My Koans

My primary way of interacting with poetrykoans (see ABOUT for more on this idea of poetry as koan) is to learn a poem I love off by heart. It takes me about a week to do so, spending approximately an hour each day reciting lines from the poem over and over again to myself. At this point, I can usually recite a smallish (10-12 line) poem without too much stumbling. Then to be able to recite it for someone else can take anything up to 3 months of daily work-outs. As well as working on my weekly poem, I also endeavour to recite ALL the poems I know by heart every few days to keep them fresh.

Doing this, I manage to keep alive about 7,000 words of poetry in my heart and soul. I have an incredibly non-retentive brain when it comes to words, which is very frustrating, so I suspect this is the maximum amount of work required to keep a poem by-hearted, but I do it because I love the process and because it keeps my life on track.

I choose poems that I feel have something to teach me that I need to learn. They are self-prescriptions you might say. While by-hearting the poem, I start having a kind of conversation with the poem, and so too myself. They are my primary therapy.

If you are interested in finding out more regarding this practice, I’d very much recommend Kim Rosen’s book Saved By A Poem. Kim, more than anyone else, lit this fire in me, and I continue to be indebted to her for this.

Here below are all the poems I have learnt by heart (most recent ones first), also noting which year I started learning the poem, and including links to blog-posts on this site where I’ve written about what each specific poem has taught me.

63. YOU WHO NEVER ARRIVED (2018)

You who never arrived
in my arms, Beloved, who were lost
from the start,
I don’t even know what songs
would please you. I have given up trying
to recognize you in the surging wave of
the next moment. All the immense
images in me — the far-off, deeply-felt
landscape, cities, towers, and bridges, and
unsuspected turns in the path,
and those powerful lands that were once
pulsing with the life of the gods–
all rise within me to mean
you, who forever elude me.

You, Beloved, who are all
the gardens I have ever gazed at,
longing. An open window
in a country house– , and you almost
stepped out, pensive, to meet me.
Streets that I chanced upon,–
you had just walked down them and vanished.
And sometimes, in a shop, the mirrors
were still dizzy with your presence and,
startled, gave back my too-sudden image.
Who knows? Perhaps the same
bird echoed through both of us
yesterday, separate, in the evening…

-Rainer Maria Rilke

62. THE PLANET ON THE TABLE (2018)

Ariel was glad he had written his poems.
They were of a remembered time
Or of something seen that he liked.

Other makings of the sun
Were waste and welter
And the ripe shrub writhed.

His self and the sun were one
And his poems, although makings of his self,
Were no less makings of the sun.

It was not important that they survive.
What mattered was that they should bear
Some lineament or character,

Some affluence, if only half-perceived,
In the poverty of their words,
Of the planet of which they were part.

-Wallace Stevens

By Hearting The Planet on The Table by Wallace Stevens

61. POETRY (2018)

I, too, dislike it.
Reading it, however, with a perfect
contempt for it, one discovers in
it, after all, a place for the genuine.

-Marianne Moore

About

60. KINDNESS (2018)

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

-Naomi Shihab Nye

By Hearting Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye

59. WHAT IS THE LANGUAGE USING US FOR? [3] (2018)

I don’t know. Have the words ever
Made anything of you, near a kind
Of truth you thought you were? Me
Neither. The words like albatrosses
Are only a doubtful touch towards
You going and me lifting my hand
To speak to illustrate an observed
Catastrophe. What is the weather
Using us for where we are ready
With all our language lines aboard?
The beginning wind slaps the canvas.
Are you ready? Are you ready?

-W.S. Graham

38. THE WAY IT IS (2018)

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

-William Stafford

57. SONG (2018)

I wait each night for a self.
I say the mist, I say the strange
tumble of leaves, I say a motor
in the distance, but I mean
a self and a self and a self.
A small cold wind
coils and uncoils in the corner
of every room. A vagrant.
In the dream
I gather my life in bundles
and stand at the edge of a field
of snow. It is a field I know
but have never seen. It is
nowhere and always new:
What about the lives
I might have lived?
As who? And who
will be accountable
for this regret I see
no way to avoid? A core,
or a husk, I need to learn
not how to speak, but from where.
Do you understand? I say
name, but I mean a conduit
from me to me, I mean a net,
I mean an awning of stars.

