the little door – Rumi

brown concrete door

Photo by Ankush Rathi on Pexels.com

Moses put a low gate in the Jerusalem wall,
so that even unconsciously
everyone would have to put down his pack
and lower his head, bowing at least that much,
as though to say,
I pray that I can put down what I carry.

The function given kings and all authorities
is so that people who won’t bow down
and surrender to the presence
will have one place where they are humble.

The gate was called Babi-Saghir,
the little door.

Consider the world-power you acknowledge
as a small gate you must go through
to pay homage to a dunghill,
and instead of doing that, recognize the holy ones,
who are sweet as sugarcane.

Don’t grovel in front of political leaders.
Not your highness, say your lowness
to those empty weed-stems. Honor the sun we see by.

Don’t play a cat-and-mouse game.
Join the lion and swift deer in their hunt for soul.

Let pot-lickers follow the big basin-licker.
I could continue and make some rulers and administrators
very angry. They know who I’m talking about.

a reminder

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Freedom is found under the dark tree

I sweep. I spread a blanket in the sun. I cut grass behind the cabin. Soon I will bring the blanket in again and make the bed. The sun is overclouded. Perhaps there will be rain. A bell rings in the monastery. A tractor growls in the valley. Soon I will cut bread, eat supper, say psalms, sit in the back room as the sun sets, as the birds sing outside the window, as silence descends on the valley, as night descends. As night descends on a nation intent upon ruin, upon destruction, blind, deaf to protest, crafty, powerful, unintelligent. It is necessary to be alone, to be not part of this, to be in the exile of silence, to be, in a manner of speaking, a political prisoner. No matter where in the world he may be, no matter what may be his power of protest, or his means of expression, the poet finds himself ultimately where I am. Alone, silent, with the obligation of being very careful not to say what he does not mean, not to let himself be persuaded to say merely what another wants him to say, not to say what his own past work has led others to expect him to say.
The poet has to be free from everyone else, and first of all from himself, because it is through this “self” that he is captured by others. Freedom is found under the dark tree that springs up in the center of the night and of silence, the paradise tree, the axis mundi, which is also the Cross.
– Thomas Merton, May 1965

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From a letter to Theo

From a Letter to Theo*
Vincent Van Gogh, The Hague,
September 3, 1882

Behind those saplings, behind that brownish-red soil,
is a sky very delicate, bluish-gray, warm, hardly blue,

all aglow – and against it all is a hazy border of green
and a network of little stems and yellowish leaves.

A few figures of wood gatherers are wandering around
like dark masses of mysterious shadows.

The white cap of a woman bending to reach a dry branch
stands out suddenly against the deep red-brown of the ground.

A skirt catches the light – a shadow is cast –
a dark silhouette of a man appears above the underbrush.

A white bonnet, a cap, a shoulder, the bust of a woman
molds itself against the sky. Those figures are large

and full of poetry – in the twilight of that deep shadowy tone
they appear as enormous terracottas being modeled in a studio.

     *from – Vincent Van Gogh: A Self Portrait, Letters Revealing
      His Life as a Painter, selected by W.H. Auden

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What The Doctor Said – Raymond Carver

He said it doesn’t look good
he said it looks bad in fact real bad
he said I counted thirty-two of them on one lung before
I quit counting them
I said I’m glad I wouldn’t want to know
about any more being there than that
he said are you a religious man do you kneel down
in forest groves and let yourself ask for help
when you come to a waterfall
mist blowing against your face and arms
do you stop and ask for understanding at those moments
I said not yet but I intend to start today
he said I’m real sorry he said
I wish I had some other kind of news to give you
I said Amen and he said something else
I didn’t catch and not knowing what else to do
and not wanting him to have to repeat it
and me to have to fully digest it
I just looked at him
for a minute and he looked back it was then
I jumped up and shook hands with this man who’d just given me
Something no one else on earth had ever given me
I may have even thanked him habit being so strong2020_02_08_12_00_05_206_pic.png

I believe in all that has never yet been spoken – Rainer Maria Rilke

I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for
may for once spring clear
without my contriving.

If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.

Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,
streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.

Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God
(Translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy)

Do Not Be Ashamed – Wendell Berry

You will be walking some night
in the comfortable dark of your yard
and suddenly a great light will shine
round about you, and behind you
will be a wall you never saw before.
It will be clear to you suddenly
that you were about to escape,
and that you are guilty: you misread
the complex instructions, you are not
a member, you lost your card
or never had one. And you will know
that they have been there all along,
their eyes on your letters and books,
their hands in your pockets,
their ears wired to your bed.
Though you have done nothing shameful,
they will want you to be ashamed.
They will want you to kneel and weep
and say you should have been like them.
And once you say you are ashamed,
reading the page they hold out to you,
then such light as you have made
in your history will leave you.
They will no longer need to pursue you.
You will pursue them, begging forgiveness.
They will not forgive you.
There is no power against them.
It is only candor that is aloof from them,
only an inward clarity, unashamed,
that they cannot reach. Be ready.
When their light has picked you out
and their questions are asked, say to them:
“I am not ashamed.” A sure horizon
will come around you. The heron will begin
his evening flight from the hilltop.

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A Two-Headed Thing – Rumi (…never think that you are worthless. God has paid an enormous amount for you…)

The universe swings again into orbit around us.
Am I looking for you or you for me?
The question is wrong.

As long as I keep using two pronouns,
I am this in-between, two-headed thing.

Some of the water in my stream flows quickly by.
Some stays frozen in an ice ledge along the bank.

Sun says to stone, Let me shine inside you
and change your center to ruby.

As the sun of infinite love
comes into your love,
you are given more humble work,
something common like streetsweeping;
then you are given mastery.

The sun says to the unripe grape,
There is a kitchen inside you
where you can make vinegar,
or if I help, sweet juice.

The king says to the falcon, I cover your eyes
with a hood, so that you will break
with your kind and see only my face.
The falcon replies, Yes.

The rose says to the garden,
I display these robes,
so that you will let the other flowers go
and be a one-rose garden.

Imagine a man selling his donkey
to be with Jesus.

Now imagine him selling Jesus
to get a ride on a donkey.
This does happen.
Jesus can transform a drunk into gold.
If the drunk is already golden,
he can be changed to pure diamond.
If already that, he can become the circling
planets, Jupiter, Venus, the moon.

Never think that you are worthless.
God has paid an enormous amount for you,
and the gifts keep arriving.

Dates from a withered branch,
the sweet light that came to Jesus in the cradle.

My face now makes the world’s bathhouse hot.
Don’t look at the wet wall paintings.
Look here.

There is something in us
that has nothing to do with night and day,
grapes that never saw a vineyard.

WE ARE ALL RETURNING.

says the Qur’an. Enjoy Shams,
or if you cannot do that, at least
consider what honest people tell you.

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from Cold Mountain Poems – Han Shan, translated by Gary Snyder


In my first thirty years of life
I roamed hundreds and thousands of miles.
Walked by rivers through deep green grass
Entered cities of boiling red dust.
Tried drugs, but couldn’t make Immortal;
Read books and wrote poems on history.
Today I’m back at Cold Mountain;
I’ll sleep by the creek and purify my ears.

Han-shan / Gary Snyder