Saturday, April 19, 2014


My daughter rushes up the stairs,
crushing an object to her chest
with a beach-towel.

"I want to show you something
I stole from a puddle."

A marvelous, clear sheet of ice,
a bubble-filled window
is melting in her arms. 

Let's go biking, she insists.

All in black, I soar down the road,

scarf a-flutter, my shadow
as if a raven on wheels,
toward the main street.

In full view of the neighbors,
I hit a rime of sand, and crash.

A large coin of skin 

is shaved from my palm.
The blood seeps slowly,
declares, I am alive!

And it stings.

Two Lorca Poems (in translation)


                    ‘Ay voz secreta del amor oscuro!’

                     O secret voice of hidden love!

                    O bleating without wool! O wound!
                    O dry camellia, bitter needle!
                    O sea-less current, wall-less city!

                    O night immense with sharpened profile,
                    heavenly mountain, narrow valley!
                    O dog inside the heart, voice going,
                    endless silence, full-blown iris!

                    Let me be, hot voice of icebergs,
                    and do not ask me to vanish
                    in weeds, where sky and flesh are fruitless.

                    Leave my hard ivory skull forever,
                    have pity on me. Stop the torture!
                    O I am love, O I am nature!

Rachel Ryusch (1664-1750)

                    Song of the Barren Orange Tree


                    Cut out my shadow.
                    Free me from the torture
                    of seeing myself fruitless.

                    Why was I born among mirrors?
                    The daylight revolves around me.
                    And the night herself repeats me
                    in all her constellations.

                    I want to live not seeing self.
                    I shall dream the husks and insects
                    change inside my dreaming
                    into my birds and foliage.

                    Cut out my shadow.
                    Free me from the torture
                    of seeing myself fruitless.

a Boris Pasternak poem - In Holy Week

All the world's still wrapped in gloom. 
At such an early hour 
How many stars - no man can know, 
And each like daylight is aglow, 
And could it choose, then all the globe 
Might well have slept all Easter through 
To the chant of psalm and prayer. 

Still all the world is wrapped in gloom. 
An age must pass till early dawn. 
Eternally the square has lain, 
Outstretched to the crossing of the roads. 
Before the light and warmth return 
Must pass a whole millennium. 

The earth lies there, exposed, laid bare, 
Bereft of its attire 
For swinging bells in empty air 
In echo to the choir. 

And from Maundy Thursday through 
Till Holy Saturday 
Water eddies swirl and scoop 
And etch the banks away. 

The woodland too is stripped and bare, 
And now, during Christ's Passion, 
Like solemn worshippers at prayer, 
The pine trees pay attention. 

And in a lesser space, in town, 
As at a public meeting, 
The naked trees all stand and strain 
To peer through churchyard railings. 

Their gaze is stricken with dismay. 
There's reason for such terror - 
As gardens flood and fencing breaks 
And all the earth's foundations quake, 
A God is being buried. 

Then light gleams within the altar gates, 
Black scarves and candles are held ready, 
And tear-stained faces look about, 
To welcome the procession. 
And as they carry forth the Shroud, 
Two birches at the entrance 
Are forced to yield and bow them out. 

They all process around the church, 
Then back along the pavement, 
Bringing spring and springtime talk 
From open road onto the porch, 
With a heady vernal air 
And breath of communion wafers. 

March throws a scattering of snow 
To the cripples on the portico, 
As if somebody brought forth 
A reliquary and disposed of 
All down to the final thread. 

The singing lasts until the dawn. 
And now that every tear is spent, 
The Apostles and the Psalms 
Exit and depart, now calm, 
Through lamp-lit emptiness. 

At midnight man and beast fall dumb 
On hearing springtime's revelation: 
Once the weather clears, then just as soon 
Can death itself be overcome 
By the power of Resurrection.

--Boris Pasternak

This translation by Christopher Barnes 
first appeared here.

Christ with Martha and Mary, Mikhail Nesterov (1911)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Hymn of Holy Week ვაი რა კარგი საჩინო


Folks are fascinated by the solving of mysteries. By detective novels. Whodunits. Forensic investigations. Police procedural crime dramas abound. It seems the one thing most people agree on is this: when something bad has occurred, we must cleverly solve the crime and, at some point, slam the doors dramatically on a jail cell.

I admit to sharing this fascination. In third grade, I checked out every Nancy Drew mystery from the shelves of the library, then moved on to Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Ellery Queen, Tony Hillerman, etc. There were times I have caught myself since then, wondering, "What would Lord Peter Wimsey say?" when I have gotten into a pickle.

And I have gotten myself into some real doozies. Train wreck, anyone?

Have you ever empathized, deeply, with the sad plight of Rome, after being sacked by the Visigoths? Or with Moscow, which was burned to a crisp by Napoleon's troops? Have you cast an eye of knowing compassion even on Washington's fictitious cherry tree? Then you are not alone....

