Feb 23 2018

Love everyone and everything

Love everyone and everything
with the last ounce of your being.
Love all until you are shattered
by love
and only love remains.

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Feb 23 2018

Spirituality, Poetry, and the Florida Shootings

I have intentionally waited to share any new poetry following the terrible mass shooting in Florida. I wanted to give everyone time to recover from the shock (though, sadly, these experiences have become so frequent in the US that they are a little less shocking each time they happen), and to allow your thoughts and responses to this latest massacre to take shape.

I can’t ignore horrifying events like the Florida shooting. I feel the need to address them directly in these emails and blog posts. If don’t, it feels strangely disconnected, as if I am pretending that everything is just fine.

In moments like this, I am not a fan of the “all is light” school of spirituality. While that is definitely a foundational truth — all of existence is an expression of the universal light, and this can be witnessed directly — there is a tendency to use these ideas superficially as a way to dismiss our discomforts and to not engage with our lives.

I believe that spirituality, and art, for that matter, must directly address the whole of human experience, including the horrifying and the traumatic, in order to be fit food for the spirit. Just as much as we need our eyes turned toward the stars, we need our feet on the ground, with our hands reaching out to help. We are not meant to float off to heaven. We are meant to bridge heaven and earth within ourselves. Perceptions and beliefs and the conscience want expression through us, through our lives, our words, our actions.

It is not fulfilling to turn to our spirituality or religion as a place to get away and get godly, or to get another “hit of bliss.” Real spirituality is about truth, reality, life. It encompasses everything, helping us to encounter life with a fullness of awareness and a true sense of who we really are and what we are capable of. Real spirituality is not about escape, it is about being present. It teaches us to drop our comfortable illusions and see clearly. It invites us to open our minds and our hearts. It challenges us to be the full beings we are, not the limited survivors we imagine ourselves to be.

And, when society is not embodying its highest ideals, real spirituality demands that we embody our own divine nature even more brightly, knowing that through interaction, communication, and the resonance of one’s being, society must respond and integrate each of us within the whole. What else is spirituality but finding that divine spark within ourselves, recognizing the same spark in everyone else, and then living by that truth courageously?

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Feb 13 2018

Manikkavacakar – Becoming sky & earth

Published by under Poetry

Becoming sky & earth
by Manikkavacakar

Becoming sky & earth
Wind & light
Becoming flesh & spirit
All that truly is
& all that which is not
Becoming the Lord,
He makes those who say,
“I” & “mine”
Dance in the show
Becoming sky
& standing there…
How can my words
praise Him?


/ Image by Vik Nanda /

Today is the Hindu festival of Shivaratri in honor of the the god Shiva. Often Shiva is depicted as a meditating, long-haired ascetic, but another important expression of Shiva is as Nataraj, Lord of the Dance.

Shiva Nataraj is depicted with one foot raised in dance, the other foot treading upon a figure representing ignorance. In one hand he holds the drum that is the fundamental sound of creation. In another he displays the fire of destruction. A third hand expresses the mudra (hand position) of fearlessness, while the fourth hand points to his upraised foot, suggesting the path to liberation. His jata, matted locks, fly out about his head; in the wildness of his dance, they crash into the objects of existence, dispelling their illusory being. And flames emanate from his dancing body, representing manifestation, creation radiated out into being by the pure energy of his dance.

Shiva’s dance — called the Tandava — is the rhythm of the universe, the dance of creation, evolution, destruction, and renewal. The cycle of the seasons is in his dance, All patterns and rhythms emanate from Lord Shiva’s dance, from the ages of the world to the thrum of each person’s heartbeat.

All the dramas of existence are expressions of Shiva’s dance.

First, Manikkavacakar describes his expansive, blissful merging with all Being–

Becoming sky & earth
Wind & light
Becoming flesh & spirit
All that truly is
& all that which is not

Everything merging with the Eternal…

Becoming the Lord

From the egoless, all-permeating state, the yogin witnesses Lord Shiva’s dance play out. He sees people, creatures, all beings swept up in the rhythm of that great dance. From the yogin’s elevated state, the Tandava is an immense, colorful wonder of swirling movement, contact and conflict, birth and death, joy and suffering, rising and falling.

But to those swept up in the dance, the rhythms are overwhelming, the experiences can be terrifying. As beautiful as the great cosmic dance is, the individuals within it are engaged in exhaustive struggle, often disoriented, and sometimes touched by terrible suffering.

