Only Breath

Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu
Buddhist, sufi, or zen. Not any religion

or cultural system. I am not from the East
or the West, not out of the ocean or up

from the ground, not natural or ethereal, not
composed of elements at all. I do not exist,

am not an entity in this world or the next,
did not descend from Adam or Eve or any

origin story. My place is placeless, a trace
of the traceless. Neither body or soul.

I belong to the beloved, have seen the two
worlds as one and that one call to and know,

first, last, outer, inner, only that
breath breathing human being.

Mevlâna Jalâluddîn Rumi translated by Coleman Barks

 

PREVIOUS POEMS OF THE DAY

 Road to Peace

Young Abdel Madi Shabneh was only 18 years old,
He was the youngest of nine children, never spent a night away from home.
And his mother held his photograph up in the New York Times
To see the killing has intensified along the road to peace

There was a tall, thin boy with a wispy moustache disguised as an orthodox Jew
On a crowded bus in Jerusalem, some had survived World War Two
And the thunderous explosion blew out windows 200 yards away
With more retribution and seventeen dead along the road to peace

Now at King George Ave and Jaffa Road passengers boarded bus 14a
In the aisle next to the driver, Abdel Madi Shabneh
And the last thing that he said on earth is “God is great and God is good”
And he blew them all to kingdom come upon the road to peace

Now in response to this another kiss of death was visited upon
Yasser Taha, Israel says is an Hamas senior militant
And Israel sent four choppers in, flames engulfed his white Opal
And it killed his wife and his three year old child leaving only blackened skeletons

They found his toddler’s bottle and a pair of small shoes and they waved them in front of the cameras
But Israel says they did not know that his wife and child were in the car
There are roadblocks everywhere and only suffering on TV
Neither side will ever give up their smallest right along the road to peace

Israel launched it’s latest campaign against Hamas on Tuesday
Two days later Hamas shot back and killed five Israeli soldiers
So thousands dead and wounded on both sides most of them middle eastern civilians
They fill the children full of hate to fight an old man’s war and die upon the road to peace

“And this is our land we will fight with all our force” say the Palastinians and the Jews
Each side will cut off the hand of anyone who tries to stop the resistance
If the right eye offends thee then you must pluck it out
And Mahmoud Abbas and Sharon have been lost out along the road to peace

Once Kissinger said “we have no friends, America only has interests”
Now our president wants to be seen as a hero and he’s hungry for re-election
But Bush is reluctant to risk his future in the fear of his political failures
So he plays chess at his desk and poses for the press 10,000 miles from the road to peace

In the video that they found at the home of Abdel Madi Shabneh
He held a Kalashnikov rifle and he spoke with a voice like a boy
He was an excellent student, he studied so hard, it was as if he had a future
He told his mother that he had a test that day out along the road to peace

The fundamentalist killing on both sides is standing in the path of peace
But tell me why are we arming the Israeli army with guns and tanks and bullets?
And if God is great and God is good why can’t he change the hearts of men?
Well maybe God himself is lost and needs help
Maybe God himself he needs all of our help
Maybe God himself is lost and needs help
He’s out upon the road to peace

Well maybe God himself is lost and needs help
Maybe God himself he needs all of our help
And he’s lost upon the road to peace
And he’s lost upon the road to peace
Out upon the road to peace. 

Tom Waits and Kathleen Waits-Brennan
Published by: Jalma Music (ASCAP), © 2006
Official release: Orphans (Brawlers), (P) & © 2006

  

Three Untitled

The flowers whirl away
in the wind like snow.
The thing that falls away
is myself.

The Prime Minister Kintsune

I have always known
That at last I would
Take this road, but yesterday
I did not know that it would be today.

Narihira

Swept snow, Li Po
by dawn’s 40 watt moon
to the road that hies to office
away from home.

Tended my brown little stove
as one would a cow—she gives heat.
Spring—marsh frog-clatter peace
                                        breaks out.

Lorine Niedecker

I would be the rock
about which the water is
flowing; and I would be the water flowing
about the rock.
And am both and neither–
being flesh.

