[Image: “Storyteller,” by user fobach (Pieterjan Hanselaer) on Flickr. (Used under a Creative Commons license; click to enlarge.) The Dutch text says (per the English translation) “I followed the trail of my uncles. From the forest, at the edge of the Makokibatan Lake, the morning sounds arose.” No other information seems to be available for this mysterious image. For what it’s worth, though, you can find a lake by that name in Ontario, Canada.]
From whiskey river:
Food, fire, walks, dreams, cold, sleep, love, slowness, time, quiet, books, seasons — all these things, which are not really things, but moments of life — take on a different quality at night-time, where the moon reflects the light of the sun, and we have time to reflect what life is to us, knowing that it passes, and that every bit of it, in its change and its difference, is the here and now of what we have.
Life is too short to be all daylight. Night is not less; it’s more.
(Jeanette Winterson [source])
Sometimes I think all the best poems
have been written already,
and no one has time to read them,
so why try to write more?
At other times though,
I remember how one flower
in a meadow already full of flowers
somehow adds to the general fireworks effect
as you get to the top of a hill
in Colorado, say, in high summer
and just look down at all that brimming color.
I also try to convince myself
that the smallest note of the smallest
instrument in the band,
the triangle for instance,
is important to the conductor
who stands there, pointing his finger
in the direction of the percussions,
demanding that one silvery ping.
And I decide not to stop trying,
at least not for a while, though in truth
I’d rather just sit here reading
how someone else has been acquainted
with the night already, and perfectly.
(Linda Pastan [source])
Stars were the first text, the first instance of gabbiness; connecting the stars, making a pattern out of them, was the first story, sacred to storytellers. But the moon was the first poem, in the lyric sense, an entity complete in itself, recognizable at a glance, one that played upon the emotions so strongly that the context of time and place hardly seemed to matter.
(Mary Ruefle [source])
(from) Body and Soul
(for Coleman Hawkins)
I used to think the power of words was inexhaustible,
That how we said the world
was how it was, and how it would be.
I used to imagine that word-sway and word-thunder
Would silence the Silence and all that,
That worlds were the Word,
That language could lead us inexplicably to grace,
As though it were geographical.
I used to think these things when I was young.
I still do.
(Charles Wright [source (the whole poem)*])
Not from whiskey river:
The concepts of time and the sky have only diverged as the brightness of each settled place blots out and separates it from whatever worlds there are beyond, both earthly and celestial. Our very word for hour, the root for time and season, was originally used to represent the precincts of the sky. When Sappho, watching the moon and Pleiades set, writes, mesai de nuktes, para d’erket’ ora “It is the middle of the night, the hours go by,” she does not refer to time abstractly passing, but to the constellations that pass overhead as she watches…
Of all the different hours of day I have loved most the last hour before dawn, the last frieze of stars when the horn of the sun meets the horizon on the celestial equator and stops the zodiac like a dial.
That the zodiac were signs in the pictorial-alphabetic sense was a revelation to me. The first time I looked up and recognized Aquarius — not with a chart, but by the silver wavelets, the drops that fell around it (and seemed to float, and perfectly to represent the universal ancient sign for water, a single wave, which ultimately works its way into our alphabet as the letter m) — and Scorpio by its bright red heart, they became my toys from childhood, present everywhere without having to be brought, and I could feel through their grip on my imagination how pervasive their influence had been.
(Susan Brind Morrow [source])
Acquainted with the Night
I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,
But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky
Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night
(Robert Frost [source])
Bashō, with your grass pillow, what underground sounds come into your dreams?
Do blue-horned beetles scratch against the starless night sky that lines your head
with the starless night skies of their own domed backs? Do centipedes trickle through?
Do worms burrow with their snouts, with their bodies that are entirely snouts?
Snoozer, I can only ask you this because now you are dead asleep:
Do I ever appear as a nightcrawler whispering in your ear?
Are the words, “I love you,” as soft as the cough of a good luck cricket?
Each “Appleblossom” is a verse translation from the Japanese of a short selection from the notebooks of Chiri, Bashō’s traveling companion during the years between Withered Chestnuts and Travelogue of Weatherbeaten Bones.
(Eric Ekstrand [source])
* …and if you don’t know what Coleman Hawkins has to do with a poem titled “Body and Soul,” you might sample this post in my “What’s in a Song?” series.