clevermynnie: (see us waving)
I tramp the perpetual journey
My signs are a rain-proof coat, good shoes, and a staff cut from the
No friend of mine takes his ease in my chair,
I have no chair, no philosophy,
I lead no man to a dinner-table, library, exchange,
But each man and each woman of you I lead upon a knoll,
My left hand hooking you round the waist,
My right hand pointing to landscapes of continents and the public

Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you,
You must travel it for yourself.

It is not far, it is within reach,
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born and did not know,
Perhaps it is everywhere on water and on land.

Shoulder your duds dear son, and I will mine, and let us hasten
Wonderful cities and free nations we shall fetch as we go.

If you tire, give me both burdens, and rest the chuff of your hand
on my hip,
And in due time you shall repay the same service to me,
For after we start we never lie by again.

—Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
A strong woman is a woman who is straining.
A strong woman is a woman standing
on tiptoe and lifting a barbell
while trying to sing Boris Godunov.
A strong woman is a woman at work
cleaning out the cesspool of the ages,
and while she shovels, she talks about
how she doesn't mind crying, it opens
the ducts of the eyes, and throwing up
develops the stomach muscles, and
she goes on shoveling with tears
in her nose.

A strong woman is a woman in whose head
a voice is repeating, I told you so,
ugly, bad girl, bitch, nag, shrill, witch,
ballbuster, nobody will ever love you back,
why aren't you feminine, why aren't
you soft, why aren't you quiet, why
aren't you dead?

A strong woman is a woman determined
to do something others are determined
not be done. She is pushing up on the bottom
of a lead coffin lid. She is trying to raise
a manhole cover with her head, she is trying
to butt her way through a steel wall.
Her head hurts. People waiting for the hole
to be made say, hurry, you're so strong.

A strong woman is a woman bleeding
inside. A strong woman is a woman making
herself strong every morning while her teeth
loosen and her back throbs. Every baby,
a tooth, midwives used to say, and now
every battle a scar. A strong woman
is a mass of scar tissue that aches
when it rains and wounds that bleed
when you bump them and memories that get up
in the night and pace in boots to and fro.

A strong woman is a woman who craves love
like oxygen or she turns blue choking.
A strong woman is a woman who loves
strongly and weeps strongly and is strongly
terrified and has strong needs. A strong woman is strong
in words, in action, in connection, in feeling;
she is not strong as a stone but as a wolf
suckling her young. Strength is not in her, but she
enacts it as the wind fills a sail.

What comforts her is others loving
her equally for the strength and for the weakness
from which it issues, lightning from a cloud.
Lightning stuns. In rain, the clouds disperse.
Only water of connection remains,
flowing through us. Strong is what we make
each other. Until we are all strong together,
a strong woman is a woman strongly afraid.

--Marge Piercy


Mar. 31st, 2012 09:36 am
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
A poet I have enjoyed for a long time, Adrienne Rich, died this last week. She wrote a lot of beautiful poems, especially about women, though it seems she also had a problematic relationship to trans-ness. I'm sad at her passing even if she had a complicated legacy. Since I have already posted my favorite poem by her, here is another one.

Diving into the Wreck

First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers
the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
assiduous team
aboard the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.

There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there
hanging innocently
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
it is a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.

I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
will begin.

First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
and besides
you breathe differently down here.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.

This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he

whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.

--Adrienne Rich

the cloud

Jan. 25th, 2012 11:34 am
clevermynnie: (smile)
I have been doing some guitar exercises that involve repeating chord patterns and improvising songs. But I am not the best at coming up with song lyrics on the fly, outside of singing an existing song with choice words replaced. So I have started flipping open the Iliad or one of the Norton poetry anthologies I have to find some words that scan that I can sing to whatever melody. It is through that process that I came across this poem, which I love and which makes a great (albeit long) song.

