Nosce te ipsum


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Nosce te ipsum: “Know Thyself”.

The family motto from the old country.
Emblazoned six or seven centuries past,
On a shield of green,
A plumed crest and sweeping boughs,
And three goats passant argent,,
Found in a dusty book.

It could just as easily mean:
Think for thyself.
Be true to thyself.
Know thy fears and subdue them.
Honor thyself, and others, too.
Do not be fooled by dishonest flattery.
Do not be fooled by criticisms
Or the judgement of others.
Know thyself, the delusions you nurture.
Think for thyself, mistrusting certainty.
Be a vessel for truth, however harsh,
For generations will remember.

This is the weight of the motto now.
Heavy enough, I should say.
It feels good to connect again,
To know my origins,
And what remains undone.
What remains undone…

The Air of Other Places


Pericles statue
Pericles of Athens

I want to know what Addis Abbaba smells like at dawn,
Down in old Africa
Where we all began.

I want to fall asleep again in the old part of Delhi,
To the sounds of temple bells and honking horns,
The chatter and laughter, the hum of millions;
To the aroma of spices and diesel fumes and cigarettes.
I want to feel the weight of 5,000 years,
Like a hulking mountain behind modern mounds,
Where the faces are dark and eyes bright,
Where the past and present are one.

I want to climb the Acropolis in Athens at dawn and
Stand amid Pericles’ crumbling marble. That’s
Where the West, the best ideas of the West, began.
Freedom. The beauty of the human form. Democracy.

I want to be where things began.
There are places I’ve never seen,
Strange places with strange people,
Who call, seductively, quietly,
“Sit with us and share our fire.
We are you, brother, and you are us.”

There is a time, at dawn, when the mists lift
Over a strange and beautiful mystery,
Where the air is pungent with undiscovered wonders,
Where, alone, it is possible to feel at one with it all.

©Hemmingplay 2014

Old is New Again


It’s gonna be a busy day at work as I’m back after a 5-day break. It was productive, though, as there are now many more words in the can on the book. I’m just tossing this at you for a place-holder. I don’t feel old, but that’s a relative thing. If you’re in your 20s – 40s I qualify, probably. You may think you’re old when you hit 30 or 40, but trust me, you’ve only just hit the half-way mark. My advice? Don’t dwell on it too much. You’ll just make yourself look somewhat daft and whiny. Yes, it’s a shock when you realize the opposite sex doesn’t see you the same way as before, and sometimes doesn’t see you AT ALL!!!! But you’ll get where I am, too, if you’re lucky. Suck the marrow out of life as you go and keep your eye on the horizon. You’ll be fine. 🙂

VII

by Wendell Berry

I know I am getting old and I say so,
but I don’t think of myself as an old man.
I think of myself as a young man
with unforeseen debilities. Time is neither
young nor old, but simply new, always
counting, the only apocalypse. And the clouds
—no mere measure or geometry, no cubism,
can account for clouds or, satisfactorily, for bodies.
There is no science for this, or art either.
Even the old body is new—who has known it
before?—and no sooner new than gone, to be
replaced by a body yet older and again new.
The clouds are rarely absent from our sky
over this humid valley, and there is a sycamore
that I watch as, growing on the riverbank,
it forecloses the horizon, like the years
of an old man. And you, who are as old
almost as I am, I love as I loved you
young, except that, old, I am astonished
at such a possibility, and am duly grateful.

“VII.” by Wendell Berry from Leavings. © Counterpoint, 2010.

On a beach somewhere


On a beach somewhere

A flash of thigh, a sigh,
Sidelong glances, mysterious smile,
Hints of pleasure,
Worry underneath.
Share glimpses of your heat:

Is this revelation of desire?
Or wrinkles in the mirror,
Dame Mortality slithering near,
Beside you, mocking?

The old tricks don’t work as they did,
Do they? A cold stab of fear.
I’ve felt it too. We all do.

Let me see your secret selves
The parts you don’t like
And the parts you do.
I can already see them, but
It doesn’t matter to me. But you
Need to quit pretending
They matter to you.

Then let’s take it from there, shall we?
We’ll sit on a beach and watch the sunrise,
Dig our toes in the sand,
Sing our sad songs one last time,
Let the gulls and crabs scavenge them.
So the healing can come in
With the tide.

©Hemmingplay 2014

To Be or not


Diving into a difficult part of Running Girl this morning, and as I sometimes do, I get warmed up by reading better writers. This is one of those, and it fits the tone of today’s chapter. Hamlet is musing about why we put up with all of life’s pains and disappointments, if not simply for the fear of what we’ll face on the other side of life, in that great “undiscovered country” from which no one ever returns.

Hamlet’s Soliloquy

To be, or not to be, that is the question—
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die, to sleep—
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes Calamity of so long life:
For who would bear the Whips and Scorns of time,
The Oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s Contumely,
The pangs of despised Love, the Law’s delay,
The insolence of Office, and the Spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his Quietus make
With a bare Bodkin? Who would Fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered Country, from whose bourn
No Traveler returns, Puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have,
Than fly to others that we know not of.
Thus Conscience does make Cowards of us all,
And thus the Native hue of Resolution
Is sicklied o’er, with the pale cast of Thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment,
With this regard their Currents turn awry,
And lose the name of Action. Soft you now,
The fair Ophelia? Nymph, in thy Orisons
Be all my sins remembered