Wednesday, December 7, 2022

deep innerness of all things

You are the future, 
the red sky before sunrise
over the fields of time.

You are the cock's crow when night is done,
you are the dew and the bells of matins,
maiden, stranger, mother, death.

You create yourself in ever-changing shapes
that rise from the stuff of our days -
unsung, unmourned, undescribed,
like a forest we never know.

You are the deep innerness of all things,
the last word that can never be spoken.
To each of us you reveal yourself differently:
to the ship as coastline, to the shore as a ship.

Rainer Maria Rilke
Book of Hours, II.22
Translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy
photo:  Peter Bowers

its own beauty

The world is no more than the Beloved's single face;
In the desire of the One to know its own beauty, we exist.

Each place, each moment, sings its particular song of not-being and being.
Without reason, the clear glass equally mirrors wisdom and madness.

Those who claim knowledge are wrong; prayer just leads to trance;
Appearance and faith are mere lees in the Unknowing Wine.

Wherever the Footprint is found,
the handful of dust holds the oneness of worlds.  

This earth, burnished by hearing the Name, is so certain of Love
That the sky bends unceasingly down, to greet its own light.

Translated by Jane Hirshfield
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Wednesday, November 23, 2022


When the heart rises to the insight
that everything is gift,
when it makes this discovery,
human beings no longer invent themselves. 

They cease to pretend.

They no longer need to imagine 
what they might be.

Finally they are. 

They acquire the substantial solidity 
which is displayed before their eyes
by the stars. 

Luigi Giussani

I am a man: little do I last
and the night is enormous.
But I look up:
the stars write.
Unknowing I understand:
I too am written,
and at this very moment
someone spells me out.

Octavio Paz
Photo:  Peter Bowers
with thanks: love is a place

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

between what i see and what i say

for Roman Jakobson


Between what I see and what I say,
Between what I say and what I keep silent,
Between what I keep silent and what I dream,
Between what I dream and what I forget:
            It slips
between yes and no,
what I keep silent,
                              keeps silent
what I say,
what I forget.
                      It is not speech:
it is an act.
                  It is an act
of speech.
speaks and listens:
                               it is real.
And as soon as I say
                                 it is real,
it vanishes.
                   Is it then more real?


Tangible idea,
comes and goes
                          between what is
and what is not.
                          It weaves
and unweaves reflections.
scatters eyes on a page,
scatters words on our eyes.
Eyes speak,
                   words look,
looks think.
                   To hear
what we say,
the body of an idea.
                                 Eyes close,
the words open.

Octavio Paz 
A Tree Within
Translated by Eliot Weinberger
Photo: Peter Bowers

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

i would like to describe

I would like to describe the simplest emotion
joy or sadness
but not as others do
reaching for shafts of rain or sun

I would like to describe a light
which is being born in me
but I know it does not resemble
any star
for it is not so bright
not so pure
and is uncertain

I would like to describe courage
without dragging behind me a dusty lion
and also anxiety
without shaking a glass full of water

to put it another way
I would give all metaphors
in return for one word
drawn out of my breast like a rib
for one word
contained within the boundaries
of my skin

but apparently this is not possible

and just to say - I love
I run around like mad
picking up handfuls of birds
and my tenderness
which after all is not made of water
asks the water for a face

and anger
different from fire
borrows from it
a loquacious tongue

so is blurred
so is blurred
in me
what white-haired gentlemen
separated once and for all
and said
this is the subject
and this is the object

we fall asleep
with one hand under our head
and with the other in a mound of planets

our feet abandon us
and taste the earth
with their tiny roots
which next morning
we tear out painfully

Zbigniew Herbert
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Sunday, November 13, 2022

taste of morning

Time's knife slides from the sheath,
as fish from where it swims.

Being closer and closer is the desire 
of the body. Don't wish for union!

There's a closeness beyond that. Why 
would God want a second God?  Fall in 

love in such a way that it frees you 
from any connecting. Love is the soul's 

light, the taste of morning, no me, no
we, no claim of being. These words 

are the smoke the fire gives off as it
absolves its defects, as eyes in silence,

tears, face. Love cannot be said.