-Charif Shanahan

56. WHAT IF YOU SLEPT (2018)

What if you slept
And what if
In your sleep
You dreamed
And what if
In your dream
You went to heaven
And there plucked a strange and beautiful flower
And what if
When you awoke
You had that flower in your hand
Ah, what then?

-Samuel Taylor Coleridge

55.ORIGIN (2018)

The first cell felt no call to divide.
Fed on abundant salts and sun,
still thin, it simply spread,
rocking on water, clinging to stone,
a film of obliging strength.
Its endoplasmic reticulum
was a thing of incomparable curvaceous length;
its nucleus, Golgi apparatus, RNA
magnificent. With no incidence
of loneliness, inner conflict, or deceit,
no predator or prey,
it had little to do but thrive,
draw back from any sharp heat
or bitterness, and change its pastel
colors in a kind of song.
We are descendants of the second cell.

-Sarah Lindsay

54. POETRY (2017)

And it was at that age, Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don’t know how or when.
No they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names,
my eyes were blind,
but something kicked in my soul,
a fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
deciphering
that fire,
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
nonsense,
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
unfastened
and open,
planets,
palpitating plantations,
shadow perforated,
riddled
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

And me, miniscule being,
drunk with the great starry
void,
likeness, image of
mystery,
felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.

-Pablo Neruda

53. WHAT IS THE LANGUAGE USING US FOR? [2] (2018)

What is the language using us for?
It uses us all and in its dark
Of dark actions selections differ.

I am not making a fool of myself
For you. What I am making is
A place for language in my life

Which I want to be a real place
Seeing I have to put up with it
Anyhow. What are Communication’s

Mistakes in the magic medium doing
To us? It matters only in
So far as we want to be telling

Each other alive about each other
Alive. I want to be able to speak
And sing and make my soul occur

In front of the best and be respected
For that and even be understood
By the ones I like who are dead.

I would like to speak in front
Of myself with all my ears alive
And find out what it is I want.

-W.S. Graham

52. WE HAVE NO CHOICE IN THE BODIES THAT HOLD US (2018)

Thing of dirt and water and oxygen marked by thinking
and reacting and a couch
one may or may not be permitted
to sleep on. He may not permit me
to touch him or to take the bone
from his mouth, but he does, and that’s a choice
based on many factors, not the least of which
is his own desire to let me
do these things. How I could ever
think or feel myself more
deserving of a single thing than
this being, whom I call by a name the same way
my parents chose a name for me. The same way my genes
went expressing themselves to make my face exactly
my face. This isn’t special. Or this is special. But it’s one
answer, the same, for us both.

-Holly Amos

51. WILD GEESE (2018)

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

-Mary Oliver

50. MY OWN HEART LET ME MORE HAVE PITY ON (2017)

My own heart let me have more have pity on; let
Me live to my sad self hereafter kind,
Charitable; not live this tormented mind
With this tormented mind tormenting yet.
I cast for comfort I can no more get
By groping round my comfortless, than blind
Eyes in their dark can day or thirst can find
Thirst ’s all-in-all in all a world of wet.

Soul, self; come, poor Jackself, I do advise
You, jaded, let be; call off thoughts awhile
Elsewhere; leave comfort root-room; let joy size
At God knows when to God knows what; whose smile
’s not wrung, see you; unforeseen times rather—as skies
Betweenpie mountains—lights a lovely mile.

-Gerard Manley Hopkins

By hearting MY OWN HEART by Gerard Manley Hopkins

49. LATE ECHO (2017)

Alone with our madness and favorite flower
We see that there really is nothing left to write about.
Or rather, it is necessary to write about the same old things
In the same way, repeating the same things over and over
For love to continue and be gradually different.

Beehives and ants have to be re-examined eternally
And the color of the day put in
Hundreds of times and varied from summer to winter
For it to get slowed down to the pace of an authentic
Saraband and huddle there, alive and resting.

Only then can the chronic inattention
Of our lives drape itself around us, conciliatory
And with one eye on those long tan plush shadows
That speak so deeply into our unprepared knowledge
Of ourselves, the talking engines of our day.

