Friday, March 16, 2018

the song of a shell

sapphire melting inside jade

a color unnamed

Ofra Haza's version of this song defies categorization, like the soul.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

the untellable

“Announced by all the trumpets of the sky, 
Arrives the snow, and, driving o’er the fields, 
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air 
Hides hills and woods, the river and the heaven, 
And veils the farm-house at the garden’s end. 
The sled and traveller stopped, the courier’s feet 
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit 
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed 
In a tumultuous privacy of Storm.” 


If you asked me my impression
of the silver gates of starlight

I'd say there are too many of us
to count our dreams of flight

the mountains send us coded messages
and we may ignore their might

but those bright seeds keep on falling
through the inky womb of night

the dappled dance spirals onward
even if under a blanket of soil we hide

or swim through bronzed-green seascapes
where coelacanths play with crocodiles

although the snow just keeps on falling
I don't care while I'm inside

unseen secret gardens of feathers
where kisses taste like moonlight

and maybe you already knew this but
I'd forgotten which pages we would write

Monday, March 12, 2018


The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.

--Dorothy Parker

Been drinking in the mountain air
under the unblinking eye of sky
it feels like walking on water
don't know whether to laugh or cry

been wondering if the stones have been waiting
for the river to come alive
and blowing kisses to the sun-glow
though she always sends more back than I

punch-drunk on winter's feather-white
and sun-blind and silly and sublime
the unexpected takes me off guard
like voices from China to Dubai

and what if my grandmother's sock monkey
had turned into Princess Mandarava,
and began singing, "the flat foot floogie..."
causing the Udumbara Flower to bloom

and what if the most beautiful sight
was the face of the bagger at the grocery
who saved my forgotten bags from being reshelved
'cause I drove off, I was so high on this jive ......

That moment, when you realize what your grandmother was actually
singing about when you were a little tyke. *Giggle.*

Thursday, March 08, 2018

words in her pockets

Combustion is the hidden principle behind every artefact we create. -W.G. Sebald

~For Erin~

There it comes again, the tapping
of a beak at my windowsill:
no home for any bird
except the wingless.

And I think of a friend.
While she runs alone,
words accumulate
in her pockets.

I wonder how to paraphrase
the magnitude of the end of silence
for those who have not known
that far edge. Behind that stifled periphery.

Have you read the tale of the peasant woman,
the one forced to give birth so often,
she won't stop screaming outside in the field
till she is brought to communion to be hushed?

I imagine my friend's legs as scissors
breaking trail in a snowy meadow;
and the breath on her scarlet cheeks;
her, pausing to watch the red-black blur of a woodpecker.

When, finally, she speaks,
the river ice cracks and buckles.
While she writes, "a burning dress,"
I strike a match that catches my entire robe on fire.

two H.D. poems


Whirl up, sea— 
whirl your pointed pines, 
splash your great pines 
on our rocks, 
hurl your green over us, 
cover us with your pools of fir. 

~ H.D.


Will you glimmer on the sea?
Will you fling your spear-head
On the shore?
What note shall we pitch?

We have a song,
On the bank we share our arrows—
The loosed string tells our note:

O flight,
Bring her swiftly to our song.
She is great,
We measure her by the pine-trees.

~ H.D.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Vasilisa and Verochka in midwinter (Baba Part VI)

In the clay wood-stove inside the izba, a steady fire was crackling.

Blowing out the candle, Verochka dove into the blankets of her bed, and moved her feet briskly up and down, to drive the chill away from her feet. Outside, the snow had drifted around the walls of the hut, forming an extra layer of insulation. When the moon rose, the snow-crystals would sparkle again with a cold diamond-fire, but for now, it was dark, both inside and outside the hut. The neutral incense of woodsmoke curled round the chimney like the tail of a grey wolf.

For a season, it had seemed to Verochka that nothing unusual had been happening. The matryoshki had fallen silent on their shelf, and both she and Vasilisa had been as busy as squirrels all summer, planting and gathering vegetables to store in the sand of the pogreb for winter. Dried apples and mushrooms, strung on strings, dangled not far above Vera's head, between the rafters.

But something felt different about tonight. Vera's hands and feet tingled. She shivered, but not altogether from the cold, and then fell asleep at last.

Vasilisa listened to the breathing of the girl from her corner, and hoped she would not do anything untoward during the night, that might disturb the younger one's rest.

She thought about how the sun had begun to change its color, again, after the last eclipse. And she began recalling a vision she had had the other evening: in her inner sight, she had, after asking for a blessing, climbed a crystal staircase that had appeared above her head, and opened a door. Through the door, she had seen a hill covered with grass of a most fantastic shade of green, where unfamiliar flowers seemed to blossom, exuding exotic scents. Someone had been trying to toss a ball there - perhaps to a little dog? She could not quite make out the figures in the scene.

But then, she had looked up, and, in a moment of clarity, she saw that sun, in her vision, was an even deeper shade of gold than during the bright of day, and, (most astonishing of all) she could see, imprinted on the sun, the unmistakable features of a Face. At that moment, it all became too much for Vasilisa to handle, and so she had rushed back down the ladder of thought, and had burst out crying, saying to herself "No, I am not pure enough, I am hardly worthy of such a perception!"


