Saturday, June 30, 2012

an hour to dance - by virginia hamilton adair

an hour to dance

for a while we whirled
over the meadows of music
our sadness put away in purses
stuffed into old shoes or shawls

the children we never were
from cellars and closets
attics and faded snapshots
came out to leap for love
on the edge of an ocean of tears

like a royal flotilla
alice's menagerie swam by
no tale is endless
the rabbit opened his watch
muttering late, late
time to grow

Thursday, June 28, 2012

ashes, ashes

ashes, ashes

“you know, I just don't get your poetry.” -d.r.

why would you
build a garden out of patterns of light
rugged burned branches
fifteen kilos of testosterone
one pile of waterproof matches

the symbol passed in the form of a ring.
a miscarriage. a chicken coop.

i dropped the vegetables, you
burned the water. the irritation
was turned up high, flooding.

there's nothing poetic about
broken lust,
even six years worth.

like an underweight rooster overfed
with breakfast and sunrise,
the years passed in and out of that
puffed up chest. yours was a treasure
trunk with few jewels, many tools
for tweaking and screwing, the doodle-do.

the hen house was booby-trapped,
a coyote or snake, not sure. perched,
per usual, keeping the food warm, then
i pecked. everywhere,
tomato hornworms as big as my
claw. but the garden

-we mean the farm-
simmered in shades of heavy heat.
meaning meant meanness, green grew
brown, and we all
fell down. we all


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

lovers are mindless

untitled poem by e.e. cummings

love is a spring at which
crazy they drink who've climbed
steeper than hopes are fears
only not ever named
mountains more if than each
known allness disappears

lovers are mindless they
higher than fears are hopes
lovers are those who kneel
lovers are these whose lips
smash unimagined sky
deeper than heaven is hell

Sunday, June 24, 2012

more falling apart

quotes from when things fall apart (chapters 3&4) by pema chodron

...feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we're holding back.

that's being nailed by life, the place where you have no choice except to embrace what's happening or push it away.

there are so many ways that have been dreamt up to entertain us away from the moment, soften its hard edge, deaden it so we don't have to feel the full impact of the pain that arises when we cannot manipulate the situation to make us come out looking fine.

basically, disappointment, embarrassment, and all these places where we just cannot feel good are a sort of death.  we've just lost our ground completely; we are unable to hold it together and feel that we're on top of things.  rather than realizing that it takes death for there to be birth, we just fight against the fear of death.

the most important aspect of being on the spiritual path may be to just keep moving.

rather than indulge or reject our experience, we can somehow let the energy of the emotion, the quality of what we're feeling, pierce us to the heart... its definitely the path of compassion- the path of cultivating human bravery and kindheartedness.

we might think, as we become more open, that it's going to take bigger catastrophes for us to reach our limit.  the interesting thing is that, as we open more and more, it's the big ones that immediately wake us up and the little things that catch us off guard.  however, no matter what the size, color, or shape is, the point is still to lean toward the discomfort of life and see it clearly rather than to protect ourselves from it.

in any case, the point is not to try to get rid of thoughts, but rather to see their true nature.  thoughts will run us around in circles if we buy into them, but really they are like dream images.

ultimately it comes down to the question of just how willing we are to lighten up and loosen our grip.  how honest do we want to be with ourselves?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

will we work together?

will we work together?
by marge piercy

you wake in the early grey
morning in bed alone and curse
me, that i am only
sometimes there.  but when
i am with you, i light
up the corners, i am bright
as a fireplace roaring
with love, every bone in my back
and my fingers is singing
like a tea kettle on the boil.
my heart wags me, a big dog
with a bigger tail.  i am
a new coin printed with
your face.  my body wears
sore before i can express
on yours the smallest part
of what moves me.  words
shred and splinter.
i want to make with you
some bold new thing
to stand in the marketplace,
the statue of a goddess
laughing, armed and wearing
flowers and feathers.  like sheep
of whose hair is made
blankets and coats, i want
to force from this fierce sturdy
rampant love some useful thing.