Why the disconnect between the macrocosmic majesty and the microcosmic misery?

He makes those who say,
“I” & “mine”
Dance in the show

Amidst the dance of being, people struggle because of the ego sense. They say “I” and “me” and “mine.” This creates an incomplete and fixed sense of self — very dangerous in a world defined by movement. The ego is a sort of spiritual temper tantrum, a child’s hot assertion that “this is what I am, and this is all that I am, and the world had better stay put!” But the dance continues. The universe is alive, and life moves.

The dance of existence is terrifying when we identify with all the tumbling bits and pieces. But when we come to know ourselves as flowing, spacious, subtle beings of pure dynamic awareness, we can then choose to participate or not, in service and in delight. We are no longer IN the dance, we have become the dance. We are not so much bodies or collections of experiences with a fixed point in the rhythm, we are the flow of rhythm itself. Free from the fixations and limitations of the little self, we now move with Shiva himself.

How can words manage to praise the Lord of the Dance?

Om Namah Shivaya!


Recommended Books: Manikkavacakar

The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice


Manikkavacakar

India (9th Century) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shaivite (Shiva)

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Feb 13 2018

magically unfolds

Each day
magically unfolds possibility
into reality.

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Feb 06 2018

Constantine P. Cavafy – Ithaca

Published by under Poetry

Ithaca
by Constantine P. Cavafy

English version by George Barbanis

When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon — do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.
 
Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber, and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.
 
Always keep Ithaca on your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.
 
Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.
 
And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what these Ithacas mean.


/ Image by makithaca /

A little motivation to take down that old copy of Homer’s Odyssey, dust it off, and crack it open once again. It was a favorite of mine when I was a teenager, with gods, monsters, heroes, adventure… and a reminder of my Greek heritage.

In the Odyssey, the hero Odysseus was returning home from the Trojan War to his island kingdom of Ithaca, but conflicts with gods and monsters and weather kept leading him off course into new adventures. It took him twenty years to finally return home!

When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.

Cavafy’s poem reminds us of the Odyssey’s hidden truth, that the hero’s journey to Ithaca is the soul’s journey home.

Ancient tradition says that Homer’s epics, the Illiad and the Odyssey, combine into a grand mystery tale, understood by initiates as describing the stages and struggles of the soul’s inner journey.

pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge…

Too often seekers disparage the road, its bumps and turns, impatient for the destination.

To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.

But the stops along the journey are not roadblocks, they are stepping stones. Actually, even that’s not true. Seen clearly, the journey and the destination are a single continuum. The river pours into the sea, and they are one. Seated on the slow-moving river, we already touch the sea.

…and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber, and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can…

Cavafy suggests that worldly experience, the senses, a certain amount of materialism, these too are part of the journey. The physical world is the realm through which the soul journeys. Encountering marvels and terrors the soul strengthens and comes to know itself. Knowing itself in victory and adversity, the soul is finally ready to return.

But to navigate through such bewildering, overwhelming experiences, the destination must never be forgotten:

Always keep Ithaca on your mind.

Don’t rush through the journey, impatient only for its end. The adventure is our soul’s story.

Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what these Ithacas mean.

The wisdom you attain with each step reveals the destination’s true meaning.

And it is just as true to say that the destination’s gift is contained in the journey itself:

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.


Recommended Books: Constantine P. Cavafy

C. P. Cavafy: Collected Poems The Complete Poems of Cavafy: Expanded Edition Cavafy’s Alexandria Cavafy: A Biography


Constantine P. Cavafy, Constantine P. Cavafy poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Constantine P. Cavafy

Egypt (1863 – 1933) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Constantine P. Cavafy

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Feb 06 2018

Sift your life

Sift your life
until it becomes simply
what it is
and you become a thing unnamed.

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Feb 02 2018

Ghraib Nawaz – The Second Jesus

Published by under Poetry

The Second Jesus
by Gharib Nawaz

English version by Peter Lamborn Wilson and Nasrollah Pourjavady

O Lord, it’s me: blanked out in divine light
and become a horizon of rays flashing from the Essence.

My every atom yearned for vision
till I fell drunk on the manifestations of lordship.

Love polished the rust from my heart’s mirror
till I began to see the mysteries;

I emerged from the darkness of my existence
and became what I am (you know me) from the Light of Being:

blackened like charcoal dark soul’s smoke
but mixed with love fires and illumined.

Some say the path is difficult;
God forgive them! I went so easily:

The Holy Spirit breathes his every breath into Mo’in–
who knows? Maybe I’m the second Jesus.

— from The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry, Translated by Peter Lamborn Wilson / Translated by Nasrollah Pourjavady


/ Image by proama /

I love the phrase in which the poet describes himself as being “blanked in divine light.” This beautifully describes the loss of the ego self, the loss of the separate self. Instead we perceive ourselves as a point of awareness within a vast living radiance.

Another great line:

Some say the path is difficult;
God forgive them! I went so easily.

This reflects the sense that true spiritual striving must be crushingly difficult, and sometimes too vague to even comprehend. Yet, the sacred experience reveals itself as our natural state, effortless. In fact, effort implies that we are trying to attain something we don’t already have, making it even harder to recognize the state as being already present. We just have to get out of the way of the truth that is already present. That is all. We just make it seem difficult.

who knows? Maybe I’m the second Jesus.

Some Christians may be troubled by this final line. It is certainly provocative, but not necessarily intended to be blasphemous or offensive. Devout Muslims greatly revere the figure of Jesus but not in the absolute and iconic way that Christians do. In Muslim traditions, Jesus is often associated with the breath of God. This is why the reference to Jesus follows the recognition that the breath of the Holy Spirit flows uninhibited through him. That breath is there, so is Jesus. Gharib Nawaz is reveling in the giddy recognition of oneness with that subtle divine flowing Presence — the same as in Jesus, the same as in all of us.

Who knows, maybe we are all the second Jesus?


Recommended Books: Gharib Nawaz

The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry


Gharib Nawaz

Iran/Persia & India (1142? – 1236?) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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Feb 02 2018

Theory and debate

Theory and debate can never satisfy
the seeking heart.

2 responses so far

Jan 31 2018

Kalidasa – Exhortation of the Dawn

Published by under Poetry

Exhortation of the Dawn
by Kalidasa

English version by W. S. Merwin & J. Moussaieff Masson

Listen to the Exhortation of the Dawn!
Look to this Day!
For it is Life, the very Life of Life.
In its brief course lie all the
Verities and Realities of your Existence.
The Bliss of Growth,
The Glory of Action,
The Splendor of Beauty;
For Yesterday is but a Dream,
And To-morrow is only a Vision;
But To-day well lived makes
Every Yesterday a Dream of Happiness,
And every Tomorrow a Vision of Hope.
Look well therefore to this Day!
Such is the Salutation of the Dawn!

— from Sanskrit Love Poetry, Translated by W. S. Merwin / Translated by J. Moussaieff Masson


/ Image by Livin-Lively /

Now that’s the way to approach the day!

But To-day well lived makes
Every Yesterday a Dream of Happiness,
And every Tomorrow a Vision of Hope.
Look well therefore to this Day!


Recommended Books: Kalidasa

Sanskrit Love Poetry Abhijnanasakuntalam of Kalidasa The Recognition of Sakuntala: A Play in Seven Acts Theatre of Memory: The Plays of Kalidasa The Origin of the Young God: Kalidasa’s Kumarasambhava


Kalidasa, Kalidasa poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Kalidasa

India (350? – 430?) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shakta (Goddess-oriented)

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Jan 31 2018

blank page

Instead of memorizing the words of scripture,
become the blank page
that effortlessly displays them.

One response so far

Jan 26 2018

Buson – Miles of frost

Published by under Poetry

Miles of frost
by Buson

English version by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto

Miles of frost —
on the lake
the moon’s my own.

— from Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter, Translated by Lucien Stryk / Translated by Takashi Ikemoto


/ Image by 4k1 /

This haiku doesn’t emphasize that pivot that startles the awareness into new insight. Instead, it offers us a pure moment of winter solitude at dusk.

Miles of frost —

This phrasing suggests not only a chilly evening, but a landscape of silence. No activity. No carts on the road. No animals scurrying in the underbrush. Nothing but untouched frost upon the land.

In the midst of this scene of chill stillness stands the implied observer — us. We stand there alone in the quiet scene, elevated as the solitary presence, wrapped in curling mist of our own breath.

And then we see the moon reflected upon the lake’s surface at twilight.

on the lake
the moon’s my own.

