How to Be Perfect
--Ron Padgett

Everything is perfect, dear friend.

Get some sleep.

Don't give advice.

Take care of your teeth and gums.

Don't be afraid of anything beyond your control. Don't be afraid, for
instance, that the building will collapse as you sleep, or that someone
you love will suddenly drop dead.

Eat an orange every morning.

Be friendly. It will help make you happy.

Raise your pulse rate to 120 beats per minute for 20 straight minutes
four or five times a week doing anything you enjoy.

Hope for everything. Expect nothing.

Take care of things close to home first. Straighten up your room
before you save the world. Then save the world.

Know that the desire to be perfect is probably the veiled expression
of another desire—to be loved, perhaps, or not to die.

Make eye contact with a tree.

Be skeptical about all opinions, but try to see some value in each of

Dress in a way that pleases both you and those around you.

Do not speak quickly.

Learn something every day. (Dzien dobre!)

Be nice to people before they have a chance to behave badly.

Don't stay angry about anything for more than a week, but don't
forget what made you angry. Hold your anger out at arm's length
and look at it, as if it were a glass ball. Then add it to your glass ball

Be loyal.

Wear comfortable shoes.

Design your activities so that they show a pleasing balance
and variety.

Be kind to old people, even when they are obnoxious. When you
become old, be kind to young people. Do not throw your cane at
them when they call you Grandpa. They are your grandchildren!

Live with an animal.

Do not spend too much time with large groups of people....

[rest @ poetryfoundation]


True poetry is antibiographical. The poet’s homeland is his poem and changes from one poem to the next. The distances are the old, eternal ones: infinite like the cosmos, in which each poem attempts to assert itself as a — minuscule — star. Infinite also like the distance between one’s I and one’s You: from both sides, from both poles the bridge is built: in the middle, halfway, where the carrier pylon is expected, from above or from below, there is the place of the poem. From above: invisible and uncertain. From below: from the abyss of hope for the distant, the future-distant kin. 
--from Microliths; Paul Celan

[via nemophilies]


From The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and the Imagination, Wallace Stevens:

Poetry is the imagination of life.  A poem is a particular of life thought of for so long that one’s thought has become an inseparable part of it or a particular of life so intensely felt that the feeling has entered into it.  When, therefore, we say that the world is a compact of real things so like the unreal things of the imagination that they are indistinguishable from one another and when, by way of illustration, we cite, say, the blue sky, we can be sure that the thing cited is always something that, whether by thinking or feeling, has become a part of our vital experience of life, even though we are not aware of it.  It is easy to suppose that few people realize on that occasion, which comes to all of us, when we look at the blue sky for the first time, that is to say: not merely see it, but look at it and experience it and for the first time have a sense that we live in the center of a physical poetry, a geography that would be intolerable except for the non-geography that exists there—few people realize that they are looking at the world of their own thoughts and the world of their own feelings.  On that occasion, the blue sky is a particular of life that we have thought of often, even though unconsciously, and that we have felt intensely in those crystallizations of freshness that we no more remember than we remember this or that gust of wind in spring or autumn.  


The Snow Man
--Wallace Stevens 
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;  
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter  
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,  
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place  
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.


[ Winter in Aizu ; Kiyoshi Saito (1938) ].......


From a conversation with Mark Strand at Post Road Magazine:

