TCS: To Hear the Flute of Your Whole Existence

Good Morning!


Welcome to The Coffee Shop, just for you early risers
on Monday mornings. This is an Open Thread forum,
so if you have an off-topic opinion burning a hole in
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A dead end street is a good
place to turn around.
Naomi Judd

How far you go in life depends on
your being tender with the young,
compassionate with the aged,
sympathetic with the striving and
tolerant of the weak and strong.
Because someday in your life
you will have been all of these.
– George Washington Carver


13 more poets, for the last of
January and the first of February



January 30

1775Walter Savage Landor born in Warwick UK; English author and poet, best  known for his prose series Imaginary Conversations. His headstrong nature and hot-headed temperament, combined with a complete contempt for authority, landed him in a great deal of trouble over the years. In the course of his life he came into conflict deliberately with his political enemies, and in the long run, won more often than he lost, although he frequently landed on the wrong side of the laws of libel in the short term. He was also often at outs with his family, and with his wife, who eventually took the children and left him. He lived in Italy for the last six years of his life, and died at age 89 in Florence in 1864.

To Age

by Walter Savage Landor

Welcome, old friend! These many years
Have we lived door by door;
The fates have laid aside their shears
Perhaps for some few more.

I was indocile at an age
When better boys were taught,
But thou at length hast made me sage,
If I am sage in aught.

Little I know from other men,
Too little they know from me,
But thou hast pointed well the pen
That writes these lines to thee.

Thanks for expelling Fear and Hope,
One vile, the other vain;
One’s scourge, the other’s telescope,
I shall not see again.

Rather what lies before my feet
My notice shall engage–
He who hath braved Youth’s dizzy heat
Dreads not the frost of Age.


1866Gelett Burgess born, American artist, art critic, author, poet and humorist; editor of The Lark humorous magazine (1895-1897); best known for his poem “The Purple Cow.”  He was a major figure in San Francisco’s literary resurgence at the turn of the 19th Century, but Gelett Burgess was born in 1866 in Boston. Burgess initially went to Boston’s MIT for his education and graduated from there in 1887. Fed up with the rather conservative nature of the Massachusetts elite, he yearned for a more eclectic existence and headed for San Francisco in 1891 where he initially worked putting his artistic skills to good use as a draftsman. Shortly after that he found himself employed by Berkley University though the job did not last long when he was suspected of being involved in the vandalism of a water fountain and asked to resign. After founding The Lark, which attracted contributors like Carolyn Wells and Maynard Dixon, he went on to write The Goops series, books of humorous poems to teach children good manners. Burgess died at age 85 in 1951 in Carmel, CA.

The Goops

by Gelett Burgess

The meanest trick I ever knew
Was one I know you never do.
I saw a Goop once try to do it,
And there was nothing funny to it.
He pulled a chair from under me
As I was sitting down; but he
Was sent to bed, and rightly, too.
It was a horrid thing to do!

“The Goops” from The Burgess Nonsense Book, by Gelett Burgess – facsimile of the 1901 edition – reissued by RareBooksClub in 2012


1935Richard Brautigan born in Tacoma, Washington, American novelist, short story writer, and poet. His first published book was a poetry collection, The Return of the Rivers, in 1957. His first novel was A Confederate General from Big Sur (1964), followed by his best-known book, Trout Fishing in America, in 1967.  Other works include The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western; Dreaming of Babylon: A Private Eye Novel 1942; All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace; and An Unfortunate Woman: A Journey, which was published posthumously in a French translation in.1994. Revenge of the Lawn is his best-known short story collection. After years of struggling with alcoholism and depression, in 1984, Richard Brautigan, age 49, was living alone in Bolinas, California, in an old house he bought with his earnings years earlier. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head sometime around the middle of September, but his body was not found until several weeks later. He once wrote, “We all have a place in history. Mine is clouds.”

