Crisply the bright snow whispered,
Crunching beneath our feet;
Behind us as we walked along the parkway,
Our shadows danced,
Fantastic shapes in vivid blue.
Across the lake the skaters
Flew to and fro,
With sharp turns weaving
A frail invisible net.
In ecstasy the earth
Drank the silver sunlight;
In ecstasy the skaters
Drank the wine of speed;
In ecstasy we laughed
Drinking the wine of love.
Had not the music of our joy
Sounded its highest note?
For suddenly, with lifted eyes you said,
There, on the black bough of a snow flecked maple,
Fearless and gay as our love,
A bluejay cocked his crest!
Oh who can tell the range of joy
Or set the bounds of beauty?
A Fragment by Li Po
Hast thou not beheld the Yellow River
Which flows from Heaven?
It runs rapidly down and empties into the sea,
Nevermore to return.
Hast thou beheld the mirror in the hall
That reflects the grief of white hair?
In the morning it is like black silk,
In the evening it will be covered with snow.
While we are in the mood of joy,
Let us drink!
Let not the golden bottle be lonely,
Let us waste not the moon!
O lonely heart so timid of approach,
Like the shy tropic flower that shuts its lips
To the faint touch of tender finger tips:
What is your word? What question would you broach?
Your lustrous-warm eyes are too sadly kind
To mask the meaning of your dreamy tale,
Your guarded life too exquisitely frail
Against the daggers of my warring mind.
There is no part of the unyielding earth,
Even bare rocks where the eagles build their nest,
Will give us undisturbed and friendly rest.
No dewfall softens this vast belt of dearth.
But in the socket-chiseled teeth of strife,
That gleam in serried files in all the lands,
We may join hungry, understanding hands,
And drink our share of ardent love and life.
Again I reply to the triple winds
running chromatic fifths of derision
outside my window:
_ Play louder.
You will not succeed. I am
bound more to my sentences
the more you batter at me
to follow you.
_ And the wind,
as before, fingers perfectly
its derisive music.
We tell beginnings: for the flesh and the answer,
or the look, the lake in the eye that knows,
for the despair that flows down in widest rivers,
cloud of home; and also the green tree of grace,
all in the leaf, in the love that gives us ourselves.
The word of nourishment passes through the women,
soldiers and orchards rooted in constellations,
white towers, eyes of children:
saying in time of war What shall we feed?
I cannot say the end.
Nourish beginnings, let us nourish beginnings.
Not all things are blest, but the
seeds of all things are blest.
The blessing is in the seed.
This moment, this seed, this wave of the sea, this look, this instant of love.
Years over wars and an imagining of peace. Or the expiation journey
toward peace which is many wishes flaming together,
fierce pure life, the many-living home.
Love that gives us ourselves, in the world known to all
new techniques for the healing of the wound,
and the unknown world. One life, or the faring stars.
Good books from the final four months of the year…
- When I reach the end of Mr. Colson Whitehead’s back catalogue, it will be a sad day indeed; fortunately, still a few to go: Sag Harbor
- Essays on nature and landscapes in Scotland: Findings by Kathleen Jamie
- Muriel Spark continued: The Comforters (meta before meta existed!), Symposium, The Driver’s Seat (not my favorite Spark novel but it’s three months later and I’m still disturbed)
- The problem with a book that’s one long sentence is that there’s never a good stopping point; I enjoyed this innovative story: Solar Bones by Mike McCormack
- A funny tale in the Highlands: To Be Continued by James Robertson
- In each of these books, ghosts of the past – literal ghosts from Missisippi’s Jim Crowe era prison camps – play a part: Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesamyn Ward deserves every award it gets, and I’m still trying to wrap my head around the ending of Hari Kunzru’s White Tears, where cultural appropriation turns to horror
- One of my favorite novels of the year – beautiful prose, lively characters, a great ending: Golden Hill by Francis Spufford
- On Cats by Charles Bukowski was pure delight
- The title is more of a hook than a representation; this is a searing search for faith and a rumination on God and love: The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
- In Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor the changing seasons are as much a character as any human
- Learned lots about India and Pakistan and enjoyed it most of the time: Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
- This is the year I learned I loved frontier stories; these two books may be amongst my favorite novels: My Antonia by Willa Cather and Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
- My awe and enjoyment of Jane Gardam lives on: Bilgewater
- Nobody writes South Florida like Carl Hiaasen: Razor Girl lived up to every expectation I had
- The title should be a bad motivational poster, but Elizabeth Strout makes is true and beautiful: Anything is Possible
- Still thinking about this collection of short stories; it’s The Moaning Bench that I can’t let go of: Five-Carat Soul by James McBride
- And finally: River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey (YA alt history where hippos live in the Mississippi), The Power by Naomi Alderman (wow / oy / yikes), The Revolution of the Moon by Andrea Camilleri (Sicilian historical fiction), Glass Houses by Louise Penny (these characters have become friends), and The Days of Abondonment by Elena Ferrante (harrowing, harsh, had to keep reading – the usual Ferrante).
When everyone had gone
I sat in the library
With the small silent tree,
She and I alone.
How softly she shone!
And for the first time then
For the first time this year,
I felt reborn again,
I knew love’s presence near.
Love distant, love detached
And strangely without weight,
Was with me in the night
When everyone had gone
And the garland of pure light
Stayed on, stayed on.