The Cloud

I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
   From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
   In their noonday dreams.
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
   The sweet buds every one,
When rocked to rest on their mother’s breast,
   As she dances about the sun.
I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
   And whiten the green plains under,
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
   And laugh as I pass in thunder.

I sift the snow on the mountains below,
   And their great pines groan aghast;
And all the night ’tis my pillow white,
   While I sleep in the arms of the blast.
Sublime on the towers of my skiey bowers,
   Lightning my pilot sits,
In a cavern under is fretted the thunder,
   It struggles and howls at fits;
Over earth and ocean, with gentle motion,
   This pilot is guiding me,
Lured by the love of the genii that move
   In the depths of the purple sea;
Over the rills, and the crags, and the hills,
   Over the lakes and the plains,
Wherever he dream, under mountain or stream
   The Spirit he loves remains;
And I all the while bask in heaven’s blue smile,
   Whilst he is dissolving in rains.

The sanguine sunrise, with his meteor eyes,
   And his burning plumes outspread,
Leaps on the back of my sailing rack,
   When the morning star shines dead,
As on the jag of a mountain crag,
   Which an earthquake rocks and swings,
An eagle alit one moment may sit
   In the light of its golden wings.
And when sunset may breathe from the lit sea beneath,
   Its ardours of rest and of love,
And the crimson pall of eve may fall
   From the depth of heaven above,
With wings folded I rest, on mine airy nest,
   As still as a brooding dove.

That orbèd maiden with white fire laden,
   Whom mortals call the moon,
Glides glimmering o’er my fleece-like floor,
   By the midnight breezes strewn;
And wherever the beat of her unseen feet,
   Which only the angels hear,
May have broken the woof of my tent’s thin roof,
   The stars peep behind her and peer;
And I laugh to see them whirl and flee,
   Like a swarm of golden bees,
When I widen the rent in my wind-built tent,
   Till the calm rivers, lakes, and seas,
Like strips of the sky fallen through me on high,
   Are each paved with the moon and these.

I bind the sun’s throne with a burning zone,
   And the moon’s with a girdle of pearl;
The volcanoes are dim, and the stars reel and swim,
   When the whirlwinds my banner unfurl.
From cape to cape, with a bridge-like shape,
   Over a torrent sea,
Sunbeam-proof, I hang like a roof,
   The mountains its columns be.
The triumphal arch through which I march
   With hurricane, fire, and snow,
When the powers of the air are chained to my chair,
   Is the million-coloured bow;
The sphere-fire above its soft colours wove,
   While the moist earth was laughing below.

I am the daughter of earth and water,
   And the nursling of the sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
   I change, but I cannot die.
For after the rain when with never a stain,
   The pavilion of heaven is bare,
And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams,
   Build up the blue dome of air,
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,
   And out of the caverns of rain,
Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
   I arise and unbuild it again.

--Percy Bysshe Shelley
clevermynnie: (Default)
Some stories last many centuries,
others only a moment.
All alter over that lifetime like beach-glass,
grow distant and more beautiful with salt.

Yet even today, to look at a tree
and ask the story Who are you? is to be transformed.

There is a stage in us where each being, each thing, is a mirror.

Then the bees of self pour from the hive-door,
ravenous to enter the sweetness of flowering nettles and thistle.

Next comes the ringing a stone or violin or empty bucket
gives off—
the immeasurable’s continuous singing,
before it goes back into story and feeling.

In Borneo, there are palm trees that walk on their high roots.
Slowly, with effort, they lift one leg then another.

I would like to join that stilted transmigration,
to feel my own skin vertical as theirs:
an ant-road, a highway for beetles.

I would like not minding, whatever travels my heart.
To follow it all the way into leaf-form, bark-furl, root-touch,
and then keep walking, unimaginably further.

--Jane Hirshfield

the silence

Aug. 2nd, 2011 03:51 pm
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
One acquaintance says of another,
"I think he's a happy man,"
then pauses.

I see on his face what I also
am thinking,
and wonder what he is remembering,
inside our silence.