After that vision, Vasilia had begun a fierce debate with herself. On the one hand, when one is in a relaxed and dreamlike state, should one truly blame one's mind or imagination for the feelings and sensations that arise, whether they are blissful or terrible? Did they not merely come and go, as they pleased? Or not?


Vasilisa's dreams occurred in cycles: they would be vivid for a while, then they would disappear altogether from conscious remembering. One recurring dream of the past month  had involved the appearance of a gigantic figure holding a bow and arrow. And then, one night, she had seen rings of colored light, and the pages of a book turning. 

The sensations of another dream - she could only describe later to herself approximately, later, as if she had been floating through liquid light, as if she had been breathing cathedrals, but, at the same time, she had also spent the entire night dancing. 

Edmund du Lac, The Bells

During another dream, she felt she had been held by angels -- or was it by silver-winged trees? and felt herself rising through a breezeless space, dressed all in white, and appearing quite different than her usual self: she had become younger, without any of her usual scars and wrinkles, or even a single silver hair. She had felt so thankful after that dream, that she had thrown herself on the sod floor, thanking the universe, the water, the air, the valleys, the fruit of the trees, and the fire of wood and of the mountains infinitely for the pure privilege of life and breath. After all, what does one really want from life, but to bless everyone and everything?

A painting by Edmund Dulac

Then, the next day, her dreams had taken a sudden turn - while flying through some liquid realms, she had somehow ventured back into the embrace of some old, familiar phantasms and terrors that had scared her so much, she woke up shaking, and could barely function during the day. A voice seemed to be telling her to let these dreams go, and to breathe through her heart, but this was easier than said than done - her whole brain felt impossibly inflamed -- so at those times she prayed, "thy will be done," and asked to be aligned with the purest path, until, at last, her heart rang out like some strange bell, and time began to comport itself bizarrely; to her surprise, the direction of its flow changed from clock-wise to counter-clockwise, so that when, during the day, she glanced at the kitchen clock, she kept looking up and to the left, expecting it to behave in the same manner.

After this, came a time when she saw the pages of a book burning, and she herself being cut up into tiny shreds, until there was nothing, really left of her - who was she, anyway, but part of the very fabric of the earth itself?, and animals began rising up from the remnants of her body, she could see them walking all over her, and the sky began raining silver seeds onto her, which burned painfully at first, and then later, did not hurt at all, and soon began to emanate singular sensations of bliss. 

The latest dreams, or vision-filled days (she had nearly lost track of which was what) had been reminders to her, that her attention needed to be re-focused continually: just as during her work she had to keep her eyes on the shuttle of her loom; she needed remember to make a conscious choice to turn away from confusing thoughts, and to return to the gateway to the silken cloud of comfort; that is, to the heart.


But now here was young Verochka to attend to, who had suddenly sat up in bed, exclaiming, "Vasilisa, I just had a dream, in which I made friends with a bear with silver hair, and he was teaching me to breathe! It was such a wonderful feeling, I can hardly describe it to you! As if I were a rose blooming under water, but I was actually breathing fire!"


"Oh, yes, my dear, Verochka, I do believe you," said Vasilisa. "On some nights, breath is its own country, or maybe the body is a comet swimming in an ocean of stars; one sinks into sleep as if into a fountain or into a flame. I love you, my dear, and I am so glad for you to know this feeling. Bless you. God bless us all, and may the angels always be with us."

Sulamith Wulfing

As, indeed, thought Vasilisa, even when I forget about them, they always are. And someday soon, she thought, after my daily work is done, I might choose to ask an angel to take me by the hand, to revisit those crystal stairs.

Lucia Popp, singing for all of the rusalkas.

Part I

Part II is here;

Part III is here.

Part IV is here.

Part V is here.

Friday, February 16, 2018

(for erin)

when i ask, where have the redpolls gone,
and why the silence at my seed station

your eyes, unbidden twin candles
startle grace into a response

like that pair of deer on your icy path,
your laughter reminds me of the absurdity

of installing Pele as a leg in my kitchen stool,
and then expecting that to last

Monday, February 12, 2018

both sides now - Joni Mitchell

I have not seen it, I summoned it listening to music.
The instruments play for themselves, in their own eternity.

--Czesław Miłosz

Joni Mitchell singing "Both Sides Now," in 1970.

Was anyone else fascinated by this song, as a child? I was; not because I, too, spied, precisely, ice cream castles in the air, but by virtue of the fact that Joni's voice opened the door to a magical palace of melody for me, and, once there, I found a staircase leading into the imagery of possibility and ambiguity, although I did not yet possess the words to express these thoughts.

Decades later, I return to the song, and smile in recognition, with a nod to the wisdom of her lyrics: who can really claim to know life, love, or a cloud at all?

In our longing to come close to inhabiting the watery places of our imaginings, we humans have dreamed and toiled, have drummed and strummed, and danced and sung our way into ... music. And, once there, is it not nearly impossible to avoid an encounter with poetry: one of music's closest companions?

the song of a shell sapphire melting inside jade a color unnamed Ofra Haza's version of this song defies categoriz...

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