Where Does the Dance Begin, Where Does It End?

“Don’t call this world adorable, or useful, that’s not it.
It’s frisky, and a theater for more than fair winds.
The eyelash of lightning is neither good nor evil.
The struck tree burns like a pillar of gold.

But the blue rain sinks, straight to the white
feet of the trees
whose mouths open.
Doesn’t the wind, turning in circles, invent the dance?
Haven’t the flowers moved, slowly, across Asia, then Europe,
until at last, now, they shine
in your own yard?

Don’t call this world an explanation, or even an education.

When the Sufi poet whirled, was he looking
outward, to the mountains so solidly there
in a white-capped ring, or was he looking

to the center of everything: the seed, the egg, the idea
that was also there,
beautiful as a thumb
curved and touching the finger, tenderly,
little love-ring,

as he whirled,
oh jug of breath,
in the garden of dust?

~ Mary Oliver – from Why I Wake Early (2004)

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On turning ten

“The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I’m coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light–
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.”

~ Billy Collins

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Leave The Light On

“If I were young again, I’d pay attention – To that little-known dimension
A taste in endless time
Just like water – it runs right through our fingers
But the flavor of it lingers – Like a rich, red wine
In those days we were single – we lived them one by one –
Now we hardly see ’em – they don’t walk – they run
But I got plenty left I’ve set my sight on
Don’t wait up – Leave the light on – I’ll be – home – soon

I’ve never seen my life in such a hurry – But if I start to worry – I get left behind
It’s just a party, but you don’t get invitations – and there’s just one destination
You better be on time
For years of rhyming couplets – And we sang ’em two by two
Now we hardly rhyme at all – but here’s a few
And if they heard there’s bullets left to bite on
Don’t wait up – Leave the light on – I’ll be – home – soon

That drummer in my head needs inspiration
There’s a lack of syncopation – little holes need to align
It’s just hard to leave these cages that we’re stuck in
By stages we’re just sinkin’ – to a slow decline
For years we lived in waltzin’ time – we danced them three by three
Now it’s hard to dance, but if you stick with me –
We’ve got what we need to spend the night on –
Don’t wait up – Leave the light on – I’ll be – home – soon

These races that we’ve run were not for glory – No moral to this story –
We run for peace of mind
But the race we’re running now is never-ending – since space and time are bending
There’s no finish line –
If I live to be a hundred – I was born in ’44 – 36 to go, but I ain’t keepin’ score –
I been left for dead before – but I still fight on – Don’t wait up – Leave the light on
I’ll be home soon

I been left for dead before – but I still fight on – Don’t wait up – Leave the light on
I’ll be home soon”
~ Chris Smither

To go on . . .

“…It must be
under all the struggle
we want to go on.

It must be,
that deep down,
we are creatures
getting ready
for when we are needed.

It must be that waiting
for the listening ear
or the appreciative word,
for the right
woman or the right man
or the right moment
just to ourselves,

we are getting ready
just to be ready

and nothing else.

Like this moment
just before the guests arrive
working
alone in the kitchen
sensing a deep
down symmetry
in every blessed thing.

The way
that everything
unbeknownst
to us
is preparing
to meet us too.

Just on the other
side of the door
someone
is about to knock
and our life
is just
about to change

and finally
after all these
years rehearsing,
behind
the curtain,

we might
just be
ready
to go on.”

David Whyte –from ‘Waiting to Go On’: in ‘River Flow: New and Selected Poems

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All my stirring

“I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.

Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me,
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.

Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.

After days of labor,
mute in my consternations,
I hear my song at last,
and I sing it. As we sing,
the day turns, the trees move.”
~ Wendall Barry

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