How strange it is. We have these deep terrible lingering fears about ourselves and the people we love. Yet we walk around, talk to people, eat and drink. We manage to function. The feelings are deep and real. Shouldn’t they paralyze us? How is it we can survive them, at least for a little while? We drive a car, we teach a class. How is it no one sees how deeply afraid we were, last night, this morning? Is it something we all hide from each other, by mutual consent? Or do we share the same secret without knowing it? Wear the same disguise?
Don DeLillo, White Noise  (via wiltedbones)

Sonnet 19

When I consider how my light is spent,
   Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
   And that one Talent which is death to hide
   Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
   My true account, lest he returning chide;
   “Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
   I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
   Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
   Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed 
   And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:
   They also serve who only stand and wait.”

John Milton 

I thought of their astounding number, both in the present and past, of Zandy and Angela, of Brian, of Granny, even of my father, whose disavowal of me led to this place, and I understood that as much as I had resisted the outside, as much as I had constricted my life, as much as I had closed and narrowed the channels into me, there were still many takers for the quiet heart.
Steve Martin, from The Pleasure of My Company (via the-final-sentence)

"I know what I believe, though the older I get, the more willing I am to admit that often, I barely believe any of it. Yet one thing I cling to is this: somewhere in between pre-slicing and wiping out the bread plate, there is a thin place. This mundane bread and inexpensive wine, gifts of God, become an offering back to him. In our ritual, we lift the wine and the bread, like a sacrifice, and then we eat it. We eat God, a little, somehow.

But it’s just bread and wine. Though I know how sacred this is, it still feels almost banal. So although, I come away from the table with a heart brimming with joy sometimes, more often I walk away preoccupied, already thinking of the week ahead.

But I choose to believe—-I have to believe—-that I have, right there, experienced a thin place. I have received the gift of God and swallowed it, and now, it is part of me, whether or not I was paying attention.”

—Alissa Wilkinson

Fast Gas

for Richard

Before the days of self service,
when you never had to pump your own gas,
I was the one who did it for you, the girl
who stepped out at the sound of a bell
with a blue rag in my hand, my hair pulled back
in a straight, unlovely ponytail.
This was before automatic shut-offs
and vapor seals, and once, while filling a tank,
I hit a bubble of trapped air and the gas
backed up, came arcing out of the hole
in a bright gold wave and soaked me—face, breasts,
belly and legs. And I had to hurry
back to the booth, the small employee bathroom
with the broken lock, to change my uniform,
peel the gas-soaked cloth from my skin
and wash myself in the sink.
Light-headed, scrubbed raw, I felt
pure and amazed—the way the amber gas
glazed my flesh, the searing,
subterranean pain of it, how my skin
shimmered and ached, glowed
like rainbowed oil on the pavement.
I was twenty. In a few weeks I would fall,
for the first time, in love, that man waiting
patiently in my future like a red leaf
on the sidewalk, the kind of beauty
that asks to be noticed. How was I to know
it would begin this way: every cell of my body
burning with a dangerous beauty, the air around me
a nimbus of light that would carry me
through the days, how when he found me,
weeks later, he would find me like that,
an ordinary woman who could rise
in flame, all he would have to do
is come close and touch me.

—Dorianne Laux

"It’s a common and easy enough distinction, this separation of books into those we read because we want to and those we read because we have to, and it serves as a useful marketing trope for publishers, especially when they are trying to get readers to take this book rather than that one to the beach. But it’s a flawed and pernicious division. This linking of pleasure and guilt is intended as an enticement, not as an admonition: reading for guilty pleasure is like letting one’s diet slide for a day—naughty but relatively harmless. The distinction partakes of a debased cultural Puritanism, which insists that the only fun to be had with a book is the frivolous kind, or that it’s necessarily a pleasure to read something accessible and easy. Associating pleasure and guilt in this way presumes an anterior, scolding authority—one which insists that reading must be work.

But there are pleasures to be had from books beyond being lightly entertained. There is the pleasure of being challenged; the pleasure of feeling one’s range and capacities expanding; the pleasure of entering into an unfamiliar world, and being led into empathy with a consciousness very different from one’s own; the pleasure of knowing what others have already thought it worth knowing, and entering a larger conversation.”

—Rebecca Mead, The Pleasure of Reading to Impress Yourself

Radiance versus Ordinary Light

Meanwhile the sea moves uneasily, like a man who
suspects what the room reels with as he rises into it
is violation—his own: he touches the bruises at each
shoulder and, on his chest,
                                                  the larger bruise, star-shaped,
a flawed star, or hand, though he remembers no hands,
has tried—can’t remember …
                                                        That kind of rhythm to it,
even to the roughest surf there’s a rhythm findable,
which is why we keep coming here, to find it, or that’s
what we say. We dive in and, as usual,
                                                                      the swimming
feels like that swimming the mind does in the wake
of transgression, how the instinct to panic at first
slackens that much more quickly, if you don’t
look back. Regret,
                                 like pity, changes nothing really, we
say to ourselves and, less often, to each other, each time
swimming a bit farther,
                                           leaving the shore the way
the water—in its own watered, of course, version
of semaphore–keeps leaving the subject out, flashing
Why should it matter now and Why,
                                                                  why shouldn ‘t it,
as the waves beat harder, hard against us, until that’s
how we like it, I’ll break your heart, break mine.

—Carl Phillips 


The Names of Snow

Of course we know how our language lacks:
it’s a tangle of tenses and borrowed words, irregular
verbs and mixed constructions.  Everything dangles
and we only have one word for love, a lament in itself,

echoed in every valentine.  But think of all the other words
that hold up their hundred definitions: sky, wish, tree.
Or snow.  There is sleet and freezing rain, hail
and “wintry mix,” according to our Pennsylvania weatherman.

We lay adjectives before nouns like gifts, hoping
when we say them aloud we’ll have made a new word,
when all we really want is more ways to say snow:
powder snow, flying snow, cotton snow.

As in Hokkaido, with such storms and so many names:
a light sprinkling of snowsnow at the foot of a treebeautiful morning 
after a heavy snow.  Names for snow we’ve never seen:
one or two characters holding the world complete.  As it is,

all the unknown words trail behind our thoughts, never
catching up.  Still, I bless and keep my mother tongue,
even as I miss the words for everything that falls: night,
water, father.  Perhaps it’s not the words I miss

because I could just say “peony-flake snow.”
But what if you did not know the heavy skirts
those flowers wear in early June?
Therein lies our sadness, the quiet in our mouths.

Katherine Bode-Lang