When one posts blog entries almost daily for ten years, there are inevitable changes — in mood, certainly, but also in subject matter, style, and approach. And yet, written as they are by the same hand, they are familiar and recognizable. It’s a bit like visiting a waterfall during different times of the year: now the music is heightened; now the rocks are more exposed; and while the distance from the top to the bottom is the same, there are times when the height and depth seem more profound.
After thinking it over, I’ve chosen to reproduce all of the written entries from Recently Banned Literature for the month of November 2016. I’ve done so because I think they demonstrate how the blog served as a diary and journal made up of different forms. There are poems, of course, though not always of a conventional structure. There are mini-essays and thought pieces, which do not break my basic rule of brevity. There is an abundance of wordplay, and there is gratitude. Near the end there is even a dream.
And so ultimately, the only thing that is not brief, is this entry. For that reason, I will include these poems and passages in two Categories: Pondered and Preserved, and Essays and Collections. It won’t make the page any shorter, but it will be easier to return to now and again, should the desire or need arise.
At the foot of the bed
At the foot of the bed, the chin of our garden space has a sunflower beard. The face of the space has tomato sprout down. The eyes, looking up, wear manure on their frown. This is the ground where our peppers have been. Go ahead — bury me here. Winter this mirror, the spring of I am. Flatter me, scatter me, shadow me, pillow me, turn the sheets down. Rain me, dream me, love me to sleep. Snow me so deep I can’t hear a sound. Snow me. Snow me. Snow me. Snow me.
What is silence?
For what is silence, but love in undress, with wisdom looking on?
What is wisdom?
And what is wisdom, but the hole in one’s roof, at the advent of dawn?
Yesterday I almost wrote
Yesterday I almost wrote about my life as a child — not in terms of years, of long ago, but of the childhood I am living now. I thought about this for quite a while, but instead got involved with moving books around — it rained an inch yesterday, a warm, steady, windless rain — and eventually rearranged most of a tall bookcase, a pleasure I will take up again soon after I finish breakfast, which I am eating now. And so today, in effect, I am not writing about what I almost wrote about yesterday, except to say time is not a factor at all, for the simple reason that it doesn’t exist, and therefore can’t be used, or saved — unless, of course, you are, in the most common, tragic sense of the word, an adult.
How do I really feel?
How do I really feel? Like a leaf. As long as I’m needed, in vigor or decay, I’ll be here. And this is my blessing, to want nothing, to need nothing, to love everything, even my very own end; to express joy in uncertainty, vulnerability, and pain; to be astonished by birth, again and again; to be color when melody is near; to speak without shame and say without fear, I don’t know. I’m falling. How sweet is the air!
Through the night, thousands of voices
Through the night, down in the wetland, the geese keep up an amazing commotion, thousands of voices among newly sprouted blades of grass, proclaiming in the mist by whatever light there is the pungent November warmth, the rise of the flood and the rot of the mud — Lazarus, come forth! And he came fifth and lost the job. Ah, Ulysses, rejoyce! Everything is here, nothing is found, nothing is lost, save a mind not worth saving, by a man and his raving, whatever the cost.
The old tree you happen to meet
A warm afternoon pulling weeds, new shepherd’s purse, mostly, around the strawberries, which also lose their colorful leaves. The world, so beautiful, from my knees. Fingertips stained, moist earth under my nails. I’m really quite flexible on most days. And I breathe. At a natural pace. You wouldn’t think I’m sixty. A hundred, maybe, or three hundred and three. That old tree in the forest you happen to meet, when you’re tired and think all trees are the same — and then, there I am, reveling in decay, right to the very heart of things. And I don’t have a name. And I don’t mean a thing. Except for the ones you’ve given me. And if I say love? Will you linger a while, or part from me? Will you stay, and be free?
A pale thing indeed
A pale thing indeed, the need to feel right,
as if a pond could choose the stars it sees at night,
or you your frail shell, which breaks
and burns, at the very touch
Yesterday my revolution was a smile
Yesterday my revolution was a smile for everyone in the grocery store, and here and there a friendly word. You should have heard the quiet roar, as willing hearts took up the cause. And then forth into the parking lot, where no one was a stranger. Yes, you should have heard the quiet roar!
Moonlight and rain, rainlight and moon
This mild November continues with moonlight and rain, rainlight and moon, fir needles, maple leaves, broomswishes, kisses, and hope. Bugs in the bushes, spidernight wishes, hugs in the kitchen, cats on the roof. And the joy we proclaim, through health and through pain, we help bring about. And peace is our name. Some call us children. See us, naked and bare. See us. Where is our doubt? Dispersed by the wind. The moonlight and rain. The rainlight and moon. See us. Come out!
We think it’s our skin
We think it’s our skin the rain is falling on, and since we do it probably is, at least in some dimension. After all, it does seem fairly obvious — until, of course, we recognize this widespread flesh conspiracy, meant to cover up the simple glorious truth, which is that the rain is not falling on our skin, but our spirits are rising to meet the rain, and when they touch, the skin, looking on, rejoices. And now, dear ones, let us go back to bed and see what the next dream is.
If we’ve forgotten
Of course we’ve seen how children, even those brought into the world in anger, confusion, ignorance, and despair, begin their lives with hearts free of prejudice and hate, looking on the world and the faces around them with wonder and love. We’ve seen, likewise, how they must be taught the things that divide us, taught about skin color, taught about flags, taught about guns, taught about borders, and how every superficial difference must be emphasized in order to make them proper patriotic individuals able to justify violent physical and psychological behavior directed at those they now perceive as “others,” to the point that they are willing to kill them, starve them, mock them, shame them, embarrass them, isolate them, and shove them aside. We’ve seen this, and have perhaps even participated in it to some degree, even as some deep part of us laments and decries such behavior, that deep original love that we were born with and that has been silenced through the very same means. We’ve seen this, and we’ve seen the results, the wars, the riots, the starvation, the posturing, the lying, the name-calling, and yet we are willing to think it has always, and must always, be this way. We yell, we vote, we point fingers, we wring our hands, we predict the worst and say I told you so when the worst comes true, without realizing that the very prediction, made millions of times over, helped to strengthen the possibility, without realizing that every time we uttered the unspeakable, every time we emphasized our superficial differences, we helped strengthen them, helped polish their armor, helped sharpen their battle axes, helped dig their trenches, and joined in bristling along their flimsy, fleeting, imaginary borders. Instead of saying and living and believing in love, we buy political, religious, and philosophical insurance policies, only to be surprised when the companies we invested in are spiritually and morally bankrupt. We, once innocent children full of love for all, with little children still springing up hopefully all around us, beseeching, teaching us with their eyes, we, safe on our couches, throwing our little poisonous darts on social media, perhaps even with children of our own under the very same roof, in the very same room — lord almighty, folks. And we’re still surprised? If we’ve forgotten how to love, if we no longer know what love is, the children are still here to teach us, without judgment, without coercion, without the desire for any result. And they are inside us, too. Here, in the hands we hold out.
Thank you. You know, I was thinking: if we were to meet somewhere, say in a celestial city with beautiful glass elevators built into cloud-knowing trees, and you were going up and I was going down, or vice-versa, we could stop the car at the Jupiter Mezzanine and get out then and there and go for a nice long walk through the mist-loving leaves. Or have I just described where we are? That would explain my halo, and the rainbow in your hair. Oh, love, you’re so easy to please!
The flowering dark
Cells in the body. Cells in the earth. In the sky. In the galaxy. In the universe. In the grand mirror known as the eye. In the unknowable and in the unknown. Coming, going, being born, glowing, fading, passing on, giving their lives to other cells, all of it poetry, all of it song, each depending on the other, informing the other, working, corresponding, checking, reminding, teaching, vibrating, dancing, rejoicing in an infinite number of moons, loving gravity, flight, and weightlessness wherever they are found, casting mind-shadows, being crushed and ground like seeds, creating light, keeping stars together until their time has come — and in the flowering dark I sing, “I too, am a cell.”
More than anything
Love does not say, “See the bad man.”
Love says, “Come, let us find the good in ourselves.”
Love does not heap shame on those who are lost.
Love remains near, that they may be found.
Love does not say, “This one, but not this one.”
Love says, “In good time, all.”
Love does not wait with a flag at the wall.
Love is a lantern in your heart, filled with starlight.
Love does not say, “Peace is a dream.”
Love says, “Love, more than anything.”
I could fall for you
I could fall for you, like the first leaf,
before falling is fashionable, when everyone else
is still clinging and green and oblivious
I could fall for you, without you seeing
or knowing what I have done, and wait patiently,
and calm, until all the other leaves
have come and gone.
I could fall for you, like a mysterious, scented glove
on the dance floor during your favorite song,
five fingers and an open palm,
alive, yet still, like love.
So, fall already, I hear you say, fall,
you old romantic fool, fall the way you did
in school, and I will fall for you,
as all the leaves come down.
And so we will, so we will, even to our end
in the cold, hard ground, so we will, so we will,
that the young may know that letting go
is the sweetest love of all.
In her hand, a dish of pomegranate seeds.
And the dish is the earth,
And the seeds are men,
And she is the one who made them.
And the dish is a pond,
And the seeds are leaves on the water,
And her face is a reflection made by the moon.
And the pond is blood,
And the leaves are spirits looking on,
And the moon is the nearest, softest thing imaginable.
And I am mad,
And she takes me to her breast,
And the dish and the seeds are a fable.
And the fable is a pomegranate flower,
And she is a hummingbird,
And I am the space between two clouds.
And the space is a star,
And the star hangs from a necklace,
And this is how she enters the room.
And the room is history,
And history is summed up in a smile,
And love is a bright-red seed on her tongue.
And I could say more,
And I could go on,
And I won’t, just now.
Words and deeds
Only a few words today.
Pink lungs a prayer, perfect nails,
mist for hair, and wings
where their new life
is about to be.
Or are they deeds?
They must be, if you care,
and love is what you want to see.
During the past four days, we’ve had another four inches of rain. Very mild out. Still no frost. The jade plants on the front step are thriving. The earth worms have pushed up countless little air holes in the yard, among the fir needles blanketing the ground. Moss mounds everywhere. Where does the water go? Into gutters and dreams, rivers and streams, and vast mental crevices. Into me, and into the sea. That’s all I know. Until you join me. Then I’ll know everything, love that you are.
Surrender is my prayer
Surrender is my prayer, and should it end right here,
in breath and sight, in sleep and night, in death and light,
I ask of you my brightsome fair to surrender
to this blessèd flight and be my heir,
until the ending of your own
How words go off on their own
How words go off on their own
when no one is listening
the wind through empty spaces
an approaching train
an approaching rain
an approaching sensation
as if you were their skin
longing to be touched again
and distance is all that remains
and all of this
and all of this is a thistle-wish
The gentle know, violence is that part of us that died in a bygone age, and that what keeps the stars in space is not power, but grace. We may be imprisoned and slain, but our presence is not erased. It is magnified. See us in your mirror. Are you at peace, or are you terrified?
Good to see them, and you
Just before I awoke this morning at four, I dreamed I was with both of my parents and we were walking on our old family farm. The harvest was in, but here and there some of the vines and trees still offered ripe gems. By and by, my father faded away. And then my mother and I came to a place where there was a long, steep grade. And though the climb seemed well beyond the ability of her age, she willingly started up, and I supported her with my arm around her waist. Part of the way, we began to slip. And then she summoned her strength and pushed us both to the top. It was a place on the farm I had never seen. At least not that way. It was day, with an added twist: I am a child, writing this.
Now comes the sunlight
You are a basket of flowers, and I am a table across the room. In this life you will have a thousand lovers before I bloom. And I will wear a thousand puddles from a thousand glasses, to emphasize my gloom. Now comes the sunlight. The house will be up soon. And here is the awakened princess, with her dark tea and her spoon. Such a deep sigh! as if honey were not sweet enough, as if birdsong did not greet her at every window. Ah! Another clink. Another sip. A fingertip, and that sensation of my dust being disturbed. Or do I imagine it? Impulsively, she picks you up. “They will look better here,” she says, and places you in my lap. And I hold you there forever, and the story ends, like that.
How do you feel?
If you are feeling helpless, angry, powerful, righteous, superior, inferior, empty, bitter, or fearful about the future, look to your daily life. Everything you need to know is there, in the form of the same tired thoughts and the huge amount of energy they consume, in your useless and unnecessary acquisitions, in your table barren of simple wholesome nourishment and absent of guests, in your drab or gaudy walls, in the averted glance of your neighbor, in the competitive nature of your conversation and business dealings, and finally in your looking to others as the cause of your unhappiness and lack of joy in your life. Each is a source of conflict, nervousness, exhaustion, and discontent, and, if not understood, illness in its deceptive, myriad forms.
It is not a question of rich or poor. If you are breathing, and can read this (on the internet, no less!), then you are your own revolution. Revolution is not millions of people rising up and exchanging one leader for another, one system for another, only to start the same disappointing, bloody process over again. Revolution is what you do, now, this moment, whether you are alone in your room or waiting in line at the grocery store.
The choice is obvious and clear. You are not only what you eat, but what you think, speak, and do. A simple, sane, calm, helpful act has infinite range in this world. By setting it in motion, you become the proverbial pebble in this miraculous pond, this magical life that we are only beginning to understand. The same can be said of your negative actions, those intended to hurt others, those meant to show how right and intelligent you think you are, even when you are missing the point entirely and society and family is collapsing around you. They too have an infinite range, and, as sure you as live, will come back to haunt you. The truth is, you are living with them now.
The solution? There is none. And that is the beauty of being alive. There is no road to take, no direction, no answer. Time does not exist. It can not help you or hinder you. There is no great rule to live by. There is only opportunity. You can make the leap. You can make something beautiful. You can be irresistible, and irresistibly in love with this life. You can extend an open hand. You can smile, you can forgive, you can let go, you can breathe deeply, you can understand the tragedy that others are living without sinking into despair, you can be the dear child, the wise parent, the tender grandparent, the faithful friend, the steady companion, and the unselfish helpmate all in one. But not by waiting. Not by pressing buttons and shouting and denouncing those whom you have consciously or unconsciously placed in charge. They cannot hear you. They are you. You must hear yourself. If you cannot take the simplest step in alleviating the pain of someone who is near, or share in their joy, then you must see the absurdity in condemning and blaming others. There are no others. That very concept is a mirage. The closer you come, the farther away it is, and in the end, you die with a mouthful of sand.
And that is the end of this letter. Or is it the beginning, dear friend?