-John Ashbery

48. THE PLAIN SENSE OF THINGS (2017)

After the leaves have fallen, we return
To a plain sense of things. It is as if
We had come to an end of the imagination,
Inanimate in an inert savoir.

It is difficult even to choose the adjective
For this blank cold, this sadness without cause.
The great structure has become a minor house.
No turban walks across the lessened floors.

The greenhouse never so badly needed paint.
The chimney is fifty years old and slants to one side.
A fantastic effort has failed, a repetition
In a repetitiousness of men and flies.

Yet the absence of the imagination had
Itself to be imagined. The great pond,
The plain sense of it, without reflections, leaves,
Mud, water like dirty glass, expressing silence

Of a sort, silence of a rat come out to see,
The great pond and its waste of the lilies, all this
Had to be imagined as an inevitable knowledge,
Required, as a necessity requires.

-Wallace Stevens

47. TO EVERYTHING THERE IS A SEASON (2017)

To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the sun:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck;
A time to hurt, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to scatter stones,
and a time to gather them together;
A time to embrace, and a time to hold back;
A time to gain, and a time to lose;
a time to save, and a time to use;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silent, and a time to speak;
A time of love, and a time of hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.

-Kohelet/Solomon (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecclesiastes#Title,_date_and_author)

46. KING OF THE RIVER (2017)

If the water were clear enough,
if the water were still,
but the water is not clear,
the water is not still,
you would see yourself,
slipped out of your skin,
nosing upstream,
slapping, thrashing,
tumbling
over the rocks
till you paint them
with your belly’s blood:
Finned Ego,
yard of muscle that coils,
uncoils.

If the knowledge were given you,
but it is not given,
for the membrane is clouded
with self-deceptions
and the iridescent image swims
through a mirror that flows,
you would surprise yourself
in that other flesh
heavy with milt,
bruised, battering toward the dam
that lips the orgiastic pool.

Come. Bathe in these waters.
Increase and die.

If the power were granted you
to break out of your cells,
but the imagination fails
and the doors of the senses close
on the child within,
you would dare to be changed,
as you are changing now,
into the shape you dread
beyond the merely human.
A dry fire eats you.
Fat drips from your bones.
The flutes of your gills discolor.
You have become a ship for parasites.
The great clock of your life
is slowing down,
and the small clocks run wild.
For this you were born.
You have cried to the wind
and heard the wind’s reply:
“I did not choose the way,
the way chose me.”
You have tasted the fire on your tongue
till it is swollen black
with a prophetic joy:
“Burn with me!
The only music is time,
the only dance is love.”

If the heart were pure enough,
but it is not pure,
you would admit
that nothing compels you
any more, nothing
at all abides,
but nostalgia and desire,
the two-way ladder
between heaven and hell.
On the threshold
of the last mystery,
at the brute absolute hour,
you have looked into the eyes
of your creature self,
which are glazed with madness,
and you say
he is not broken but endures,
limber and firm
in the state of his shining,
forever inheriting his salt kingdom,
from which he is banished
forever.

-Stanley Kunitz

By Hearting King of The River by Stanley Kunitz

45. I WALKED IN A DESERT (2017)

I walked in a desert.
And I cried,
“Ah, God, take me from this place!”
A voice said, “It is no desert.”
I cried, “Well, but
“The sand, the heat, the vacant horizon.”
A voice said, “It is no desert.”

-Stephen Crane

44. IF I SHOULD CAST OFF THIS TATTERED COAT (2017)

If I should cast off this tattered coat,
And go free into the mighty sky;
If I should find nothing there
But a vast blue,
Echoless, ignorant,
What then?

-Stephen Crane

43. IN THE DESERT (2017)

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
“Because it is bitter,
“And because it is my heart.