I am remembering a funeral,
friend after friend rising to speak
of the lost one.
I did not know him well,
yet still, by one thing he had told me,
wore fully our closeness.

Or perhaps it was even simpler—
to whom else could he say the truth?

I wondered, even then,
how many others attending knew also one thing.
Each secret separate, different,
leading its life now without him:
carrying laundry, washing the windows, straightening up.

As they do, perhaps, I would like to sit down now and rest.

I would like to ponder the flavor
of how much I know of others, how much I do not;
of what of me is known and what is not.

A conversation is overhead on a train, on an airplane,
and even Love cannot know the whole.

It sits in the row behind,
listening quietly to what it is able.
Then the green and red wing-lights blink out;
the train rounds the track's curve and is lost.

Love, also disappearing,
would like to tap the two murmuring ones on the shoulder.
Love would like to say to them,
"Speak more fearlessly—This is the only—Say what you can."

Politeness forbids it.

Love sits in the row behind,
and quietly listens.
Love lowers its stricken face so no one will see.

--Jane Hirshfield

a hand

Jul. 25th, 2011 05:10 pm
clevermynnie: (Default)
A hand is not four fingers and a thumb.

Nor is it palm and knuckles,
not ligaments or the fat's yellow pillow,
not tendons, star of the wristbone, meander of veins.

A hand is not the thick thatch of its lines
with their infinite dramas,
nor what it has written,
not on the page,
not on the ecstatic body.

Nor is the hand its meadows of holding, of shaping—
not sponge of rising yeast-bread,
not rotor pin's smoothness,
not ink.

The maple's green hands do not cup
the proliferant rain.
What empties itself falls into the place that is open.

A hand turned upward holds only a single, transparent question.

Unanswerable, humming like bees, it rises, swarms, departs.

--Jane Hirshfield
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
The Cold Heaven

Suddenly I saw the cold and rook-delighting heaven
That seemed as though ice burned and was but the more ice,
And thereupon imagination and heart were driven
So wild that every casual thought of that and this
Vanished, and left but memories, that should be out of season
With the hot blood of youth, of love crossed long ago;
And I took all the blame out of all sense and reason,
Until I cried and trembled and rocked to and fro,
Riddled with light. Ah! when the ghost begins to quicken,
Confusion of the death-bed over, is it sent
Out naked on the roads, as the books say, and stricken
By the injustice of the skies for punishment?

--William Butler Yeats

Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour

Light the first light of evening, as in a room
In which we rest and, for small reason, think
The world imagined is the ultimate good.

This is, therefore, the intensest rendezvous.
It is in that thought that we collect ourselves,
Out of all the indifferences, into one thing:

Within a single thing, a single shawl
Wrapped tightly round us, since we are poor, a warmth,
A light, a power, the miraculous influence.

Here, now, we forget each other and ourselves.
We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole,
A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous.

Within its vital boundary, the mind.
We say God and the imagination are one...
How high that highest candle lights the dark.

Out of this same light, out of the central mind,
We make a dwelling in the evening air,
In which being there together is enough.

--Wallace Stevens
clevermynnie: (Default)
Life is nuts. No internet at home, long work hours, and not good changes... that I can't find the time to write about. In lieu, a poem.


One day I’ll give birth to a tiny baby girl
and when she’s born she’ll scream
and I’ll tell her to never stop

I will kiss her before I lay her down at night
and will tell her a story so she knows
how it is and how it must be for her to survive

I’ll tell her to set things on fire
and keep them burning
I’ll teach her that fire will not consume her
that she must use it

I’ll tell her that people must earn the right
to use her nickname
that forced intimacy is an ugly thing

I’ll help her to see that she will not find God
or salvation in a dark brick building
built by dead men

I’ll make sure she always carries a pen
so she can take down evidence
If she has no paper, I’ll teach her to
write everything down with her tongue,
write it on her thighs

