The Silence of the Stars

When Laurens van der Post one night

in the Kalihari Desert told the Bushmen

he couldn’t hear the stars

singing, they didn’t believe him. They looked at him,

half-smiling. They examined his face

to see whether he was joking

or deceiving them. Then two of those small men

who plant nothing, who have almost

nothing to hunt, who live

on almost nothing, and with no one

but themselves, led him away

from the crackling thorn-scrub fire

and stood with him under the night sky

and listened. One of them whispered,

Do you not hear them now?

And van der Post listened, not wanting

to disbelieve, but had to answer,

No. They walked him slowly

like a sick man to the small dim

circle of firelight and told him

they were terribly sorry,

and he felt even sorrier

for himself and blamed his ancestors

for their strange loss of hearing,

which was his loss now. On some clear nights

when nearby houses have turned off their visions,

when the traffic dwindles, when through streets

are between sirens and the jets overhead

are between crossings, when the wind

is hanging fire in the fir trees,

and the long-eared owl in the neighboring grove

between calls is regarding his own darkness,

I look at the stars again as I first did

to school myself in the names of constellations

and remember my first sense of their terrible distance,

I can still hear what I thought

at the edge of silence where the inside jokes

of my heartbeat, my arterial traffic,

the C above high C of my inner ear, myself

tunelessly humming, but now I know what they are:

My fair share of the music of the spheres

and clusters of ripening stars,

of the songs from the throats of the old gods

still tending even tone-deaf creatures

through their exiles in the desert.

 

David Wagoner, from Traveling Light, 1999.


WRITING PROMPTS:

1. Have you ever heard the stars sing? If not, take a moment to imagine what this might sound like. Close your eyes and listen to the music of the stars.

2. In addition to making us deaf to the stars, what else has our culture dulled? Consider what you have “learned” about as you grew up. Pick a topic from these, or write on your own theme, about what may not be true. [Life after death; “bad” feelings; visible auras around people and animals; the language of plants; deja vu; pre-cognition; etc. etc. etc.]

 

Copyrighted material. Reprinted for educational/therapeutic use.

Writing Prompts Copyright © 2015 Featherstone, All rights reserved.

Categories: Uncategorized

Winter Seeds

Peas, beans,
haws, hips — I am
a superstitious man.
That’s why
I’ve gathered all these seeds
and placed them around my desk
to help me germ through
winter’s dark:
grass seed half filling a water glass
a peach pit seated next to a chestnut,
five acorns leaning together
like tired school kids,
a sake cup brimful with rice.
I light a stick of incense,
finger my beads. A man
could spend his whole winter
arranging seeds,
scrawling proverbs in a tray full of flax,
stacking up kernels of dry corn
like a human spine,
or just listening
to the mind inside a walnut
preparing to speak.
©Charles Goodrich
from Insects of South Corvallis, 2007
WRITING PROMPTS:
  1. Do you collect seeds? Most of us consider them either something to eat (corn, peas, rice, nuts) or something to discard (pits, melon/grape/apple/orange seeds). Reflect on this in your journal.
  2. Collect some seeds. Move them around on your desk from time to time and listen to them. Write down what they whisper to you.
  3. Plant a seed of your own. As it sprouts, log its progress in your journal. Give it a name and write poems to it to encourage its growth.

 

Copyrighted material. Reprinted for educational/therapeutic use.

Writing Prompts Copyright © 2015 Featherstone, All rights reserved.

Categories: Uncategorized

Things to Think

Think in ways you’ve never thought before
If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message
Larger than anything you’ve ever heard,
Vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats.

Think that someone may bring a bear to your door,
Maybe wounded and deranged; or think that a moose
Has risen out of the lake, and he’s carrying on his antlers
A child of your own whom you’ve never seen.

When someone knocks on the door, think that he’s about
To give you something large: tell you you’re forgiven,
Or that it’s not necessary to work all the time, or that it’s
Been decided that if you lie down no one will die.

Robert Bly
from Poems to Live by in Uncertain Times
©2001
edited by Joan Murray

 

WRITING PROMPTS:

1. In this new year, practice having new thoughts. Write about the child you did not know you had, who is delivered to you by a moose risen from the lake. How will you nurture this child (dream, idea, project) through the rest of the winter?

2. How do you feel when you consider that if you rest rather than striving, the world will be a more peaceful place, and “no one will die?”

3. Set a 2-minute timer and write down as many new thoughts as you can think of, as fast as you can. It may help to begin your list with the words WHAT IF?

 

Copyrighted material. Reprinted for educational/therapeutic use.

Writing Prompts Copyright © 2015 Featherstone, All rights reserved.

Categories: Uncategorized

New Year’s Day

New Year’s Day–
everything is in blossom!
I feel about average.


©Kobayashi Issa
(Translated by Robert Hass)

Writing Prompts

1. Things may not be blossoming where you live, but what is going on in the natural world? Can you see next year’s buds waiting dormant and patient on bushes and trees? What do you imagine is going on under the frozen ground?

2. Holiday mythology would lead us to believe that everyone is cheerful and filled with fresh energy when a new year begins. What do you believe you “should” be feeling? How do you really feel? And how do you feel about how you feel?

3. Write your own haiku about the New Year. “Traditional” Japanese haiku is a 3-line poem of 5-7-5 syllables, because the Japanese language lends itself easily to that form. In English, those rules are often bent. Give it a try in whatever form you choose — just 3 lines about the new year and how you are greeting it.

Copyrighted material. Reprinted for educational/therapeutic use.

Writing Prompts Copyright © 2015 Featherstone, All rights reserved.

 

Categories: Uncategorized