A Boat

by Richard Brautigan

O beautiful
was the werewolf
in his evil forest.
We took him
to the carnival
and he started
when he saw
the Ferris wheel.
green and red tears
flowed down
his furry cheeks.
He looked
like a boat
out on the dark

“A Boat” from The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster, © 1968 by Richard Brautigan – Houghton Mifflin Company


January 31

1915 Thomas Merton born in France to expat artists – an American mother and a New Zealand father. He was a notable 20th century American poet, Trappist monk, theologian, mystic, and prolific writer on spiritual and social themes. The family moved to the U.S. during WWI. His mother died when Merton was six years old, and he alternated living with his father and his grandparents before he was settled with his father,  first in France, and then in England. After a year at the University of Cambridge, he earned degrees at Columbia University, New York City. He converted to Catholicism during his time at Columbia. After teaching English at Columbia (1938-1939) and at St. Bonaventure University (1939-1941), he entered the Trappist Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, and was ordained as a priest in 1949. Merton’s first published works were collections of poems—Thirty Poems (1944), A Man in the Divided Sea (1946), and Figures for an Apocalypse (1948). With the publication of Seven Storey Mountain (1948), he gained an international reputation. In the 1960s, he wrote social criticism in support of the movements for civil rights, nonviolence, and pacifism, and against the nuclear arms race. He also studied Eastern philosophy, mysticism, and Buddhism. On a trip to Asia in 1968, he met several times with the Dalai Lama, but then was fatally electrocuted by a faulty wire at an international monastic convention in Thailand. He was 53 years old.


for Baroness G. de Hueck

by Thomas Merton

Across the cages of the keyless aviaries,
The lines and wires, the gallows of the broken kites,
Crucify, against the fearful light,
The ragged dresses of the little children.
Soon, in the sterile jungles of the waterpipes and ladders,
The bleeding sun, a bird of prey, will terrify the poor,
These will forget the unbelievable moon.

But in the cells of whiter buildings,
Where the glass dawn is brighter than the knives of surgeons,
Paler than alcohol or ether, shinier than money,
The white men’s wives, like Pilate’s,
Cry in the peril of their frozen dreams:

“Daylight has driven iron spikes,
Into the flesh of Jesus’ hands and feet:
Four flowers of blood have nailed Him to the walls of Harlem.”

Along the white halls of the clinics and the hospitals
Pilate evaporates with a cry:
They have cut down two hundred Judases,
Hanged by the neck in the opera houses and the museum.

Across the cages of the keyless aviaries,
The lines and wires, the gallows of the broken kites,
Crucify, against the fearful light,
The ragged dresses of the little children.

“Aubade—Harlem” from The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton, © 1977 by The Trustees of the Merton Legacy Trust – New Directions


1950Janice Silverman Rebibo born in the U.S., Israeli poet, short story writer and translator who began writing in Hebrew while studying the language in college, and later immigrated to Israel.

Levitating at Last

by Janice Silverman Rebibo

Sometimes I think about swallowing swords and instead
decide to become a fire eater.  This morning’s Herald
has a picture of a lady from Methuen who spied
Jesus on the bottom of her iron. My photo with flaming
mouth belongs beside hers with the flat of her iron
facing the camera, only to me it looks more like the
Mona Lisa. It’s all a question of cultural orientation
they say. Once my boss in Israel gave us ironing boards
for Passover. Although I knew I had an iron when I moved
to that country years before, Good only knows where it went.

“Levitating at Last” from My Beautiful Ballooning Heart, © 2013 by Janice Rebibo – Coolidge Corner Publishing


February 1

1902Langston Hughes was born on the 37th anniversary of the day Abraham Lincoln signed the 13th Amendment: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Hughes became an American poet, novelist, short story writer, non-fiction writer, and playwright. In 1924, he was working in Washington D.C. where he met and impressed the poet Vachel Lindsay, who was popular for his dramatic readings of his own work, and included three Hughes poems at his next reading, rather pompously declaring he had “discovered an American Negro genius.” Hughes’s first book of poetry, The Weary Blues, was published in 1926.  In the 1930s, his first novel, Not Without Laughter, won the Harmon gold medal for literature. Hughes spent most of the rest of his life in Harlem, becoming  a major figure of the Harlem Renaissance. Though most of the honors and awards he received during his life were either for his novels or for his body of work, he is best remembered now for his poetry. He published 17 collections of his poems during his life, and his Collected Poems were published posthumously.


by Langston Hughes

I am so tired of waiting,
Aren’t you,
For the world to become good
And beautiful and kind?
Let us take a knife
And cut the world in two-
And see what worms are eating
At the rind.

“Tired” from The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, © 1994 by the Estate of Langston Hughes – Alfred A. Knopf/Vintage


1918Muriel Spark born, Scottish novelist, playwright, poet, and essayist; best known for her novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which was adapted for the stage, and then made into a film in 1969, starring Maggie Smith, who won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance of the title role.

