Week II:  Text-only version

"I see and approve
of the better way,
but follow the worse."

(43 BC - 16 AD)

II (1) Walking the World: As the River Runs

"Reflecting upon this tragedy
of the destruction of the Rhine..."

II (2) The Little Clavier

Each poem is a miniature makeshift piano...

II (3) The Botanical Gardens

After a while, you read the signs first...

II (4) Knowing

Summer mountain, magic meadow...


II (5) Here

On the way, many beautiful camps
offer themselves for the night...

II (6) Rilke: Evening

Slowly the evening changes into the clothes,
held for it by a row of ancient trees...

II (7) The Sound of XTC

Two big speakers, ridin'/  drive, drive, drive...

II (8) Winter Solstice

That time of year when thoughts of the past
turn to face the stars of the North...

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Walking the World As the River Runs

...Reflecting upon this tragedy of the destruction of the Rhine, I'm struck
by the parallel between our attempts to control Nature and the river, and our
efforts to control ourselves, our own behavior and consciousness. It seems
to me, that, nowhere does this similarity come out more strongly than in our
approach to what we think of as the quiet mind or meditation...

Thought, inherently unable to grasp the whole, cuts down the forest upon
which the health of an entire watershed depends, thereby fragmenting
the weave of the natural order. It then, unaware of what it has done,
goes on in endlessly futile attempts to control the fragments. With the river,
straightening and reinforcing its banks; with the mind, disciplining it into
a confused image of a harmonious, unitary flow. And once we have
made this wrong turn, the momentum builds and acquires all the force
of inevitability behind it.

The result, of course, is both a dead river and a dull mind. And yet, sooner
or later, the natural energies of both the river and the mind move to free
themselves, breaking through the arbitrarily imposed limitations, which
is then promptly answered by an even greater effort to control. Clearly,
this is but one and the same movement, one which is destructive
in a largely unnoticed and insidious way because one is caught in
the illusion of creating order while, in fact, the very opposite is the case.

As I walk these mountains, I sense in my heart that there is also the possibility
of one vast movement of healing of both the river and the mind. It is really a
necessary unity. For if the mind is free, so too will the river run.

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The Little Clavier

Each poem
is a miniature makeshift
piano; they're all
tuned slightly
a bit beat up, perhaps,
with a few misplaced, broken

but it's the best we've got;

we do not play,
but simply

     push the pedals down,

sitting quietly,
listening to the strings
resonate or sing,
giving back


hidden within
the marvelous sea of chaos

that surrounds us.

(To see an essay concerning the metaphysical
background of this poem, go to The Little Clavier
and the Idea of Sympathetic Resonance

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The Botanical Gardens


The orderly alpinium
and the ever-changing

warp/weft of a carpet
of snowvalley plants—

at 7,000 feet, one sees that


is the



How charming—

Many old friends

on paid vacation.


After a while


read the signs


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Summer mountain, magic meadow,
the mysterious weave of flowers
and grasses, and weeds,

     the hard question of what is native
     to this place, and what is not.

But does the botanist in me always have
to point his finger inwardly, tapping off

whole indices of the species of pastures
and fields like some might look for

     all the A's or B-flats in
     a symphony,

neatly sorted, counted, placed
in a row?

     If you ask him to sing the note
     of a particular plant, always,
     his pitch must be perfect.

But he'll probably never confess to you,
although he'd like to, that, the more
he seems to know, the more difficult it is to
admit freely like a child to others, that,

     this plant, the name of which seems
     to elude him, he now sees for the
     very first time.

(On the European Continent, one must venture up into the land
far above the trees, above 2000 meters or so, to enter a realm
which to this day is still entirely pristine and natural. Here we find a
place free of the confusion of false competition between largely indigenous
species—so characteristic of the lowlands—
caused by the centuries of misuse of the land.)

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On the way
many beautiful camps
offer themselves for the night.

But to know
when to keep walking and
when to stay,

and, after stopping,
to know without a doubt
that this place, where one stands,


I am at home.