Charles Reznikoff

 

   

  

Meditations at Lagunitas

    All the new thinking is about loss.
    In this it resembles all the old thinking.
    The idea, for example, that each particular erases
    the luminous clarity of a general idea. That the clown-
    faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunk
    of that black birch is, by his presence,
    some tragic falling off from a first world
    of undivided light. Or the other notion that,
    because there is in this world no one thing
    to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,
    a word is elegy to what it signifies.
    We talked about it late last night and in the voice
    of my friend, there was a thin wire of grief, a tone
    almost querulous. After a while I understood that,
    talking this way, everything dissolves: justice,
    pine, hair, woman, you and I. There was a woman
    I made love to and I remembered how, holding
    her small shoulders in my hands sometimes,
    I felt a violent wonder at her presence
    like a thirst for salt, for my childhood river
    with its island willows, silly music from the pleasure boat,
    muddy places where we caught the little orange-silver fish
    called pumpkinseed. It hardly had to do with her.
    Longing, we say, because desire is full
    of endless distances. I must have been the same to her.
    But I remember so much, the way her hands dismantled bread,
    the thing her father said that hurt her, what
    she dreamed. There are moments when the body is as numinous
    as words, days that are the good flesh continuing.
    Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings,
    saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.
 

Robert Hass

Domination of Black

At night, by the fire,
The colors of the bushes
And of the fallen leaves,
Repeating themselves,
Turned in the room,
Like the leaves themselves
Turning in the wind.
Yes: but the color of the heavy hemlocks
Came striding.
And I remembered the cry of the peacocks.

The colors of their tails
Were like the leaves themselves
Turning in the wind,
In the twilight wind.
They swept over the room,
Just as they flew from the boughs of the hemlocks
Down to the ground.
I heard them cry — the peacocks.
Was it a cry against the twilight
Or against the leaves themselves
Turning in the wind,
Turning as the flames
Turned in the fire,
Turning as the tails of the peacocks
Turned in the loud fire,
Loud as the hemlocks
Full of the cry of the peacocks?
Or was it a cry against the hemlocks?

Out of the window,
I saw how the planets gathered
Like the leaves themselves
Turning in the wind.
I saw how the night came,
Came striding like the color of the heavy hemlocks
I felt afraid.
And I remembered the cry of the peacocks.

Wallace Stevens  

13

Be in advance of all parting, as though it were
behind you like the winter that is just going.
For among winters one is so endlessly winter
that, overwintering, your heart once for all will hold out.

Be ever dead in Eurydice—, mount more singingly,
mount more praisingly back into the pure relation.
Here, among the waning, be, in the realm of decline,
be a ringing glass that shivers even as it rings.

Be—and at the same time know the condition
of not-being, the infinite ground of your deep vibration,
that you may fully fulfill it this single time.

To the used as well as the muffled and mute
store of full Nature, the uncountable sums,
jubilant add yourself and cancel the count.

Sei allem Abschied voran, als wäre er hinter
dir, wie der Winter, der eben geht.
Denn unter Wintern ist einer so endlos Winter,
dass, überwinternd, dein Herz überhaupt übersteht.

Sei immer tot in Eurydike—, singender steige,
preisender steige zurück in den reinen Bezug.
Hier, unter Schwindenden, sei, im Reiche der Neige,
sei ein klingendes Glas, das sich im Klang schon zerschlug.

Sei—und wisse zugleich des Nicht-Seins Bedingung,
den unendlichen Grund deiner innigen Schwingung,
dass du sie völlig vollziehst dieses einzige Mal.

Zu dem gebrauchten sowohl, wie zum dumpfen und stummen
Vorrat der vollen Natur, den unsäglichen Summen,
zähle dich jubelnd hinzu und vernichte die Zahl.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Talking to Little Birdies

Not a peep out of you now
After the bedlam early this morning.
Are you begging pardon of me
Hidden up there among the leaves,
Or are your brains momentarily overtaxed?

You savvy a few things I don’t:
The overlooked sunflower seed worth a holler;
The traffic of cats in the yard;
Strangers leaving the widow’s house,
Tieless and wearing crooked grins.

Or have you got wind of the world’s news?
Some new horror I haven’t heard about yet?
Which one of you was so bold as to warn me,
Our sweet setup is in danger?