Translation: Coleman Barks

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

seeing each other

They were like two mirrors facing each other.  
Who sees, who is seen?
Seeing each other like this, 
they experienced the recognition everyone craves  - 
to be seen exactly as we are, 
nothing more, 
and nothing less.
Seen like this, 
all the many forms in the world 
are the same 
as one's own hand,
one's own face.

Women of the Way
the iron grinder, Liu Tiemo (780-859)
 Sallie Tisdale

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

an ordinary day

I believe in the ordinary day
that is here at this moment and is me

I do not see it going its own way
but I never saw how it came to me

it extends beyond whatever I may
think I know and all that is real to me

it is the present that it bears away
where has it gone when it has gone from me

there is no place I know outside today
except for the unknown all around me

the only presence that appears to stay
everything that I call mine it lent me

even the way that I believe the day
for as long as it is here and is me

W.S. Merwin
"A Momentary Creed"
The Shadow of Sirius
Photo: Peter Bowers

Sunday, September 25, 2022


Stand still.  The trees ahead and 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.  It 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 bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost.  Stand still.  The forest knows
Where you are.  You must let it find you.

David Wagoner
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Friday, June 24, 2022


What we really want to do is serve happiness.
We want everyone to be happy, never unhappy even for a moment.
We want the animals to be happy. The happiness of every living thing is what we want.
We want it very much but we cannot bring  it about.
We cannot make even one individual happy.
It seems that this thing that we want most of all is out of our reach.
But we were born to serve happiness and we do serve it.
The confusion is due to our lack of awareness of real happiness. 
Happiness is pervasive.
It is everywhere. And everywhere the same.
And it is forever.
When people are really happy they say: 'This will last forever even after death', and that is true.
When we are unhappy it is because something is covering our minds and we are not able to be aware of happiness. When the difficulty is past we find happiness again.
It is not that happiness is all around us. That is not it at all. 
It is not this or that or in this or that.
It is an abstract thing.
Happiness is unattached. Always the same. It does not appear and disappear. It is not sometimes more and sometimes less. It is our awareness of happiness that goes up and down.
Happiness is our real condition.
It is reality.
It is life.
When we see life we call it beauty. It is magnificent - wonderful.
We may be looking at the ocean when we are aware of beauty but it is not the ocean. We may be in the desert and we say that we are aware of the 'living desert' but it is not the desert.
Life is ever present in the desert and everywhere, forever.
By awareness of life we are inspired to live.

Life is consciousness of life itself.

Agnes Martin
prepared for a lecture at the University of New Mexico, Santa Fe 1979
Agnes Martin, Paintings, Writings, Remembrances, Arne Glimcher
Photo: Peter Bowers

between each word

A poem written three thousand years ago

about a man who walks among horses
grazing on a hill under the small stars

comes to life on a page in a book

and the woman reading the poem
in her kitchen filled with a gold metallic light

finds the experience of living in that moment

so vividly described as to make her feel known
to another, until the woman and the poet share

not only their souls but the exact silence

between each word.  And every time the poem is read,
no matter her situation or her age,

this is more or less what happens.

Jason Shinder
Photo:  Peter Bowers

Monday, June 6, 2022


Always in big woods when you leave familiar ground and step off 
alone into a new place there will be, 
along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. 
It is the ancient fear of the unknown, and it is your first bond 
with the wilderness you are going into.

You are undertaking the first experience, not of the place,
but of yourself in that place. It is an experience of our essential loneliness,
for nobody can discover the world for anybody else.
It is only after we have discovered it for ourselves
that it becomes a common ground and a common bond,
and we cease to be alone.

And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,
no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey,
a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful,
by which we arrive at the ground at our feet,
and learn to be at home.

Wendell Berry
The Unforeseen Wilderness: Kentucky’s Red River Gorge
photo:  Peter Bowers


Mercy, there have been revelations.
Grace, there has been realization. Still, you must
travel the path of time and circumstance.

The further you go, the more it comes back to paying attention.
The rough skin of the tallowwood, the trade routes of lorikeets, a sky lifting
behind afternoon clouds. Staying close to the texture of things.

People can go before you and talk all they want,
but only one thing makes sense: the way the world enters
and finds its voice in you: the place you are free.

Andrew Colliver
with thanks: Poetry Chaikhana

what we do

Let the beauty we love be what we do
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground 


There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground, 
there are a thousand ways to go home again.

