Poetry used in our classes and retreats.

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  • 20 Jul 2014 11:14 PM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

    David Wagoner - Lost

    Stand still. The trees ahead and the bushes beside you 

    Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,

    And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,

    Must ask permission to know it and be known.

    The forest breathes. Listen. lt answers,

    I have made this place around you,

    If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.

    No two trees are the same to Raven.

    No two branches are the same to Wren.

    If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,

    You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows 

    Where you are. You must let it find you.

    An old Native American elder story rendered into modern English by David Wagoner, in The Heart Aroused - Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America by David Whyte, Currency Doubleday, New York, 1996, p.259.

  • 20 Jul 2014 11:13 PM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

    Cecil Rajendra - Angels

    History will record

     that among us

     walked certain angels


    whose wings

     wove patterns

     of laughter

     in the air


     whose songs

     salted the humdrum

     of our days


     whose dance

    lifted us

    made our lives



    History will record

     too late

     our indifference

     to their difference:

     all these strange

    odd, eccentric

    ethereal angels

     who once

     walked among us . . . 

  • 20 Jul 2014 11:12 PM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

    Alison Luterman - Because Even the Word

    Try to love everything that gets in your way:

    the Chinese women in flowered bathing caps

    murmuring together in Mandarin, doing leg exercises in your lane

    while you execute thirty-six furious laps,

    one for every item on your to-do list.

    The heavy-bellied man who goes thrashing through the water

    like a horse with a harpoon stuck in its side,

    whose breathless tsunamis rock you from your course.

    Teachers all.  Learn to be small

    and swim through obstacles like a minnow

    without grudges or memory.  Dart

    toward your goal, sperm to egg.  Thinking Obstacle

    is another obstacle.  Try to love the teenage girl

    idly lounging against the ladder, showing off her new tattoo:

    Cette vie est la mienne, This life is mine,

    in thick blue-black letters on her ivory instep.

    Be glad she’ll have that to look at all her life,

    and keep going, keep going.  Swim by an uncle

    in the lane next to yours who is teaching his nephew

    how to hold his breath underwater,

    even though kids aren’t allowed at this hour.  Someday,

    years from now, this boy

    who is kicking and flailing in the exact place

    you want to touch and turn

    will be a young man, at a wedding on a boat

    raising his champagne glass in a toast

    when a huge wave hits, washing everyone overboard.

    He'll come up coughing and spitting like he is now,

    but he'll come up like a cork,

    alive.  So your moment

    of impatience must bow in service to a larger story,

    because if something is in your way it is

    going your way, the way

    of all beings; towards darkness, towards light.

  • 20 Jul 2014 11:11 PM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

    At the Corner Store - Alison Luterman

    He was a new old man behind the counter, skinny, brown and eager.
    He greeted me like a long-lost daughter,
    as if we both came from the same world,
    someplace warmer and more gracious than this cold city.
    I was thirsty and alone. Sick at heart, grief-soiled
    and his face lit up as if I were his prodigal daughter returning,
    coming back to the freezer bins in front of the register
    which were still and always filled
    with the same old Cable Car ice cream sandwiches and cheap frozen greens.
    Back to the knobs of beef and packages of hotdogs,
    these familiar shelves strung with potato chips and corn chips,
    Stacked – up beer boxes and immortal Jim Beam.
    I lumbered to the case and bought my precious bottled water
    and he returned my change, beaming
    as if I were the bright new buds on the just-bursting-open cherry trees,
    as if I were everything beautiful struggling to grow,
    and he was blessing me as he handed me my dime
    over the counter and the plastic tub of red licorice whips.
    This old man who didn’t speak English
    beamed out love to me in the iron week after my mother’s death
    so that when I emerged from his store
        my whole cock-eyed life  -
        what a beautiful failure ! -
    glowed gold like a sunset after rain.
    Frustrated city dogs were yelping in their yards,
    mad with passion behind their chain-link fences,
    and in the driveway of a peeling-paint house
    A woman and a girl danced to contagious reggae.
    Praise Allah!  Jah!  The Buddha!  Kwan Yin,
    Jesus, Mary, and even jealous old Jehovah!
    For eyes, hands, of the divine, everywhere.

  • 18 Jul 2014 7:49 AM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

    David Budbill - Bugs in a Bowl

    Han Shan, that great and crazy, wonder-filled Chinese poet of a thousand years ago, said:
    We're just like bugs in a bowl. All day going around never leaving their bowl.
    I say, That's right! Every day climbing up 
    the steep sides, sliding back.
    Over and over again. Around and around.
    Up and back down.
    Sit in the bottom of the bowl, head in your hands,
    cry, moan, feel sorry for yourself.
    Or. Look around. See your fellow bugs.
    Walk around.
    Say, Hey, how you doin'?
    Say, Nice Bowl!

    "Bugs in a Bowl," by David Budbill, from Moment to Moment: Poems of a Mountain Recluse (Copper Canyon Press)

  • 18 Jul 2014 7:23 AM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

    Mary Oliver - The Summer Day

    Who made the world?

    Who made the swan, and the black bear?

    Who made the grasshopper?

    This grasshopper, I mean-- the one who has flung herself out of the grass, 

    the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

    who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-‐

    who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

    Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

    Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

    I don't know exactly what a prayer is.

    I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

    into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

    how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

    which is what I have been doing all day.

    Tell me, what else should l have done?

    Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

    Tell me, what is it you plan to do

    with your one wild and precious life?

    - Mary Oliver, The House of Light, Beacon Press, Boston, 1990.

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