Kids are playing soldiers down the road,
Pointing their rifles and playing dead.
Little birdies, are you sneaking wary looks
In the thick foliage as you hear me say this?

Charles Simic

Pisan Cantos LXXXI

What thou lovest well remains
                the rest is dross
What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee
What thou lov’st well is thy true heritage
Whose world, or mine or theirs
                or is it of none?
First came the seen, then thus the palpable
    Elysium, though it were in the halls of hell,
What thou lovest well is thy true heritage
What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee

Ezra Pound

Keeping Quiet

And now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth
let’s not speak in any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victory with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about,
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve,
and you keep quiet and I will go.

Pablo Neruda (translated by Alastair Reid)

  

One Art

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 (Write it!) a disaster.

Elizabeth Bishop

City That Does Not Sleep

In the sky there is nobody asleep. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
The creatures of the moon sniff and prowl about their cabins.
The living iguanas will come and bite the men who do not dream,
and the man who rushes out with his spirit broken will meet on the
street corner
the unbelievable alligator quiet beneath the tender protest of the
stars.

Nobody is asleep on earth. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
In a graveyard far off there is a corpse
who has moaned for three years
because of a dry countryside on his knee;
and that boy they buried this morning cried so much
it was necessary to call out the dogs to keep him quiet.

Life is not a dream. Careful! Careful! Careful!
We fall down the stairs in order to eat the moist earth
or we climb to the knife edge of the snow with the voices of the dead
dahlias.
But forgetfulness does not exist, dreams do not exist;
flesh exists. Kisses tie our mouths
in a thicket of new veins,
and whoever his pain pains will feel that pain forever
and whoever is afraid of death will carry it on his shoulders.

One day
the horses will live in the saloons
and the enraged ants
will throw themselves on the yellow skies that take refuge in the
eyes of cows.

Another day
we will watch the preserved butterflies rise from the dead
and still walking through a country of gray sponges and silent boats
we will watch our ring flash and roses spring from our tongue.
Careful! Be careful! Be careful!
The men who still have marks of the claw and the thunderstorm,
and that boy who cries because he has never heard of the invention
of the bridge,
or that dead man who possesses now only his head and a shoe,
we must carry them to the wall where the iguanas and the snakes
are waiting,
where the bear’s teeth are waiting,
where the mummified hand of the boy is waiting,
and the hair of the camel stands on end with a violent blue shudder.

Nobody is sleeping in the sky. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is sleeping.
If someone does close his eyes,
a whip, boys, a whip!
Let there be a landscape of open eyes
and bitter wounds on fire.
No one is sleeping in this world. No one, no one.
I have said it before.

No one is sleeping.
But if someone grows too much moss on his temples during the
night,
open the stage trapdoors so he can see in the moonlight
the lying goblets, and the poison, and the skull of the theaters.

Federico Garcia Lorca

Cat’s Dream

How neatly a cat sleeps,
sleeps with its paws and its posture,
sleeps with its wicked claws,
and with its unfeeling blood,
sleeps with all the rings–
a series of burnt circles–
which have formed the odd geology
of its sand-colored tail.

I should like to sleep like a cat,
with all the fur of time,
with a tongue rough as flint,
with the dry sex of fire;
and after speaking to no one,
stretch myself over the world,
over roofs and landscapes,
with a passionate desire
to hunt the rats in my dreams.

I have seen how the cat asleep
would undulate, how the night
flowed through it like dark water;
and at times, it was going to fall
or possibly plunge into
the bare deserted snowdrifts.
Sometimes it grew so much in sleep
like a tiger’s great-grandfather,
and would leap in the darkness over
rooftops, clouds and volcanoes.

Sleep, sleep cat of the night,
with episcopal ceremony
and your stone-carved moustache.
Take care of all our dreams;
control the obscurity
of our slumbering prowess
with your relentless heart
and the great ruff of your tail.

Translated by Alastair Reid

Pablo Neruda

The Orange Bears

The Orange bears with soft friendly eyes
Who played with me when I was ten,
Christ, before I’d left home they’d had
Their paws smashed in the rolls, their backs
Seared by hot slag, their soft trusting
Bellies kicked in, their tongues ripped
Out, and I went down through the woods
To the smelly crick with Whitman
In the Haldeman-Julius edition,
And I just sat there worrying my thumbnail
Into the cover—What did he know about
Orange bears with their coats all stunk up with soft coal
And the National Guard coming over
From Wheeling to stand in front of the millgates
With drawn bayonets jeering at the strikers?