The Lonely Shoe Lying on the Road

by Muriel Spark

One sad shoe that someone has probably flung
out of a car or truck. Why only one?

This happens on an average one year
in four. But always throughout my
life, my travels, I see it like
a memorandum. Something I have
forgotten to remember,

that there are always
mysteries in life. That shoes
do not always go in pairs, any more
than we do. That one fits;
the other, not. That children can
thoughtlessly and in a merry fashion
chuck out someone’s shoe, split up
someone’s life.

But usually that shoe that I
see is a man’s, old, worn, the sole
parted from the upper.
Then why did the owner keep the other,
keep it to himself? Was he
afraid (as I so often am with
inanimate objects) to hurt its feelings?
That one shoe in the road invokes
my awe and my sad pity.

“The Lonely Shoe Lying on the Road” from All the Poems of Muriel Spark, © 2004 by Muriel Spark – New Directions


1927Galway Kinnell born in Rhode Island; American poet whose 1982 collection, Selected Poems, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and split the 1983 National Book Award for Poetry with Charles Wright’s Country Music: Selected Early Poems. Kinnell graduated from Princeton University in 1948 alongside friend and fellow poet W. S. Merwin, then earned his master of arts degree from the University of Rochester. Kinnell traveled extensively in Europe and the Middle East, and went to Paris on a Fulbright Fellowship. Upon returning to the U.S., he joined CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) and worked on voter registration and workplace integration in  Hammond, Louisiana. This effort got him arrested. In 1968, he signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War. His experiences inspired his book-long poem The Book of Nightmares.  He was poet laureate of the state of Vermont (1989-1993), and a Chancellor of the American Academy of Poets. He died of leukemia at age 87 in 2014.


by Galway Kinnell

Wait, for now.
Distrust everything, if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become lovely again.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again,
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. And the desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.

Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a while and listen.
Music of hair,
Music of pain,
music of looms weaving all our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear,
the flute of your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.

“Wait” from Collected Poems of Galway Kinnell, © 2017 by The Literary Estate of Galway Kinnell LLC – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt


February 2

1882James Joyce born in Dublin; Irish novelist, poet, and literary critic. He is best known for his book Ulysses, but also known for his novels A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Finnegans Wake, as well as his short story collection Dubliners. His poetry collections include: Chamber Music, Giacomo Joyce, and Pomes Penyeach.

All Day I Hear the Noise of Waters

by James Joyce

All day I hear the noise of waters
Making moan,
Sad as the sea-bird is when, going
Forth alone,
He hears the winds cry to the water’s

The grey winds, the cold winds are blowing
Where I go.
I hear the noise of many waters
Far below.
All day, all night, I hear them flowing
To and fro.

“All Day I Hear the Noise of Waters” from James Joyce: Collected Poems – Ragged Hand/Read & Co. – 2016 edition


1923 James Dickey born, American novelist and poet; best known for his novel  Deliverance.  The author of 30 books of poetry, Dickey fabricated major pieces of his life to create that swaggering Southern Man’s Man persona — a combination Star Athlete-Great White Hunter-Bravura Cocksman-Heroic Warrior under which he hid in plain sight. He lied about his athletic ability and his war record. He greatly overstated his sexual virtuosity. He had no hunting experience with a bow, and quite possibly not with any other weapon either. What kept him from being just a whiskey-soaked Good Ole Boy swapping lies on a Saturday night was his talent. The saddest thing I can say about James Dickey is that he drank that talent to death a couple of decades before he actually died in 1997.

The Hospital Window

by James Dickey

I have just come down from my father.
Higher and higher he lies
Above me in a blue light
Shed by a tinted window.
I drop through six white floors
And then step out onto pavement.

Still feeling my father ascend,
I start to cross the firm street,
My shoulder blades shining with all
The glass the huge building can raise.
Now I must turn round and face it,
And know his one pane from the others.

Each window possesses the sun
As though it burned there on a wick.
I wave, like a man catching fire.
All the deep-dyed windowpanes flash,
And, behind them, all the white rooms
They turn to the color of Heaven.

Ceremoniously, gravely, and weakly,
Dozens of pale hands are waving
Back, from inside their flames.
Yet one pure pane among these
Is the bright, erased blankness of nothing.
I know that my father is there,

In the shape of his death still living.
The traffic increases around me
Like a madness called down on my head.
The horns blast at me like shotguns,
And drivers lean out, driven crazy—
But now my propped-up father

Lifts his arm out of stillness at last.
The light from the window strikes me
And I turn as blue as a soul,
As the moment when I was born.
I am not afraid for my father—
Look! He is grinning; he is not

Afraid for my life, either,
As the wild engines stand at my knees
Shredding their gears and roaring,
And I hold each car in its place
For miles, inciting its horn
To blow down the walls of the world

That the dying may float without fear
In the bold blue gaze of my father.
Slowly I move to the sidewalk
With my pin-tingling hand half dead
At the end of my bloodless arm.
I carry it off in amazement,

High, still higher, still waving,
My recognized face fully mortal,
Yet not; not at all, in the pale,
Drained, otherworldly, stricken,
Created hue of stained glass.
I have just come down from my father.

“The Hospital Window” from The Whole Motion: Collected Poems 1945-1992, © 1992 by James Dickey – Wesleyan University Press, University Press of New England


1931Judith Viorst born, prolific American author of children’s books and both fiction and non-fiction for adults; her book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day has sold over four million copies. Other books for kids include the Lulu books. Her called on her psychoanalytic training  to write her non-fiction book Necessary Losses, which was a New York Times bestseller. Among her recent books of poetry are What Are You Glad About? What Are You Mad About?; Unexpectedly Eighty; and Nearing Ninety.

The Pleasures of Ordinary Life

by Judith Viorst

I’ve had my share of necessary losses,
Of dreams I know no longer can come true.
I’m done now with the whys and the becauses.
It’s time to make things good, not just make do.
It’s time to stop complaining and pursue
The pleasures of an ordinary life.

I used to rail against my compromises.
I yearned for the wild music, the swift race.
But happiness arrived in new disguises:
Sun lighting a child’s hair.  A friend’s embrace.
Slow dancing in a safe and quiet place.
The pleasures of an ordinary life.

I’ll have no trumpets, triumphs, trails of glory.
It seems the woman I’ve turned out to be
Is not the heroine of some grand story.
But I have learned to find the poetry
In what my hands can touch, my eyes can see.
The pleasures of an ordinary life.

Young fantasies of magic and of mystery
Are over.  But they really can’t compete
With all we’ve built together: A long history.
Connections that help render us complete.
Ties that hold and heal us.  And the sweet,
Sweet pleasures of an ordinary life.

“The Pleasures of Ordinary Life” from Forever Fifty and Other Negotiations, © 1989 by Judith Viorst – Simon & Schuster


February 3

1842Sydney Lanier born in Macon, Georgia; American composer, flute-player, poet, and author.  He served in the Confederate signal corps as a private, then worked as a pilot for English blockade-running ships for which he was imprisoned (resulting in his catching tuberculosis), briefly taught school, worked at a hotel where he gave musical performances, was a church organist, and worked as a lawyer. His only novel, Tiger Lilies, was partly autobiographical. He died at age 39 in 1881.

A Song of the Future

by Sydney Lanier

Sail fast, sail fast,
Ark of my hopes, Ark of my dreams;
Sweep lordly o’er the drowned Past,
Fly glittering through the sun’s strange beams;
Sail fast, sail fast.
Breaths of new buds from off some drying lea
With news about the Future scent the sea:
My brain is beating like the heart of Haste:
I’ll loose me a bird upon this Present waste;
Go, trembling song,
And stay not long; oh, stay not long:
Thou’rt only a gray and sober dove,
But thine eye is faith and thy wing is love.

“A Song of the Future” from Poems of Sidney Lanier, published posthumously by his wife Mary – Charles Scribner’s 1916 edition


February 4

1900Jacques Prévert born, French poet and screenwriter; his first poetry collection, Paroles, was published in 1945, pieced together by René Bertelé from forgotten newspapers and reviews, cabaret songs, and scribblings from the backs of envelopes and the paper tablecloths of cafés.


by Jacques Prévert

An orange on the table
Your dress on the rug
And you in my bed
Sweet gift of the present
Freshness of the night
Warmth of my life

“Alicante” from Paroles: Selected Poems – City Lights Pocket Poets Series, 1958 English Edition


Visual: ‘Boy with Flute’ by Judith Leyster

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