I’ll make her keep reinventing herself and run fast
I’ll teach her to write her manifestos
on cocktail napkins
I’ll say she should make men lick her ambition
I’ll make her understand that she is worth more
with her clothes on
I’ll teach her to talk hard

I’ll tell her that when the words come too fast
and she has no use for a pen
that she must quit her job
run out of the house in her bathrobe
leave the door open
I’ll teach her to follow the words

They will try to make her stay
comfort her, let her sleep, bathe her in a television blue glow
I will cut her hair, tell her to light the house on fire
kill the kittens
When nothing is there
nothing will keep her
and she is not to be kept

I’ll say that everything she has done seen spoken
has brought her to the here this now
This is no time for tenderness
no time to stand, waiting for them to find her
There are nations within her skin
Queendoms come without keys you can carry

I’ll teach her that she has an army inside her
that can save her life
I’ll teach her to be whole, to be holy
I’ll teach her how to live,
to be so much that she doesn’t even
need me anymore
I’ll teach her to go quickly and never come back
Things get broken fast here

I’ll make her stronger
than I ever was

Turned at twenty she’ll break into bits of star and throw herself against the sky

(2006 is an excellent year to disappear)

I will not let them
destroy her life
the way they destroyed

I’ll tell her to never forget
what they did to you
and never let them know
you remember

Never forget
what they did to you
and never let them know
you remember

Never forget
what they did to you
and never let them know
you remember

-Nicole Blackman
clevermynnie: (Default)
There was a poem I used to love, by Adrienne Rich, but I forgot what it was called or about, just that it reminded me of the beautiful feeling of weekends with Ben. I am going through some old files, and I found it! Here it is, from Twenty-One Love Poems.


I wake up in your bed. I know I have been dreaming.
Much earlier, the alarm broke us from each other,
you've been at your desk for hours. I know what I dreamed:
our friend the poet comes into my room
where I've been writing for days,
drafts, carbons, poems are scattered everywhere,
and I want to show her one poem
which is the poem of my life. But I hesitate,
and wake. You've kissed my hair
to wake me. I dreamed you were a poem,
I say, a poem I wanted to show someone . . .
and I laugh and fall dreaming again
of the desire to show you to everyone I love,
to move openly together
in the pull of gravity, which is not simple,
which carried the feathered grass a long way down the upbreathing air.
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
I have more tickets to the symphony this weekend, for a lot of romantic violin pieces. I was hoping to go to NYC but that fell through for several reasons, bah. I'm determined to go before the year is out.

The Met is starting performances of Doctor Atomic soon. I really want to see it, because I love the composer and because the subject matter is interesting to me as a scientist and from my childhood home. Going to a live performance is almost certainly out of my price range, but I am thinking about one of the simulcasts they do now at movie theaters... the only thing that sucks is that they don't charge the same fee as to see a movie (which is what I initially assumed), but rather it's $22 apiece. And I was reading a review that it's not as good a staging as the premiere at SF Opera, which I was stupid not to go to since it was when I lived in Berkeley. Hmmm. There's a DVD of the better production which costs less than two simulcast tickets, though that wouldn't be on a big screen. I don't know, if I could just buy a recording of the music I might be happy with that, but I can't find any.

Something I learned that I hadn't known before: the origin of the Trinity site name. I used to live on Trinity Drive, walk to my bus stop on Oppenheimer, but somehow I never thought about where it came from. It is kind of a religious reference, but from a Donne poem which is interesting to think about in the context of a nuclear test.

Holy Sonnet XIV

Batter my heart, three-person'd God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

--John Donne
clevermynnie: (I see beauty)
I love the [ profile] greatpoets community, I love Philip Glass, and I love gardening.

by Allen Ginsberg

       What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for
I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache
self-conscious looking at the full moon.
       In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went
into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumera-
       What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families
shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the
avocados, babies in the tomatoes! --and you, Garcia Lorca,
what were you doing down by the watermelons?