With no one else to witness it, the moon becomes a private gift. The moon and the observer share this moment of intimacy in the silent company of the lake.

We can, if we choose, read this in a more consciously spiritual light: The full moon is often used to suggest enlightened awareness. The lake is mind. When the surface is still, the mind has grown quiet and it reflects the serene light of the moon. The miles of frost can suggest the wider world as perceived by the senses has also been quieted through spiritual practice. In this unified state of stillness, the moon, enlightenment, becomes one’s own.

Or perhaps it is only a lake and the moon on a quiet night. Then again, perhaps the moon’s reflection whispers to us of enlightenment, whether we recognize it or not.


Recommended Books: Buson

Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhala Library) The Moon Over Tagoto: Selected Haiku of Buson


Buson, Buson poetry, Buddhist poetry Buson

Japan (1716 – 1784) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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Jan 26 2018

liberation and theft

What the heart recognizes
as liberation,
the ego sees
as theft.

No responses yet

Jan 19 2018

Thomas Merton – Stranger

Published by under Poetry

Stranger
by Thomas Merton

When no one listens
To the quiet trees
When no one notices
The sun in the pool.

Where no one feels
The first drop of rain
Or sees the last star

Or hails the first morning
Of a giant world
Where peace begins
And rages end:

One bird sits still
Watching the work of God:
One turning leaf,
Two falling blossoms,
Ten circles upon the pond.

One cloud upon the hillside,
Two shadows in the valley
And the light strikes home.
Now dawn commands the capture
Of the tallest fortune,
The surrender
Of no less marvelous prize!

Closer and clearer
Than any wordy master,
Thou inward Stranger
Whom I have never seen,

Deeper and cleaner
Than the clamorous ocean,
Seize up my silence
Hold me in Thy Hand!

Now act is waste
And suffering undone
Laws become prodigals
Limits are torn down
For envy has no property
And passion is none.

Look, the vast Light stands still
Our cleanest Light is One!

— from The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton, by Thomas Merton


/ Image by trumeye /

Isn’t this a wonderful poem given to us by Merton? It’s worth going back and reading it again with a sense of inner stillness. (Go ahead, I’ll wait…)

The way this poem opens is fascinating —

When no one listens
To the quiet trees
When no one notices
The sun in the pool.

Where no one feels
The first drop of rain
Or sees the last star

The “no one” here is you and me, Merton himself, the speaker of the poem. We encounter the real magic and mystery of the world when we can witness it as “no one.” That’s “Where peace begins / And rages end” — when there is no idea of self to assert its right to be the central focus of everything.

That’s when things unfold and reveal themselves to be deeply and utterly themselves:

One bird sits still
Watching the work of God:
One turning leaf,
Two falling blossoms,
Ten circles upon the pond.

(Love those lines. The witness is so still, almost non-existent, and we are left selfless amidst the “work of God.”)

And then we have the “Stranger” of the poem’s title–

Closer and clearer
Than any wordy master,
Thou inward Stranger
Whom I have never seen,

Deeper and cleaner
Than the clamorous ocean,
Seize up my silence
Hold me in Thy Hand!

When the small, noisy self steps aside, we discover the vast, silent Self within, almost unknown to us, a stranger, yet there nonetheless, seated in wordless immensity. “Seize up my silence / Hold me in Thy Hand!” That’s the way. Fierce and trembling, the mystic calls out to be grabbed whole by that unknown, oh-so-intimate one.

Look, the vast Light stands still
Our cleanest Light is One!


Recommended Books: Thomas Merton

Selected Poems of Thomas Merton The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton A Thomas Merton Reader The Strange Islands: Poems by Thomas Merton Thomas Merton Monk & Poet: A Critical Study


Thomas Merton, Thomas Merton poetry, Christian poetry Thomas Merton

US (1915 – 1968) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

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Jan 19 2018

tapped bell

Some days it’s best
to do nothing
but ring like a tapped bell.

One response so far

Jan 15 2018

Maya Angelou – A Brave and Startling Truth (Martin Luther King Day)

Published by under Poetry

A Brave and Startling Truth
by Maya Angelou

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.

— from A Brave and Startling Truth, by Maya Angelou


/ Image by Dencii /

It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

This poem by Maya Angelou was written to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, but I think it’s a good choice to remember Martin Luther King Day, as well.

King is rightly remembered as one of history’s great champions of civil rights and the dignity of all groups of people.