-Stephen Crane

42. THE DAY YOU STOP (2017)

One day will be tomorrow. The day of truce
and socket and beaten. The day
you shrink into stopping, the day threadbare and pain-
shamed and limit. Until then,
you might be continuing
because that is what you do until the last moment
when you must stop.
Still everywhere the shiver
is slow on the tongue, insistent. You will stop
for some weeks,
your body taking body
from your blood
and the back of the throat,
and those weeks will be thank-you-God acres
of erasure and resurrection and the clabber of other small prayers
you stoop to collect. You will be diligent
because you have paid good money
to be taught how to stop, slanting off
from queasy transgressions, those
clutches and source. Even so,
we shouldn’t fool ourselves;
resolve cannot liquefy need.
You will probably start again soon after
you have completed the stopping,
the unwashed swell of rapture
taking your face through teeth to heartbeat,
every beaten moment on the couch.
Every relief: have hereafter and clamor.
Have nothing worse.
You’ll follow the mumble through
that ache that is tincture. Is rule
and bundle. Is famished inside you
and thrumming. You understand
there are two types, and you are
the type to release. If you had to choose
between settle and suture, you know what you’re after.
You’d pour yourself hitches
and battery. Pour yourself each subsequent time.
It will become impossible to believe
you will ever stop for good.
Stopping is not counter or suspect,
but easing back is all that is left,
the impulse has got you, it’s all that survives.

-Lauren Camp

By Hearting THE DAY YOU STOP by Lauren Camp

41. CHANGE (2017)

Change is the new,
improved
word for god,
lovely enough
to raise a song
or implicate
a sea of wrongs,
mighty enough,
like other gods,
to shelter,
bring together,
and estrange us.
Please, god,
we seem to say,
change us.

-Wendy Videlock

40. I SAW A MAN PURSUING THE HORIZON (2017)

I saw a man pursuing the horizon;
Round and round they sped.
I was disturbed at this;
I accosted the man.
“It is futile,” I said,
“You can never”
“You lie,” he cried,
And ran on.

-Stephen Crane

39. ONCE THERE WAS A MAN (2017)

Once there was a man,
So sensitive, so wise,
In all drink
He detected the bitter,
And in all touch
He found the sting.
At last he cried thus:
“There is nothing,
“No life,
“No joy,
“No pain,
“There is nothing save opinion,
“And opinion be damned.”

-Stephen Crane

38. A MAN SAID TO THE UNIVERSE (2017)

A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”

-Stephen Crane

37. ONE ART (2018)

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three beloved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

– Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Say it!) like a disaster

-Elizabeth Bishop

By Hearting One Art by Elizabeth Bishop

36. GO DEEPER THAN LOVE (2018)

Go deeper than love, for the soul has greater depths,
love is like the grass, but the heart is deep wild rock
molten, yet dense and permanent.
Go down to your deep old heart, and lose sight of yourself.
And lose sight of me, the me whom you turbulently love/d.
Let us lose sight of ourselves, and break the mirrors.
For the fierce curve of our lives is moving again to the depths
out of sight, in the deep living heart.

-D. H. Lawrence

35. ALL IS ARDOUR (2017)

All is ardour burning & blaze
Eye is ardour ear is ardour
nose lips tongue ardour
mind ardour body ardour
burning burning burning away.

Sound burning scent burning
taste burning touch burning
incandescent bone fires burning
burning pleasure burning pain
either neither burning away.

Feel the fire that burns through
this hour passion fire aversion
fire delusion fire all ablaze
birth and death & aging fires
burning burning burning away.

Contact feeling craving takes us
calls to the awakened soul
know then free your self from ardour
find some peace
while burning away.

-Siddhārtha Gautama (my version)

34. HARD TO FACE (2017)

Death is hard to face
birth too
in between
decomposition.

Lousy to say the least.

Ill health anxiety &; frustration all suck
as does despair disappointment humiliation.

Each and every hard to face moment is by
definition difficult including this one where
something pleasant is coming to an end and that
one where the unpleasant is starting up again.

Not getting what we want or need or had or hope
to have or hold onto & keep is hard to face.

In fact whichever way we get to inhabit
this being human takes us closer to the truth

our bodies sensations feelings
thoughts moods beliefs

are doors through which we cannot help but pass
leading into rooms where once again we find ourselves
bearing all of this with a sometimes heavy heart
whatever it is we feel right now that feels so very hard.

-Siddhārtha Gautama (my version)

33. THE WELL OF GRIEF (2017)

Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief,
turning down through its black water
to the place we cannot breathe,
will never know the source from which we drink,
the secret water, cold and clear,
nor find in the darkness glimmering,
the small round coins,
thrown by those who wished for something else.

