On divine


Yea, I know whence I come.

Insatiable as flame,

I burn and am consumed.

Wherever I touch is turned to light,

Whatever I leave is turned to carbon.

Assuredly lama flame.


Nikos Kazantzakis

From Report to Greco

Translated from Greek by P. A. BIEN



On being


I live my life in widening circles

that reach out across the world.

I may not complete this last one

but I give myself to it.


I circle around God, around the primordial tower.

I’ve been circling for thousands of years

and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,

a storm, or a great song?


Rainer Maria Rilke

From The Book of Hours

Translated from Dutch by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

On devotion


When your hands go out,

love, toward mine,

what do they bring me flying?

Why did they stop

at my mouth, suddenly,

why do I recognize them

as if then, before,

I had touched them,

as if before they existed

they had passed over

my forehead, my waist?

Their softness came

flying over time,

over the sea, over the smoke,

over the spring,

and when you placed

your hands on my chest,

I recognized those golden

dove wings.

I recognized that clay

and that color of wheat.

All the years of my life

I walked around looking for them.

I went up the stairs,

I crossed the roads,

trains carried me,

waters brought me,

and in the skin of the grapes

I thought I touched you.

The wood suddenly

brought me your touch,

the almond announced to me

your secret softness,

until your hands

closed on my chest

and there like two wings

they ended their journey.


Pablo Neruda


Translated from Spanish by Donald D. Walsh

On affection


What can they do

to you? Whatever they want.

They can set you up, they can

bust you, they can break

your fingers, they can

burn your brain with electricity,

blur you with drugs till you

can’t walk, can’t remember, they can

take your child, wall up

your lover. They can do anything

you can’t stop them

from doing. How can you stop

them? Alone, you can fight,

you can refuse, you can

take what revenge you can

but they roll over you.


But two people fighting

back to back can cut through

a mob, a snake-dancing file

can break a cordon, an army

can meet an army.


Two people can keep each other

sane, can give support, conviction,

love, massage, hope, sex.

Three people are a delegation,

a committee, a wedge. With four,

you can play bridge and star an organization. With six

you can rent a whole house,

eat pie for dinner with no

seconds, and hold a fund raising party.

A dozen make a demonstration.

A hundred fill a hall.

A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter;

ten thousand, power and your own paper;

a hundred thousand, your own media;

ten million, your own country.


It goes on one at a time,

it starts when you care

to act, it starts when you do

it again after they said no,

it starts when you say We

and know who you mean, and each

day you mean one more.


Marge Piercy

The low road