Archives For Poetry

A life without love is of no account. Don’t ask yourself what kind of love you should seek, spiritual or material, divine or mundane, Eastern or Western. Divisions only lead to more divisions. Love has no labels, no definitions. It is what it is, pure and simple. Love is the water of life. And a lover is a soul of fire! The universe turns differently when fire loves water.

~ quoted from The Forty Words of Love, by Elif Shafak (a historical novel about the Sufi mystics Rumi and Shams Tabrizi, which I read during Burning Man)


Fire in a Burning Man sculpture
Fire spreads across the roof of a sculpture at Burning Man


This year, I’ve gained a new interest in personal spiritual experience — so my approach to Burning Man 2016 was very different. In the past, I’ve focused on art and dancing and stuff, with triumphant articles like The Best Art At Burning Man 2015. (Note: Anything I say about Burning Man that includes the word “best” is a joke.)

So this year I did less art-hunting, but there’s always plenty to see. On my way to the desert, I was reading Shunryu Suzuki’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind and I encountered a section with this heading:

No Trace: When you do something, you should burn yourself completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.

One of Burning Man’s Ten Principles is Leaving No Trace. Officially, this is about our environmental impact — we don’t want to leave a mess in the fragile desert. But Suzuki started the San Francisco Zen Center, which became active before Burning Man began in San Francisco, and someone in the original Burning Man crew probably read the book.

Continue Reading…

Feb 14

I Live In Your Eyes

This is part of a poem by Farouk Goweedah. It was originally written in Arabic and translated by someone named Fisal, whose last name I regrettably do not know, and who posted his translation of Goweedah’s poem here, under the title “I Live In Your Eyes.” (I slightly modified a few lines.)

​Your love is my faith,
my forgiveness and my disobedience.
I met you with hope
remaining in my arms
like spring without a bird.
On the ruins of a garden,
the winds of sadness squeeze me
and laugh in my chest.
I love you like an oasis
on which all my sorrows have calmed.
I love you like an aura
that sings my songs to people’s silence.
I love you like an ecstasy that runs and fires my volcano.
I love you, meeting me like morning light.
Love has killed many lovers,
and your love has given life to me.
And if I were to choose a home,
I would say:
My home is your love.
And if I were to forget you,
my heart would forget me.
And if I lost my way,
I would live in your eyes.

Feb 14

Tanith Lee on love

My favorite author is named Tanith Lee. I’ve previously posted a favorite Lee quotation, Disturbed By Her Song. That’s a beautiful one, though it seems sad to me. Here are two more bits from Lee’s writing about love.

From The Silver Metal Lover:

A rose by any other name
Would get the blame
For being what it is —
The color of a kiss,
The shadow of a flame.

A rose may earn another name,
So call it love;
So call it love I will.
And love is like the sea,
Which changes constantly,
And yet is still
The same.

From Delirium’s Mistress:

“Love is everywhere,” said Chuz gently, stroking her hair, “and the death of love. And time, which is built of the histories of death and love. Death and time I had always conceded, and acknowledged. And now I see plainly what love is. Not in you, pretty, mortal child. But in my arms that comfort you for wounding me, in my hands which soothe you for it, in my words which say to you, in despite of me, Do whatever you must. This lesson I will not remember. Nor shall I ever forget.”

(Delirium’s Mistress is part of the Flat Earth series, which is one of the best fantasy series ever written. It’s incredible and I strongly recommend it to anyone, even if they think they don’t like fantasy. The first book in the series is called Night’s Master.)

Jul 17

The malocclusions, the inconditions of love

I don’t have kids, although I hope my life works out so that someday I do. I know people who are very pro-kid and very anti-kid, but I don’t hold strong opinions about how other people should think about having kids.

Yet years ago, I was attending the wonderful Printer’s Ball out in Chicago, and I picked up a postcard printed with this poem about children. It really struck me. I’ve kept the postcard ever since:

People who have no children can be hard:
Attain a mail of ice and insolence:
Need not pause in the fire, and in no sense
Hesitate in the hurricane to guard.
And when wide world is bitten and bewarred
They perish purely, waving their spirits hence
Without a trace of grace or of offense
To laugh or fail, diffident, wonder-starred.
While through a throttling dark we others hear
The little lifting helplessness, the queer
Whimper-whine; whose unridiculous
Lost softness softly makes a trap for us.
And makes a curse. And makes a sugar of
The malocclusions, the inconditions of love.

That’s the first stanza of Gwendolyn Brooks’ 1949 poem, “The Children of the Poor.”

Jan 11

The faded-sky poem My November Guest

Whenever I find myself within a cold, faded, white-skied day, I think of Robert Frost’s extraordinary 1915 poem My November Guest.

It’s not November, but here’s my day:

And here’s Frost:

My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She’s glad the birds are gone away,
She’s glad her simple worsted gray
Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise.