Week VI: Text-only version
"There's nothing worse than a sharp image
of a fuzzy concept."
Walking the World: On Form and
Water in Flowing Movement
(1) Form emerges out of movement; it is the outward envelope
of the rhythmic pulse of life. The river creates itself the boundaries
of the bed that order and give structure to its flow.
(2) Life-like mechanical simulations of outward patterns of movement
do not mean that we have necessarily understood or discovered the inner
workings of the generation of organic form. The computer programmed
to make a rubato while performing Bach does not do so because it is
actually listening, or because of the rubato's perceived meaning within
the movement of the piece as a whole. Nor have the stunningly beautiful
computer displays of fern-like fractals necessarily captured the essence
of the fern's inner formative movements.
What the program programs is the intellect manifest in past performances;
what it necessarily leaves out is listening itselfor intelligencewhich
is not of the past, but always now, of the present moment.
Oak leaves: white, black,
red to scarlet and bur
to prickly bristles
and back, bringing out
the myriad accents
and turns of a phrase.
The summer fades behind you,
as late one morning you
look up from your work,
and the sound of the leaves
is suddenly drier, higher
in pitch, and your thoughts
naturally turn from arcane theory
to the facts and practice of shelter
and the coming cold.
Far away in the mountains
it is already snowing, and
a deep and uneasy quiet descends
upon the passes heading South.
Did they cross safely
to the other side?
The crows know that this is when
the pulse and flow of rivers ease, and
the orchestra of strings stops,
now listening, to tune and tune
again, sensing the hushed sway
of trunks in a spruce forest
in the far North.
How broad and slowly the
waves of wind pass through
the crowns of tall trees.
A hoketus of shrill cries marks
the crows' departure, as an empty
branch bobs nervously about;
arched back, a quick trill
of the paws, and
the gray squirrel has
stashed another piece of gold.
A farmer's life is measured
by the pitchfork fulls,
of hay, of manure,
of the mountain of work
which is each day left undone.
Working in the barn all day,
moving manure from here
Evening, and the low door opens
all by itself. Walking out the door,
I bump my head against the stars.
Life inside the stomach of a cow!
Low ceiling, pigshit smells,
moving manure from here to
Late summer hay is mid-winter joy.
The goat's eyes are filled with delicate
bells pouring over into the sweetness
of milk. A last drop and the bucket is full,
the gentle waves of a warm evening wind.
The gift of labor.
Working together on a neighbor's
farm, moving manure from here
An old wheelbarrow,
the wooden handle's worn thin
as a boneon one side onlythe
They say his older brother
The Beech and "The Eye of the Moor"
Constantly running about from high to low and here to there,
this freedom of movement, one of our most precious
of evolutionary gifts, does have its dark side.
Will we ever know... . . .
the rounded repose of water at rest, of
a small pond in a highland moor;
first but a shadow on the winter snows,
the melting then its rising, gladly receiving
each drop of the spring rains,
so freely offering a protected space for the
throaty love songs of creatures of a two-fold
Or the motionless resilience of ancient trees,
inhabitants of a lowland forest;
Each day, the beech renews its romance
with the space into which it has grown so
slowly and knows so well,
it has long ago made room for the nails of the
farmer's fence, having ease around these
wires with prickly barbs, a skin which grows
smooth with age.
The Broken Lance
Perhaps empty space has texture,
just as wood has grain. Who can
show us how to read such things?
Finally, the midlands.
On a hill, resting, overlooking
the place where a great river makes
a powerful turn to the North, moving
slowly from mountain to sea.
We don't always have to dig
to uncover the facts of the past;
sometimes the history of a place
speaks to us more in the hushed tones
of deep underground streams -- we listen,
follow the signs, winding about
until we reach a possible source.
Clearly, this is a city of many springs, of
many fountains. Long ago, fanatics
hacked away the finely-wrought, deeply
feminine dragon shapes which graced many
wells, forcing the water through straight
iron pipes aligned to the axis of a cross.
But before this, a sword was
thrust into the earth,
and dark-haired, barefoot young
women were no longer allowed to
dance or sing or sleep together at night.
(Fire and air, f i r e and a i r, and
the horrifying sound of
heavy hooves and giant horses,
f i r e and a i r.)
The clock added to the cathedral's
tower, and the mountains of silver and gold
horded in secular banks, all came
They say, once the giant bells were
melted into cannon balls, throughout
the land, the sound of the night winds
and flowing waters, was no longer heard.
(Fire and air,
f i r e and a i r.)
Rilke: A Walk
Already my gaze is on the hill, the sunny one,
at the end of the path which I've only just begun.
So we are grasped, by that which we could not grasp,
at such great distance, so fully manifest
and it changes us, even when we do not reach it,
into something that, hardly sensing it, we already are;
a sign appears, echoing our own sign . . .
But what we sense are the falling winds.
Rainer Maria Rilke
(Muzot, c. 1924)
(tr. Cliff Crego)
(For more Rilke poems in translation, go to
The Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke )
Neon Graffiti: At the
R h y t h m, mmm,
that sound, one hears it whole,
but the fingers trip and stutter
we back up...
tap,tap, tap, tap,
like the quick little flights and chirps of
birds, each word, each sound, makes
its own special flutter of movement,
thinking with 10 fingers, they say,
a woman can easily do this dance
and talk to a hundred men at once.
(What would he have to say?)
R h y t h m, an ancient sounding word,
no, no, no, b a c k u p, correct th/
tap, tap, tap, tap,
t a p,
t a p
push, save, shift,
What would he have t/
e r r o r,
k e y,
Type, Tap, Drift, Shift,
l e t - t e r s
n o t - h e r s
t e a r s,
f e a r s,
y e a r s,
tap,tap, type, ripe, hype, r, rr,
Tap, twist, tap, twist - e r,
y o u?
d o ?
"Do it!" Ooooooo.. . . .
Twist, tap, rap, trip, err, or,
t e a r,
s c a r e,
Tap,tap, tap, tap, t a p, t a p- e,
( /es b o r e d)
she s e e s, s e a s, he, w a v e s,
r a v e s, s a v e s,
"How much/ an/
ss, s s sooo, o, o, ta-lenttttt t t t , t , t , tt
oo, mmm, rrr, r h y - t h m, oh , u m, s o r - r y,
"Print it out!"
The High Country Moor
Gold sometimes longs for its silver;
And silver sometimes longs for its gold.
Who among us does not long for both?
The broad, sweeping arc of the late fall moon,
stretching the fine lines scrathced into the smooth,
polished granite surface, left behind by
retreating bodies of ice;
One wonders How many moons had to pass
over empty measures of mineral silence until
the green mossy plants found their way back
to this place?
Gray on gray, almost dark, clouds sinking
into a sea of rising mist and dragon shapes,
many threadlike paths feel about the moor and
simply vanish, like questions picked up for a while
and then dropped for no apparent reason;
Center of centers,
a small tarn, one of many pools,
frozen now in a thick layer of blue ice,
snow not quite reaching down to here from
the winter mountains above;
At water's edge, a single sedge stands guard;
sharp blade of leaf, ignoring the shiny green
of dwarf pine, it does not mourn the loss
of the summer's quiet reflection;
Cold, wind still, a bit lost,
but what does it matter,
the way only goes down from here.
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