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Half-full, Half-empty?

Posted by Cyn | Posted in NaBloPoMo | Posted on 15-06-2012

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Today’s NaBloPo­Mo prompt: “Is the glass half-full or half-emp­ty?”

It’s half-full, and things are get­ting bet­ter all the time.

Last night as I was sleep­ing
I dreamt — mar­velous error!—
that I had a bee­hive
here inside my heart.
And the gold­en bees
were mak­ing white combs
and sweet hon­ey
from my old fail­ures.
Anto­nio Macha­do

Madeleine L’Engle’s Poetry

Posted by Cyn | Posted in | Posted on 17-08-2008

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I’ve been ter­ri­bly sur­prised that most peo­ple have nev­er even heard of Madeleine L’Engle’s works oth­er than A Wrin­kle in Time
. She has writ­ten many oth­er books for young adults, fic­tion and non-fic­tion for adults, and sev­er­al vol­umes of poet­ry. Her Cross­wicks Jour­nals are very spe­cial to me, but the bits of the poet­ry are eas­i­er to share with you. Both of these were reprint­ed in a fair­ly recent book, The Order­ing of Love.

There is a line that haunts me, and I can­not find the source now but I know it was from some­thing Ms. L’Engle wrote. She speaks of reach­ing out in the dark of night to her sleep­ing hus­band, sim­ply to rest her hand upon him in “affir­ma­tion of incar­na­tion.” The image is so sim­ple, yet so pow­er­ful. If you find the source, I’d very much appre­ci­ate it if you would let me know.

To a Long-Loved Love

(i)

We, who have seen the new moon grow old togeth­er,
Who have seen win­ter rime the fields and stones
As though it would claim earth and water for­ev­er,
We who have known the touch of flesh and the shape of bones
Know the old moon stretch­ing its shad­ows across a whitened field
More beau­ti­ful than spring with all its spate of blooms
What pas­sions knowl­edge of tried flesh still yields,
What joy and com­fort these famil­iar rooms.

(ii)

In the moon­less, lam­p­less dark now of this bed
My body knows each line and curve of yours;
My fin­gers know the shape of limb and head:
As pure as math­e­mat­ics ecsta­sy endures.
Blind­ed by night and love we share our pas­sion,
Cer­tain of burn­ing flesh, of liv­ing bone:
So feels the sculp­tor in the moment of cre­ation
Mov­ing his hands across the uncut stone.

(iii)

I know why a star gives light
Shin­ing qui­et­ly in the night;
Arith­metic helps me unrav­el
The hours and years this light must trav­el
To pen­e­trate our atmos­phere.
I can count the craters on the moon
With tele­scopes to make them clear.
With del­i­cate instru­ments I can mea­sure
The secrets of baro­met­ric pres­sure.

And there­fore I find it inex­press­ibly queer
That with my own soul I am out of tune,
And that i have not stum­bled on the art
Of fore­cast­ing the weath­er of the heart.

(iv)

You are still new, my love. I do not know you.
Stranger beside me in the dark of bed,
Dream­ing the dreams I can­not ever enter,
Eyes closed in that unknown, famil­iar head.
Who are you, who have thrust and entered
My very being, pen­e­trat­ed so that now
I can nev­er again be whol­ly sep­a­rate,
Bound by shared liv­ing to this unkown thou?
I do not know you, nor do you know me,
And yet we know each oth­er in the way
Of our pri­mor­dial for­bears in the gar­den,
Adam knew Eve. As we do, so did they.
They, we, for­ev­er strangers: Aus­tere but true.
And yet I would not change it. You are still new.

(v)

Words must be said, and silences be kept,
Yet, that word bet­ter left unheard, unspo­ken,
Like that unsaid, can wound. O Love, I’ve wept
From words, have thought my heart was bro­ken
From the looked-for word unut­tered. Where
Silence should speak loud, we speak instead.
Where words of love would heal we do not dare
To voice them: From sound and silence both have fled.
Yet love grows through those qui­et deep­en­ing hours
When silence fills the emp­ty bound­less spaces
Twixt flesh and flesh. Word­less­ness is ours
And love is nour­ished through unspo­ken graces.
But O my love, as I need dai­ly bread
I need the words of love which must be said.

(vi)

Nei­ther sadist nor masochist, I still
Must turn to vio­lence: break, be bro­ken.
False image of myself I beg you: kill.
Help me destroy the one of you I’ve spo­ken
With­in my wil­ful heart. It is no more you
Than I am all that I would wish to be.
I can­not real­ly love you till I hew
All these pro­jec­tions of an unre­al me,
An imaged you, to shards. Then death
Will have a chance to free me for cre­ation.
God! All this dying has me out of breath.
How do I under­stand rein­car­na­tion?
But if I burst all bonds of self-pro­tec­tion
Then may I find us both in res­ur­rec­tion.

