"My friend Mary," says I.
"My friend Lillian," says she.
Now, Brenda Conlan, gee I haven't seen her in forever. She's the only person I know who writes a Christmas letter that doesn't make me grind my teeth.
Flying Over the Nebraska of My Life
by Marge Piercy
So much of our lives dissolves.
What did I do the day before
I met you? You remember
what I was wearing that holiday.
What did I wear the next morning?
What did I write the day my mother died?
I fly at night over the plains.
There is a cluster of lights,
a starfish shape glittering. Then
darkness and darkness.
Then another clump bearing
long daisy petals of roadway.
Then nothing again. How much
of my living has fled like water
into sand. The sand is not
even damp to the hand.
Tears and wine and sparkling
water all vanish the same.
I know looking out the plane's
dirty window that there are houses,
barns, roads, trees, stores
distinct in that darkness I once
drove through. I knew them and will
never know them again.
The plane is flying from lighted
place to lighted place, but
our arc is from the dark into
brightness then back into darkness.
I want to possess my own life like a
necklace, pearl by pearl of light.
John Berryman said,
"The artist is extremely lucky who is
presented with the worst possible ordeal
which will not actually kill him.
At that point, he's in business."
Poem: "Advice to Young Writers,"
by Ron Padgett, from You Never Know
(Coffee House Press).
Advice to Young Writers
One of the things I've repeated to writing
students is that they should write when they don't
feel like writing, just sit down and start,
and when it doesn't go very well, to press on then,
to get to that one thing you'd otherwise
never find. What I forgot to mention was
that this is just a writing technique, that
you could also be out mowing the lawn, where,
if you bring your mind to it, you'll also eventually
come to something unexpected ("The robin he
hunts and pecks"), or watching the "Farm News"
on which a large man is referring to the "Greater
Massachussetts area." It's alright, students, not
to write. Do whatever you want. As long as you find
that unexpected something, or even if you don't.
Poem: "The day my mother died,"
by Marge Piercy, from
Colors Passing Through Us
The day my mother died
I seldom have premonitions of death.
That day opened like any
ordinary can of tomatoes.
The alarm drilled into my ear.
The cats stirred and one leapt off.
The scent of coffee slipped into my head
like a lover into my arms and I sighed,
drew the curtains and examined
the face of the day.
I remember no dreams of loss.
No dark angel rustled ominous wings
or whispered gravely.
I was caught by surprise
like the trout that takes the fly
and I gasped in the fatal air.
You were gone suddenly as a sound
fading in the coil of the ear
no trace, no print, no ash
just the emptiness of stilled air.
My hunger feeds on itself.
My hands are stretched out
to grasp and find only their
own weight bearing them down
toward the dark cold earth.
Watch people walk past--
a steady trickle of water
from the fountain.What color are the
marigold leaves now turning
after the first frost?
Feel that?! ...that's a breeze.
...Now? October sun. ...And that?!
One last sprig of thyme.Shoot. I did it a-
gain. Hand me the eraser...
I'm back to square one.
Stand up, walk to the sink, fill
a glass, take a drink.
The living language is like a cow-path: it is the creation of the cows
themselves, who, having created it, follow it or depart from it according to
their whims or their needs. From daily use, the path undergoes change. A cow
is under no obligation to stay. -E.B. White, writer (1899-1985)
by Mary Oliver
When we are driving in the dark,
on the long road to Provincetown,
when we are weary,
when the buildings and the scrub pines lose their familiar look,
I imagine us rising from the speeding car.
I imagine us seeing everything from another place--
the top of one of the pale dunes, or the deep and nameless
fields of the sea.
And what we see is a world that cannot cherish us,
but which we cherish.
And what we see is our life moving like that
along the dark edges of everything,
headlights sweeping the blackness,
believing in a thousand fragile and unprovable things.
Looking out for sorrow,
slowing down for happiness,
making all the right turns
right down to the thumping barriers to the sea,
the swirling waves,
the narrow streets, the houses,
the past, the future,
the doorway that belongs
to you and me.
Enlightenment--that magnificent escape from anguish and ignorance--never happens by accident. It results from the brave and sometimes lonely battle of one person against his own weaknesses.
-Bhikkhu Nyanasobhano, "Landscapes of Wonder"Whatever attitudes we habitually use toward ourselves, we will use on others, and whatever attitudes we habitually use toward others, we will use on ourselves. The situation is comparable to our serving food to ourselves and to other people from the same bowl. Everyone ends up eating the same thing--we must examine carefully what we are dishing out.
-Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, "Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness"
I like to walk alone on country paths, rice plants and wild grasses on both sides, putting each foot down on the earth in mindfulness, knowing that I walk on the wondrous earth. In such moments, existence is a miraculous and mysterious reality.
People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child--our own two eyes. All is a miracle.
-Thich Nhat Hanh, "Miracle of Mindfulness"
...I promise not to burn out...
so that I can continue to be of help to myself and others in working for the healing of the world. I will take care of myself, nurture myself with good friends, good food, and enough rest, and try to touch the sources of compassion, loving kindness, sympathetic joy, and equanimity in each moment of every day.