Friday, June 22, 2012

from 1x1

(e.e. cummings poem)

let it go- the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked length
wise- let it go it
was sworn to

let them go- the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and
neithers- you must let them go they
were born
                  to go

let all go- the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things- let all go
         so comes love

Wednesday, June 20, 2012



because there are two, concretely, i try adding plus signs to equations
lost in space-time, abstractly entering the spell of distinctions, delusions

i am older but shorter, see farther sometimes, not so much others
the question of future was like the other side of the lake

then well past water edges, in fact, in theory
this was shoreline, a picnic on a mathematical beach

forgive me, i am penetrating every pore
where does the mind hook onto the body?

with books tossed aside like clothes, sometimes these attachments last for ages
but steadier now, spine twisted & stretched

lost in a fierce blow of wind (empty)
belly multiplying chest, like equal signs divided & spinning

not like the shallow straggling transplanted season
it's almost as if i had truly watered roots

nothing to conceal, clear look, clear eyes to clear face
i figured, let me stand as tall or wise, hands behind my back

here was the hope: (all possible)
here was the task: hands busy mouth moving

with 90 degrees of spring days, the dusty weeds compete for geometry,
for attention, each young plant, brassica, allium and otherwise

then i remember the cautious quote, trying to grow under shadowed branches,
the fullness of others like the body of a lake, like plenty of rain

with trees just beginning to find their needs, met
a dress of spiderwebs walked me home, happy & alone

ready for thunderstorms when they are ready for me


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

rumi rumi rumi

three morning quotes:

"we have this way of talking, and we have another.
apart from what we wish and what we fear may happen,

we are alive with other life, as clear stones
take form in the mountain."

"the tools of the witness are truthfulness
and keen seeing and the night vigil."

"the way the night knows itself with the moon,
be that with me."

Saturday, June 16, 2012

when things fall apart

quotes from the book when things fall apart by pema chodron.....

the view behind every single talk was that we could step into uncharted territory and relax with the groundlessness of our situation.  the other underlying theme was dissolving the dualistic tension between us and them, this and that, good and bad, by inviting in what we usually avoid.... there is definitely something tender and throbbing about groundlessness.

right now - in the very instant of groundlessness - is the seed of taking care of those who need our care and of discovering our goodness.

fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth... what we're talking about is getting to know fear, becoming familiar with fear, looking it right in the eye - not as a way to solve problems, but as a complete undoing of old ways of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and thinking.  the truth is that when we really begin to do this, we're going to be continually humbled. the kinds of discoveries that are made through practice... have much more to do with having the courage to die, the courage to die continually.

i once asked the zen master kobun chino roshi how he related with fear, and he said, "i agree.  i agree."

in a place where there was so much practice and study going on, i could not get lost in trying to justify myself and blame others.  that kind of exit was not available.

...that much intimacy with fear caused his dramas to collapse, and the world around him finally got through.

sometimes it's because of illness or death that we find ourselves in this place.  we experience a sense of loss. . . things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing.  we think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don't really get solved.  they come together and they fall apart.  then they come together again and fall apart again... the healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.

letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all.

we react against the possibility of loneliness, of death, of not having anything to hold on to... thinking that we can find some lasting pleasure and avoid pain is what in buddhism is called samsara, a hopeless cycle that goes round and round endlessly and causes us to suffer greatly.

when anyone asks me how i got involved in buddhism, i always say that it was because i was so angry with my husband.  the truth is that he saved my life.  when that marriage fell apart, i tried hard - very, very hard - to go back to some kind of comfort, some kind of security, some kind of familiar resting place.  fortunately for me, i could never pull it off.  instinctively i knew that annihilation of my old dependent, clinging self was the only way to go.

only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us... most of us do not take these situations as teachings. we automatically hate them. we run like crazy. we use all kinds of ways to escape -- all addictions stem from this moment when we meet our edge and we just can't stand it. we feel we have to soften it, pad it with something, and we become addicted to whatever it is that seems to ease the pain.

the naropa institute motto: "love of the truth puts you on the spot"

we don't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts.

as human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution. however, not only do we not deserve resolution, we suffer from resolution. we don't deserve resolution; we deserve something better than that. we deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity.

it's a transformative experience to simply pause instead of immediately fill up the space. by waiting, we begin to connect with fundamental restlessness as well as fundamental spaciousness.

nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know… nothing ever really attacks us except our own confusion. perhaps there is no solid obstacle except our own need to protect ourselves from being touched. maybe the only enemy is that we don’t like the way reality is now and therefore wish it would go away fast. but what we find as practitioners is that nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. if we run a hundred miles an hour to the other end of the continent in order to get away from the obstacle, we find the very same problem waiting for us when we arrive. it just keeps returning with new names, forms, manifestations until we learn whatever it has to teach us about where we are separating ourselves from reality, how we are pulling back instead of opening up, closing down instead of allowing ourselves to experience fully whatever we encounter, without hesitating or retreating into ourselves.

the only reason we don't open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don't feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. to the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else's eyes... if we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.

the greatest obstacle to connecting with our joy is resentment.

Monday, June 11, 2012

the funeral home.

this was from their book of prayers... 6/5/12

do not stand at my grave and weep
i am not there, i do not sleep.

i am a thousand winds that blow
i am the diamond glints on snow

i am the sunlight on ripened grain
i am the gentle autumn rain

when you awaken in the morning hush
i am the swift uplifting rush

of quiet birds in circled flight
i am the soft stars that shine at night

do not stand at my grave and cry
i am not there, i did not die.

Sunday, June 10, 2012



face like a one-sided brick
the moon in her pock-marked looks
wore the scatters and drained the skills

half-hearted wonderers tripping
excuses excuses excuses
just bumps in a road, bumps in a face

from a mouth there falls a rainbow
of lies of gray glitter without shimmer,
like the design of a broken cobweb and now

the horizon is flipped, the season switched
to off. what is on? who won? which one
was up and ready, which summer ever ended

peacefully? unless you think death
is calm like a green leaf turning orange
and falling, as if gravity had its own

agenda, and then began to rot.
the way the fingertips of the trees
went bony and bare, were scratched

and scribbled into pencils and toilet
paper, that's the sway of this earth,
i swear, it's unforgiving.

let me go, let me ride the spinning
cup and not throw up, these are ears
but not listening, the fluid

leveling, equilibrium, not vertigo.
this is a perfectly poised universe, riding
the same direction. until it stops,

backs up, goes the other direction.

or stands ever so still


Thursday, June 7, 2012

the mirror in which i'll be judged by jeffrey mcdaniel

The Mirror in Which I'll Be Judged

by jeffrey mcdaniel

Watching my brother get married in Golden Gate Park,
I wonder how that question gets popped. Is it like a bottle

of expensive champagne, or a big, ugly zit
that won't go away? Asking a woman to marry you

is like chewing a mixture of gum and Krazy Glue,
then blowing a bubble. If she accepts, you stick

the bubble on the mantle. If she declines, it explodes
in your face, so you stay home to avoid the hey, man,

what's that pink junk in your eyebrows question.
Marriage frightens me. Not like it jumps out, yelling

Boo! But I know it's up there, lurking in the hills, ready
to stomp into my life in high heels, like an anti-Viking,

ending all my bad habits, late-night refrigerator pillaging.
Look at my divorced parents sitting there, five feet apart.

Staring at their fingertips, I see sparks. Those palms
made me, like a sand castle that wouldn't wash away.

I'm a porcupine handshake. They fought so much
that as a child I thought he must've asked for her fist

in matrimony by mistake. Some small part of me
wants to see them say I do, or at least how are you.

But that's not in the cards. Heck, it's not even in the casino.
The year they stopped talking, my blood followed suit.

My British blood refused to flow above my abdomen.
The Irish stuff pooled up in my chest. I can't ask

for a woman's whole hand in marriage. What would I do
with such a thing? Carry it in my back pocket

like a flank steak? No, I'll downsize my request
to merely a finger. But I'll be good to that finger: polish

the knuckle, carve a replica of the print on my ceiling,
scrub the nail till it sparkles and becomes the mirror

in which I'll be judged, 'cause I know it's so much easier
to be charming to a busboy than kind to the person you love.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

you are precious

you are precious

she doesn't want to count windows tonight
like gold coins on shimmery skyscrapers
so pull the shade,
she asks
so little

to cut her pot roast
while she wished for broth
why carry a heavy stomach
into death? she wondered
into the decaf coffee

the lady beyond the curtain
complained loudly of her bed's position
and grandma couldn't
stop coughing. her lungs, like
fish out of water,
reversed. or was it
her heart? the next transfusion
was on its way, the third
this week. she talks of grandpa,

the hospital beeps & yells,
the plastic tubing plugs her in,
all night pokes & prods.
she wants to become a bird,
fly away, wouldn't you?

this passing window,
shining golden


Sunday, June 3, 2012

notions of time.