Michael O’Keefe: I’m curious if there has been any kind of influence from Zen practice or Buddhism in your work and personal philosophy? 
Mark Strand: Well, not formally. I mean, the closest I’ve ever come is from reading Sufi tales. I never practiced Zen or Sufism. People have told me that I am a kind of a natural Buddhist. But I don’t know what that means. 
MO: Well, it seems to me Zen is not necessarily constrained to the province of Buddhism and that neither insight nor truth are. There is a sense that I get from reading your work that you have the ability to abandon self or forget the self so that you can get into whatever it is you’re creating on the page. 
MS: I think you have to forget self when you write. I call it “The Other Strand.” When writing you are in a place where all those things that seem to define life aren’t operating. It’s more or less a feeling that you are just writing. You are in the world of your writing and that’s not necessarily the world in which you live. There is an excitement that attends to being in that world that makes it all worthwhile. It’s not that you are going to show it to somebody or that it’s going to be published but just to be in it and have it there everyday to work on. That is, to enter that world again and again is kind of thrilling. 
MO: I want to quote a famous Zen expression from Dogen Zenji who lived in the 13th Century. He wrote, “To study the Buddha way is to study oneself. To study oneself is to forget oneself. To forget oneself is to be enlightened by the myriad dharmas.” What he is getting at is that when you really sit down and examine yourself, the more you do the less you find, the less you find the more there is. 
MS: Yeah, I said something like that in one of my early poems. 
MO: Sometimes I get the sense in your work that “self” is a kind of sickness. 
MS: Yeah. 
MO: And that this forgetting of the self is a kind of antidote. 
MS: Yeah, I think so. 
MO: That’s why I got into Zen. It is really a school of forgetting. 
MS: Oh? Why do you need a school?



To sit in this chair and wonder where is endlessness
Born, where does it go, how close has it come; and to see
The snow coming down, the flakes enlarging whatever they touch,

Changing shapes until no shape remains. In their descent
They are like stars overtaken by light, or like thoughts
That drift before the long, blank windows facing the future,

Withering, whirling, continuing down, finally away
From the clear panes into the place where nothing will do,
Where nothing is needed or said because it is already known.

And when it is over, and the deep, unspeakable reaches of white
Melt into memory, how will the warmth of the fire,
So long in coming, keep us from mourning the loss?

--from "A Suite of Appearances"; Mark Strand


When I got home my sister was sitting in the living room, waiting for me. I said to her: "You know, Sis, it just occurred to me that some narrative poems move so quickly they cannot be kept up with, and their progress must be imagined. They are the most lifelike and least real."  
"Yes," said my sister, "but has it occurred to you that some narrative poems move so slowly we are constantly leaping ahead of them, imagining what they might be? And has it occurred to you that these are written most often in youth?"  
Later I remembered the summer in Rome when I became convinced that narratives in which memory plays a part are self-defeating. It was hot, and I realized that memory is a memorial to events that could not sustain themselves into the present, which is why memory is tinged with pity and its music is always a dirge.  
Then the phone rang. It was my mother calling to ask what I was doing. I told her I was working on a negative narrative, one that refuses to begin because beginning is meaningless in an infinite universe, and refuses to end for the same reason. It is all a suppressed middle, an unutterable and inexhaustible conjunction. "And, Mom," I said, "it is like the narrative that refuses to mask the essential and universal stillness, and so confines its remarks to what never happens."  
--from "Narrative Poetry"; Mark Strand


.....happy new year.....
[ Mound ; Phish (1992) ]

gr- Trey Anastasio 
ks- Page McConnell 
bs- Mike Gordon 
ds- Jon Fishman 


[ Winter Moonlight ; Charles Burchfield (1951) ]......


A Poem- for December 
What’s to know below stars,
epistle in afflated ash,
end truth of space environed
with rimy surface- somber 
freedom. Life measured
singular in night’s sound
quiet, when a faint world
balances off an epitaph 
read by wind with snow
in lunar light, slab ice
on engraved stone. Culled
from the sleep, foregone 
music unencumbered
by air strewn breath,
age drawn eyesight, pale
and in the grasp of infancy. 


It Is Enough To Enter
--Todd Boss 
the templar
halls of museums, for 
example, or
the chambers of churches,  
and admire
no more than the beauty  
there, or
remember the graveness 
of stone, or
whatever. You don’t  
have to do any
better. You don’t have to 
the liturgy or know history  
to feel holy
in a gallery or presbytery.  
It is enough
to have come just so far.  
You need
not be opened any more  
than does
a door, standing ajar. 