       I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber,
poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eying the
grocery boys.
       I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the
pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel?
       I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans
following you, and followed in my imagination by the store
       We strode down the open corridors togethe in our
solitary fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen
delicacy, and never passing the cashier.

       Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in
an hour. Which way does your beard point tonight?
       (I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the
supermarket and feel absurd.)
       Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The trees
add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we'll both be
       Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past
blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?
       Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher,
what America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry
and you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the
boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe?
                                                        Berkeley 1955
clevermynnie: (i carry your heart)
I am spending this weekend in LA, with Ben. I miss him, and look forward to seeing him, but one thing that's great about long distance this time is that there isn't any defeatism or worry over whether we'll eventually make it work in the same place. We're apart, but we won't be in about two months. I love Ben so very much, and feel so complete with him, and am so excited to see him for a couple of days and go to the beach together and cuddle at night.

Love Songs

I have remembered beauty in the night,
Against black silences I waked to see
A shower of sunlight over Italy
And green Ravello dreaming on her height;
I have remembered music in the dark,
The clean swift brightness of a fugue of Bach's,
And running water singing on the rocks
When once in English woods I heard a lark.

But all remembered beauty is no more
Than a vague prelude to the thought of you --
You are the rarest soul I ever knew,
Lover of beauty, knightliest and best;
My thoughts seek you as waves that seek the shore,
And when I think of you, I am at rest.

--Sara Teasdale

john donne

Nov. 8th, 2005 12:18 pm
clevermynnie: (wealthy young woman-about-town)
I spotted an old favorite John Donne poem in [ profile] greatpoets, and decided to share with you a couple of my favorites. They are all common, because those are the ones you read in high school Brit Lit. But I really like them... I should read more poetry. The first is very bitter and funny. The compass metaphor in "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" is one of the most beautiful metaphors in literature, I think. But my favorite is the last one.

song )

a valediction: forbidding mourning )

a valediction of weeping )
clevermynnie: (see us waving)
The first day of quantum mechanics, as I think I've mentioned, was unpleasant. It's hard to get around the feeling that you're doing something as penance, or to make up for a mistake you don't think you made, etc. etc. And quantum mechanics, everyone agrees, is unpleasant.

endless integrals
many miscalculations
my summer of woe

But one of my stronger points is the ability to adapt and not leave myself unhappy for long, though, so things have improved a lot since then. The professor, Wohl, is a big help. He's very clear and understanding, and wants to be sure the class understands what he's doing. He also throws in some interesting, non-test-related facts, like Benford's Law. I know if I were unclear on the material, I wouldn't like that trait as much, but since it's all review, I really enjoy the interesting bits.

from a tangled and
hideous Hamiltonian,
pure eigenfunction.

But nothing can really change the fact that I've seen everything before. The homework is interesting and not all repeats (since Wohl writes his own problems), so I get a lot out of that in terms of furthering my knowledge. The lectures, not so much, especially since he hands out his lecture notes so I don't really have to take notes. Sometimes they're not bad, because I can review the derivations for things, but today we were going over Dirac notation, which is tricky when you haven't seen it and blindingly simple once you've used it some.

in a freezing room
we review formalism

I found out the other day that the practice rooms are open at 8:15 AM on weekdays now, so I can go to play piano in between swimming and lecture, before work. I'm having a lot of trouble getting everything I want to do streamlined into a day. And although I promised myself I would go to lecture everyday (it forces me to think about the material more than I would just skimming the notes by myself), I can't help but think how I'm wasting that time that would be more fun in some other pursuit.

want to be outside
this beautiful wavefunction
useless for surfing.

I'm still happy to be pursuing my goals, and I understand I'll be more at peace with quantum after this, and more easily able to convince grad committees that I know it. And of course, it'll probably come in handy later. But the parts of quantum mechanics I'm interested in aren't quite the parts we're covering, not yet at least.

math is beautiful
in nature, not here where the
colors are so stale.


clevermynnie: (Default)

January 2017



RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 25th, 2017 06:07 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios