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whiskey river



the intoxication of being swept along with the current



Updated: 2017-11-17T10:55:14.649-07:00

 




2017-11-17T10:55:04.530-07:00

"And tracing the labyrinthine ways of your mind, the haphazard vagaries of your thoughts at ease, the odds and ends of your mental surplus you carelessly throw at the world, one wants to be at a loss, in a maze; amazed, and amazingly unabashed."
 - Adam Zagajewski




2017-11-16T11:35:20.742-07:00

"Outwardly, I fulfill my duties satisfactorily at the office, not my inner duties, however, and every unfulfilled inner duty becomes a misfortune that never leaves."
 - Franz Kafka
The Diaries of Franz Kafka



"Even now, only rarely am I able to convince myself that my reluctance to pass on my most secret reflections, meditations, theorizings, all the modes by which I manage to distract myself, arises from my belief that out of my appalling inner universe nothing anyway could possibly be extracted, departicularized, and offered as an instance of anything at all to anyone else."
 - C. K. Williams




2017-11-15T11:15:13.936-07:00

Foreseeing
Middle age refers more
to landscape than to time:
it's as if you'd reached
the top of a hill
and could see all the way
to the end of your life,
so you know without a doubt
that it has an end -
not that it will have,
but that it does have,
if only in outline -
so for the first time
you can see your life whole,
beginning and end not far
from where you stand,
the horizon in the distance -
the view makes you weep,
but it also has the beauty
of symmetry, like the earth
seen from space: you can't help
but admire it from afar,
especially now, while it's simple
to re-enter whenever you choose,
lying down in your life,
waking up to it
just as you always have -
except that the details resonate
by virtue of being contained,
as your own words
coming back to you
define the landscape,
remind you that it won't go on
like this forever.
 - Sharon Bryan
Flying Blind




2017-11-14T11:50:15.102-07:00

"If only we could listen more carefully, look more closely - someday something will happen, the inner reality will stand revealed. At the same time I realize that this sense of mystery, of secrets dwelling in these streets, in this park, is fleeting and hard to defend. If someone were to ask me ironically, "Mr. Zagajewski, what actual mystery do you have in mind?," I'd be hard-pressed to answer. I also know that there are people, some of them highly intelligent, who can never be brought to acknowledge the postulate of a mystery hidden in a city, or a park, or a quiet street at dusk. No, they'd say, everything can be checked and measured, so and so many bird species make their home in the park, including two subspecies of woodpeckers, along with twelve squirrels, maybe two martens, and five bums. The policemen on duty might easily survey the park and write up an unbiased report conclusively proving that no secrets had been unearthed."
 - Adam Zagajewski
Slight Exaggeration




2017-11-13T11:36:25.592-07:00

"There is something you can tell people over and over, and with feeling and eloquence, and still never say it well enough for it to be more than news from abroad - people have no readiness for it, no empathy. It is the news of personal aging - of climbing, and knowing it, to some unrepeatable pitch and coming forth on the other side, which is pleasant still but which is, inarguably, different - which is the beginning of descent. It is the news that no one is singular, that no argument will change the course, that one's time is more gone than not, and what is left waits to be spent gracefully and attentively, if not quite so actively."
 - Mary Oliver




2017-11-12T16:12:17.989-07:00

Nowhere is it the same place as yesterday.
None of us is the same person as yesterday.
We finally die from the exhaustion of becoming.
This downward cellular jubilance is shared
by the wind, bugs, birds, bears and rivers,
and perhaps the black holes in galactic space
where our souls will all be gathered in an invisible
thimble of antimatter. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
 - Jim Harrison
from Becoming
Saving Daylight




2017-11-11T09:27:08.824-07:00

No, no more: this should be happening in myth, in stone, or paint, not in reality, not here;
it should be an emblem of itself, not itself, something that would mean, not really have to happen,
something to go out, expand in implication from that unmoved mass of matter in the breast;
as in the image of an anguished face, in grief for us, not us as us, us as in a myth, a moral tale,
a way to tell the truth that grief is limitless, a way to tell us we must always understand
it's we who do such things, we who set the slant, embed the tip, lift the sledge and drive the nail,
drive the nail which is the axis upon which turns the brutal human world upon the world.
 - C. K. Williams
from The Nail
Repair




