This Gaudy, Mother-Scented, Mud-Bedaubed Language

from A Tale of Two Cities
Charles Dickens

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way

The Journey
Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

from The Realm of Possibility
David Levithan

loss takes as much as love does, sometimes more
miserable, misguided, misled
missing her is not an option right now
missing her seems to be a given

notice how fickle feelings can be
the answer is to just let go
the betrayal is to the past
the cocoon dangles empty
the desire outlasts the object
the effort lingers
the frustration is in how pointless the effort was
the ghost does not make itself transparent
the heart knows nothing except its own mind
the ideas are not enough
the jealousy is always there
the killing blow is sometimes the softest
the life you lead can be detoured
the moment you know cannot be taken back
the new you will try to bury the old me
the opportunity has passed
the past is inopportune
the questions all grow from why
the reality will always be contended
the sadness will ebb
the trouble is the time it might take
the ugly words cannot be erased, only discredited
the versions are never the same
the wonder is that we make it through
the x is the unknown variable
the yesterday cannot be repeated
the zenith is the point when you look down and realize you’re no longer below

you know, he says, you’ll get through this
you live each day one at a time
you live everyday all at once
you live with the possibility of good-bye
you move on

you ponder in this darkness and see you’re not alone
you realize you never felt alone
you subtracted one from your life, that’s all

a song with no end
Charles Buckowski

when Whitman wrote, “I sing the body electric”

I know what he
meant
I know what he
wanted:

to be completely alive every moment
in spite of the inevitable.

we can’t cheat death but we can make it
work so hard
that when it does take
us

it will have known a victory just as
perfect as
ours.

Snowy Egret
Bruce Weigl

My neighbor’s boy has lifted his father’s shotgun and stolen
down to the backwaters of the Elizabeth
and in the moon he’s blasted a snow egret
from the shallows it stalked for small fish. 

Midnight. My wife wakes me. He’s in the backyard
with a shovel so I go down half drunk with pills
that let me sleep to see what I can see and if it’s safe. 
The boy doesn’t hear me come across the dewy grass. 
He says through tears he has to bury it, 
he says his father will kill him
and he digs until the hole is deep enough and gathers
the egret carefully into his arms
as if not to harm the blood-splattered wings
gleaming in the flashlight beam. 

His man’s muscled shoulders
shake with the weight of what he can’t set right no matter what, 
but one last time he tries to stay a child, sobbing
please don’t tell… . 
He says he only meant to flush it from the shadows, 
but only meant to watch it fly
but the shot spread too far
ripping into the white wings spanned awkwardly for a moment
until it glided into brackish death. 

I want to grab his shoulders, 
Shake the lies loose from his lips but he hurts enough, 
he burns with shame for what he’s done, 
with fear for his hard father’s
fists I’ve seen crash down on him for so much less. 
I don’t know what do to but hold him. 
If I let go he’ll fly to pieces before me. What a time we share, that can make a good boy steal away, 
wiping out from the blue face of the pond
what he hadn’t even known he loved, blasting
such beauty into nothing.

Do not go gentle into that good night
Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, 
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

The Walrus and The Carpenter
Lewis Carroll

The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright—
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done—
"It’s very rude of him," she said,
"To come and spoil the fun!"

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead—
There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
"If this were only cleared away,"
They said, “it would be grand!”

"If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose,” the Walrus said,
"That they could get it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

"O Oysters, come and walk with us!"
The Walrus did beseech.
"A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.”

The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head—
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat—
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn’t any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more—
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings.”

"But wait a bit," the Oysters cried,
"Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!”
"No hurry!" said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.

"A loaf of bread," the Walrus said,
"Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed—
Now if you’re ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed.”

"But not on us!" the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
"After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!”
"The night is fine," the Walrus said.
"Do you admire the view?

"It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
"Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf—
I’ve had to ask you twice!”

"It seems a shame," the Walrus said,
"To play them such a trick,
After we’ve brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
"The butter’s spread too thick!"

"I weep for you," the Walrus said:
"I deeply sympathize."
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

"O Oysters," said the Carpenter,
"You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none—
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.

Desiderata
Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

from A Defense of The Humanities
Leon Weiseltier

We live in a society inebriated by technology, and happily, even giddily governed by the values of utility, speed, efficiency, and convenience. The technological mentality that has become the American worldview instructs us to prefer practical questions to questions of meaning – to ask of things not if they are true or false, or good or evil, but how they work. Our reason has become an instrumental reason, and is no longer the reason of the philosophers, with its ancient magnitude of intellectual ambition, its belief that the proper subjects of human thought are the largest subjects, and that the mind, in one way or another, can penetrate to the very principles of natural life and human life.

Full speech here

from The Catcher in the Rye
J.D. Salinger

"This fall I think you’re riding for—it’s a special kind of fall, a horrible kind. The man falling isn’t permitted to feel or hear himself hit bottom. He just keeps falling and falling. The whole arrangement’s designed for men who, at some time or other in their lives, were looking for something their own environment couldn’t supply them with. Or they thought their own environment couldn’t supply them with. So they gave up looking. They gave it up before they ever really even got started.”
____________________________

Please, please, please read this book.

Because making a metaphor comparing our tears to torrential rain would be too easy and just as predictable

Our eyes lack the elegance of elevation

Maybe it’s not
how many tears you cry
but how far they fall

How far we fall

e.e. cummings

it may not always be so; and i say
that if your lips,which i have loved,should touch
another’s,and your dear strong fingers clutch
his heart,as mine in time not far away;
if on another’s face your sweet hair lay
in such silence as i know,or such
great writhing words as,uttering overmuch,
stand helplessly before the spirit at bay;

if this should be,i say if this should be—
you of my heart,send me a little word;
that i may go unto him,and take his hands,
saying, accept all happiness from me.
then shall i turn my face,and hear one bird
sing terribly afar in the lost lands

Sleep

Charles Anthony Silvestri

The evening hangs beneath the moon,

A silver thread on darkened dune.

With closing eyes and resting head;

I know that sleep is coming soon.

Upon my pillow, safe in bed,

A thousand pictures fill my head,

I cannot sleep, my mind’s aflight;

And yet my limbs seems made of lead.

If there are noises in the night,

A frightening shadow,

Flickerering light;

Then I surrender unto sleep,

Where clouds of dream give second sight.

What dreams may come, both dark and deep—

Of flying wings and soaring leap?

As I surrender unto sleep.

Please Watch: ‘Sleep’ Directed by Eric Whitacre

If I Should Have a Daughter
Sarah Kay

You will put the ‘wind’ in win some lose some, you will put the “star” in starting over and over, and no matter how many land mines erupt in a minute be sure your mind lands on the beauty of this funny place called life.”

maggie and milly and molly and may
e.e. cummings

maggie and milly and molly and and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles, and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles; and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

___________________

Performed by Mark Coleman