Archive for February, 2016

Selkie Takes her Turn

by Jane Beal

now available at Forgotten


“Selkie” by Awreon

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To dream the impossible dream,
to fight the unbeatable foe,
to bear with unbearable sorrow,
and to run where
the brave dare not go
to right the unrightable wrong,
and to love pure and chaste from afar,
to try when your arms are too weary,
to reach the unreachable star:
this is my quest.

To follow that star
no matter how hopeless,
no matter how far,
to fight for the right
without question or pause,
to be willing to march, 
march into hell
for that heavenly cause

And I know
if I’ll only be true
to this glorious quest
that my heart
will lie peaceful and calm
when I’m laid to my rest
and the world will be
better for this:

That one man, scorned
and covered with scars,
still strove with his last
ounce of courage
to reach the unreachable,
the unreachable,
the unreachable star,
and I’ll always dream
the impossible dream

yes, and I’ll reach
the unreachable star.

Lyrics by Joe Darion
music by Mitch Leigh

“Mad men are children of God.”
Dale Wasserman
Man of La Mancha (1965)


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from The Ninth Elegy

The pain, then. Above all, the hard labor of living,
the long experience of love, — all the purely
unsayable things. But later on,
among the stars, what then:  there the unsayable reigns.

… Between the hammers our heart
lives on, as the tongue,
even between the teeth, remains
unceasing in its praise.

… Earth, isn’t that what you want: to arise
in us invisibly? Isn’t it your dream
to be invisible someday? Earth! Invisible!
What, if not transformation, is your urgent charge?
Earth, my darling, I will! Believe me, you need
no more of your springtimes to win me — , one,
just a single one, is already too much for my blood.
Nameless now, I am betrothed to you forever.
You’ve always been right, and your most sacred tenet
is Death the intimate Friend.

Look, I am living. On what? Neither childhood nor future
lessens … Superabundant existence
wells within my heart.

from The Tenth Elegy

May the tears that stream down my face
make me more radiant:  may my hidden weeping

Rainer Maria Rilke
Duino Elegies

trans. Edward Snow

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from The Fifth Elegy

sometimes, during a brief pause, a tender look
edges forward to bridge the chasm
… but it gets lost on your body …

Angel! O take it, pluck it, that small-petaled herb of healing!
Create a vase, preserve it! Place it among those joys
not yet open to us; in a delicate urn
let an ornate inscription praise it: Subrisio saltat!

… Angel! Suppose there’s a place we don’t know of, and there,
on an indescribable carpet, lovers announced
those feats that they never mastered here — the bold, high
figures of their heartleaps through space,
their towers of pure pleasure, their two ladders
that stand, leaning only against each other,
with no ground underneath, trembling — and then performed them,
before the circle of onlookers, the innumerable silent dead:

would not those dead throw their last coins
of happiness — hoarded through a lifetime,
kept hidden through a lifetime, unknown to us, eternally
valid — onto the blissful carpet before a pair
now truly smiling at last?

from The Sixth Elegy

O fig tree, how long I’ve pondered you —
the way you almost skip flowering completely
and release, unheralded, your pure secret
into the sprigs of fruit already poised to ripen.
Like a fountain’s pipe, your bent boughs drive the sap
downward and up:  and it leaps from sleep, almost
without waking, into the joy of its sweetest achievement.
Look: like the god into the swan.

… But we, for our part, linger …

But suddenly I’m pierced
by his darkened music, borne swiftly by the rush of air.
Then how gladly I would hide from that longing! If only,
oh if only …

from The Seventh Elegy

… as she listened, a reply would slowly wake and grow warm —
the kindled complement of your own ardent feeling.

O, and Spring would understand — , annunciation
would echo everywhere …

it’s already reaching, secretly, into the invisible world.

Rainer Maria Rilke
Duino Elegies

trans. Edward Snow

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O trees of life, how far off is winter?
We’re in disarray. Our minds don’t commune
like those of migratory birds. Left behind and late,
we force ourselves suddenly on winds
and fall, exhausted, on indifferent waters.
Blooming makes us think of fading.
And somewhere out there lions still roam, oblivious,
in all their splendor, to any weakness.

We, though, even when intent on one thing wholly,
already feel the cost exacted by some other. Conflict
is our next of kin. Aren’t lovers always
reaching borders, each in the other,
despite the promise of vastness, royal hunting, home?
Then for an instant’s virtuoso sketch
a ground of contrast is prepared, laboriously,
so we can see it; for they’re very clear
with us. We don’t know our feelings’ contour,
only what shapes it from outside.

Who hasn’t sat anxiously before his heart’s curtain? …

… the dying — surely they
must guess how full of pretext
is all that we achieve here. Nothing
is what it is. O childhood hours,
when behind each shape there was more
than mere past …

Who shows a child just as he is? Who places him
in a constellation and hands him the measure
of distance and interval? Who makes a child’s death
out of gray bread that hardens — or leaves
it in his round mouth like the core
of a beautiful apple? … Murderers are
easily understood. But this: one’s death,
the whole reach of death, even before one’s life is under way —
to hold it gently and not feel anger:
is indescribable.

Rainer Maria Rilke
Duino Elegies

trans. Edward Snow

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Here is love, vast as the ocean,
Lovingkindness as the flood,
When the Prince of Life, our Ransom,
Shed for us His precious blood.
Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten,
Throughout Heav’n’s eternal days.

On the mount of crucifixion,
Fountains opened deep and wide;
Through the floodgates of God’s mercy
Flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers,
Poured incessant from above,
And Heav’n’s peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love.

Let me all Thy love accepting,
Love Thee, ever all my days;
Let me seek Thy kingdom only
And my life be to Thy praise;
Thou alone shalt be my glory,
Nothing in the world I see.
Thou hast cleansed and sanctified me,
Thou Thyself hast set me free.

In Thy truth Thou dost direct me
By Thy Spirit through Thy Word;
And Thy grace my need is meeting,
As I trust in Thee, my Lord.
Of Thy fullness Thou art pouring
Thy great love and power on me,
Without measure, full and boundless,
Drawing out my heart to Thee.

William Rees and William Williams
trans. William Edwards (19th c.)


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Short Poems by Rumi


Late, by myself, in the boat of myself,
no light and no land anywhere,
cloudcover thick. I try to stay
just above the surface, yet I’m already under
and living within the ocean.


For years, copying other people, I tried to know myself.
From within, I couldn’t decide what to do.
Unable to see, I heard my name being called.
Then I walked outside.


Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.


Come to the orchard in the spring.
There is light and wine, and sweethearts and pomegranate flowers.
If you do not come, these do not matter.
If you do come, these do not matter.


For a while we lived with people,
but we saw no sign in them of the faithfulness we wanted.
It’s better to hide completely within
as water hides in metal, as fire hides in rock.


In pain, I breathe easier.
The scared child is running from the house, screaming.
I hear the gentleness.
Under nine layers of illusion, whatever the light,
on the face of any object, in the ground itself,
I see your face.


The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along.

Open Secret: Versions of Rumi
trans. John Moyne and Coleman Barks

“The mystery does not get clearer by repeating the question”


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