One Morning after Rainfall in July

Little things that touch me now:

The mesquite at the head of the yard,
Gathering the whole of it into its bosom
So, like a mother

The garden post protruding, lazy-eyed,
From the fencing it was
Made to support, saying,

            “This is who I am,” and
            “Now love me for it”

And the sparrows at my feet (little busybodies)
How they work the earth,
Singing like harvesters at field

And lastly: that solitary dove atop the phone wire —
I think she must know me, judging
By the way she gazes at me now…

Would that this quiet, cool morning,
Damp with last night’s showers,
Offer some measure of solace for all

Whom life would seem to have abandoned,
Some respite for hearts haggard
With hardship and the strain of living

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Trying to Justify It, if Possible

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He wonders whether
or not it is enough to
admit simply that the blood
in him
is thrilling
because it is July in the desert
and the rains are coming

Questions whether
Or not he ought put
to words how the gathering clouds will 
exalt into a column over the horizon
and become heavy with
a darkness that hovered
once over the face of
The Deep

Or whether it is necessary
to elaborate on how the desert would
not be the stage it is, upon which
the Powers play,
were it any less empty

Or even to go into
how the best music
has ever been a ceaseless
call-and-response between harshness
and beauty, Life and
Death —

Difficulty measuring it all
up, because he feels so very small,
in the face of it 

On the Margins, Beauty

Vincent_van_Gogh_-_The_State_Lottery_Office_(F970)

“— for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.” 

– From “As Kingfishers Catch  Fire,” Gerald Manley Hopkins 

 

Go to where the secure, for security’s sake,
have banished the seedy and the unseemly,
the crooked and the vile: God’s maimed ones

Go to where sleazies
settle, hustlers
hustle, and beggars do their begging

Go to where hope’s outskirts border wastelands of despair,
where the well-to-do have discarded
the disfigured children of their lust and ambition: 

Otherwise known as the groaning, wandering
forgotten, who celebrate an eternal scrap-metal Shakkot upon
the coiling, roaming dusts –

Otherwise known as the dispensable,
unavoidable holocausts
of the dreams and successes of a few…

Go there, to the margins,
and find your beauty.
For the face of the Lord shines in sodden faces
and in dirty places

Generously

Faces
Opening doors
Which they themselves
Are incapable of
Answering:

Not to languish
There, in the wishing
Differently
Or wresting otherwise —

But to abide,
Praising it,
With unclenched hands that
Loosen, like
Sails, upon
The welcoming wind;

And to move freely
Within the guilelessly
Unattainable, content
With how
What flows forth
Generously,
Generously recedes

Promethean Desire

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“We either contemplate or exploit.” We’ve heard it so many times. And yet how few of us truly live it. Another phrase, and perhaps less known: “The glory of our eyes is to become the eyes of the dove.” Yes, yes…Beauty is yearning to gratuitously pour itself into our lives, flood them in profusion, but we are all of us blind, obtuse, and thankless creatures – swinish and miserly to the last. We want to storm beauty’s gates, but then only to strong-arm it into submission, and greedily gut it of its secrets. Like grace, beauty, to be fully itself, must be utterly free. Dostoevsky once said something to the effect that beauty is a kind of arena in the heart of man within which God and the Devil do battle. The whole idea could also be brought down to this: Holding beauty in one’s hands is a bit like playing with fire. Originally a gift inscribed in all creation for the purpose of spurring the heart on to the joy of complete self-abandonment, beauty has, since the Fall, become a treacherous incendiary towards the exact opposite. It is no longer inherently trustworthy. But it is not beauty’s fault – the problem lies in our own distorted hearts, penetrated as they are to their unknowable depths by a Promethean desire for plunder and possession. That is, alas, as with so much else, where the problem lies. And so, rather than allow those scattered fragments of Paradise – whose glimmering, as if from a mirror, we catch askance in passing faces, in moments of true communion with others, and in all the solitary places of the world – to lead us beyond ourselves into the Source of All Beauty, which is ever present and yet infinitely beyond us, we so often would rather cling to them, as if they were pieces of driftwood in a raging storm: straight to the bottom of the sea.

Ave Maris Stella

You there, just now rising
Above the farthest reaches
Of all the wide-world’s longing:
Quicken the Moment of this night!
Fan the crickets (eventide minstrels) and
Candle flies (twilight danseurs) into
Life! Summon forth
Hidden springs
– long buried, almost forgotten –
Of deepening desire!

Blissful soles of mine, moon-white upon
Star-spark leaf-down and dew
Grasses – They hasten
Toward the verge of
Earth’s compass, that I might
Stretch out
And touch
You – kiss you,
Even…

Oh! To feel the radiant and pearly swell
Of pure innocence!

