[When you see this, post a poem in your journal, if you haven't already.]

From An Atlas of the Difficult World, Adrienne Rich


One night in Monterey Bay the death-freeze of the century:
a precise, detached calliper-grip holds the stars and the quarter-moon
in arrest: the hardiest plants crouch shrunken, a "killing frost"
on bougainvillea, Pride of Madeira, roseate black-purple succulents bowed
juices sucked awry in one orgy of freezing
slumped on their stems like old faces evicted from cheap hotels
--into the streets of the universe, now!

Earthquake and drought followed by freezing followed by war.
Flags are blossoming now where little else is blossoming
and I am bent on fathoming what it means to love my country.
The history of this earth and the bones within it?
Soils and cities, promises made and mocked, plowed contours of shame and of hope?
Loyalties, symbols, murmurs extinguished and echoing?
Grids of states stretching westward, underground waters?
Minerals, traces, rumors I am made from, morsel, miniscule fibre, one woman
like and unlike so many, fooled as to her destiny, the scope of her task?
One citizen like and unlike so many, touched and untouched in passing
--each of us now a driven grain, a nucleus, a city in crisis
some busy constructing enclosures, bunkers, to escape the common fate
some trying to revive dead statues to lead us, breathing their breath against marble lips
some who try to teach the moment, some who preach the moment
some who aggrandize, some who diminish themselves in the face of half-grasped events
--power and powerlessness run amuck, a tape reeling backward in jeering, screeching syllables--
some for whom war is new, others for whom it merely continues the paroxysms of time
some marching for peace who for twenty years did not march for justice
some for whom peace is a white man's word and a white man's privilege
some who have learned to handle and contemplate the shapes of powerlessness and power
as the nurse learns hip and thigh and weight of the body he has to lift and sponge, day upon day
as she blows with her every skill on the spirit's embers still burning by their own laws in the bed of death.
A patriot is not a weapon. A patriot is one who wrestles for the soul of her country
as she wrestles for her own being, for the soul of his country
(gazing through the great circle at Window Rock into the sheen of the Viet Nam Wall)
as he wrestles for his own being. A patriot is a citizen trying to wake
from the burnt-out dream of innocence, the nightmare
of the white general and the Black general posed in their camouflage,
to remember her true country, remember his suffering land: remember
that blessing and cursing are born as twins and separated at birth to meet again in mourning
that the internal emigrant is the most homesick of all women and of all men
that every flag that flies today is a cry of pain.
Where are we moored?
What are the bindings?
What behooves us?

XIII (Dedications)

I know you are reading this poem
late, before leaving your office
of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening window
in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet
long after rush-hour. I know you are reading this poem
standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean
on a grey day of early spring, faint flakes driven
across the plains' enormous spaces around you.
I know you are reading this poem
in a room where too much has happened for you to bear
where the bedclothes lie in stagnant coils on the bed
and the open valise speaks of flight
but you cannot leave yet. I know you are reading this poem
as the underground train loses momentum and before running up the stairs
toward a new kind of love
your life has never allowed.
I know you are reading this poem by the light
of the television screen where soundless images jerk and slide
while you wait for the newscast from the intifada.
I know you are reading this poem in a waiting-room
of eyes met and unmeeting, of identity with strangers.
I know you are reading this poem by fluorescent light
in the boredom and fatigue of the young who are counted out,
count themselves out, at too early an age. I know
you are reading this poem through your failing sight, the thick
lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning yet you read on
because even the alphabet is precious.
I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove
warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your hand
because life is short and you too are thirsty.
I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language
guessing at some words while others keep you reading
and I want to know which words they are.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else left to read
there where you have landed, stripped as you are.
Now that the winter holiday season has mostly passed, it's time to dust off this piece, which I find always slots perfectly into this time of year-- the celebrations over, but the promise of spring yet to come. 

Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree. )

In other news, I've jumped on yet another bandwagon.  Go crazy, people.

"I salute you!

I am your friend and my love for you goes deep. There is nothing I can give you which you have not got, but there is much, very much that, while I cannot give it, you can take.

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven!
No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. Take peace!

The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in the darkness could we but see - and to see we have only to look. I beseech you to look!

Life is so generous a giver, but we, judging its gifts by the covering, cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard. Remove the covering and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love, by wisdom, with power.

Welcome it, grasp it, touch the angel's hand that brings it to you. Everything we call a trial, a sorrow or a duty, believe me, that angel's hand is there, the gift is there, and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. Our joys, too, be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts.

Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty - beneath its covering - that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven.

Courage, then, to claim it, that is all. But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are all pilgrims together, wending through unknown country, home.

And so, at this time, I greet you. Not quite as the world sends greetings, but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you now and forever, the day breaks, and the shadows flee away."

- Fra Giovanni Giocondo (c. 1435-1515), to Countess Allagia Aldobrandeschi on Christmas Eve, 1513

It's still warm in Virginia, but unlike Bangkok there's a softness to it, and it's clear that autumn itself is not far off.

