Friday, August 29, 2014

Last Night the Rain Spoke to Me








.





Last night
the rain
spoke to me
slowly, saying,
what joy

to come falling
out of the brisk cloud,
to be happy again
in a new way
on the earth!

That’s what it said
as it dropped,
smelling of iron,
and vanished

like a dream of the ocean
into the branches
and the grass below.

Then it was over.

The sky cleared.
I was standing
under a tree.

The tree was a tree
with happy leaves,
and I was myself,

and there were stars in the sky
that were also themselves
at the moment
at which moment

my right hand
was holding my left hand
which was holding the tree
which was filled with stars

and the soft rain
imagine! imagine!
the long and wondrous journeys
still to be ours.



—Mary Oliver




















Thursday, August 28, 2014

Late August, Lasting Words









.






It's as if we're always preparing
for something, the endless  roll of the earth
ripening us.
Even on the most tranquil
late August afternoon when heavy heads
of phlox bow in the garden
and the hummingbird sits still for a moment
on a branch of an apple tree—
even on such a day,
evening approaches sooner
than yesterday, and we cannot help
noticing whole families of birds
arrive together in the enclosure,
young blue birds molted a misty grey,
colored through no will of their own
for a journey.
On such an evening
I ache for what I cannot keep—the birds,
the phlox, the late-flying bees—
though I would not forbid the frost,
even if I could. There will be more to love
and lose in what's to come and this too: desire
to see it clear before it's gone.



–Mary Chivers 
from Claire B. Willis
Lasting Words: A Guide to Finding Meaning Toward the Close of Life
© Green Writers Press, 2014























Stationary Point







.





I would know nothing, dream nothing:
who will teach my non-being
how to be, without striving to be?


How can the water endure it?

What sky have the stones dreamed?

Immobile, until those migrations
delay at their apogee
and fly on their arrows
toward the cold archipelago.


Unmoved in its secretive life,
like an underground city,
so the days may glide down
like ungraspable dew:


nothing fails, or shall perish,
until we be born again,
until all that lay plundered
be restored with the tread
of the springtime we buried—
the unceasingly stilled, as it lifts
itself out of non-being, even now,
to be flowering bough.


–Pablo Neruda
Voyages and Homecomings, 1959







.










Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Writing in the Afterlife







.





I imagined the atmosphere would be clear,
shot with pristine light,
not this sulphurous haze,
the air ionized as before a thunderstorm.

Many have pictured a river here,
but no one mentioned all the boats,
their benches crowded with naked passengers,
each bent over a writing tablet.

I knew I would not always be a child
with a model train and a model tunnel,
and I knew I would not live forever,
jumping all day through the hoop of myself.

I had heard about the journey to the other side
and the clink of the final coin
in the leather purse of the man holding the oar,
but how could anyone have guessed

that as soon as we arrived
we would be asked to describe this place
and to include as much detail as possible—
not just the water, he insists,

rather the oily, fathomless, rat-happy water,
not simply the shackles, but the rusty,
iron, ankle-shredding shackles—
and that our next assignment would be

to jot down, off the tops of our heads,
our thoughts and feelings about being dead,
not really an assignment,
the man rotating the oar keeps telling us—

think of it more as an exercise, he groans,
think of writing as a process,
a never-ending, infernal process,
and now the boats have become jammed together,

bow against stern, stern locked to bow,
and not a thing is moving, only our diligent pens.


–Billy Collins






 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

on living







.




I 
Living is no laughing matter:
 you must live with great seriousness
  like a squirrel, for example–
   I mean without looking for something beyond and above living,
  I mean living must be your whole occupation.
Living is no laughing matter:
 you must take it seriously,
 so much so and to such a degree
   that, for example, your hands tied behind your back,
                                            your back to the wall,
   or else in a laboratory
 in your white coat and safety glasses,
 you can die for people–
   even for people whose faces you’ve never seen,
   even though you know living
 is the most real, the most beautiful thing.
I mean, you must take living so seriously
   that even at seventy, for example, you’ll plant olive trees–
   and not for your children, either,
   but because although you fear death you don’t believe it,
   because living, I mean, weighs heavier.
 