Photo:  Peter Bowers

Friday, May 27, 2022

listen and watch

Do you bow your head when you pray or do you look 
    up into that blue space?
Take your choice, prayers fly from all directions.
And don't worry about what language you use, 
God no doubt understands them all.
Even when the swans are flying north and making 
such a ruckus of noise, God is surely listening
    and understanding.
Rumi said, There is no proof of the soul.
But isn't the return of spring and how it
springs up in our hearts a pretty good hint?
Yes, I know, God's silence never breaks, but is
    that really a problem?
There are thousands of voices, after all.
And furthermore, don't you imagine (I just suggest it)
that the swans know about as much as we do about 
    the whole business?
So listen to them and watch them, singing as they fly.
Take from it what you can.

Mary Oliver
"Whistling Swans"
Photo: Peter Bowers

community of the spirit

There is a community of the spirit.
Join it, and feel the delight
of walking in the noisy street,
and being the noise.

Drink all your passion,
and be a disgrace.

Close both eyes
to see with the other eye.

Open your hands,
if you want to be held.

Sit down in this circle.

Quit acting like a wolf, and feel
the shepherd’s love filling you.

At night, your beloved wanders.
Don’t accept consolations.

Close your mouth against food.
Taste the lover’s mouth in yours.

You moan, “She left me.” “He left me.”
Twenty more will come.

Be empty of worrying.
Think of who created thought!

Why do you stay in prison
when the door is so wide open?

Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
Live in silence.

Flow down and down in always
widening rings of being.

Translation: Coleman Barks 
Photo:  Peter  Bowers

Saturday, April 16, 2022

this rain

Some Sunday afternoon, it may be,
you are sitting under your porch roof,
looking down through the trees
to the river, watching the rain.  The circles
made by the raindrops' striking
expand, intersect, dissolve,

and suddenly (for you are getting on
now, and much of your life is memory)
the hands of the dead, who have been here
with you, rest upon you tenderly
as the rain rests shining
upon the leaves.  And you think then

(for thought will come) of the strangeness
of the thought of Heaven, for now
you have imagined yourself there,
remembering with longing this
happiness, this rain.  Sometimes here
we are there, and there is no death.

Wendell Berry
Photo: Peter Bowers

Tuesday, April 5, 2022


is a meeting place, of deep intentionality and of self
forgetting, the bodily alchemy of what lies inside us in
communion with what formerly seemed outside, but
is now neither, but become a living frontier, a voice
speaking between us and the world: dance, laughter,
affection, skin touching skin, singing in the car, music
in the kitchen, the quiet irreplaceable and companionable
presence of a daughter: the sheer intoxicating 
beauty of the world inhabited as an edge between
what we previously thought was us and what we
thought was other than us. 

Joy can be made by practiced, hard-won achievement
as much as by an unlooked for, passing act of grace
arrived out of nowhere; joy is a measure of our
relationship to death and our living with death, joy is the 
act of giving ourselves away before we need to or are
asked to, joy is practiced generosity. If joy is a deep
form of love, it is also the raw engagement with the
passing seasonality of existence, the fleeting presence
of those we love understood as gift, going in and out
of our lives, faces, voices, memory, aromas of the first
spring day or a wood fire in winter, the last breath
of a dying parent as they create a rare, raw, beautiful
frontier between loving presence and a new and 
blossoming absence.

To feel a full and untrammeled joy is to have become
fully generous; to allow ourselves to be joyful is to
have walked through the doorway of fear, the dropping
away of the anxious worried self felt like a 
thankful death itself, a disappearance, a giving away,
overheard in the laughter of friendship, the vulnerability
of happiness felt suddenly as a strength, a solace
and a source, the claiming of our place in the living 
conversation, the sheer privilege of being in the
presence of a mountain, a sky or a well-loved familiar
face - I was here and you were here and together we
made a world.

David Whyte
Photo: Peter Bowers

don't hesitate

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don't hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that's often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don't be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

Mary Oliver
Photo: Peter Bowers

Sunday, April 3, 2022

mysteries, yes

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.
How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
"Look!" and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

Mary Oliver

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

what we need is here

Geese appear high over us, 
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.

Wendell Berry
Selected Poems of Wendell Berry 
Photo:  Peter Bowers