This came to mind.

Lord, it is time. The summer was immense. )
Something I'm intending to do more of is posting poems along with musical settings of them.  Here's the first.
How hard the year dies; no frost yet. )
flyingrat: (young wizards)
(From Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet".)

...But let me make this request right away: Read as little as possible of literary criticism - such things are either partisan opinions, which have become petrified and meaningless, hardened and empty of life, or else they are just clever word-games, in which one view wins today, and tomorrow the opposite view. Works of art are of an infinite solitude, and no means of approach is so useless as criticism. Only love can touch and hold them and be fair to them. - Always trust yourself and your own feeling, as opposed to argumentations, discussions, or introductions of that sort; if it turns out that you are wrong, then the natural growth of your inner life will eventually guide you to other insights. Allow your judgments their own silent, undisturbed development, which, like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be forced or hastened. Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one's own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as in creating.

Never have the words "I'll be in my bunk" felt so appropriate.
flyingrat: (earth from apollo)
Sonnet: 20th July, 1969

They made it, we all made it, just a bit.
Like Vikings leaving runes and little more,
Taking the lesser light where God had placed it,
To show ourselves just what a heaven's for.
They loped like diving, suited kangaroos,
Over that sterile world of one-night stands
Driving golf balls and moon-buggies to amuse
The children, while the stars slipped through our hands.
They're gone now, to their shrinks and shrunken space,
The praises theirs; 'tis ours to wonder why
The world's still flat, and dreams are out of grace.
So I, believing less each summer, pry
Open that lost, last year to see the bright
Earth-jewel, smooth and blue, in velvet night.

(author unknown, published in Analog, July 1979)
flyingrat: (earth from apollo)
I'm a bit late with this one, but it's been a relatively slow couple of days for those of us on Earth...it took quite a while for Apollo 11 to travel from the earth to the moon, after all!

At this stage in the mission, Columbia (the Apollo 11 Command Module) and Eagle (the Lunar Module) are orbiting the moon, and the astronauts are checking out all of Eagle's systems, receiving good wishes from Earth, and just generally preparing themselves for the tasks ahead: the landing will be the trickiest part of the entire mission, and they only get one shot...

Cut for poetry )
flyingrat: (earth from apollo)
Launch is in less than 8 hours, and a lot of people are anxious about the outcome...not least of whom are the astronauts' families.

Here's a poem by Pat Collins, the wife of astronaut Mike Collins, the Command Module Pilot on Apollo 11.

From an Astronaut's Spouse

I could have sought by wit or wile
Your bright dream to dim. And yet
If I'd swayed you with a smile
My reward would be regret.

So, for once, you shall not hear
Of the tears, unbidden, welling;
Or the nighttime stabs of fear.
These, this time, are not for telling.

Take my silence, though intended;
Fill it with the joy you feel.
Take my courage, now pretended--
You, my love, will make it real.

© written by Pat Collins to her husband, Mike, prior to his launch toward the moon on Apollo 11, from Carrying the Fire

flyingrat: (earth from apollo)
Since we're coming up on the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11, I felt the urge to post some moon poems over the next few days. (Hope the flist doesn't mind.)

For today, here are some classical Japanese waka (5-7-5-7-7), composed on the subject of the moon.

While I gaze upon it
I feel a certain distance:
The moon light
Makes its way to dwellings
Everywhere, I feel.

- Ki no Tsurayuki (Kokinshu XVII: 880)

On summer nights
It's just past sundown, and
Already dawn is breaking,
But, where amongst the clouds
Does the moon find lodging?

- Fukayabu (Kokinshu III: 166)

When on an autumn night,
The moonlight
Through even mountains of Darkness
Can I make my way.

- Ariwara no Motokata (Kokinshu IV: 195)

Without a trace of cloud,
For a thousand years upon the limpid
Water’s surface
The lodging moon
Light brings peace.

- Murasaki Shikibu (Shinkokinshu VII: 722)

At the mountain's edge
A darling boy:
The field of heaven
He wades across, his light
A pleasant sight.

- Lady Otomo no Sakanoue (Man'yoshu VI: 983; "darling boy" was a poetic nickname for the moon)


Jun. 28th, 2009 09:58 pm
(Missing my little critters, especially Ne-taro the deer mouse who was born under our stove and wiggled his way into our hearts.  So here's some classical Korean poetry, .)

On Letting a Rat Go Free
Yi Kyu-bo (1168-1241)

People steal everything under Heaven;
you steal what people stole.
Stratagems solely for mouth and belly:
why single you out for blame?

(translated by Kevin O'Rourke)

Of Being
(Denise Levertov)
I know this happiness
is provisional:
              the looming presences—
              great suffering, great fear—
              withdraw only
              into peripheral vision:
but ineluctable this shimmering
of wind in the blue leaves:
this flood of stillness
widening the lake of sky:
this need to dance,
this need to kneel:
                            this mystery:
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