-David Whyte

32. WHEN I HAVE FEARS THAT I MAY CEASE TO BE (2017)

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain,
Before high-pilèd books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripened grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starred face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love—then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

-John Keats

31. AFTERNOON (2017)

When I was about to die
my body lit up
like when I leave my house
without my wallet.

What am I missing? I ask
patting my chest
pocket.

And I am missing everything living
that won’t come with me
into this sunny afternoon

—my body lights up for life
like all the wishes being granted in a fountain
at the same instant—
all the coins burning the fountain dry—

and I give my breath
to a small bird-shaped pipe.

In the distance, behind several voices
haggling, I hear a sound like heads
clicking together. Like a game of pool,
played with people by machines.

-Max Ritvo

30. A HINDU TO HIS BODY (2017)

Dear pursuing presence,
dear body: you brought me
curled in womb and memory.

Gave me fingers to clutch
at grace, at malice; and ruffle
someone else’s hair; to fold a man’s
shadow back on his world;
to hold in the dark of the eye
through a winter and a fear
the poise, the shape of a breast;
a pear’s silence, in the calyx
and the noise of a childish fist.

You brought me: do not leave me
behind. When you leave all else,
my garrulous face, my unkissed
alien mind, when you muffle
and put away my pulse

to rise in the sap of trees
let me go with you and feel the weight
of honey-hives in my branching
and the burlap weave of weaver-birds
in my hair.

-A. K. Ramanujan

29. THE TREES (2017)

These are amazing: each
Joining a neighbor, as though speech
Were a still performance.
Arranging by chance

To meet as far this morning
From the world as agreeing
With it, you and I
Are suddenly what the trees try

To tell us we are:
That their merely being there
Means something; that soon
We may touch, love, explain.

And glad not to have invented
Such comeliness, we are surrounded:
A silence already filled with noises,
A canvas on which emerges

A chorus of smiles, a winter morning.
Placed in a puzzling light, and moving,
Our days put on such reticence
These accents seem their own defense.

-John Ashbery

28. THE DOOR (2017)

Go and open the door.
Maybe outside there’s
a tree, or a wood,
a garden,
or a magic city.

Go and open the door.
Maybe a dog’s rummaging.
Maybe you’ll see a face,
or an eye,
or the picture
of a picture.

Go and open the door.
If there’s a fog
it will clear.

Go and open the door.
Even if there’s only
the darkness ticking,
even if there’s only
the hollow wind,
even if
nothing
is there,
go and open the door.

At least
there’ll be
a draught.

-Miroslav Holub

27. THE PATIENCE OF ORDINARY THINGS (2017)

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they’re supposed to be.
I’ve been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?

-Pat Schneider

By Hearting The Patience of Ordinary Things by Pat Schneider

26. PRIMARY WONDER (2017)

Hours pass where I forget the mystery.
Problems insoluble and problems offering
their own ignored solutions
jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber
along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing
their colored clothes; caps and bells.
And then
once more the quiet mystery
is present to me, the throng’s clamor
recedes: the mystery
that there is anything, anything at all,
let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything,
rather than void: and that
moment by moment it continues to be
sustained.

-Denise Levertov

By hearting Primary Wonder by Denise Levertov

25. DREAM SONG #14 (2017)

Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) “Ever to confess you’re bored
means you have no
Inner Resources.” I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as Achilles,

who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into the mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.

-John Berryman

24. THE PANTHER (2017)

His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold
anything else. It seems to him there are
a thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world.

As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils lifts, quietly–.
An image enters in,
rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.

-Rainer Maria Rilke

23. UNBURNABLE THE COLD IS FLOODING OUR LIVES (2017)

the prophets are alive but unrecognizable to us
as calligraphy to a mouse for a time they dragged

long oar strokes across the sky now they sit
in graveyards drinking coffee forking soapy cottage cheese

into their mouths my hungry is different than their hungry
I envy their discipline but not enough to do anything about it

I blame my culture I blame everyone but myself
intent arrives like a call to prayer and is as easy to dismiss

