from an address to poets, in Raids on the Unspeakable:

“Let us be proud of the words that are given to us for nothing; not to teach anyone, not to confute anyone, not to prove anyone absurd, but to point beyond all objects into the silence where nothing can be said.
We are not persuaders. We are the children of the unknown. We are the ministers of silence that is needed to cure all victims of absurdity who lie dying of a contrived joy.”


R.S. Thomas

The Word

A pen appeared, and the god said:
‘Write what it is to be
man.’ And my hand hovered
long over the bare page,

until there, like footprints
of the lost traveller, letters
took shape on the page’s
blankness, and I spelled out

the word ‘lonely’. And my hand moved
to erase it; but the voices
of all those waiting at life’s
window cried out loud: ‘It is true.’

for the new year


                  – Tomas Transtromer, trans. by Robert Bly

At time my life suddenly opens its eyes in the dark.

A feeling of masses of people pushing blindly

through the streets, excitedly, toward some miracle,

while I remain here and no one sees me.

It is like the child who falls asleep in terror

listening to the heavy thumps of his heart.

For a long, long time till morning he puts his light in the locks

and the doors of darkness open.

and this

At the Fishhouses
Elizabeth Bishop

Although it is a cold evening,
down by one of the fishhouses
an old man sits netting,
his net, in the gloaming almost invisible,
a dark purple-brown,
and his shuttle worn and polished.
The air smells so strong of codfish
it makes one’s nose run and one’s eyes water.
The five fishhouses have steeply peaked roofs
and narrow, cleated gangplanks slant up
to storerooms in the gables
for the wheelbarrows to be pushed up and down on.
All is silver: the heavy surface of the sea,
swelling slowly as if considering spilling over,
is opaque, but the silver of the benches,
the lobster pots, and masts, scattered
among the wild jagged rocks,
is of an apparent translucence
like the small old buildings with an emerald moss
growing on their shoreward walls.
The big fish tubs are completely lined
with layers of beautiful herring scales
and the wheelbarrows are similarly plastered
with creamy iridescent coats of mail,
with small iridescent flies crawling on them.
Up on the little slope behind the houses,
set in the sparse bright sprinkle of grass,
is an ancient wooden capstan,
cracked, with two long bleached handles
and some melancholy stains, like dried blood,
where the ironwork has rusted.
The old man accepts a Lucky Strike.
He was a friend of my grandfather.
We talk of the decline in the population
and of codfish and herring
while he waits for a herring boat to come in.
There are sequins on his vest and on his thumb.
He has scraped the scales, the principal beauty,
from unnumbered fish with that black old knife,
the blade of which is almost worn away.

Down at the water’s edge, at the place
where they haul up the boats, up the long ramp
descending into the water, thin silver
tree trunks are laid horizontally
across the gray stones, down and down
at intervals of four or five feet.

Cold dark deep and absolutely clear,
element bearable to no mortal,
to fish and to seals . . . One seal particularly
I have seen here evening after evening.
He was curious about me. He was interested in music;
like me a believer in total immersion,
so I used to sing him Baptist hymns.
I also sang “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”
He stood up in the water and regarded me
steadily, moving his head a little.
Then he would disappear, then suddenly emerge
almost in the same spot, with a sort of shrug
as if it were against his better judgment.
Cold dark deep and absolutely clear,
the clear gray icy water . . . Back, behind us,
the dignified tall firs begin.
Bluish, associating with their shadows,
a million Christmas trees stand
waiting for Christmas. The water seems suspended
above the rounded gray and blue-gray stones.
I have seen it over and over, the same sea, the same,
slightly, indifferently swinging above the stones,
icily free above the stones,
above the stones and then the world.
If you should dip your hand in,
your wrist would ache immediately,
your bones would begin to ache and your hand would burn
as if the water were a transmutation of fire
that feeds on stones and burns with a dark gray flame.
If you tasted it, it would first taste bitter,
then briny, then surely burn your tongue.
It is like what we imagine knowledge to be:
dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free,
drawn from the cold hard mouth
of the world, derived from the rocky breasts
forever, flowing and drawn, and since
our knowledge is historical, flowing, and flown.

get a load of this

The Half-Finished Heaven
Tomas Tranströmer

Despondency breaks off its course.
Anguish breaks off its course.
The vulture breaks off its flight.

The eager light streams out,
even ghosts take a draught.

And our paintings see the daylight,
our red beasts of the ice-age studios.

Everything begins to look around.
We walk in the sun in the hundreds.

Each man is a half-open door
leading to a room for everyone.

The endless ground under us.

The water is shining among the trees.

The lake is a window into the earth.

Billy Collins

A little something from that good poet who has graced our bathroom for years… for some reason his books are the perfect size, mood, whatever for bathroom reading, in a significant way. Hope that isn’t an insult. I don’t mean it as one.


It is a big question to pose so early in teh morning
or “in the light woven by birds”
as the Estonians say,
but still I must ask what is my place in life?
my “seat on the invisible train,”
as they say in Hungary.
I mean why am I sitting here
in a lawn chair listening to a thrush,
“the little entertainer of the woods,”
as the Swiss call him,
while out there in the world
mobs of people are rushing over bridges
in and out of the cities?
Vegetables grow heavy in their fields,
clouds fly across the “face of the earth,”
as we call it in English,
and sometimes rockets lift off in the distance–
and I mean that quite literally,
“from the top of the table” as the Potuguese have it,
real rockets rising from the horizon,
or “the big line,” if you’re an Australian,
leaving behind rich gowns of exhaust smoke

Wendell Berry spoke to me in the tub this morning

The Man Born to Farming

The grower of trees, the gardener, the man born to farming,
whose hands reach into the ground and sprout,
to him the soil is a divine drug. He enters into death
yearly, and comes back rejoicing. He has seen the light lie down
in the dung heap, and rise again in the corn.
His thought passes along the row end like a mole.
What  miraculous seed has he swallowed
that the unending sentence of his love flows out of his mouth
like a vine clinging in the sunlight, and like water
descending in the dark?

February 2, 1968

In the dark of the moon, in flying snow, in the dead of winter,
war spreading, families dying, the world in danger,
I walk the rocky hillside, sowing clover.

To Know the Dark

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

little quotes from an interview with Marilynne Robinson

“I am not sure religion is meant to assuage loneliness. Who was ever lonelier than Jesus? ‘Can you not watch with me one hour?’ I think loneliness is the encounter with oneself—who can be great or terrible company, but who does ask all the essential questions. There is a tendency to think of loneliness as a symptom, a sign that life has gone wrong. But it is never only that. I sometimes think it is the one great prerequisite for depth, and for truthfulness.”

“I have a feeling that there has been a pressure away from seriousness in much modern thought, as if we could sort of scale reality down to a size that we are more comfortable living with. That might be a prejudice, but I feel that we have not come up to the standards of seriousness that others have reached at earlier moments. The loss of seriousness seems to me to be, in effect, a loss of hope.”

Michael D. O’Brien Paintings

Hello all,

Sorry, a mini blog vacay already.

I’m worried that I’m about to do something illegal (is it illegal to put pictures from the internet somewhere else on the internet? I don’t know.)

I found these thumbnails of O’Brien’s paintings earlier this week and they really shook me, in a good way. Iconic.

Hope you like them.