*in order to measure time, you must have a regularly recurring phenomenon in nature.  the standard technique is to find something that happens regularly, and then define the unit of time in terms of the reappearance and recurrence of the phenomenon.  for example, one unit of time is the "day"- the time between two successive sunrises.  all systems for measuring time depend, ultimately, on the recurring phenomenon that is chosen to define the basic standard.
throughout most of human history the passage of time has been measured in terms of the day (which is related to the time that it takes the earth to turn once on its axis) and the year (the time it takes the earth to go once in its orbit around the sun).

*the egyptians defined the hour to be one-twelfth of the time between sunrise & sunset.  this meant that for the egyptians the length of the hour was different from one day to the next, and was not the same during the day as it was at night.

*the first exercise in the measurement of time was the production of the calendar.  when human beings began to develop agriculture, it became necessary for them to mark important events like the planting time for particular crops.  in other words, they had to have a calendar.  the calendar is really a clock that "ticks" once a year and therefore keeps track of where the earth is in its orbit around the sun.  it is this position that determines the seasons.
the basic problem in constructing a calendar is that the number of days in a year is not an even number.  the following calendars represent successive approximations to the true length of the year:

*egyptian calendar.... this calendar consisted of twelve months of thirty days each, followed by a five-day party.  the problem with the egyptian calendar arose from the fact that there are approximately 365 1/4 days in a year, not 365.  this meant that the calendar would "slip" a quarter day every year.  these slippages built up, and, if you had followed it, it would have led to a situation where you had the egyptian equivalent of snow in "august".

*our modern new year's eve parties trace their way back to the egyptian end-of-year bash.  it was a time that didn't really belong in the year, hence a time when nothing really counted.  anything went.  we many have a more modern calendar these days, but we seem to have managed to retain the truly important part of this old one.

*julian calendar.... the calendar introduced by julius caesar tried to bring some order into time keeping in the roman empire.  it solved the problem of the extra quarter day by introducing the leap year.  every four years the year is one day longer, and this makes up for most of the slippage that appeared in the egyptian calendar.  it didn't catch all of it, though, because the year is 11 minutes 14 seconds shorter than 365 1/4 days.  these errors started to accumulate (they amount to 7 days every 1000 years) until they began to mess up the observance of easter.  this led to the...

*gregorian calendar... the gregorian calendar was introduced by pope gregory in 1582 to deal with the accumulated slippage in the julian calendar.  it works by dropping leap years when they fall on centennials except when the centennial is divisible by four.  thus, 2000 will retain its leap year while 1700, 1800, and 1900 did not.  the gregorian calendar is the one we use today and the one with which you are familiar.

*the rotation of the earth is actually a very poor time standard.  if you look at the rotation closely enough, it is quite unsteady.  the gravitational pull of the moon and the planets, the effects of the tides, earthquakes, and even the motion of the winds cause the rotation to slow down and speed up erratically.  these changes aren't huge - they're on the order of milliseconds per day, but if you define the second to be a particular fraction of the length of a day (which is the way it used to be done), the second will change from one year to the next.

*the second is now defined in terms of the motion of an electron in an atom.  in 1967, the international commission on weights and measures redefined the second in terms of the time it takes for an electron to spin on its own axis inside an atom of cesium.  this is the standard that is used today.
the so-called atomic clock can measure the length of a second to an accuracy of thirteen decimal places.

*we now keep our calendars accurate by inserting a leap second into the year.  here's how it works: there are a number of clocks at various national laboratories around the world.  when a majority of the clocks agree that the rotation of the earth has gotten out of line by half a second, a "leap second" is inserted into a chosen day at midnight.  this is done every few years, most recently on dec 31, 1990.

-from 1001 things everyone should know about science by james trefil