an afternoon in hell


He cries for awhile, for no apparent reason.

Sniffs, blows his nose. Then goes about his

business, stomp, pound, smash, crush, explode.

Then cries a little more, sob, blubber, bleat.

It’s awful, he says. It’s of no use. He throws

his chair through the window. It’s a mess, he says.

The whole damned thing is useless. Now he’s

really weeping, cascades, waterfalls, rivers.

I shouldn’t bother, he says. It’s a big, miserable

waste of time. His wife walks in. Honey,

haven’t you finished changing the baby yet?

Almost finished, he chirps.


James Tate


the lovely arc of a meteor in the night sky


At the party there were those sage souls

who swam along the bottom like those huge white

fish who live for hundreds of years but have no

fun. They are nearly blind and need the cold.

William was a stingray guarding his cave. Only

those prepared for mortal battle came close to

him. Closer to the surface the smaller fish

played, swimming in mixed patterns only a god

could decipher. They gossiped and fed and sparred

and consumed, and some no doubt even spawned.

It’s a life filled with agitation, thrills,

melodrama and twittery, but too soon it’s over.

And nothing’s revealed because it was never known.


James Tate


right before our eyes

A lot

of unimportant inner

litter and bits and pieces have

to be swept out first. Even a small head

can be piled high inside with irrelevant distractions.

True, there may be edifying emotions and thoughts, too, but

the clutter is ever present. So let this be the aim of the meditation:

to turn one’s innermost being into a vast empty plain, with none

of that treacherous undergrowth to impede the view. So that

something of “God” can enter you, and something of “Love,”

too. Not the kind of love-de-luxe that you can revel in

deliciously for half an hour, taking pride in

how sublime you feel, but the love

you can apply to small,

everyday things.


at Japanese prints

with Glassner this afternoon.

That’s how I want to write. With that much

space round a few words. They should simply emphasize

the silence. Just like that print with the sprig of blossom in the

lower corner. A few delicate brush strokes—but with what attention

to the smallest detail—and all around it space, not empty but inspired.

The few great things that matter in life can be said in a few words.

If I should ever write—but what?—I would like to brush in a

few words against a wordless background. To describe

the silence and the stillness and to inspire them.

What matters is the right relationship between

words and wordlessness, the wordlessness

in which much more happens than

in all the words one can

string together.


Etty Hillesum


The mind

can go in a thousand

directions, but on this beautiful

path, I walk in peace. With each step,

the wind blows. With each step,

a flower blooms.


Thich Nhat Hanh