2017-11-10T08:44:43.990-07:00

Out in the Open
1.
Late autumn labyrinth.
A discarded bottle lies at the entrance to the wood.
Walk in. The forest in this season is a silent palace of abandoned
      rooms.
Only a few, precise sounds: as if someone were lifting twigs with
      tweezers;
as if, inside each tree-trunk, a hinge was creaking quietly.
Frost has breathed on the mushrooms and they've shrivelled up;
they are like the personal effects of the disappeared.
It is almost dusk. You need to leave now,
find your landmarks again: the rusted implements out in the field
and the house on the other side of the lake, red-brown
and square and solid as a stock-cube.

2.
A letter from America set me off, drove me out
on a white night in June through the empty suburban streets
among built blocks, cool as blueprints, too new to have memories.

The letter in my pocket. My unquiet raging stride a kind of prayer.
Where you are now, evil and good really do have faces.
Here, it's mostly a struggle between roots, numbers, transitions of
      light.

Those that run messages for death don't shy from daylight.
They govern from glass offices. They swell in the sun.
They lean over their desks and look at you askance.

Far away from that, I find myself in front of one of the new
      buildings.
Many windows merging into one window.
The light of the night sky and the swaying of the trees are caught
      there:
in this still mirror-lake, up-ended in the summer night.

Violence seems unreal
for a while.

3.
The sun is scorching. The plane comes in low,
throwing a shadow in the shape of a giant cross, rushing over the
      ground.
A man crouches over something in the field.
The shadow reaches him.
For a split-second he is in the middle of the cross.

I have seen the cross that hangs from cool church arches.
Sometimes it seems like a snapshot
of frenzy.
 - Tomas Tranströmer
translated by Robin Robertson




2017-11-08T07:37:00.320-07:00

Impossible friendships
for example, with someone who no longer is, who exists only in yellowed letters. Or long walks beside a stream, whose depths hold hidden porcelain cups - and the talks about philosophy with a timid student or the postman. A passerby with proud eyes whom you’ll never know. Friendship with this world, ever more perfect (if not for the salty smell of blood). The old man sipping coffee in Saint-Lazare, who reminds you of someone. Faces flashing by in local trains - the happy faces of travelers headed perhaps for a splendid ball, or a beheading. And friendship with yourself - since after all you don’t know who you are.
 - Adam Zagajewski
Eternal Enemies




2017-11-07T10:50:48.085-07:00

"Isn't it wonderful to be alive?

You know, you can forget all about it.

Then suddenly you remember, and think of all the things you can do. Here I am. I can walk around. I can talk. I can see things and remember things.

I am alive.

How wonderful."
 - Sophia Loren
live & learn





2017-11-06T08:13:39.470-07:00

"It means for us simply that we must be careful with our lives, for Christ's sake, because it would seem that they are the only lives we are going to have in this puzzling and perilous world, and so they are very precious and what we do with them matters enormously."
 - Frederick Buechner
Secrets in the Dark




2017-11-05T10:15:41.613-07:00

I take my glasses off
it is the hard
edge of things
i am avoiding
the separations
so that i take my glasses off
and then i cannot tell
which are the leaves
and which the angels
like blake
like that man
who lived with lepers
not noticing what was sin
and what was grace
visioning visions vision
i take my glasses off
so i can see
 - Lucille Clifton




2017-11-04T13:35:15.493-06:00

The Half-Finished Heaven
Despondency breaks off its course.
Anguish breaks off its course.
The vulture breaks off its flight.

The eager light streams out,
even the ghosts take a draught.

And our paintings see daylight,
our red beasts of the ice-age studios.

Everything begins to look around.
We walk in the sun in hundreds.

Each man is a half-open door
leading to a room for everyone.

The endless ground under us.

The water is shining among the trees.

The lake is a window into the earth.
 - Tomas Tranströmer
translated by Robin Fulton




2017-11-03T09:03:33.170-06:00

"Week after week, year after year, after art class I walked the vast museum, and lost myself in the arts, or the sciences. Scientists, it seemed to me as I read the labels on display cases (bivalves, univalves; ungulates, lagomorphs), were collectors and sorters, as I had been. They noticed the things that engaged the curious mind: the way the world develops and divides, colony and polyp, population and tissue, ridge and crystal. Artists, for their part, noticed the things that engaged the mind's private and idiosyncratic interior, that area where the life of senses mingles with the life of the spirit: the shattering of light into color, and the way it shades off round a bend. The humble attention painters gave to the shadow of a stalk or the reflected sheen under a chin, or the lapping layers of strong stokes, included and extended the scientists' vision of each least thing as unendingly interesting. But artists laid down the vision in the form of beauty bare - Man Walking - radiant and fierce, inexplicable without the math.

It all got noticed: the horse's shoulders pumping; the sunlight warping the air over a hot field; the way the leaves turn color, brightly, cell by cell; and even the splitting, half-resigned feeling you have when you notice you are walking on the earth for a while now - set down for a spell - in this particular time for no particular reason, here."
 - Annie Dillard
An American Childhood




2017-11-02T09:04:06.172-06:00

Enough
It's a gift, this cloudless November morning
warm enough to walk without a jacket
along your favorite path. The rhythmic shushing
of your feet through fallen leaves should be
enough to quiet the mind, so it surprises you
when you catch yourself telling off your boss
for a decade of accumulated injustices,
all the things you've never said circling inside you.

The rising wind pulls you out of it,
and you look up to see a cloud of leaves
wheeling in sunlight, flickering against the blue
and lifting above the treetops, as if the whole day
were sighing, Let it go, let it go,
for this moment at least, let it all go.
 - Jeffrey Harrison




2017-10-31T08:16:12.926-06:00

"the life you lead is a midnight thing, always a hair's breadth from the witching hour; it is volatile, it is threadbare; it is carefree in the true sense of that term; it is light, losable like a key or a hair clip. And it is lethargy: why not sit all morning, all day, all year, under the same cypress tree drawing the figure eight in the dust? More than that, it is disaster, it is chaos: why not overthrow a government on a whim, why not blind the man you hate, why not go mad, go gibbering through the town like a loon, waving your hands, tearing your hair? There's nothing to stop you - or rather anything could stop you, any hour, any minute."
 - Zadie Smith
White Teeth




2017-10-30T08:13:29.871-06:00

"Masquerades disclose the reality of souls. As long as no one sees who we are, we can tell the most intimate details of our life. I sometimes muse over this sketch of a story about a man afflicted by one of those personal tragedies born of extreme shyness who one day, while wearing a mask I don't know where, told another mask all the most personal, most secret, most unthinkable things that could be told about his tragic and serene life. And since no outward detail would give him away, he having disguised even his voice, and since he didn't take careful note of whoever had listened to him, he could enjoy the ample sensation of knowing that somewhere in the world there was someone who knew him as not even his closest and finest friend did. When he walked down the street he would ask himself if this person, or that one, or that person over there might not be the one to whom he'd once, wearing a mask, told his most private life. Thus would be born in him a new interest in each person, since each person might be his only, unknown confidant."
 - Fernando Pessoa




2017-10-29T08:47:46.512-06:00

"Surely we cannot take an open question like the supernatural and shut it with a bang, turning the key of the madhouse on all the mystics of history. You cannot take the region of the unknown and calmly say that, though you know nothing about it, you know all the gates are locked. We do not know enough about the unknown to know that it is unknowable."
 - G. K. Chesterton




2017-10-28T10:07:55.709-06:00

"In a world which is indeed our world, the one we know, a world without devils, sylphides, or vampires, there occurs an event which cannot be explained by the laws of this same familiar world. The person who experiences the event must opt for one of two possible solutions: either he is the victim of an illusion of the senses, of a product of the imagination - and the laws of the world then remain what they are; or else the event has indeed taken place, it is an integral part of reality - but then this reality is controlled by laws unknown to us."
 - Tzvetan Todorov
The Fantastic




2017-10-27T08:34:55.073-06:00

"The ancient Druids are said to have taken a special interest in in-between things like mistletoe, which is neither quite a plant nor quite a tree, and mist, which is neither quite a rain nor quite air, and dreams, which are neither quite waking nor quite sleep. They believed that in such things as those they were able to glimpse the mystery of the two worlds at once."
 - Frederick Buechner
Whistling in the Dark




2017-10-26T13:30:07.876-06:00

"In Ireland there are many stories of haunted houses. There may be a room in which one senses a presence or hears footsteps or a strange voice. Such haunted places remain uninhabited. People are afraid to go there. The place is forsaken and left to deepen ever further into the shadow of itself. The way you think about your life can turn your soul into a haunted room. You are afraid to risk going in there anymore. Your fantasy peoples this room of the heart with sad presences, which ultimately become disturbing and sinister. The haunted room in the mind installs lonesomeness at the heart of your life. It would be devastating in the autumn of your life to look back and recognize that you had created a series of haunted rooms in your heart. Fear and negativity are immense forces, which constantly tussle with us. They long to turn the mansions of the soul into a totally haunted house. These are the living conditions for which fear and negativity long, and in which they thrive. We were sent here to live life to the full. When you manage to be generous in your passion and vulnerability, life always comes to bless you. Had you but the courage to acknowledge the haunted inner room, turn the key, and enter, you would encounter nothing strange or sinister there. You would meet some vital self of yours that you had banished during a time of pain or difficulty. Sometimes, when life squeezes you into lonely crevices, you may have to decide between survival or breaking apart. At such times, you can be harsh with yourself and settle to be someone other than who you really long to be. At such a time, you can do nothing else; you have to survive. But your soul always remains faithful to your longing to become who you really are. The banished self from an earlier time of life remains within you waiting to be released and integrated. The soul has its own logic of loyalty and concealment. Ironically, it is usually in its most awkward rooms that the special blessings and healing are locked away."
 - John O'Donohue
Eternal Echoes
the beauty we love




2017-10-25T09:04:49.389-06:00

Epithalamion
The elm weaves the field's late light, this hill
hanging from the tree's roots like the moon
From its shadow and the whole
world beneath suspended.

Roots knead the earth's thick sorrow.
Still, leaves from this.
From this unshackling, birdsong.

I am a blade of corn where you kneel,
wind and quaking stalk.
The elm's body a vase of poured sky.

The tree will die.
Someday, the tree will die.

For now, this axis -
what we choose to compass by.
 - Hannah Fries
memory's landscape




2017-10-24T11:26:05.497-06:00

"Sometimes an abyss opens between Tuesday and Wednesday but twenty-six years could pass in a moment. Time is not a straight line, it's more of a labyrinth, and if you press close to the wall at the right place you can hear the hurrying steps and the voices, you can hear yourself walking past on the other side."
 - Tomas Tranströmer
The Great Enigma
cafe inevitable




2017-10-23T09:04:23.512-06:00

On the Idea of Poetic Responsibility
I want to call in sick today
and stay home and write poetry.
I am sick, after all,
sick of clock-watching and making a living.
sick of dry-erase boards
and overstuffed books of overread literature.
sick of Frost and students,
not that any of them have done anything wrong.
I love Frost, and on any other day
I might want nothing more than to be with my students
and hear how they too have promises to keep,
and help them see the slipperiness of Frost.
But today there are more important things to do.
There is reverie and reflection.
There is memory to be pursued.
There are trails diverging in my mind.
There is this poem, and there is you
waiting for all the promises to be filled.
 - Scott Owens




2017-10-22T08:59:07.331-06:00

"And I would be the wind, whispering through the tangled woods, running airy fingers over the island's face, tingling in the chill of concealed places, sighing secrets in the dawn. And I would be the light, flinging over the island, covering it with flash and shadow, shining on rocks and pools, softening to a touch in the glow of dusk. If I were the rain and wind and light, I would encircle the island like the sky surrounding earth, flood through it like a heart driven pulse, shine from inside it like a star in flames, burn away to blackness in the closed eyes of its night."
 - Richard Nelson