Welcome to the club of avid fans of the re-runs of Criminal Minds. We, whose hungry eyes scan the episodes, not just due to a slow-burning crush on Mandy Patinkin and/or Matthew Gray Gubler, but because in our aching heart of hearts, we want to know: why. Why, why, why?

My thoughts hit a series of brick walls--and encounter more questions--whenever I have been serious about lifting the curtain behind this question. Why do people act as they do? Why do wolves roam the world masquerading as sheep? Why -- so much unnecessary madness, deceit, aggression, pain?   We might as well ask a vulcano why it erupts. Any researcher worth her salt could dig all the way back to ancient history, uncovering such factoids as, "The Devonian Period witnessed the appearance of both
ray and lobe fins..." leaving most of these questions unanswered. Some mysteries--perhaps solved, but mostly unresolved.

While watching crime dramas, or when find myself opening yet another detective novel, and following the breadcrumbs of its narrative to the end of the trail, it occurs to me that I might have acted as an accomplice. How I, careful as I am, might have fallen into rank behind both the Huns and the Visigoths, taking aim at the citadels with burning arrows. The realization causes me to shudder in horror.

The prescient Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein while practically swimming in vats of lyric poetry, before tragedy struck. I have glimpsed the monsters hiding in the mirror-glass. And beyond.

While emitting subliminal tones, as if  from some Magic Flute, I do believe bits of my own Shadow Self have been stalking me for years. I think I'm finally ready to listen.

(Magic Flute, Chagall)

Here I am, they chant, without me--you are a fragment. Consider this. You need us. We need you. We could negotiate the assembling of a mosaic--and then we might name ourselves, "whole"--and watch the sun breaking through the clouds over the mountain-tops together. And then --

(By the way, let's declare that we are officially finished with the Visigoth stage, eh?)

Vakhtang Kikabidze - Silence

Another favorite singer: Vakhtang Kikabidze - literally, a regal persona. A humorous song celebrating the subtleties of solitude.

"In silence I will see dreams..."

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Hairy Woodpeckers are rat-tat-tatting the poplars. My eyes drink in the steadfast green of the spruce branches, lit as if from within by the morning sun. A small grey moth flickers past my window. Life flutters by--I can never quite catch up with it.

for a timely meditation on Passover


this post

from the blog Dialogical Ecology

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Meladze - The Bell of Celestial Distances

Brothers Meladze (Konstantin and Valery), from their 1995 album, Sara.
One of their better songs.

Given a bit of time, I'll try my hand at translating the lyrics.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Divna Ljubojevic

Divna Ljubojevic, from Serbia, truly a "divna"--a wonder, who does not fit into anyone's box--a soul giving voice to ancient Byzantine chant--the first hymn is a Theotokion in Greek, hymns after this are in Slavonic.

Michelangeli - musings on a Tuesday

An eclipsed, glowing garnet, a rare blood-moon rose above the mountains last night:

photograph courtesy of Denali Park and Preserve

Holy days are upon us: Pesach, Pascha.

The question:

Why is this night different from all other nights, from all other nights?

A song from Holy Week:

Thy bridal chamber, O my Saviour, do I behold all adorned, and a garment I have not that I may enter therein. Illumine the garment of my soul, O Giver of Light, and save me.

-Exapostelarion of the Bridegroom Service

The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, 14th century, Serbian Monastery, Kosovo.

A curious quote from Gray's Anatomy I happened to stumble upon, while in a tattoo shop recently:

The heart continues to increase in weight and size up to an advanced period of life; this increase is more marked in men than in women.

Michelangeli will not cancel this perfect musical date with us--gratitude to those who took this film, and to those who posted it for us.

Greetings to all who pass by.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Lara Fabian

May the world love you back, before you even begin singing. Je t'aime Lara Fabian.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


I asked the old ones how to say thank you.
They told me to open my mouth and speak.
As soon as they left me in peace, I forgot.
I am like that. Absent-minded, hazy.

Wherever you wandered, did I follow,
or did you pursue me along the way,
souls of my soul, dread incense, sea-eagles,
piercing, with your fierce talons, a pale tree?


While black-spruce gravely holds council,
a grayish crescent haunts the blue,
I'm gathering the thread of courage,
winding a fine, elusive skein.

Wild-flowers pressed between pages,
strange lyrics and music beckon.
My life, a cautionary tale,
a heart held in a vice, a song

for my sisters and the voiceless,
the unheard, unloved, un-caressed,
broken bodies marked by moon-runes,
Chinook wraps their longings in silk.

When the wind is out of breath, I retreat to the mother-roots, to the heartwood, through dragon-whispers of darklight to the song of th...

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