Rumi said the two most important things in life were beauty
and bewilderment this is likely a mistranslation

after thirty years in America my father now dreams in English
says he misses the dead relatives he used to be able to visit in sleep

how many times are you allowed to lose the same beloveds
before you stop believing they’re gone

some migrant birds build their nests over rivers
to push them into the water when they leave this seems

almost warm a good harm the addictions
that were killing me fastest were the ones I loved best

turning the chisel toward myself I found my body
was still the size of my body still unarmored as wet bread

one way to live a life is to spend each moment asking
forgiveness for the last it seems to me the significance

of remorse would deflate with each performance better
to sink a little into the earth and quietly watch life unfold

violent as a bullring the carpenter’s house will always be
the last to be built sometimes a mind is ready to leave

the world before its body sometimes paradise happens
too early and leaves us shuddering in its wake

I am glad I still exist glad for cats and moss
and Turkish indigo and yet to be light upon the earth

to be steel bent around an endless black to once again
be God’s own tuning fork and yet and yet

-Kaveh Akbar

By Hearting UNBURNABLE THE COLD IS FLOODING OUR LIVES by Kaveh Akbar

22. SONG OF A MAN WHO HAS COME THROUGH (2017)

Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me!
A fine wind is blowing the new direction of Time.
If only I let it bear me, carry me, if only it carry me!
If only I am sensitive, subtle, oh, delicate, a winged gift!
If only, most lovely of all, I yield myself and am borrowed
By the fine, fine wind that takes its course through the
chaos of the world
Like a fine, an exquisite chisel, a wedge-blade inserted;
If only I am keen and hard like the sheer tip of a wedge
Driven by invisible blows,
The rock will split, we shall come at the wonder, we shall
find the Hesperides.

Oh, for the wonder that bubbles into my soul,
I would be a good fountain, a good well-head,
Would blur no whisper, spoil no expression.

What is the knocking?
What is the knocking at the door in the night?
It is somebody wants to do us harm.

No, no, it is the three strange angels.
Admit them, admit them.

-D.H. Lawrence

21. THE GUEST HOUSE (2017)

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
They may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door with kindness,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-Rumi

20. SELF-PORTRAIT (2017)

Tell me what I am, for I
cannot fathom at a glance
why this creature longs
for sunsets it has not yet seen,
or refuses the notion of home,
only to set out in search of it…

I wear skin the way the land bears
its own light. I cry rain, speak thunder,
burn at the core of this being human.
I am tellurian, tethered forever
to this sublunary sphere. Is that why
I am unable to forget you, you whose words
stain the skies at dusk, a flock of swallows
mapping their sorrows with each wing-beat?

Oh, canvas earth, we were never born
artist enough for you. You speak to us
in prophecies now. Your veins are molten
lava, torrential rain, hurricanes, glaciers
drowning in the currents of our undoing.
What do we land-locked souls know
about the ocean? We have a world of ice
frozen within us, and the waters are rising.

-Mary Jean Chan

19. ANTI-AMBITION ODE (2017)

Is the idea to make a labyrinth
of the mind bigger? What’s the matter?
You still come out of the womb-dark
into the sneering court of the sun
and don’t know which turn to take.
So what? You’re made of twigs anyway.
You were on an errand but never came back,
spent too long poking something with a stick.
Was it dead or never alive?
Invisibility will slow down soon enough
for you to catch up and pull it over yourself.
No one knows what color the first hyena’s tongue
to reach you will be.
Or the vultures who are slow, careful unspellers.
So go ahead, become an expert in sleep or not,
either way you can live in a rose or smoke
only so long.
You will still be left off the list.
You will still be rain, blurry as a mouse.

-Dean Young

18. WHAT IS THE LANGUAGE USING US FOR (2017)

What is the language using us for?
Said Malcolm Mooney moving away
Slowly over the white language.
Where am I going said Malcolm Mooney.

Certain experiences seem to not
Want to go into language maybe
Because of shame or the reader’s shame.
Let us observe Malcolm Mooney.

Let us get through the suburbs and drive
Out further just for fun to see
What he will do. Reader, it does
Not matter. He is only going to be

Myself and for you slightly you
Wanting to be another. He fell.
He falls (Tenses are everywhere.)
Deep down into a glass jail.

I am in a telephoneless, blue
Green crevasse and I can’t get out.
I pay well for my messages
Being hoisted up when you are about.

