Visions

Before the Snake by Nathaniel Tarn

Sitting, facing the sun, eyes closed. I can hear the
sun. I can hear the bird life all around for miles.
It flies through us and around us, it takes up all
space, as if we were not there, as if we had never
interrupted this place. The birds move diorami-
cally through our heads, from ear to ear. What
are they doing, singing in this luminous fall. It is
marvelous to be so alone, the two of us, in this
garden desert. Forgotten, but remembering
ourselves as no one will ever remember us. The
space between the trees, the bare ground-sand
between them, you can see the land’s skin which
is so much home. We cannot buy or sell this
marvelous day. I can hear the sun and, within
the sun, the wind which comes out of the world’s
lungs from immeasurable depth; we catch only
a distant echo. Beyond the birds there are per-
sons carrying their names like great weights.
Just think: carrying X your whole life, or Y, or Z.
Carrying all that A and B and C around with you,
having to be A all the time, B, or C. Here you can
be the sun, the pine, the bird. You can be the
breathing. I can tell you, I think this may be
Eden. I think it is.

Caged Bird by Maya Angelou

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his mouth to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

Carpe Demon by Lucie Brock-Broido

Where is your father whose eye you were the apple of?
Where are your mother’s parlor portieres, her slip-covered days, her petticoats?
In the orchard at the other end of time, you were just a child in ballet slippers,
Your first poodle skirt, your tortoiseshell barrettes. As the peach tree grew more
Scarce each day, you kept running out to try to tape the leaves back on their boughs.
Once, I caught you catch a pond of sunlight in your lap and when you stood,
The sunlight spilt; it could never follow you. Once, above the river,
You told me you were born to be a turtle, swimming down. Under the bridge
Now you take your meals where the thinnest creatures live at the end
Of the world. Carpe Demon, you told me just before you put down the phone
And drank the antifreeze. This year, the winter sky in Missouri is a kind of cold
The color of a turtle’s hood, a soup of dandelion, burdock root, and clay.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers by Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

The Summer Day by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean –
the one who has flung out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

“Sometimes” by David Whyte

Sometimes
if you move carefully
through the forest

breathing
like the ones
in the old stories

who could cross
a shimmering bed of dry leaves
without a sound,

you come
to a place
where the only task

is to trouble you
with tiny
but frightening requests

conceived out of nowhere
but in this place
beginning to lead everywhere.

Requests to stop what
you are doing right now,
and

to stop what you
are becoming
while you do it,

questions
that can make
or unmake
a life,

questions
that have patiently
waited for you,

questions
that have no right
to go away.

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.