When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean

But Reverend King’s vision was even broader and more encompassing than that. He spoke not just for black people, but for all people. He spoke up for the poor and dispossessed of all groups. He began to speak out strongly against the escalating war in Vietnam, pointing out how war and imperialist policies impoverished society, both spiritually and materially.

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

King argued that, in a just society, money should not be wasted on war and should, instead, be used to resuscitate and rebuild our struggling communities so they can mature into vibrant centers of human capability and possibility.

This is not the safe civil rights martyr taught to school children and lauded once a year by politicians. This is the King who questioned not only institutionalized bigotry, but also institutionalized poverty, wealth inequality, war, and empire. And it is worth noting that it was only when he started to raise these broader questions that he was assassinated.

Some days we need prophets to make us squirm, not just safe saints we can celebrate and then ignore.

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a pacifist, yes, but he was not passive. He was a fighter! His message, when we listen, still challenges us today to do more than get along or slightly improve the status quo. He called for an open heart, a strong will, and a dedication to all our brothers and sisters in humanity — to courageously work and sacrifice in order to embody these truths of the human spirit in our lives and in the structures of society. Now that is revolutionary!

And that is the Martin Luther King I bow to today.

Race Does Not Exist

On this Martin Luther King day, I encourage you to also read my past discussion of how race does not exist:

Race Does Not Exist

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Email Changes

Because of the ongoing technical challenges I have had with my current bulk email service, which have led to many incorrect email bouncebacks and this continuing problem that requires me to display the full text of all links, I am currently investigating affordable alternatives. I expect to change bulk emailing services soon. I don’t yet know if that will mean a change in the appearance of these poem emails. But they should be more reliable and cleanly formatted, and less likely to be mistakenly filtered out as spam by your own email services.

I wanted to let you know that the time and expenses involved in these sorts of technical issues are a significant part of what your donations help pay for. So thank you to everyone for your support!


Recommended Books: Maya Angelou

The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou Phenomenal Woman: Four Poems Celebrating Women And Still I Rise A Brave and Startling Truth The Collected Autobiographies of Maya Angelou
More Books >>


Maya Angelou, Maya Angelou poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Maya Angelou

US (1928 – 2014) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Maya Angelou

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Jan 15 2018

action is ritual

Every noble action is ritual —
an attempt to awaken wholeness and holiness
within
by enacting it externally.

No responses yet

Jan 12 2018

Wislawa Szymborska – A Contribution to Statistics

Published by under Poetry

A Contribution to Statistics
by Wislawa Szymborska

English version by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak

Out of a hundred people

those who always know better
— fifty-two

doubting every step
— nearly all the rest,

glad to lend a hand
if it doesn’t take too long
— as high as forty-nine,

always good
because they can’t be otherwise
— four, well maybe five,

able to admire without envy
— eighteen,

suffering illusions
induced by fleeting youth
— sixty, give or take a few,

not to be taken lightly
— forty and four,

living in constant fear
of someone or something
— seventy-seven,

capable of happiness
— twenty-something tops,

harmless singly, savage in crowds
— half at least,

cruel
when forced by circumstances
— better not to know
even ballpark figures,

wise after the fact
— just a couple more
than wise before it,

taking only things from life
— thirty
(I wish I were wrong),

hunched in pain,
no flashlight in the dark
— eighty-three
sooner or later,

righteous
— thirty-five, which is a lot,

righteous
and understanding
— three,

worthy of compassion
— ninety-nine,

mortal
— a hundred out of a hundred.
Thus far this figure still remains unchanged.

— from Poems New and Collected, by Wislawa Szymborska / Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak


/ Image by Andy Maguire /

I always knew statistics had a poetic heart. After such terrible abuse by advertisers and politicians, statistics will redeem themselves in great and painful art.

worthy of compassion
— ninety-nine,

mortal
— a hundred out of a hundred.
Thus far this figure still remains unchanged.

Of course, even the best-natured of statistics exist to taunt us, to challenge us. Then again, that’s what those irascible poets do too…


Recommended Books: Wislawa Szymborska

Poems New and Collected Miracle Fair: Selected Poems of Wislawa Szymborska View with a Grain of Sand: Selected Poems Nothing Twice: Selected Poems Dancing with Joy: 99 Poems
More Books >>


Wislawa Szymborska, Wislawa Szymborska poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Wislawa Szymborska

Poland (1923 – 2012) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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