The Monkey

Silence is dan­ger­ous
We nev­er per­mit it.
Our vocab­u­lary may not be large
But there is no ques­tion that we put it
to con­stant use.
That’s what things are for:
to be used. And used.
And used.
Who knows?
If we didn’t talk and chat­ter from morn­ing
till night (it doesn’t mat­ter
whether or not any­body lis­tens; that’s
not the point),
Words might start using us.
We nev­er allow silence.
If some­times it catch­es us unaware,
I am the first to screech across it
And shat­ter it to echo­ing frag­ments.
You nev­er can tell:
if I lis­tened to the silence
I might dis­cov­er
that I am real.

Instruments (1)

The sky is strung with glo­ry.
Light threads from star to star
from sun to sun
a liv­ing harp.
I rejoice, I sing, I leap upwards to play.
The music is in light.
My fin­gers pluck the vibrant strings;
the notes pulse, throb, in exul­tant har­mo­ny;
I beat my wings against the strands
that reach across the galax­ies
I play

NO

It is not I who play
it is the music
the music plays itself
is played
plays me
small part of an innu­mer­able
unnum­ber­able
orches­tra.
I am flung from note to note
impaled on melody
my wings are caught on throb­bing fil­a­ments of light
the wild cords cut my pin­ions
my arms are out­stretched
are bound by ropes of coun­ter­point
I am cross-eagled on the singing that is strung
from puls­ing star
to flam­ing sun
to

I burn in a blaze of song.

Instruments (2)

Hold me against the dark: I am afraid.
Cir­cle me with your arms. I am made
So tiny and my atoms so unsta­ble
That at any moment I may explode. I am unable
To con­tain myself in uni­ty. My out­lines shiv­er
With the shock of liv­ing. I endeav­or
To hold the I as one only for the cloud
Of which I am a frag­ment, yet to which I’m vowed
To be respon­si­ble. Its light against my face
Reveals the wit­ness of the stars, each in its place
Singing, each com­passed by the rest,
The many joined to one, the might­i­est to the least.
It is so great a thing to be an infin­i­tes­i­mal part
of this immea­sur­able orches­tra the music bursts the heart,
And from this tiny plo­sion all the frag­ments join:
Joy orders the dis­uni­ty until the song is one.

Lines Scrib­bled on an Enve­lope and Oth­er Poems, Copy­right &© 1969 by Madeleine L’Engle Franklin, pub­lished by Far­rar, Straus and Giroux

The Weath­er of the Heart, Copy­right &© 1978 Cross­wicks, pub­lished by Harold Shaw Pub­lish­ers

For more Madeleine L’Engle:

Poetry: Jane Kenyon

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Critters, Poetry | Posted on 12-06-2008

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The Blue Bowl
by Jane Keny­on

Like prim­i­tives we buried the cat
with his bowl. Bare-hand­ed
we scraped sand and grav­el
back into the hole.
                               They fell with a hiss
and thud on his side,
on his long red fur, the white feath­ers
between his toes, and his
long, not to say aquiline, nose.

We stood and brushed each oth­er off.
There are sor­rows keen­er than these.

Silent the rest of the day, we worked,
ate, stared, and slept. It stormed
all night; now it clears, and a robin
bur­bles from a drip­ping bush
like the neigh­bor who means well
but always says the wrong thing.

Oth­er­wise: New & Select­ed Poems

Poetry Question

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Poetry, Reading | Posted on 18-04-2008

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In hon­or of Nation­al Poet­ry Month, the Acad­e­my of Amer­i­can Poets has been send­ing out a poem a day via email to sub­scribers. I’m enjoy­ing them, but one of them just…

Have you ever found the form of a poem to be so weird that it gets into the way of the mean­ing? I’m find­ing that to be the case with “Fer­rum” by M. NourbeSe Philip. I did get the words, but the for­mat was so dis­tract­ing as to make read­ing a chore, rather than a plea­sure.

Poetry: Edna St. Vincent Millay

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Poetry | Posted on 12-02-2008

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I want­ed to do some­thing dif­fer­ent for today’s Thing-a-Day, and I signed up to be part of Live Read­ings a while back but hadn’t record­ed any­thing yet, so I’m post­ing this is both (all three?) places.

“What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, and Where, and Why (Son­net XLIII)”
by Edna St. Vin­cent Mil­lay

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have for­got­ten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morn­ing; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and lis­ten for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a qui­et pain
For unre­mem­bered lads that not again
Will turn to me at mid­night with a cry.
Thus in win­ter stands the lone­ly tree,
Nor knows what birds have van­ished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I can­not say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that sum­mer sang in me
A lit­tle while, that in me sings no more.

From Col­lect­ed Poems by Edna St. Vin­cent Mil­lay

Music is “Cel­e­bra­tion” by Mark Hei­mo­nen from the Pod­safe Music Net­work

Reading Matters

Posted by Cyn | Posted in | Posted on 02-02-2008

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You must read, Alice, before it’s too late. You must fill your mind with the invent­ed images of the past; the more the bet­ter. These images, apart from any­thing else, will help you put the two and twos of life togeth­er, and the more images your mind retains, the more won­der­ful will be the star-stud­ded canopy of expe­ri­ence beneath which you, poor prim­i­tive crea­ture that you are, will shel­ter; the near­er you will creep to the great blaz­ing bea­con of the Idea which ani­mates us all.
 — Fay Wel­don, Let­ters to Alice: On First Read­ing Jane Austen

I read. I read a lot. I read while stand­ing in line any­where, while eat­ing (unless I have some­one to talk to, of course), any time my eyes aren’t required to do some­thing else. I almost always have sev­er­al books in progress and love the fact that I can car­ry an entire library in my hand now, thanks to ebooks! I don’t read as many peri­od­i­cals as I once did, but with blogs and such, I read more than ever!

I learned to read fair­ly ear­ly, thanks to my won­der­ful moth­er who read to me and my sib­lings (and my daugh­ter!). After find­ing me puz­zling over her old high school lit­er­a­ture book at age 6, try­ing to make sense of Beowulf, 1 she began patient­ly cart­ing me back and forth to the library at least once a week. She encour­aged a love of the writ­ten word that drove me to improve my read­ing skills, and I cred­it any aca­d­e­m­ic (or oth­er) suc­cess to that skill more than any oth­er. Katie and I spent a lot of time read­ing togeth­er when she was younger, until she became a con­fi­dent read­er on her own. She’s an avid read­er now, and takes a book with her every­where just as I do.

Since the writ­ten word is so impor­tant to me, it’s only rea­son­able that I have parts of my site ded­i­cat­ed to it. I’ve list­ed most of the books (and music and movies) I own in a Read­er­ware data­base. I just can’t rec­om­mend that soft­ware high­ly enough! It can export a nice list of the books, which I keep intend­ing to upload here. If I were smarter, I’d fig­ure out how to make it work with GoodReads. Some­day! I’ve let go of many of my books (and CDs) over the last few years and moves, since I’ve switched almost entire­ly to dig­i­tal media any­way.

Because I read almost all ebooks now, Cal­i­bre is vital to man­ag­ing my book col­lec­tion. It runs on Mac, PC, and Lin­ux box­en.

I used to write a lot of poet­ry and short sto­ries, but most of that has been lost to time. If any­one out there has any fic­tion or poet­ry that I shared with you at some time, I’d real­ly appre­ci­ate a copy.

There are a few authors who I love so much that I’ve made pages with sam­ples of their poet­ry. I post pieces by oth­er poets from time to time in my blog here. There are also a fair num­ber of poet­ry posts in my Live­Jour­nal that haven’t been post­ed here (yet).

Final­ly, these are some pieces I find inspi­ra­tional.


1 What can I say? I was real­ly bored dur­ing sum­mer break between first and sec­ond grades. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, my par­ents’ home con­tains very few books oth­er than the Bible, children’s books, and (when I was lit­tle, at least) a cou­ple of Mom’s old text­books and an set of World Book ency­clo­pe­dias from around 1960. The ency­clo­pe­dias are long gone. They don’t even own book­shelves!

Poetry: Michael Blumenthal

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Poetry, Reading, Relationships | Posted on 29-01-2008

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For my Sam

A Mar­riage
You are hold­ing up a ceil­ing
with both arms. It is very heavy,
but you must hold it up, or else
it will fall down on you. Your arms
are tired, ter­ri­bly tired,
and, as the day goes on, it feels
as if either your arms or the ceil­ing
will soon col­lapse.

But then,
unex­pect­ed­ly,
some­thing won­der­ful hap­pens:
Some­one,
a man or a woman,
walks into the room
and holds their arm up
to the ceil­ing beside you.

So you final­ly get
to take down your arms.
You feel the relief of respite,
the blood flow­ing back
to your fin­gers and arms.
And when your partner’s arms tire,
you hold up your own
to relieve him again.

And it can go on like this
for many years
with­out the house falling.

From Against Romance: Poems by Michael Blu­men­thal, Pen­guin Books, 1988

R.I.P. Madeleine L’Engle

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Reading, Spirituality | Posted on 05-11-2007

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I start­ed this post on Sep­tem­ber 7, the day after the grand lady moved on to find out what’s next. I find myself cer­tain that she wasn’t afraid, that she looked for­ward to a reunion with her hus­band Hugh and oth­ers who had gone before. And yet I, who nev­er even met her in per­son, was too upset to fin­ish the post or even look at it again for two months.

Poetry: Robert Frost

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Poetry, Reading | Posted on 30-10-2007

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The Arm­ful
For every par­cel I stoop down to seize
I lose some oth­er off my arms and knees,
And the whole pile is slip­ping, bot­tles, buns,
Extremes too hard to com­pre­hend at once.
Yet noth­ing I should care to leave behind.
With all I have to hold with hand and mind
And heart, if need be, I will do my best.
To keep their build­ing bal­anced at my breast.
I crouch down to pre­vent them as they fall;
Then sit down in the mid­dle of them all.
I had to drop the arm­ful in the road
And try to stack them in a bet­ter load.

By Robert Frost