (XXVIII)

Now you’ll rest forever
my weary heart. The last illusion has died
I thought eternal. Died. I feel, in truth,
not only hope, but desire
for dear illusion has vanished.
Rest forever. You’ve laboured
enough. Not a single thing is worth
your beating: the earth’s not worthy
of your sighs. Bitter and tedious,
life is, nothing more: and the world is mud.
Be silent now. Despair
for the last time. To our race Fate
gave only death. Now scorn Nature,
that brute force
that secretly governs the common hurt,
and the infinite emptiness of all.

(--From, The Canti, by Giacomo Leopardi, 1798-1837, Translated by A. S. Kline)
Looked at from one direction (back or forward?) the "infinite emptiness of all" conjures particular emotions.

Looked at as itself, here, now, without reach or contraction -- the "infinite emptiness of all" frees the mind to rest in the mere fact of itself.

And yet, we live, and breath, and move, and have our being in this unbroken present presence. Some call it the Eternal Now. Some Absolute Truth. Some Unadulterated Love.

The rain has ceased. Sun shows through the west windows of bookshed. Nothing is going anywhere. All is ever here.

I will not be put off by time, grammar, and referential syntax. Michael's white van has arrived. Ananur is in New York. Kali in Connecticut. Jon is in Vermont. David in Alabama. The other David is in St. Augustine. This morning and afternoon it rained. Tonight the sun will disappear behind the far west side of Ragged Mountain. Time and place appear to be in every direction.

But for this: There is only now; There is only here.

It is mind.

See with it.

See through it.

After evening conversation, go get ice cream.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Let's begin with this statement: I have no idea about death. No special knowledge. No special experience. Not even an insight worth touting. But if we look at this thing called death, we can speak about it.

No one seems to come back from death. Certainly not in the same form. The body ceases its functions. The brain shuts down. There is a profound understanding that what was before the event of death does not seem to be after the event. What happened?

Jesus, some say, died and continued on, returned from the dead, ate, walked, talked, and then one day, 'ascended.' Where did he go?

Most of my uncles, aunts, grandparents, parents, sister, and acquaintances -- died, and do not seem to have continued on, come back, or ascended. So my personal experience is heavily weighted to not replicating Jesus' experience as told in scripture.

That said, I want to ask: Is what we call death nothing else than the ending of an illusion and the continuation of a truth far subtler than human perception? Is this weighted body, worn down by gravity and illness, merely a projected biosphere incorporating a lighted body -- a transparency of what we call 'spirit' -- which is the true nature of being, completely connected, en-lightened and aware, one with what we call the Spirit of Life and Truth, Wisdom and Compassion?
Not Ideas About the Thing But the Thing Itself

At the earliest ending of winter,
In March, a scrawny cry from outside
Seemed like a sound in his mind.

He knew that he heard it,
A bird's cry, at daylight or before,
In the early March wind.

The sun was rising at six,
No longer a battered panache above snow...
It would have been outside.

It was not from the vast ventriloquism
Of sleep's faded papier-mache...
The sun was coming from the outside.

That scrawny cry--It was
A chorister whose c preceded the choir.
It was part of the colossal sun,

Surrounded by its choral rings,
Still far away. It was like
A new knowledge of reality.

(-- Poem by Wallace Stevens )
Would a new knowledge of reality entail losing the old knowledge (or, at least, old impression) of reality? Are we dying all the time in as much as we are losing, or having taken away, all the ideas, dreams, beliefs, hopes, and ambitions we once counted on as comprising the notional identity of who we are or might be? What's going on here?

Rowing my small skiff in Rockport Harbor early this morning, an Osprey eyed me from its nest atop a rock-danger warning pole off shore from the old Apprenticeshop. It was an extremely low tide. I skirted the shoreline with small strokes facing forward going out beyond the last pier with attached float. I listened to Taize. Just that. Some details. That was my life. I came back in. The drifting ended. I climbed the ladder from free-float which was still askew, grounded by low tide, resting partly on bottom grit-mud nearest granite stone wall of Marine Park. I walked away.

It was a lovely row.

No one there can see me now.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What if alive and dead were not two things?

The only difference being awareness and awakening.

Would you consider you've never been born and never will die?
The Snow Man

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

(--Poem by Wallace Stevens)
There are no two things.

Nothing two.

Nothing one.

Just connective extension without beginning or end.

Monday, June 14, 2010

In small rowboat each stroke and pull is felt down to white boots bought after mass in Rockland. Monday mornings are a toss and touch for me. It's been a long time between Monday mornings.
By a green jade lake,
What a wonderful sight:
An old hermit fathoming Tao.
Aren't they the lucky ones,
Humble and still,
Quietly humming the

Melodies of heaven?

- Loy Ching-Yuen
I circle Indian Island outside Rockport Harbor. I watch the water, horizon, and my soul.

Seal watches me.

My Dolphin, you only guide me by surprise,
a captive as Racine, the man of craft,
drawn through his maze of iron composition
by the incomparable wandering voice of Phèdre.
When I was troubled in mind, you made for my body
caught in its hangman's-knot of sinking lines,
the glassy bowing and scraping of my will. . . .
I have sat and listened to too many
words of the collaborating muse,
and plotted perhaps too freely with my life,
not avoiding injury to others,
not avoiding injury to myself--
to ask compassion . . . this book, half fiction,
an eelnet made by man for the eel fighting

my eyes have seen what my hand did.
(--Poem by Robert Lowell)
I can't imagine what people talk about any more. Odd emptiness from someone in love with real conversation. It's the make-talk that makes me silent.

I try to watch Capitalism, A Love Story by Michael Moore -- but the dvd doesn't play through -- broken as capitalism.

It's not a life-style choice I make in being a solitary. It is the only reality that gives breath to me. I don't have the skill to socially interact in this depleted time of mind.

So, on Monday morning, I go to church, then to coffee and muffin, then to rowboat -- a three hour meditation in quiet waters around Indian Island where Loon and bell buoy sound me through.

I have nothing to ask God. And God is grateful for the nothing I ask. We pass through the same neighborhood of nescience.

I count it astounding that contemplative gaze has not yet become witless stare.

I come home from the sea as from a slow and near-wordless conversation in a wide transparent emptiness.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Celtics take 3-2 lead in NBA finals.

It might not be important, but it is a fact.

Here is another fact.

And it is important -- start to finish, beginning and end.