We Tend to Sleep Better When the Clock Is Wound
--Todd Boss 
than we do
when it’s all  
wound down.
I don’t know  
why we settle
to the sound.  
the regular  
click and chime
of passing time,  
like water, turns
a water wheel  
that turns a gear
that turns a stone  
that turns upon
another stone  
and fine
and finer in between  
our dreams like grain
are ground.


Alan Watts discusses the endless tyranny of mythologized tomorrow, perpetual adolescence, why being a symptom is better than being an alien and the tools necessary for resistance (via biblioklept/cultura prima):

Now you see when your identity is defined by society, you can not resist it, you don't have the knowledge, you don't have the wisdom, you don't have the resources to understand that something's been put over on you. You can not but help believe the definition of you as a free agent. But you believe yourself to be a free agent as a result of not being free. That is to say of being hopelessly unable to resist society's identification of you. So in the whole sense of our personality there is a contradiction. And that is why the sense of ego, of being oneself is simultaneously a sense of frustration. The feeling of I-ness so far as most people are concerned is a feeling of tension between the eyes and behind them. Trigant Burrow, a remarkable man did some studies about two kinds of awareness which he called di-tension and co-tension. Ditentive is the normal kind of awareness that we have of being a skin-encapsulated ego, of being separate from the environment and of confronting an external objective world of which we are the independent observer. And this myth, he said, goes hand in hand with a physical state which is a state of tension between the eyes. Then, he defined co-tension as another form of awareness which you might call a certain kind of openness in which you realize that the external world is just as much you as anything inside your skin. And that you are not something that comes into this world on probation and doesn't really belong. This is, you see, the attitude that we foster in the child, but that you are something not that comes not into the world but that comes out of it in the same way as a flower comes out of a plant or a fruit comes out of a tree. That you an expression, you as a human being are a symptom of nature. And that you really belong there and that furthermore your actual self, what is finally and fundamentally you is not a separate and lonely part of the world but the real you is the world itself, everything that there is, expressing itself as this particular organism here and now. And of course as you look across the room as all these other organisms in there here and now, we are all 'tits of the same sow' if I may put it so crudely. Or if you want it to put it more poetically - "raised from the same son".


Readers of this blog know my enjoyment of craft beer, and sitting in a brewery on a Friday or Saturday night talking with my wife or a friend is certainly an appreciated enjoyment. But equally so, the coffee shop. I started my coffee dawdling while a freshman in college and its been a regular habit ever since. Has always made for a time when I can appreciate both the primary and secondary aspects of life. This past Sunday evening (when I read quite a few blogs and scroll through various tumblr accounts) I happened to come across two coffee related posts: 

Go to a coffee shop. Sit by the bar with the glass windows and look out. Look at all the people running to catch a train. All the girls with one too many shopping bags. All the couples too in love to care. Then you’ll see it — a bit of yourself in everyone. And somehow, sitting alone in a coffee shop had never felt so good." 
--unknown (via parkstepp
“Why do you like working in a coffee shop?” 
“I like watching a line of about 3,000 people turn their mood around with a cup of coffee. They could be coming to the coffee shop for many reasons, including escaping something. It’s an environment that gets people excited, pumps blood into their minds, makes them more productive, and inspires this kind of energy that people want to use for the rest of their day. 
“I like the flavor of a really vibrant and yet smooth cup of coffee and the ambience of a coffee shop with Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong doing their duet in the background. You can look outside the windows and sometimes catch the rays of sunrise. 
“A lot goes into why I love coffee shops and why I chose to work in one. If I had to do a mundane job, it would be at a coffee shop. I’d like to instill the idea that, at least for those parts of my day when I’m drifting out and zoning out from the everyday banalities that go on, I can look at some person who is sitting quietly with their cup of coffee across the café and relate to how they are going through an almost spiritual experience in the way they taste their coffee, their emotions, what fragile state they may be in, and why they are at my coffee shop. 
It’s the beauty and solitude of a person alone.”   
--from Portraits of America



(v.) to gaze into the distance
without thinking or doing anything

During the warmer months, sitting on the porch listening to song birds in the maples, same waves of wind, mountainous clouds. In winter, watching snowfall contour the landscape, later that night from the kitchen window, blue moonlight, the silent stretch of the tulip tree in the front yard, its earthen shadow humming with sighs and laughter.  


From the nightstand, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki (and His Years of Pilgrimage) by Haruki Murakami:

"The cook hates the waiter, and they both hate the customer," Haida said. "A line from the Arnold Wesker play, The Kitchen. People whose freedom is taken away always end up hating somebody. Right? I know I don't want to live like that." 
"Never being constrained, thinking about things freely-- that's what you are hoping for?" 
"But it seems to me that thinking about things freely can't be easy." 
"It means leaving behind your physical body. Leaving the cage of your physical flesh, breaking free of chains, and letting pure logic soar free. Giving a natural life to logic. That's the core of free thought." 
"It doesn't sound easy." 
"Haida shook his head. "No, depending on how you look at it, it's not that hard. Most people do it at times, without even realizing it. That's how they manage to stay sane. They're just not aware that's what they're doing...." 
"But unless you can do that intentionally." Tsukuru said, "you can't achieve real freedom of thought you're talking about, right?" 
"Exactly...  ......What I'm looking for here is a free environment, and time. That's all. In an academic setting if you want to discuss what it means to think, you first need to agree on a theoretical definition. And that's where things get sticky. Originality is nothing but judicious imitation. So said Voltaire, the realist." 
"You agree with that?" 
"Everything has boundaries. The same holds true with thought. You shouldn't fear boundaries, but you also should not be afraid of destroying them. That's what is most important if you want to be free: respect for and exasperation with boundaries. What's really important in life is always the things that are secondary. That's all I can say."


With the shift in political climate that began last month, a 2010 essay from Haruki Murakami on his novel, IQ84, becomes even more pertinent than when published six years ago:

Let’s call the world we actually have now Reality A and the world that we might have had if 9/11 had never happened Reality B. Then we can’t help but notice that the world of Reality B appears to be realer and more rational than the world of Reality A. To put it in different terms, we are living a world that has an even lower level of reality than the unreal world. What can we possibly call this if not “chaos”? 
What kind of meaning can fiction have in an age like this? What kind of purpose can it serve? In an age when reality is insufficiently real, how much reality can a fictional story possess? 
Surely, this is the problem that we novelists now face, the question that we have been given. The moment our minds crossed the threshold of the new century, we also crossed the threshold of reality once and for all. We had no choice but to make the crossing, finally, and, as we do so, our stories are being forced to change their structures. The novels and stories we write will surely become increasingly different in character and feel from those that have come before, just as 20th-century fiction is sharply and clearly differentiated from 19th-century fiction. 
The proper goal of a story is not to judge what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil. More important is for us to determine whether, inside us, the variable elements and the traditional elements are moving forward in harmony with each other, to determine whether individual stories and the communal stories inside us are joined at the root. 
In other words, the role of a story is to maintain the soundness of the spiritual bridge that has been constructed between the past and the future. New guidelines and morals emerge quite naturally from such an undertaking. For that to happen, we must first breathe deeply of the air of reality, the air of things-as-they-are, and we must stare unsparingly and without prejudice at the way stories are changing inside us. We must coin new words in tune with the breath of that change. 
In that sense, at the same time that fiction (story) is presently undergoing a severe test, it possesses an unprecedented opportunity. Of course fiction has always been assigned responsibility and questions to deal with in every age, but surely the responsibility and questions are especially great now. Story has a function that it alone can perform, and that is to “turn everything into a story.” To transform the things and events around us into the metaphor of the story form and to suggest the true nature of the situation in the dynamism of that substitution: that is story’s most important function. 
In my latest novel, 1Q84, I depict not George Orwell’s near future but the opposite— the near past — of 1984. What if there were a diffe- rent 1984, not the original 1984 we know, but another, transformed 1984? And what if we were suddenly thrown into such a world? There would be, of course, a groping toward a new reality. 
In the gap between Reality A and Reality B, in the inversion of realities, how far could we preserve our given values, and, at the same time, to what kind of new morals could we go on to give birth? This is one of the themes of the work. I spent three years writing this story, during which time I passed its hypothetical world through myself as a simulation. The chaos is still there — in full measure. 
But after a good deal of trial and error, I have a strong sense that I am finally getting it in story terms. Perhaps the solution begins from softly accepting chaos not as something that “should not be there,” to be rejected fundamentally in principle, but as something that “is there in actual fact.”


Autumn Haiku- 2016

wasting an hour
with thoughts that come and go
patio sparrows

empty stretch of freeway-
silhouette and absence
colors off the sunset

first gold of autumn receding into myself

new moon,
a cat prowls the yard
without a memory

my old school
oh how the leaves drift
long after recess

slow grey over
a clear blue afternoon-
I keep my peace

one last cricket
beside her I walk
a world our own

oak framed steeple
colors hang and speak
their silent presence

election day
cloud layers cover
inalienable blue

raking the yard,
the smell of last year and all
the years before that

green gone
to cinnamon and sepia,
rugged russet


[ House at Dusk ; Léon Spilliaert (1921) ]........


Like the Small Hole by the Path-Side Something Lives in
--Jane Hirshfield

Like the small hole by the path-side something lives in,
in me are lives I do not know the names of,

nor the fates of,
nor the hungers of or what they eat.

They eat of me.
Of small and blemished apples in low fields of me
whose rocky streams and droughts I do not drink.

And in my streets—the narrow ones,
unlabeled on the self-map—
they follow stairs down music ears can’t follow,

and in my tongue borrowed by darkness,
in hours uncounted by the self-clock,
they speak in restless syllables of other losses, other loves.

There too have been the hard extinctions,
missing birds once feasted on and feasting.

There too must be machines
like loud ideas with tungsten bits that grind the day.

A few escape. A mercy.

They leave behind
small holes that something unweighed by the self-scale lives in.


In Praise of Being Peripheral
--Jane Hirshfield 
Without philosophy,
a grey squirrel
very busy. 
Light as a soul
from a painting by Bosch,
its greens
and vermilions stripped off it. 
He climbs a tree
that is equally ahistoric. 
His heart works harder.


How Leonard might solo counterpoint to the angels.

[ Nardis ; Bill Evans Trio (1961)]

b- Scott LaFaro
p- Bill Evans
d- Paul Motian


The Troubadour's Departure, musings from Theo Dorgan at The Irish Times on the passing of Leonard Cohen:

When the long, pale riders come down from the hills,
down from the edge of the forest on their tall horses,
coming easy and slow with all the time in the world,
relaxed and looking about them as they always do,
a cold wind will come on ahead of them,
bending the heavy grasses up through the valley.

This is what happens the day they come for a singer,
always a wind when they come for one of their own.

The old people say, the singers are always at home
the day the riders come steadily up through the valley,
relaxed and looking about them as they always do,
the fair huntress, the three dark brothers.
When they come for a singer, they’re coming to bring him home,
that’s what they say, the old people who know.

Leonard has lately been singing us songs of the road,
this is what happens before they come down from the hills.

The women will bare their breasts down in the harvest,
the men will come in from the hunt, solemn and silent,
the children too will be silent, gathering to the singer,
and the oldest woman among us will sing the farewell.
The tall huntress will lead up the strong black horse,
the saddle crested with silver – stars and a moon.

This is what happens, the day they come for a singer,
they lead up a riderless horse to bring him away.

Gracias, Señora, gracias for the loan of Leonard,
let him speak kindly of us when he goes home.
Gracias, Señora, gracias for the gift of Leonard,
let him speak kindly of this place when he comes home.