 

II 
Let’s say we’re seriously ill, need surgery–
which is to say we might not get up
   from the white table.
Even though it’s impossible not to feel sad
   about going a little too soon,
we’ll still laugh at the jokes being told,
we’ll look out the window to see if it’s raining,
or still wait anxiously
  for the latest newscast... 
Let’s say we’re at the front–
 for something worth fighting for, say.
There, in the first offensive, on that very day,
 we might fall on our face, dead.
We’ll know this with a curious anger,
        but we’ll still worry ourselves to death
        about the outcome of the war, which could last years.
Let’s say we’re in prison
and close to fifty,
and we have eighteen more years, say,
                        before the iron doors will open.
We’ll still live with the outside,
with its people and animals, struggle and wind–
                                I  mean with the outside beyond the walls.
I mean, however and wherever we are,
        we must live as if we will never die.
 
 

III
 
This earth will grow cold,
a star among stars
               and one of the smallest,
a gilded mote on blue velvet–
   I mean this, our great earth.
This earth will grow cold one day,
not like a block of ice
or a dead cloud even 
but like an empty walnut it will roll along
   in pitch-black space... 
You must grieve for this right now
--you have to feel this sorrow now–
for the world must be loved this much
                               if you’re going to say “I lived”... 
 
 
–Nâzım Hikmet Ran 
1902 - 1963 

Monday, August 25, 2014

die slowly




 
 
 




He who becomes the slave of habit,
who follows the same routes every day,
who never changes pace,
who does not risk and change the color of his clothes,
who does not speak and does not experience,
dies slowly.
He or she who shuns passion,
who prefers black on white,
dotting ones “it’s” rather than a bundle of emotions, the kind that make your eyes glimmer,
that turn a yawn into a smile,
that make the heart pound in the face of mistakes and feelings,
dies slowly.


He or she who does not turn things topsy-turvy,
who is unhappy at work,
who does not risk certainty for uncertainty,
to thus follow a dream,
those who do not forego sound advice at least once in their lives,
die slowly.


He who does not travel, who does not read,
who does not listen to music,
who does not find grace in himself,
she who does not find grace in herself,
dies slowly.


He who slowly destroys his own self-esteem,
who does not allow himself to be helped,
who spends days on end complaining about his own bad luck, about the rain that never stops,
dies slowly.


He or she who abandon a project before starting it, who fail to ask questions on subjects he doesn’t know, he or she who don’t reply when they are asked something they do know,
die slowly.
Let’s try and avoid death in small doses,
reminding oneself that being alive requires an effort far greater than the simple fact of breathing.
Only a burning patience will lead
to the attainment of a splendid happiness.


—Pablo Neruda







.
Miki Asai
.












Sunday, August 24, 2014

Breathing for a Living








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“I’m a typical college student, if there is such a thing,” Laura wrote as a freshman at Brown University. “Except that I won’t be able to look back at my life from old age.” The sentences became part of a larger project during her sophomore year, when she became so ill that she withdrew from college to undergo the double lung transplant that ultimately failed to prolong her life. Weaving together essays, diary entries, poems, and emails to and from her many friends—dispatches from the shifting battlefields of CF and its treatment—Laura created a chronicle of her life as she lived it. She wrote with unadorned honesty and wry understatement, refusing to indulge in even a hint of false hope or sentimentality. Yet her voice resisted identification with an illness. 

What shines through Breathing for a Living is the sense that there is something in us that is not limited, that can seek and speak and be the truth. The reader comes away with the inkling that our greatest human power may not be our capacity to defend ourselves, to be unassailably strong and independent, but to be defenseless. The life of Laura proved that opening to our experience in its raw state without hope of escape makes us capable of opening to others as well. 


–Tracy Cochran
Living as Spiritual Practice:
The life and death of Laura Rothenberg