Saturday, October 31, 2020

Louise Glück: "All Hallows"


It's Halloween and I'm posting one of my favorite poems of the season, by Louise Glück, who was recently awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, called "All Hallows."



The poem evokes an uncanny/eerie edge to the beauty of the mid-autumn night. 



For me, Halloween or All Hallow's Eve, rides the balance between the beauty of a spiritual ritual and an eerie ghost-ridden chaos.


All Hallow's and All Hallow's Eve, was first established in the Catholic Calendar in Europe in the 9th Century.

This is the night before All Saint's Day or All Soul's Day, when all saints - known and unknown - are celebrated, honored. 

The current North American Halloween celebration is possibly related to a merging of both All Saint's Day Eve (with vigil and fasting) and Samhain (a Celtic festival feast marking the beginning of winter), where it was believed that on this night the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead become very thin.


Here's the poem. From Glück's book "The House on Marshland."

All Hallows

Even now this landscape is assembling.
The hills darken. The oxen
sleep in their blue yoke,
the fields having been
picked clean, the sheaves
bound evenly and piled at the roadside
among cinquefoil, as the toothed moon rises:

This is the barrenness
of harvest or pestilence.
And the wife leaning out the window
with her hand extended, as in payment,
and the seeds
distinct, gold, calling
Come here
Come here, little one

And the soul creeps out of the tree.



Sunday, October 18, 2020

Facing Night: Poem in Sky Island Journal


A poem from the manuscript, Absence: Presence, 

was recently published in  

Sky Island Journal, Fall 2020 Issue.


Tu Fu/Du Fu


Absence: Presence is a collection of poems influenced by Classical Chinese poetry of the Tang Era (especially the work of Tu Fu, Li Po, and Han Shan ).


Li Po/Li Bai


I wrote the poem a couple of years ago, in October of 2018, after reading “Facing Night” by Tu Fu, in a translation by David Hinton.


Facing Night


In farmlands outside a lone city, our

River village sits among headlong waters

Deep mountains hurry brief winter light

Here. Tall trees calming bottomless wind,


Cranes glide in to misty shallows. Sharing

Our thatch roof, hens settle in. Tonight,

Lamplight scattered across koto and books.

All night long, I can see through my death.


Koto: The Japanese name for a plucked zither. The Chinese name is ‘guzheng,’ meaning ‘ancient zither.’


After reading the poem, I wandered outside: Mars above, rattle of dead stalks, stars…

The poem can be found at Sky Island Journal here.


BBC documentary on Du Fu




Monday, October 12, 2020

Chaos & Equanimity


And so the United States slips further into chaos. 


I look out the window and see leaves fly, hear them scrape across macadam all night long. They sound like footsteps. Ominous. 


The fire-smoke has cleared. Right now, the wind is kicking up. It rakes across the window screens, pulls incoherent words from the thin metal.


Just this week, I heard someone use the word “equanimity.” I wondered if I’ve ever heard anyone use that word out loud in my life?

So, what is equanimity and how does it relate to chaos?

One definition of equanimity online said this: “Mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.”

Okay, a way of maintaining balance in the center of a storm? 


I also heard another way of expressing equanimity this week that seemed more helpful to me:

Imagine that you are a mountain. 

Imagine you are a mountain, solid, experiencing the seasonal changes around you. 

You are experiencing all the changes around you and yet you remain a mountain.

You are experiencing all these changes, with a sense of continuity.

So, I spent the week feeling the chaos.

Personal chaos, social chaos, national chaos, world chaos. 

I tried to lean into all the emotions. The ones I liked, the ones I didn't.

And there were some moments (brief seconds, mind you) where I suddenly could hold all of it at the same time – without choosing one thing over the other.


I wrote the poem below a couple years ago.

My surreal take on equanimity.



Balance, A Definition


1. What I Found:


In a dry wash at twilight, on cold sand,

a cairn, three feet high, intricately balanced.

Close to the cairn's foundation, a deer's

hoof-print, sunk deep. Just one, no others.

2. A Few Questions: 


Why did those awkward and precarious angles of stone

            re-open an old dream of floating (floating trees,

half-moon and stars below roots; floating stones,

                                                                imitating hawks…)?

How did a deer pass so close to the cairn

                                                     without knocking it down?

Who first said float but really meant sink?


3. Some Answers:

The deer appeared from the space between the stones.

The cairn appeared when the deer floated by

                              and touched down one hoof, testing reality.

And the sky, the sky, with its thousand

                             interlocking blue staircases, built from nothing

     but air and the breath of the dead, appeared

                out of the dark atrial chamber of the deer's heart…

(previously published in The Bitter Oleander)