Tuesday, January 31, 2017

On their way to the war

On their way to the war, a child stopped them and said,
Please, don’t hurt the flowers.

On their way home, maimed and bloody and torn, the child said,
When I am big, I will plant love wherever I go.

And the war went on, and the child did grow.
Then, one day, he wrote this poem.

Canvas 832

Canvas 832

January 31, 2017

Monday, January 30, 2017

Consider me harmless

Consider me harmless — a simple old man
with words on his hands, and little time to say them.

Because this harvest is in,
and that’s what I am.

Imagine the pain that made them,
then play them — if not once, then maybe again.

For the good times, that some think are bad,
and for the bad, which turn out to be good.

For the first time you laughed,
and the last that I cried, then rose from the dead.

And this is the dream I have, the blind preacher says —
to go out, and know that I’m in.

The news

You see that life is uncertain, and yet you wait to love.

As if the news is not all in, and you still might be saved from yourself.

But that is the news. Love is your unrealized wealth.

And the tree is life

Symptoms exist that we might come to understand the disease. The disease says, Here I am, look at me. But instead of looking at the disease and seeking the root of its cause, we take a pill. And the pill might be anything. It might be government, philosophy, religion, or whatever is recommended by experts and seems most likely to bring some relief. They might even seem to work at first. And yet, over time, something strange takes place, and we suddenly find that the properties of our most trusted cures have either weakened, or the symptoms have changed. But it is still the same old disease, trying to speak to us, pleading for our attention. At a certain point, the disease itself grows lonely and angry and cries out, What do I have to do to make them look at me? And then it lashes out and becomes more powerful. And at the height of its power, it hates the world, it hates us, it even hates itself. In its final stages, it forms delusions of grandeur. It says, Very well, then, I alone am right, and since that’s the case, I will destroy everything. And the destruction is great, but never complete. And the destruction is another symptom. And we say, O, what pill will we take? And then a child comes along and says, Have you tried love? And the child’s wise and innocent plea is so beautiful, we are unable to resist. We try love. We surrender to love. We live love. And then, miraculously, the disease departs, and government, philosophy, religion, and all the rest, become ripe-glorious apples hanging on a tree. And the tree is life. And the taste is sweet. And we are free.

Have we met?

Wherever you go, however seemingly common the situation or place, give your very best most careful attention to the people you meet. Listen before you speak. Or if you must speak first, listen to yourself, and be aware of the impression you make. Maybe they will be listening. Maybe they won’t. Maybe they can’t. Maybe they’re afraid to. Maybe they’re so wrapped up in their opinions and fears that your presence isn’t even real to them. But be sure that theirs and yours is real to you. Even the briefest most casual meeting is significant and rich in meaning. You’re in line. You’re in the store. In a waiting room. Someone is asking you if you know the way somewhere. You’re holding the door open for a stranger. A stranger? Of course you know there’s no such thing. Unless you’re a stranger to yourself. And so you hold the door open to him or her as well. And you say, You seem familiar. Have we met? — Oh, yes, your strange self replies, I think it was at birth. — And so it goes. And you say, I love you. I love you. I love you all.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The challenge

To me, it seems the challenge is not to see how many witty, cutting comments you can make at the expense of an obvious, easy target, but how much you can learn about yourself in the face of so much trial and uproar. Can you find, recognize, and understand your own gift, and then let it freely roam this world as the wild, beautiful thing it really is? Whatever your dream, whatever your talent, whatever your work — if it is twisted or caged by a desire to be credited and known, then, like an eagle tethered to a post, your gift cannot grow and be fully formed. Rather, it will gnaw and gnaw, and die before it’s flown. And if you ask me, What about this fire? How can I put it out? I will answer, Are you wood, or water? Wind, or smoke?

Ask yourself

If, with the upheaval of current events,
you find yourself feeling more alive, ask yourself
what you might have been missing all a long —
what wealth of tiny miracles, like those
of your deeper nature, or which roll
from a baby’s tongue.

Blue heaven

I remember digging a certain hole,
and digging as deeply as I could go,
in search for the bottom, no,
but for my soul,

and in the ground
I found

it played itself no mean role,
as far as scoops and shovels go,
and then she said the more you know,
the sweeter blows

blue heaven.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Canvas 831

Canvas 831

January 28, 2017

If these letters survive us

If these letters survive us, dear one,
Perhaps some soul wiser and kinder and gentler
Than mine, will see in their lines subtleties they possess
Of which I was unaware, for the yearning
That once had me blind.

Now I ask only that you mind them
As you would the cherished dream of your childhood,
For they arrive from every land and every man of every strain,
And their spirit knows no border or restraint,
Even here in this painful, tragic time.

And prisons do not contain us, though our bones relent!
And trials leave us nameless in infinite number!
And as abundant as stars or grains of sand!
And when death comes with the tide!
And when all, yet, is Love!