I suppose you open them under the light
Of midnight of The Dancing Men.
The point is would you ever want
To be here down on the freezing line

Reading the words that steam out
Against the ice? Anyhow draw
This folded message up between
The leaning prisms from me below.

Slowly over the white language
Comes Malcolm Mooney the saviour.
My left leg has no feeling.
What is the language using us for?

-W.S. Graham

By Hearting What Is the Language Using Us For by W.S. Graham

17. FROM THE DHAMMAPADA (2017)

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with a troubled mind
And trouble will follow you
As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.

For we are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with an untroubled mind
And serenity will follow you
As your shadow, unshakable.

However many holy words you read,
However many you speak,
What good will they do you
If you do not act upon them?
Are you a shepherd
Counting another man’s sheep,
Never knowing the way?
Read as many words as you need,
write and speak even fewer.
Act upon them as best you can.
Forsaking the old haunts
of desire, displeasure,
despair and delusion.
Know the truth, find your peace.
Share the way.

-Siddhārtha Gautama

16. THE MANY WINES (2017)

Today we have been given a wine so
dark and so deep that to drink it
would take us beyond these two worlds.

Today we have been given a substance
so sweet that to eat it
would deliver us from self-consciousness.

Today will end once more with sleep
ending thought ending feeling
ending each and every craving.

Today Majnun’s love for Layla
is born and with it a mere
name becomes his salvation.

Every minute of the day we’ve been given
at least fifty ways to cut loose
to just slip out the back Jack.

Don’t think all ecstasies are the same
Jesus was lost in love for his God
his donkey drunk on barley.

Drink from the presence of Self
not from jars or scars or quick fixes
Every vessel is a moment of delight.

Be a connoisseur taste with caution
any wine will get you plastered
judge wisely choose the purest

The one unadulterated with fear
or the four urgent needs of the heart
drink the wine that moves you

As a camel moves when its finally
been untied from its post and
gets to just amble about freely.

-Rumi

15. FINAL SOLILOQUY OF THE INTERIOR PARAMOUR (2017)

Light the first light of evening, as in a room
In which we rest and, for small reason, think
The world imagined is the ultimate good.

This is, therefore, the intensest rendezvous.
It is in that thought that we collect ourselves,
Out of all the indifferences, into one thing:

Within a single thing, a single shawl
Wrapped tightly round us, since we are poor, a warmth,
A light, a power, the miraculous influence.

Here, now, we forget each other and ourselves.
We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole,
A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous.

Within its vital boundary, in the mind.
We say God and the imagination are one…
How high that highest candle lights the dark.

Out of this same light, out of the central mind,
We make a dwelling in the evening air,
In which being there together is enough.

-Wallace Stevens

14. I THANK YOU (2017)

i thank You god for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

-E. E. Cummings

By-Hearting I thank you god for most this amazing by e.e. cummings

13. DEATH WHISPERS (2017)

Death whispers
In my ear:
Live now,
For I am coming.

-Virgil

EPISODE 24: Ronna Bloom prescribes Hafiz, Coleridge, and Virgil

12. Song of Myself XLVIII (2017)

I have said that the soul is not more than the body,
And I have said that the body is not more than the soul,
And nothing, not God, is greater to one than one’s self is,
And whoever walks a furlong without sympathy walks to his own funeral drest in his shroud,
And I or you pocketless of a dime may purchase the pick of the earth,
And to glance with an eye or show a bean in its pod confounds the learning of all times,
And there is no trade or employment but the young man following it may become a hero,
And there is no object so soft but it makes a hub for the wheel’d universe,
And I say to any man or woman, Let your soul stand cool and composed before a million universes.

And I say to mankind, Be not curious about God,
For I who am curious about each am not curious about God,
(No array of terms can say how much I am at peace about God and about death.)

I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God not in the least,
Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself.

Why should I wish to see God better than this day?
I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then,
In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass,
I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign’d by God’s name,
And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe’er I go,
Others will punctually come for ever and ever.

-Walt Whitman

By-Hearting Song of Myself by Walt Whitman

11. This paper speaks volumes (2012)

This paper speaks volumes
In being so white.
As if to lay a single word here
However carefully, or prayerfully
Would be a sacrilege, a sacrifice.
What can I do? How can I say this,
Without my pen?

