I enter the simplicity of the world.
A new poem should not be tied to rules of rhyme–
and so my weary face relaxes.
– Ho Kyun, translated by Ian Haight and T’ae-young Ho, from the poem “Intimate Pain” in Borderland Roads
I’m getting holiday indoor east coast downtown city steamy windows european restaurant with begonias feelings. Looking out across the street at Saks Fifth Avenue, I can see the winter coats, steamy breath, cold cars, ever occluded atmosphere poked with lamplight. Meanwhile, there’s a rush of winter people clanging their voices 20 feet below the art deco enameled ceilings of the Fisher Theatre at noon. Wosh! that I could be there for lunch and return to Sacramento in time to take the 51 home.
– Nancy Wallace
Es giebt immer Zuschaun. One can always watch.
– Rilke, transl. Edward Snow
the human body is a little universe
its chill tears, so much windblown sleet
beneath our skins, mountains bulge, brooks flow,
within our chests lurk lost cities, hidden tribes.
wisdom quarters itself in our tiny hearts.
liver and gall peer out, scrutinize a thousand miles.
follow the path back to its source, or else be
a house vacant save for swallows in the eaves.
– Shih Shu, translation by Jerome Seaton
Note: first published in Finding the Way Home (White Pine Press, 2010); poem used by permission of Dennis Maloney, ed.
Pair with: paschimottanasana
Speak: Allow for a pause between stanza one and stanza two.
Consider: How is the body a home?
Teacher Mary Paffard writes that the principle of ahimsa, essential to the practice of yoga, “is the conscious act of not acting or moving out of violence that allows us to be what we intrinsically are–love.” I have found in recent months that love is all.
This is not a simplification: choosing love again and again requires attention and fearlessness. I wobble, teeter and stumble. But possibilities inherent in love encourage me to try again and again. The word “love” comes from Old English, “lief” which is related to “permission” as in “with your leave.”
There’s a great line in the movie “Adaptation” about how it’s more important to love than to be loved. That ties in with the old notion that giving is a greater gift than receiving. Couldn’t all life be intrinsically love? Observe unselfconscious interactions of mammals, including children, at noncompetitive play. The separation between one and the other recedes.
Perhaps, we all want in some way to be permeable, to blur false edges of our being and to come through (the prefix per–) to one another, to the world. I know poetry allows for that permeability.
The moon wakes me,
shining in my face.
Sleep follows from the sheets,
rumpled and sweaty
from a night of unanswerable questions.
At the backdoor I reach for the lock,
to turn it and release
two dogs to the dark morning.
Before my fingers move the chamber
I look up
and through the screened window see
the shadow of a hawk
glide to rest on a bare elm
branch and the moon
shining on the bird’s face.
– Alexa Mergen
from Late Peaches: Poems by Sacramento Poets (Sacramento Poetry Center, 2012)
In balasana, child’s pose, the body folds into itself, rests on the ground. Stilled, it seems possible to allow the mind to imagine “eternity in time.”
Your eyes are from a place
Where snow has never stained
The light, and between the palms
Air is clear.
Your desire is from a place
Where a secret animal
Grace is joined to
In a smile or a glance.
Your being is from a place
Where thought perceives,
In friendly sands
Eternity in time.
– Luis Cernuda, translated by Stephen Kessler
Tus ojos son de donde
La nieve no ha manchado
La luz, y entre las palmas
Invisible es de claro.
Tu deseo es de donde
A los cuerpos se alía
Lo animal con la gracia
De mirada y sonrisa.
Tu existir es de donde
Percibe el pensamiento,
Por la arena de mares
La eternidad en tiempo.
– Luis Cernuda
Note: first published in Desolation of the Chimera (White Pine Press, 2009); poem used by permission of Stephen Kessler
Pair with: balasana
Speak: Read aloud the original Spanish, whether or not it’s a language you know. Enjoy the warmth within the sounds of the words.
Consider: Where is this place the poem’s speaker describes? Visualize.
In tadasana, the body’s weight evenly distributed on heels and toes and between the two hips, we create an awareness of ourselves inhabiting a body. And that body fills a lacuna, a pool of being. Lalla’s poem suggests satisfaction can be found between up and down, here and there, this way and that way.
That one is blessed and at peace
who doesn’t hope, to whom
desire makes no more loans.
Nothing coming, nothing owed.
– Lalla, translated by Coleman Barks
Note: Poem previously published in Naked Song (Maypop, 1992); used by permission of Coleman Barks
Pair with: tadasana
Speak: The commas play significant roles in this poem. Be aware of them.
Consider: What would it mean to sit on the fulcrum of that final sentence (marked by the comma) between the see-saw of expectation and debt?
Find 5 ways here at BreatheRepeat.
And one more…ask a child to read to you!
I dwell in Possibility–
A fairer House than Prose–
More numerous of Windows–
– Emily Dickinson, from poem #657
The word “posture” comes from ponere, “placed.” Among the dozen of us, each posture was unique. Just as personality is shaped by personal history and circumstances, the body is.
I stood in tadasana along my central axis beside a plumb line.
The pose felt different from the tadasana I had been placed in by dozens of yoga teachers through two decades. There was no “lift the heart,” “roll the shoulders back,” or “tuck the pelvis.” Instead, my weight found an evenness supported by my bones. It turns out the spine continues into the skull and I do not need to “lift the chin,” but allow my gaze to be forward and steady.
The lesson: alignment ≠ internal organization.
How like a poem this is. Successful poems (which, like a “successful” body, are efficient and graceful) find their own internal organization using set rules merely as guidelines. A lovely poem breaks pattern with aplomb–perhaps a rhyme is slant or one stanza differs in length from the others.
A final thought: “organize” derives from organon meaning “tool” or “instrument.” We carry within us all that we need to move and to make, to stand and to be. Bodily intelligence, the poem of oneself.