“Brahm”

A spectral film that came and went,
In its elusive way gave vent
In some unreal words which meant;
___“I think therefore I am.”
That phantasm only thought it thought;
A vain conception crudely wrought;
___An egotistic sham.
Which brings us up against the fact
By Chunder’s attestation backed –
There is no Substance, Thought, nor Act
___Nothing exists but Brahm.

This quaint contraption here below
Is not a magic shadow show
Where phantom figures come and go,
___As held by old Khayyam.
A show has time and space enough,
But here we only have such stuff
As dreams are made of – mental fluff
___And visionary flam,
Throughout the universal scheme,
Be sure things are not what they seem,
___(To quote a well-known psalm)
They’re only whimsies of a dream
___A transient dream of Brahm.

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mandala © Meryl Ann Butler

All through the cycles of the Past
At which Notation stands aghast
He has subsisted, first and last,
___Lone, functionless and calm.
Nothing extraneous can obtrude
Upon his Sabbath quietude,
Or discompose his tranquil mood,
___For nothing is but Brahm.
“The Past and Present here unite
Beneath Time’s flowing tide” (to cite
___A Bard of Uncle Sam)
For Time stretched out in aeons dim
To Apprehension’s very rim,
Is insignificant to him
___A Bagetelle to Brahm.

For once in his negation deep,
He somehow chanced to drop asleep;
And through that forty-wings there ran
A flitting dream. So time began—
He dreamed this stellar lens of ours,
Which mocks at telescopic powers
Innumerable suns sublime,
At furious speed yet keeping time!
And so remote that to the eye,
They look like fixtures in the sky,
But that’s a trifle. Round about
A million light-years further out,
The wisps of nebular portend.
Sidereal schemes without an end
And this is no poetic flight
Nor idiotic blatherskite,
___Nor what is termed a cram.
However vast these plans may seem,
They’re only figments of a dream
___A trifling dream of Brahm.

He dreamed our System’s fiery gas
Condensing into solid mass;
And during several billion years,
Evolving planetary spheres.
But take this globe, alone, to prove
How things have moved – or seemed to move.
He dreamed some pulpy form of life:
Mutation slow; and savage strife:
With Nature’s forces all in play,
And Darwin’s system under way;
While bits of hide and tufts of hair
For countless centuries fill’d the air;
And only those were left alive
Whose fitness caused them to survive.

And so, while ocean bottoms rose
To stand awhile as high plateaus
And mountains sank beneath the main,
To rise time after time again:
And rocks were formed, and strata rent
And Polar ice-caps came and went;
And geological ages pass’d
Each an improvement on the last;
And on the wrinkled crust of earth
More decent forms of life had birth;

Man was evolved a product queer;
A breed that it would pay to sheer;
And which it might be safe to say,
Has reached a higher stage today
Since restless generations gone
Have passed a few ideas on.
But, bear in mind, this human race
Diverse in colour, smell, and face;
These off-shoots from the simian stem
The Sons of Japheth and of Shem,
___The progeny of Ham.
With mongrel races that infest
The isles and mainlands, east and west,
___From Chili to Siam,
Are less than ripples in a stream,
They’re only ripples on a dream
___Namely the dream of BRAHM.

Illusion in the very air
(If such an envelope were there);
And things that seem to claim your care
Your Wife, with her untidy hair:
And Grandma, in her easy chair:
___And baby in the pram—
Are all a visionary crew
Which fact need never worry you,
For you’re an apparition too,
___Nothing exists but BRAHM.

Unquestionably, no one knows
The likely period of his doze;
But this we know that when he wakes
We vanish in a brace of shakes;
___Without dismay or qualm.
The earth, the sun, and every star
Shall vanish like the freaks they are;
The corn and oil, the flower and grass,
The fig and vine, shall simply pass,
___The eucalypt and palm:
The microbe small, the ponderous whale;
The greyhound swift, the tardy snail;
___The lion and the lamb;
The sand and granite, quartz and schist,
Shall vanish like a so-called mist
Which the fictitious sun has kiss’d
(Of course they never did exist),
___NOTHING EXISTS BUT BRAHM.

