“Moondog” by Susan Donnelly

He just stood there,
at the corner of 43rd Street
and Sixth Avenue,
nearly seven feet tall,
dressed as a Viking.
Everyone, it seemed,
in New York in the ’60s
knew Moondog. They said
he’d been a stockbroker,
from a rich family.
They said he was blind.

I was writing a novel that year,
but didn’t know how,
and falling in love,
and everything moved so fast,
but the Viking was motionless.
I know he wrote songs,
but I never heard any.
He just stared outward.
I’d wake up, write myself dizzy,
then go walking, fast,
through the streets.

One day, a stranger
stopped me: JFK had been shot!
This was in midtown. The bells
of St. Patrick’s began tolling
and I joined all the others
going up the cathedral steps.
I’d seen the President
just last month — young,
glinting like silver,
in a limousine going up Madison
to the Hotel Carlyle.
He waved to all of us
and we waved back, cheering…

Or are these tears
for the broken love,
the unreadable novel?
Anyway, the years.

“Moondog” by Susan Donnelly, from Transit. © Iris Press, 2001.

“As If to Demonstrate an Eclipse” by Billy Collins

I pick an orange from a wicker basket
and place it on the table
to represent the sun.
Then down at the other end
a blue and white marble
becomes the earth
and nearby I lay the little moon of an aspirin.

I get a glass from a cabinet,
open a bottle of wine,
then I sit in a ladder-back chair,
a benevolent god presiding
over a miniature creation myth,

and I begin to sing
a homemade canticle of thanks
for this perfect little arrangement,
for not making the earth too hot or cold
not making it spin too fast or slow

so that the grove of orange trees
and the owl become possible,
not to mention the rolling wave,
the play of clouds, geese in flight,
and the Z of lightning on a dark lake.

Then I fill my glass again
and give thanks for the trout,
the oak, and the yellow feather,

singing the room full of shadows,
as sun and earth and moon
circle one another in their impeccable orbits
and I get more and more cockeyed with gratitude.

“As If to Demonstrate an Eclipse,” by Billy Collins from Nine Horses (Random House).

“Beach Attitudes” by Robert Dana

Blessed is the beach, survivor of tides.

And blessed the litter of crown conchs and pen shells, the dead
blue crab in all its electric raiment.

Blessed the nunneries of skimmers,
scuttering and rising, wheeling and falling and settling, ruffling
their red and black-and-white habits.

And blessed be the pacemakers and the peacemakers,

the slow striders, the arthritic joggers, scarred and bent under
their histories, for they’re here at last by the sunlit sea.

Blessed Peoria and Manhattan, Ottawa and Green Bay, Pittsburgh,
Dresden.

And blessed their children.

And blessed the lovers for they shall have one perfect day.

Blessed be the dolphin out beyond the furthest buoy,
slaughtering the bright leapers,
for they shall have full bellies.

Blessed, too, the cormorant and the osprey and the pelican
for they are the cherubim and seraphim and archangel.

And blessed be the gull, open throated, screeching, scolding
me to my face,

for he shall have his own place returned to him.
And the glossy lip of the long wave shall have the last kiss.

“Beach Attitudes” by Robert Dana, from The Other. © Anhinga Press, 2008.

“Kindness” by Naomi Shihab Nye (repost)

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

– Naomi Shihab Nye, “Kindness,” from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems.

 

* I first published this on Jan. 7, 2014, the first week of this site. I hold it as a beacon when days feel especially dark. A reminder that with the bad, also comes the good, eventually. And that sometimes we can only truly know the good, appreciate the good, from having experienced the bad. Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore. Nothing else makes any sense these days, despair and then kindness. And then maybe Jack Kerouac’s pancakes.

“The world you see is just a movie in your mind” by Jack Kerouac

The world you see is just a movie in your mind.
Rocks dont see it.
Bless and sit down.
Forgive and forget.
Practice kindness all day to everybody
and you will realize you’re already
in heaven now.
That’s the story.
That’s the message.
Nobody understands it,
nobody listens, they’re
all running around like chickens with heads cut
off. I will try to teach it but it will
be in vain, s’why I’ll
end up in a shack
praying and being
cool and singing
by my woodstove
making pancakes.

–  Jack Kerouac, Untitled poem from a letter to his first wife, Edie Kerouac Parker, in late January of 1957.

From that same letter:

“I have lots of things to teach you now, in case we ever meet, concerning the message that was transmitted to me under a pine tree in North Carolina on a cold winter moonlit night. It said that Nothing Ever Happened, so don’t worry. It’s all like a dream. Everything is ecstasy, inside. We just don’t know it because of our thinking-minds. But in our true blissful essence of mind is known that everything is alright forever and forever and forever. Close your eyes, let your hands and nerve-ends drop, stop breathing for 3 seconds, listen to the silence inside the illusion of the world, and you will remember the lesson you forgot, which was taught in immense milky way soft cloud innumerable worlds long ago and not even at all. It is all one vast awakened thing. I call it the golden eternity. It is perfect. We were never really born, we will never really die. It has nothing to do with the imaginary idea of a personal self, other selves, many selves everywhere: Self is only an idea, a mortal idea. That which passes into everything is one thing. It’s a dream already ended. There’s nothing to be afraid of and nothing to be glad about. I know this from staring at mountains months on end. They never show any expression, they are like empty space. Do you think the emptiness of space will ever crumble away? Mountains will crumble, but the emptiness of space, which is the one universal essence of mind, the vast awakenerhood, empty and awake, will never crumble away because it was never born.”

***

^This video is truly beautiful. I found it via BrainPickings. From Maria Popova’s description:

Sergi Castella and filmmaker Hector Ferreño transformed the writer’s words into a magnificent cinematic adaptation for Dosnoventa Bikes, with a haunting, Johnny-Cashlike voiceover by James Phillips and beautifully curated music by Pink Floyd and Cash himself. As an intense lover of both bikes and literature, it makes my heart sing in multiple octaves.