The slope beneath descending to the water.
Some mornings it is vibrant with the glance
Of sunlight brightened on the little waves
The wind drives shoreward, stirring leaves and branches
Over the roof also. It is a room
Of pictures and of memories of some
Who are no more in time, and of the absent
And of the present the unresting thoughts.
It is a room as timely as the body,
As frail, to shelter love’s eternal work,
Always unfinished, here at water’s edge,
The work of beauty, faith, and gratitude
Eternally alive in time. Around
The walls the trees like waves, like men,
Come up, come up, expend themselves, and die.
The water shines back the unending sky."
— Wendell Berry, from section V of “Sabbaths 2004” in Given: Poems (CounterPoint, 2006
that write this letter.
The left palm pressed flat against the paper,
as it has done before, over my heart,
in peace or reverence
to the sea or some beautiful thing
I saw once, felt once: snow falling
like rice flung from the giants’ wedding,
or the strangest birds. & consider, then,
the right hand, & how it is a fist,
within which a sharpened utensil,
similar to the way I’ve held a spade,
match to the wick, the horse’s reins,
loping, the very fists
I’ve seen from the roads to Limay & Estelí.
For years, I have come to sit this way:
one hand open, one hand closed,
like a farmer who puts down seeds & gathers up
the food that comes from that farming.
Or, yes, it is like the way I’ve danced
with my left hand opened around a shoulder
& my right hand closed inside
of another hand. & how
I pray, I pray for this
to be my way: sweet
work alluded to in the body’s position
to its paper:
left hand, right hand
like an open eye, an eye closed:
one hand flat against the trapdoor,
the other hand knocking, knocking."
— Aracelis Girmay, “Consider The Hands That Write This Letter” (via pigmenting)
whisper of yellow globes
gleaming on lamp-posts that sway
like bootleg licker drinkers in the fog
and let your breath be moist against me
like bright beads on yellow globes
telephone the power-house
that the main wires are insulate
(her words play softly up and down
dewy corridors of billboards)
then with your tongue remove the tape
and press your lips to mine
till they are incandescent
— “Her Lips are Copper Wire” from Cane, Jean Toomer
And the grains of it
Are clear as wine.
Far off over the leagues of it,
Playing on the wide shore,
Piles little ridges,
And the great waves
Break over it.
But more than the many-foamed ways
Of the sea,
I know him
Of the triple path-ways,
Facing three ways,
He whom the sea-orchard
Shelters from the west,
From the east
Fronts the great dunes.
Over the dunes,
And the coarse, salt-crusted grass
It whips round my ankles!"
— excerpt from “Hermes of the Ways,” H.D.
Petals on a wet, black bough."
— “In the Station of the Metro,” Ezra Pound
On average, 5 people are born every second and 1.78 die.
So we’re ahead by 3.22, which is good, I think.
The average person will spend two weeks in his life
waiting for the traffic light to change.
Pubescent girls wait two to four years
for the tender lumps under their nipples to grow.
So the average adult has over 1,460 dreams a year,
laughs 15 times a day. Children, 385 more times.
So the average male adult mates 2,580 times with five different people
but falls in love only twice in his life—possibly
with the same person. Seventy-nine long years for each of us,
awakened to love in our twenties, so more or less
thirty years to love our two lovers each. And if, in a lifetime,
one walks a total of 13,640 miles by increments,
Where are you headed, traveler?
is a valid philosophical question to pose to a man, I think, along with
Why does the blood in your veins travel endlessly?
on account of those red cells flowing night and day
through the traffic of the blood vessels, which if laid out
in a straight line would be over 90,000 miles long.
The great Nile River in Egypt is 4,180 miles long.
The great circle of the earth’s equator is 24,903 miles.
Dividing this green earth among all of us
gives a hundred square feet of living space to each,
but our brains take only one square foot of it,
along with the 29 bones of the skull, so
if you look outside your window with your mind only,
why do you hear the housefly hum middle octave, key of F?
If you listen to the cat on the rug by the fire with
the 32 muscles in your ear, you will hear
100 different vocal sounds. Listen to the dog
wishing for your love: 10 different sounds.
If you think loneliness is beyond calculation,
think of the mole digging a tunnel underground
ninety-eight miles long to China
in one single night. If you think beauty escapes you
or your entire genealogical tree, consider the slug
with its four uneven noses, or the chameleon shifting colors
under an arbitrary light. Think of the deepest point
in the deepest ocean, the Marianas Trench in the Pacific,
do you think anyone’s sadness can be deeper? In 1681,
the last dodo bird died. In the 16th century,
Queen Elizabeth suffered from a fear of roses.
Anne Boleyn had six fingers. People fall in love
twice. The human heart beats 3 billion times — only — in a lifetime.
If you attempt to count all the stars in the galaxy, one
every second, it’ll take 3 thousand years, if you’re lucky.
As owls are the only birds that can see the color blue
the ocean is bluish, along with the sky and the eyes
of that boy who died alone by that little unnamed river
in your dreams one blue night of the war
of one of your lives. (Do you remember which one?)
Duration of World War 1: four years, 3 months, 14 days.
Duration of an equatorial sunset: 128 seconds, 142 tops.
A neuron’s impulse takes 1/1000 of a second,
a morning’s commute from Prospect Expressway
to the Brooklyn Bridge, about 90 minutes,
forty-five without traffic.
Time it takes for a flower to wilt after it’s cut from the stem: five days.
Time left our sun before it runs out of light: five billion years.
Hence the number of happy citizens under the red glow
of that sun: maybe 50% of us, 50% on good days, tops.
Number who are sad: maybe 70% on the good days—
especially on the good days. (The first emotion’s more intense, I think,
when caught up with the second.) So children grow faster in the summer,
their bright blue bodies expanding. The ocean, after all, is blue
which is why the sky now outside your window is bluish
expanding with the white of something beautiful, like clouds.
Fact: The world is a beautiful place—once in a while.
Another fact: We fall in love twice. Maybe more, if we’re lucky.
— Arkaye Kierulf, “Textbook Statistics” (via pigmenting)
shoots snot out, goes to bed only to wake
shouting in the mansion of the night, pacing,
pacing, making tea then spilling it,
sudden outloud laughter snort, Oh what the
heck, I probably drove myself crazy,
thinks the sea, kissing all those strangers,
forgiving them no matter what, liars
in confession, vomitters of plastics
and fossil fuels but what a stricken
elixir I’ve become even to my becalmed depths,
while through its head swim a million
fishes seemingly made of light
eating each other."
— excerpt from “Undertow,” Dean Young
a rope ladder hangs from a bolted window,
in the corner store, a shimmering robe
drapes a headless, hollow monster
and I still think of your body.
On my table a ladybug searches
for someplace to cram herself
like a note she didn’t want to know
she’d written. It only gets dark
half the sky at a time. An hour later,
my watch, glowing, hasn’t moved.
Earlier, I think, the river showed me
places to disappear but it was fooling itself,
the river wasn’t going anywhere. Impossible
to cut out your own heart but if you do,
maybe you’ll grow another."
— “The Usual Decision-Making Process,” Dean Young
Mimicked the light-conferring midnights
Suppose they are dead now.
Isn’t “dead now” an odd expression?
The sound of the owls outside
And the wind soughing in the trees
Catches in their ears, is sent out
In scouting parties of sensation down their spines.
If you say it became language or it was nothing,
Who touched whom?
In what hurtle of starlight?
Poor language, poor theory
Of language. The shards of skull
In the Egyptian museum looked like maps of the wind-eroded
Canyon labyrinths from which,
Standing on the verge
In the yellow of a dwindling fall, you hear
Echo and re-echo the cries of terns
Fishing the worked silver of a rapids.
And what to say of her wetness? The Anglo-Saxons
Had a name for it. They called it silm.
They were navigators. It was also
Their word for the look of moonlight on the sea."
— “Etymology,” Robert Hass
Someone has to. Just as someone
has to announce inadvertently
the end of grief or spring’s
splurge even as the bureaucracy’s
spittoon overflows. Someone has to come out
the other end of the labyrinth
saying, What’s the big deal?
Someone has to spend all day staring
at the data from outer space
or separating the receipts
or changing sheets in sour room after room.
I like it when the end of the toilet paper
is folded into a point.
I like napkins folded into swans
because I like wiping my mouth on swans.
Matriculates, come back from the dance floor
to sip at the lacrimal glands of chaos,
a god could be forgiven
for eating you, you’ve been such angels
just not very good ones.
You’ve put your tongue
into the peanut canister
of your best friend’s girlfriend’s mom.
You’ve taken a brown bag lunch
on which was writ another’s name.
All night it snows a blue snow
like the crystallized confessions
you’ve wrung from phantoms
even though it is you wearing the filched necklace,
your rages splitting the concrete like dandelions.
All that destruction from a ball of fluff!
There’s nothing left but hope."
— “Commencement Address,” Dean Young
In this it resembles all the old thinking.
The idea, for example, that each particular erases
the luminous clarity of a general idea. That the clown-
faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunk
of that black birch is, by his presence,
some tragic falling off from a first world
of undivided light. Or the other notion that,
because there is in this world no one thing
to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,
a word is elegy to what it signifies.
We talked about it late last night and in the voice
of my friend, there was a thin wire of grief, a tone
almost querulous. After a while I understood that,
talking this way, everything dissolves: justice,
pine, hair, woman, you and I. There was a woman
I made love to and I remembered how, holding
her small shoulders in my hands sometimes,
I felt a violent wonder at her presence
like a thirst for salt, for my childhood river
with its island willows, silly music from the pleasure boat,
muddy places where we caught the little orange-silver fish
called pumpkinseed. It hardly had to do with her.
Longing, we say, because desire is full
of endless distances. I must have been the same to her.
But I remember so much, the way her hands dismantled bread,
the thing her father said that hurt her, what
she dreamed. There are moments when the body is as numinous
as words, days that are the good flesh continuing.
Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings,
saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry."
— “Meditation at Lagunitas,” Robert Hass