To burn in the silvery music
Of this moonlight!

Heart starts

               Heart sputters

                                Heart rises up…

And, suspended by your gaze,
Is slain on the altar of your beauty

A child
Once more…

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I am most at home
Where the air is filled
With the sound of bells
Singing

Where the Sun of Eternity
Spills out the
Open door
Of all things

Where the Nameless
Draws near in a dark wood
And suffuses lonliness
With the chaste flame of starlight
…………………

Born, we are sundered from Paradise,
Left to fumble – confusedly, mindlessly –
Through the shambles
That make up our inheritance

But I feel in this moment
– this precious, brief moment –
That the Angel has stepped aside,
Sheathed his sword of flame,
And granted admittance
Into the springtime meadows
Of our Origin:

A Grace, costing nothing
– Nothing, save what it took
To learn that it was free:

The pain of a thousand deaths
And a thousand risings

Avoiding It

Kahlil Gibran

You have asked me,
Several times now,
If ever
I would put my love for you
Onto the page,
If ever I would express,
For the world to see and
Hear it, what blessed thing
Blossoms, daily,
In the close spaces
Between us

Why have I demurred?

Perhaps it is because I
Am still so very young
In love’s estimation;
Because love, and I mean,
Of the authentic kind,
Has – grail-like, fugitive – eluded each
Fevered grasping, every 
Nervous essay, into its domain.
It doesn’t help, either, that this

Love, so-called, has everywhere become
The manhandled bromide of
Every half-feeling songster of our age.
The poets of the past –
These at least knew something of great feeling:
Their hearts would swell into melody
Under august rivers of feeling,
Grow immeasurable, boundless, eternal
– So wondrous and sublime
Were they their maidens
In the expectant, sun-wide eyes
Of their estimation.

But these ones, too, sadly,
They knew real love
Only from afar,
In the same way
That an exiled generation will, dimly,
As in shadows,
Envisage the
Green hills of their forefathers’
Native land, mellifluous with
Bird-song and laughter;
These ones, I say, only spoke of love
In the way that they did,
Because they had not yet been
Drawn
Into it’s bewildering landscape:
Love, so often a bitter crucible of
Transformation,
Was for them merely the
Exalted abode
Of rapture,
Pure and unending:
A cup, from which
The ambrosial distillation
Of their yearning
Could be drunk and drunk,
And forever drunk,
World-without-end; a
Chalice that would feign,
Lover’s lips upon beloved’s,
A consummate and indissoluble
End to that ceaseless yearning
With which we are all born
And must bear,
Like a fateful burden,
All our long and heavy lives…
– They never guessed what
Lurked, like a poison, hidden and sable,
At the bottom of that disgorged delight,
What swam in waiting circles
On the mute floor
Of their ecstasy…

And so, if there is anything I can say,
I suppose it is this:
That the journey towards another
Is really a pilgrimage
Into deep solitudes,
A going-forth into starless
Silences.
This is the path
With which we
Must all contend,
Must wrestle with, and wrestle with,
Ceaselessly, if we are
To become ourselves.

And you, dear, you
Seem to know this, better than
Most – seem to grasp,
As if it were grafted into your very
Blood, the secret
Which, deeply, soundlessly,
Courses through all living things;
That Wisdom that in everything
Burns softly, like hearth-ember –
And then will flash out suddenly,
As in the startled flush
Of thrushes’ wings, or
Within the holy stillness of the forest,
When one is alone there
Among the silent stature
Of all the trees…

For all this, and more,
Do I love you, though I
Am still so very young in
Love’s estimation

Approching Art…(Part II)

There are moments when something strikes you, and must therefore be written down – however approximate and incomplete – before it is forgotten. This is what struck me today…

Regarding beauty, one must allow oneself to become lost in its bewildering landscape. One must, as it were, pick up one’s brush and canvas, and participate – lose oneself – in its vast dance. The point of a painting or of a piece of music is to draw, entice, introduce – to set one, if it can be put in these terms, along the right course. But one cannot simply rest content there. One does not achieve blessedness, finality, in the mere act of beholding. No indeed. Art and beauty cease to be a simple matter of detached taste when they are stepped into and the terror begins. It is like being caught by the wind and then flung like laundry out into the open sea. I say again: beauty must be stepped into, like a furnace. There is great risk here, for one does not know how things will turn out, what the final product of one’s efforts will look like. But waiting, sitting, admiring  – these are all death if they don’t lead one into losing oneself completely, entirely. And when this happens, one realizes, perhaps for the first time, that they are very small indeed, merely a humble, timid guest in the great expanse that is life.