__ __ __
__ __ __ __ __ __
__ __ __ __ __ __ __.

__ __ __
__ __ __ __ __ __
__ __ __,

__, __ __ __ __,
__ __ __ __ __ __
__ __ __, __ __ __,


__ __ __ __.

Here is a little 50-step poem; its
signature movement falls in groups of triplets or 3's,  
               __  __  __.

In a way, this is much like the leaves , sepala and petals of a
Trillium, the state flower of Ohio.
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Rilke: Evening

Slowly the evening changes into the clothes
held for it by a row of ancient trees;
you look: and two worlds grow separate from you,
one ascending to heaven, another, that falls;

and leave you, belonging not wholly to either one,
not quite as dark as the house that remains silent,
not quite as certainly sworn to eternity
as that which becomes star each night and rises—

and leave you (unsayably to disentangle) your life
with all its immensity and fear and great ripening,
so that, all but bounded, all but understood,
it is by turns stone in you and star.

                          Rainer Maria Rilke
                            (tr. Cliff Crego)

(For more Rilke poems in translation, go to
The Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke )

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The Sound of XTC

Two big speakers,


d r i v e s,   d r i v e s,   d r i v e s,

drives,      strives,        dives,           rides,

     hard rhythms,
     dead rhythms,

every beat, too soon,
too late,

b e a t,   d a t e,   f a t e,
   beat,  date,       fate
                      (too soon/
   fate,  date,   fate
                         (too late/
   mate,  rape,       scape,
         scape,                     e-scape?
no, no,   no,        no,                no,                no,

c  h  a  r  g  e,    b  a  r  g  e,
                       no    no,   no,          no
pound the bass,
      "in my car/
pound the bass,

l a r g e,    r o u n d,   (l   a   r   g    e /    r     o    u     n     d )

     hard rhythms,
        oo,   oo,      oo,           oo,

hard,  hard,      hard,           h a r  d,
           oo,    oo,         oo,               oo
tune in?
hard,                      h a r  d,

pound the bass,
     "can't get/
         no,    no,        no,                 no
pound the bass,
     no,      no,         no,           no,

s a t i s f a c
no.                                        no.


no.                                                       /no./

The rhythm of this somewhat non-sensical sound poem, displayed here graphically, literally generates
the music, note for note, of the piano version. The piece is a metamusical reflection and commentary
upon what one might call commercial music or perhaps "MTV culture.

For those interested in such things, the music moves in a cascade of geometrically descending strange loops
which are much like the beautiful spirals of the fronds of a fern unfolding in both space and time. These spirals
move repeatedly from fast to slow  

         -- -  -    -        ---- -  -    -        - -- -  -    -    

and overlap in time.

That is why the music, and to a certain extent the poem as well, sounds as if it were many-voiced  
or polyphonic, even though at any one moment there is always but one voice present.

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Winter Solstice

That quiet time of year when thoughts
of the past naturally turn to face the
stars of the North, and we sit in front
of the winter fire, alone,

gently burning away the burden of what
has been. Old books go, manuscripts go,
bills, letters never sent, even things we
wish we would have said. We watch

them burn, the crackling sound of the dry
pine bringing the hard, heavy oak into flame,
the irregular remindings of the unexpected
which broods and ripens

within the silent, glowing coals. That dark
time of year of many candles and strings
of white lights that help us remember
the slower, more subtle rhythms of the

power of the Earth itself, now not confused
by too much of the sun's glare. Some spaces
are meant to be beautifully empty; they're
precious, vulnerable, but oh so easy prey for

the religious contractors pounding at the
door or trying to get down the chimney at night.
But the fire is hot enough, and there's the simple
promise of handmade gifts which do not arrive

until Spring. For weeks now, the sound of carols,
old and new, has been heard during the evening
hours, a sound passed on from village to village,
like a fire which must not be allowed to die out.

(This poem is part of a double quartet of pieces, all in a rather slow,
contemplative, narrative voice, which celebrates the eight
major festivals of the Solar Year.)

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Texts © 1999 Cliff Crego   All Rights Reserved 
(Last update: III.9.2002 ) Comments to crego@picture-poems.com