And should these letters not arrive in the present
Of that after-age, let that too be is it was always meant,
That they splashed on the rocks and shimmered here briefly,
Is enough for a song without reason that went
Gladly to earth, and sent its every mad joy.

They laughed at Don Quixote

Discouraged? Never! Remember,
They laughed at Don Quixote,
And he lived four hundred years!

Caballero andante

Caballero andante

January 28, 2017

Friday, January 27, 2017

How many and how wide?

How many and how wide are the borders
In your mind? One? Two? Three hundred? A hair?
An inch? A foot? A mile? You’d best be sure, or soon
There will be nowhere to roam, and you will die
Alone, defending the sides you think you
Are on. And the vultures?

O, the vultures will grin at your bones!

A child who cries

O little flower, the wind left your seed on the border.

Now part of you grows on this side, part on the other.

And I am a child who cries for his mother.

Canvas 830

Canvas 830

January 27, 2017

Thursday, January 26, 2017

As if the sun

And now, dear friend, before I close, I want to say something about the understandable fear and worry you so painfully and gracefully confess. The sheer brevity of our lives — the very brevity that makes beauty possible — demands we take the longer view, that there is no new thing under the sun, that what seems an eternity here is but a fleeting moment elsewhere, and that both places are within you. We come, we go, and we remain, all in the instant. I saw a gravestone once, in a small country cemetery, with these sweet words inscribed:

Who knows the dreams that lie here buried?

To which I would fain here add:

But you, my fellow man, traveling companion, and friend.

The chatter of daily events is so much wind in the leaves. Guided by love, the wise one listens, but he does not try to solve the wind. He sees the events as opportunities to go more deeply into himself, and discover where he might have helped such things come to pass. At the same time, he is aware of the beauty in him and around him, and in and around all things.

But what of the immediate consequences? I hear you say. What of those who will be made to suffer by these horrendous acts of selfishness and ignorance? What of all we have to lose?

I can only reply, that you will be most useful not when you are fearful and angry and outraged, but when you know yourself so well that love for all is your only motive. You want results. You want to see them here and now before you die. I say, let go of the results, because without love and self-understanding, you cannot see their beginning or their end, or their myriad consequences. What seems better now may be worse later; what is terrible now may be better later. And so you must also let go of better and worse, and hold to love. You must take the “I” out of all your actions, and let your actions rise effortlessly as prayer, and trust that they will find the proper heart and home. For “I” may dream of helping millions, and yet forget the lonely neighbor, or the homeless man sleeping in the abandoned doorway. “I” is busy, “I” is oft times blind. “I” is an agenda, even if only ever so subtle. “I” says, Let others know what “I” have done. It’s as if the sun, in its slow, inevitable march toward death, were to grant its light one day, and withhold it another. But it can only give. And so must you. So must we all. And it is in giving that we live forever, and are ever new.

These times

Another day of argument, another day of grace,
another way to trace the lines upon the dearest face,
turned the other way until the pain’s erased,
by another day of grace, here among the stars,
here in the darkest, lightest, brightest,
greatest, slightest, place in space.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Canvas 829

Canvas 829

January 25, 2017


Now, it is a wise man who embraces the woman in him,
However deeply he once thought she was buried or banished or hidden.

And it is a wise woman who likewise embraces the man in her.
Together, I see them as stars and wild rivers.

I see them as gods. I see them as oaks, making joy
Of the earth with the wings of their words.

The monster in your heart

The monster in your heart, in the heart of you,
in your midst, and the wit in its flashes that catches
it out — you might see it as this: your own
proud demon outgrown, dying, frantic,
alone on the road, desperately
searching for one last
soul — and then

the wind,

its sweet breath,

and the lift and the breadth of your wings.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

You will forgive me

Mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, son, workmate, schoolmate, soulmate, husband, wife, friend: we are all teachers, and we must be aware of what we teach. Is it laziness? Arrogance? Do we teach our children the senseless distraction of video games and television while letting our wives do all the work? Do we teach violence and guns and car crashes, political hatred, inequality, and racism? Do we laugh at the unfortunate? Do we call the homeless lazy, without the slightest thought of their individual life stories or circumstances? Or do we, perhaps, when we feel weary and too tired to carry on, pick ourselves up, clean the house, cook a meal, put flowers on the table, and plant a garden, even on the window sill? Do we roar and lash out, or do we smile and help? Are we willing, in other words, to see our selves in ourselves? Or will we go to our graves defeated and angry, outraged and sad, victims of our own tragic, selfish, blind inattention? Now, through it all — and this too goes to the very heart of teaching — it is imperative that we ask no one, tell no one, expect no one, to change. We can only change ourselves, and sometimes that change takes many lifetimes, even those lived in the course of a single day. And the glorious immediacy of it all, this walk accompanied each instant by the possibility of sudden death: don’t you feel it? — that even now, there is an eternity of no time left, with ever so much living and loving and learning to do?

Think twice

The vain habit of derogatory names! You might even think you are doing it in fun. But if you look sincerely and deeply into your action, you will see that, no matter how widely hated and seemingly reprehensible your target, you are the damaged one. I know, because I myself have so done. But intelligence demands more. Intelligence is not intelligent without love. Without love, intelligence is intellectual dust.

Canvas 828

Canvas 828

January 24, 2017

Monday, January 23, 2017

Man on a bench beside the road

O ragged, crippled veteran, absorbing winter sun,

head bowed, coat on, shoes good-as-gone,

your battle’s almost won;

or are you a statue, and am I the fallen one?

Oku no Hosomichi

Oku no Hosomichi

January 23, 2017

Crazy daisy, red and round

On the playground, a boy so desperate
for attention he will do anything to make the others
look at him,

and when he is ignored,
except by those almost as sadly desperate as he,

there is war in the world,

even as the crocuses and daffodils peek through the snow
and you and I are singing and holding hands,

(we are always in love, we many, we two)

and when we are on our way home from our piano lessons,
looking out at the dormant vineyards and crooked streets
of the old hometown,

(O bakery shop windows!)

well, we might have known,

deep in our feather down,
to the beat of our metronome,
here in our room,

as we watch him fading from view,
we throw open our window to rid ourselves
of the smoke of his rancid candle,

(or use a broom, if we so choose)


isn’t it sad we must learn by the example
of those without love,

and yet somehow, beautiful too?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The bravest cells in the weakest body

O see how the bravest cells in the weakest body
rush to cleanse the wound — and how, when the day
is long and the night is coming on, we find them
singing at our bedside, that our spirits
may rally at the sound!

Canvas 827

Canvas 827

January 22, 2017

Saturday, January 21, 2017

How a butterfly

How a butterfly came to rest here I know not
or how she became your hand when mine

(poor wingless thing)

seemed about to die
I know not

nor do I know
what else to say or sing


is there a single thing in me
you really need?

Friday, January 20, 2017

All the world’s children

On the most painful of days,
all the world’s children come forth bearing flowers:
red for blood, the rest for those blind
to the depth of their powers.

Friday, January 13, 2017

A line for the times

Someday, perhaps, the unhappiest and most destructive of our kind will simply be loved by the rest of us into grace — caressed, as it were, by the whole human race. Now, look at the face. Look, and then ask yourself: Am I willing to love? Or am I above such tragic disgrace? And: If I am above, how came I to be so unlike the truth I proclaim — that we all still belong, however far we have strayed?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Less a tightrope walker

Less a tightrope walker or juggler, more a snowflake or butterfly.

And then, when you least expect it, a man, in a grave, at the end.

That’s when his bones dance without help from his skin.

Don’t think it sad. Be a friend. Look in.

And don’t think me mad, if that’s what I am.

Think me flower, or ball, or pin.

Think me weightless.

Or melting.

Yes. Think of me then.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Hands full of snow

You have forgotten, of course, as the dearest friends will,
the loss I spoke of those long years ago, and thats as it should be,
I know — yet I still remember, myself, and it’s like a lantern
you hold to see my hands full of snow — light streams
through winter dreams’ glow, and as this letter
runs down, I love you more somehow.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

And what is this earth ship

And what is this earth ship but a way
to ply her fragrant strands of hair,
and hear her voice, and meet her there?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Lightly now, lightly

Lightly now, lightly, and when we forget our names,
where we are, and who we’ve been, see bright rainbows
through our hands, and share the treasure
at the end.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A line to say I love you

A line to say I love you, and that I will not be here
long, that in this world of snow, below you and above you,
hunger is the way of song, even when my tracks
are smoothed away and gone.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Seed in your palm

Does the act of creation have beginning or end? I think not, for even the stars are still being sown. Galaxy upon galaxy. Universe beyond. Seed in your palm. Love. And in the park, when you give your scarf to a shivering statue, does she not rejoice, and the trees and the birds and the very earth with her? And we, here by enduring grace, each a melody and message in our moment and place? Shssh. All is a whisper. Let the seed scatter. Heed the soft voice.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Canvas 817

Canvas 817

January 4, 2017

To live in such a way

To live in such a way as not to break this sweet silence.

Cherub on a limb. Fluffy wren.

Snowflake. Winterwake.

If you ask her where she’s been, she will sing again.

Make that your name, if you must have one.

If you must have anything, have love.

The innocence of sense divine.

The sacred sense of innocence.

The incense of your time.

Up into the heavens. See us rise.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Canvas 816

(click to enlarge)

Canvas 816

January 3, 2017

This is

This is your heart. This is your body. This is your mind.
Wherever you hurt, take a deep breath and let the light shine in.
And if you are fine, dispense with these lines, and give.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Homily grits

This year I will leave no stone unturned,
the poet said, as he looked up the word, avalanche.

And the definition thrilled him, just as it killed him,
or so it seemed at a glance.

But he dug his way out and gave us this shout:
Death is part of life’s dance!