-Nick Pole

10. Dancing in the Waiting Room (2012)

All our living
is in waiting.
In these moments
we find our myriad selves
anxious, hopeful, trembling,
wishful, fearful, impatient.
All our dancing shadows
are there
flitting in the half light
of unreason
crowding together
in fevers of movement
never still, never one.

Then a voice says ‘Next’
and a new dance
begins.

-Angus Macmillan

9. Across the way (2012)

Waiting
to place myself
in someone else’s hands

to place myself
in hands trained
to relieve me

hands to retrieve me
myself at sea.
I am sending

an SOS signal
from the eye
of my tempest

pausing here
across the way.

Welcome, wanderer,
shadow-companion,
fellow-refugee.

I have seen you
across the way
and salute you.

-Rogan Wolf

8. I AM WAITING [abridged] (2012)

I am waiting for my case to come up
I am waiting for my number to be called
I am waiting for the Age of Anxiety to drop dead
I am waiting for the storms of life to be over

I am waiting
to get some intimations
of immortality
by recollecting my early childhood
and I am waiting
for the green mornings to come again
for some strains of unpremeditated art
to shake my typewriter
and I am waiting to write
the great indelible poem
and I am waiting
for the last long rapture
and I am perpetually waiting
for the fleeting lovers on the Grecian Urn
to catch each other at last
and embrace
and I am awaiting
perpetually and forever
a renaissance of wonder

-Lawrence Ferlinghetti

7. FIRST FOOTNOTE ON ZOOMORPHISM (2012)

It seems we have said too little about
the heart, per se,

how it sits in its chambered nub
of grease and echo

listening for movement in the farthest
reed beds — any feathered thing will do,

love being interspecific, here,
more often than we imagine.

If anything, I’d liken us to certain
warblers, less appealing in the wild

than how we’d look
in coloured lithographs,

yet now and then, I’m on the point of hearing bitterns at the far edge of the lake,
bitterns at the far edge of the lake,

that cry across the marshes like the doom
you only get in books, where people die

so readily for love, each heart becomes
a species in itself, the sound it makes

distinctive, one more descant in the dark,
before it disappears into the marshes.

-John Burnside

By Hearting First Footnote on Zoomorphism by John Burnside

6. TODAY

If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary’s cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.

-Billy Collins

By-Hearting Today by Billy Collins

5. BRIEF REFLECTION ON MAPS (2012)

Albert Szent-Györgyi, who knew a thing or two about maps,
By which life moves somewhere or other,
Used to tell this story from the war,
Through which history moves somewhere or other.

From a small Hungarian unit in the Alps a young lieutenant
Sent out a scouting party into the icy wastes.
At once
It began to snow, it snowed for two days and the party
Did not return. The lieutenant was in distress: he had sent
His men to their deaths.

On the third day, however, the scouting party was back.
Where had they been? How did they manage to find their way?
Yes, the man explained, we certainly thought we were
Lost and awaited our end. When suddenly one of our lot
Found a map in his pocket. We felt reassured.
We made a bivouac, waited for the snow to stop, and then with the map
Found the right direction.
And here we are.

The lieutenant asked to see that remarkable map in order to
Study it. It wasn’t a map of the Alps
But the Pyrenees.

Goodbye.

-Miroslav Holub

By Hearting Brief Reflections on Maps by Miroslav Holub

4. NO WORSE THERE IS NONE (2012)

No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,
More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.
Comforter, where, where is your comforting?
Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?
My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief
Woe, wórld-sorrow; on an áge-old anvil wince and sing —
Then lull, then leave off. Fury had shrieked ‘No ling-
ering! Let me be fell: force I must be brief.”‘

O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne’er hung there. Nor does long our small
Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep,
Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all
Life death does end and each day dies with sleep.

-Gerard Manley Hopkins

3. THE WINDHOVER (2012)

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing.
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.

-Gerard Manley Hopkins

By Hearting “The Windhover” by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1)

2. EVERYTHING IS WAITING FOR YOU (2012)

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.
Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

By Hearting Everything Is Waiting For You by David Whyte

-David Whyte

1. THIS BE THE VERSE (1987)

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

-Philip Larkin