— Joseph Furphy, born this day in 1843
(read the entire poem)

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The other Coleridge

LONG time a child, and still a child, when years
Had painted manhood on my cheek, was I,—
For yet I lived like one not born to die;
A thriftless prodigal of smiles and tears,
No hope I needed, and I knew no fears.
But sleep, though sweet, is only sleep, and waking,
I waked to sleep no more, at once o’ertaking
The vanguard of my age, with all arrears
Of duty on my back. Nor child, nor man,
Nor youth, nor sage, I find my head is grey,
For I have lost the race I never ran:
A rathe December blights my lagging May;
And still I am a child, though I be old,
Time is my debtor for my years untold.

— Hartley Coleridge, born this day in 1796,
wrote this poem at the age of 37.

Anticipating winter

Every plant and tree knows
Summer will soon be gone
A hundred pinks and purples
Compete with their bouquets
Willow fuzz and elm pods
Lack such clever means
They only know how to fill the sky with snow.

—  韓愈 Han Yu (768-824) was a government functionary and a scholar in the Tang Dynasty.  He admired and helped to interpret Confucian thought.  He thought Buddhism was the product of barbarians, unsuited to more refined Chinese society.1

Antipoem

Yo galán imperfecto
Yo danzarín al borde del abismo,
I am an imperfect man
I dance on the edge of the abyss,
Yo sacristán obsceno
Niño prodigio de los basurales,
I, an obscene sexton,
Child prodigy of the rubbish dumps,
Yo sobrino – yo nieto
Yo confabulador de siete suelas,
I, nephew — I, grandson
I, confabulator of seven souls,
Yo señor de las moscas
Yo descuartizador de golondrinas,
I, lord of the flies
and breaker of swallows,
Yo jugador de fútbol
Yo nadador del Estero las Toscas,
I, a soccer player,
swimmer at Estero las Toscas,
Yo violador de tumbas
Yo satanás enfermo de paperas,
I am a rapist of graves
a Satan sick with the mumps,
Yo conscripto remiso
Yo ciudadano con derecho a voto,
I, a draft-dodger
a citizen with voting rights,
Yo ovejero del diablo
Yo boxeador vencido por mi sombra,
I, the devil’s sheep
a boxer defeated by my shadow,
Yo bebedor insigne
Yo sacerdote de la buena mesa,
I drink of the symbols,
a priest of the good table,
Yo campeón de cueca
Yo campeón absoluto de tango
De guaracha, de rumba, de vals,
I champion underwear
I absolutely champion the tango,
the cha-cha, the rumba, the waltz,
Yo pastor protestante
Yo camarón, yo padre de familia,
I, a protestant pastor
a shrimp, father of a family,
Yo pequeño burgués
Yo profesor de ciencias ocultas,
I, petit bourgeois
a professor of occult sciences,
Yo comunista, yo conservador
Yo recopilador de santos viejos,
I communist, I conservative
I collector of old saints,
(Yo turista de lujo) (I, luxury tourist)
Yo ladrón de gallinas
Yo danzarín inmóvil en el aire,
I, thief of chickens
Dance immobile in the air,
Yo verdugo sin máscara
Yo semidiós egipcio con cabeza de pájaro,
I, hangman without a mask
Egyptian demigod with a bird’s head,
Yo de pie en una roca de cartón:
Háganse las tinieblas
I stand on a cardboard rock:
I become the darkness
Hágase el caos,
háganse las nubes,
Let chaos
create the clouds,
Yo delincuente nato
Sorprendido infraganti
I am a born criminal
Surprised infraganti
Robando flores a la luz de la luna
Pido perdón a diestra y siniestra
Pero no me declaro culpable.
Stealing flowers in the moonlight
I ask forgiveness from the right and left
But I do not plead guilty.
— Nicanor Parra was born this day in 1914. — Google Translate, with a little smoothing from JJM

In the end, we are only left with tomorrow. I raise my glass to the day that never arrives.— NP

The Dream

O God, in the dream the terrible horse began
To paw at the air, and make for me with his blows,
Fear kept for thirty-five years poured through his mane,
And retribution equally old, or nearly, breathed through his nose.

Coward complete, I lay and wept on the ground
When some strong creature appeared, and leapt for the rein.
Another woman, as I lay half in a swound
Leapt in the air, and clutched at the leather and chain.

Give him, she said, something of yours as a charm.
Throw him, she said, some poor thing you alone claim.
No, no, I cried, he hates me; he is out for harm,
And whether I yield or not, it is all the same.

But, like a lion in a legend, when I flung the glove
Pulled from my sweating, my cold right hand;
The terrible beast, that no one may understand,
Came to my side, and put down his head in love.

— Louise Bogan, born this day in 1897

Letting go

From animals descended, we retain an intuition that
_____sustained our forebears for a billion years.
We’re out of touch with nature—and ourselves—but there’s a distant Eden past,
_____toward which an inner driver steers.
This fundamental conflict pits our primal innocence against
_____the comforts and security we cherish.
If we drop the tiller, navigate on autopilot through the
_____concrete jungle—will we thrive or perish?

They tell us that a conscious choice to cleave to social norms
_____is all that keeps our fragile lives from being wrecked.
But are we so unsuited to this techno-social life
_____that we must constantly keep evil impulse checked?
Are ubiquitous temptations to addiction so persuasive
_____that we’d fall within their sway without strong wills?
And, if so, are these the fruits that we most value from
_____our culture, or its incidental chemicals and pills?

Just imagine that for one sweet day we drop internal struggle
_____and we listen to our impulses innate…
We’ll sleep ’til sunshine calls us and eat double chocolate sundaes
_____and perhaps show up at work three hours late.
We’ll blurt out “I’m in love with you” at moments inappropriate,
_____and touch ourselves indecently on trains,
But I doubt that we’d be tempted into violence or treachery
_____in crazed pursuit of venal, worldly gains.

They say in Summerhill the children all run free, no punishments,
_____no testing, no curriculum or grades
And students when they first arrive (from stricter British boarding schools)
_____do nothing — but the novelty soon fades.
And once they trust their freedom, settle in and find relationships,
_____developing a passion all their own.
Statistics show that (as a rule) they flourish, and as adults are
_____more likely than their peers to be well-known.

The busy beaver has no need to budget time, does not consult with
_____engineers—and yet the dam gets built.
Bonobos know no jealousy; they stroke and fondle friends and come
_____to orgasm in public without guilt.
Even silly geese negotiate monogamy without
_____the benefit of matrimonial law.
And predators, once sated, turn to pussycats, don’t hoard their prey—
_____It’s man alone who’s red in tooth and claw.

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We pay a price for holding fast to self-control, negotiating
_____every trite decision that we make.
And freedom from that tension just might open doors to selves we barely knew
_____(if we don’t overdose on cake).
I wonder if it’s worth the risk to let authentic voices speak,
_____relinquishing control we know so well…
From comfortable purgatory, take a leap of faith, fly free,
_____and parachute to heaven or to hell.

And (humor me) imagine if our personal examples spread,
_____became a wave of insubordination…
And (while we’re fantasizing) our demand for more fulfilling lives
_____might trend our politics toward liberation.
While there’s no guarantee our freedom, thus asserted one-by-one,
_____would lead us to utopian solutions,
I’d bet my bippy on our primal souls before I’d put my trust
_____in any extant human institutions.

— Josh Mitteldorf

He is Not a Strange Loop

I am a parcel of vain strivings tied
By a chance bond together,50-0023
Dangling this way and that, their links
Were made so loose and wide,
Methinks,
For milder weather.

A bunch of violets without their roots,
And sorrel intermixed,
Encircled by a wisp of straw
Once coiled about their shoots,
The law
By which I’m fixed.

A nosegay which Time clutched from out
Those fair Elysian fields,
With weeds and broken stems, in haste,4bc3c370bf9574a6e8d8341714e3658f-paintings-i-love-painting-art
Doth make the rabble rout
That waste
The day he yields.

And here I bloom for a short hour unseen,
Drinking my juices up,
With no root in the land
To keep my branches green,
But stand
In a bare cup.

Some tender buds were left upon my stem
In mimicry of life,
But ah! the children will not know,
Till time has withered them,
The woe
With which they’re rife.

But now I see I was not plucked for naught,thoreau1a
And after in life’s vase
Of glass set while I might survive,
But by a kind hand brought
Alive
To a strange place.

That stock thus thinned will soon redeem its hours,
And by another year,
Such as God knows, with freer air,
More fruits and fairer flowers
Will bear,
While I droop here.

— Henry David Thoreau turns 200 today