I remember you would put daisies
On the windowsill at night and in
The morning they’d be so covered with soot
You couldn’t tell what they were anymore.

A hell of a fat chance my orange bears had!

Kenneth Patchen

America

I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.
America two dollars and twentyseven cents January
17, 1956.
I can’t stand my own mind. America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb.
I don’t feel good don’t bother me.
I won’t write my poem till I’m in my right mind.America when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through the grave?
When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?
America why are your libraries full of tears?
America when will you send your eggs to
India?
I’m sick of your insane demands.
When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I
need with my good looks?
America after all it is you and I who are perfect not
the next world.
Your machinery is too much for me.
You made me want to be a saint.
There must be some other way to settle this argument.
Burroughs is in Tangiers I don’t think he’ll come back
it’s sinister.
Are you being sinister or is this some form of practical
joke?
I’m trying to come to the point.
I refuse to give up my obsession.
America stop pushing I know what I’m doing.
America the plum blossoms are falling.
I haven’t read the newspapers for months, everyday
somebody goes on trial for murder.

America I feel sentimental about the Wobblies.

America I used to be a communist when I was a kid
I’m not sorry.
I smoke marijuana every chance I get.
I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses
in the closet.
When I go to
Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid.
My mind is made up there’s going to be trouble.
You should have seen me reading Marx.
My psychoanalyst thinks I’m perfectly right.
I won’t say the Lord’s Prayer.
I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.
America I still haven’t told you what you did to Uncle
Max after he came over from
Russia.

I’m addressing you.
Are you going to let your emotional life be run by
Time Magazine?
I’m obsessed by Time Magazine.
I read it every week.
Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner
candystore.
I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.
It’s always telling me about responsibility. Business-
men are serious. Movie producers are serious.
Everybody’s serious but me.
It occurs to me that I am
America.
I am talking to myself again.

Asia is rising against me.
I haven’t got a chinaman’s chance.
I’d better consider my national resources.
My national resources consist of two joints of
marijuana millions of genitals an unpublishable
private literature that goes 1400 miles an hour
and twenty-five-thousand mental institutions.
I say nothing about my prisons nor the millions of
underprivileged who live in my flowerpots
under the light of five hundred suns.
I have abolished the whorehouses of
France, Tangiers
is the next to go.
My ambition is to be President despite the fact that
I’m a Catholic.

America how can I write a holy litany in your silly
mood?
I will continue like Henry Ford my strophes are as
individual as his automobiles more so they’re
all different sexes.
America I will sell you strophes $2500 apiece $500
down on your old strophe
America free Tom Mooney
America save the Spanish Loyalists
America Sacco & Vanzetti must not die
America I am the Scottsboro boys.
America when I was seven momma took me to Com-
munist Cell meetings they sold us garbanzos a
handful per ticket a ticket costs a nickel and the
speeches were free everybody was angelic and
sentimental about the workers it was all so sin-
cere you have no idea what a good thing the
party was in 1835 Scott Nearing was a grand
old man a real mensch Mother Bloor made me
cry I once saw Israel Amter plain. Everybody
must have been a spy.

America you don’t really want to go to war.

America it’s them bad Russians.
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen.
And them Russians.
The
Russia wants to eat us alive. The
Russia’s power
mad. She wants to take our cars from out our
garages.
Her wants to grab
Chicago. Her needs a Red Readers’
Digest. Her wants our auto plants in
Siberia.
Him big bureaucracy running our fillingsta-
tions.
That no good. Ugh. Him make Indians learn read.
Him need big black niggers. Hah. Her make us
all work sixteen hours a day. Help.

America this is quite serious.

America this is the impression I get from looking in
the television set.

America is this correct?
I’d better get right down to the job.
It’s true I don’t want to join the Army or turn lathes
in precision parts factories, I’m nearsighted and
psychopathic anyway.

America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.

Allen Ginsberg

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