When Conventional Work Is Done: 
“The Sky Is Filled with Stars, Invisible by Day”*

I Ask for Silence, Pablo Neruda (excerpt)
Leisure, Will Davies
Warning, Jenny Joseph
I Can’t Remember, Anonymous
Closed Path, Rabindranath Tagore
Anthem, Leonard Cohen
Accepting This, Mark Nepo (excerpt)
The Sheikh Who Played with Children, Rumi
The Self-Slaved, Patrick Kavanaugh
Twilight Time, Buck Ram
The Opening of Eyes, David Whyte
Poetry Arrived, Pablo Neruda (excerpt)
Song of the Open Road, Walt Whitman (excerpt)
In Blackwater Woods, Mary Oliver
Now I Become Myself, May Sarton
Excerpt from a Blessing, Father John O’Donohue


*   From “Morituri Salutamus” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.


I Ask For Silence (excerpt)
by Pablo Neruda

Now they leave me in peace.
Now they grow used to my absence.

I am going to close my eyes.

I wish for five things only,
five chosen roots.

One is endless love.

Two is to see the autumn.
I cannot exist without leaves
flying and falling to earth.

The third is the solemn winter,
the rain I loved, the caress
of fire in the rough cold.

Fourth, the summer,
plump as a watermelon.

And, fifthly, your eyes.
Matilda, my dear love,
I will not sleep without your eyes.
I will not exist but in your gaze.
I adjust the spring
for you to follow me with your eyes.

That, friends, is all I want.
next to nothing, close to everything.
Now they can go if they wish.

I have lived so much that some day
they will have to forget me forcibly,
rubbing me off the blackboard.
My heart was inexhaustible.

But because I ask for silence,
don’t think I’m going to die.
The opposite is true;
it happens I’m going to live.

To be, and to go on being.

I will not be, however, if, inside me,
the crop does not keep sprouting,
the shoots first, breaking through the earth
to reach the light;
but the mothering earth is dark,
and, deep inside me, I am dark.
I am a well in the water of which
the night leaves stars behind
and goes on alone across fields.

It’s a question of having lived so much
that I wish to live that much more.

I never felt my voice so clear,
never have been so rich in kisses.

Now, as always, it is early.
The light is a swarm of bees.

Let me alone with the day.
I ask leave to be born.


by Will Davies

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And Watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.


by Jenny Joseph

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I Can’t Remember
By Anonymous

Just a line to say I’m living
that I’m not among the dead,
Though I’m getting more forgetful
and mixed up in my head

I got used to my arthritis
to my dentures I’m resigned,
I can manage my bifocals
but God, I miss my mind

For sometimes I can’t remember
when I stand at the foot of the stairs,
If I must go up for something
or have I just come down from there?

And before the fridge so often
my poor mind is filled with doubt,
Have I just put food away, or
have I come to take some out?

And there’s a time when it is dark
with my nightcap on my head,
I don’t know if I’m retiring, or
just getting out of bed

So, if it’s my turn to write to you
there’s no need for getting sore,
I may think I have written
and don’t want to be a bore

So, remember that I love you
and wish that you were near,
But now it’s nearly mail time
So I must say goodbye, dear

There I stand beside the mail box
with a face so very red,
Instead of mailing you my letter
I opened it instead


Closed Path
by Rabindranath Tagore

I thought that my voyage had come to its end
at the last limit of my power, that the path before me was closed,
that provisions were exhausted
and the time come to take shelter in a silent obscurity.

But I find that thy will knows no end in me.
And when old words die out on the tongue,
new melodies break forth from the heart;
and where the old tracks are lost,
new country is revealed with its wonders.


By Leonard Cohen

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Accepting This**
by Mark Nepo

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**  With an addition from another Mark Nepo poem, “The Promise of the Inner World.”

The Sheikh Who Played With Children (excerpt)
by Rumi

A certain young man was asking around,
“I need to find a wise person. I have a problem.”

A bystander said, “There’s no one with intelligence
in our town except that man over there
playing with the children,
the one riding the stick-horse.

He has keen, fiery insight and vast dignity
like the night sky, but he conceals it
in the madness of child’s play.”

The young seeker approached the children, “Dear father,
you who have become as a child, tell me a secret.”

“Go away. This is not a day
for secrets.”

“But please! Ride your horse this way, just for a minute.”

The sheikh play-galloped over.
“Speak quickly. I can’t hold this one still for long.
Whoops. Don’t let him kick you.
This is a wild one!”

“One question, Master!”

The sheikh circled,
“What is it? Quickly! That rider over there needs me.
I think I’m in love.”

“What is this playing that you do?
Why do you hide your intelligence so?”

“The people here want to put me in charge.
They want me to be judge, magistrate, and interpreter of all the texts.

“But the knowing I have doesn’t want that. It wants to enjoy itself.
I am a plantation of sugarcane, and at the same time
I’m eating the sweetness.

“Knowledge that is acquired
is not like this. Those who have it worry if
audiences like it or not.

“It’s a bait for popularity
Disputational knowing wants customers.
It has no soul.

“Robust and energetic
before a responsive crowd, it slumps when no one is there.
The only real customer is God.

“Chew quietly
your sweet sugarcane God-Love, and stay
playfully childish.

“Your face
will turn rosy with illumination
like the redbud flowers.”


The Self Slaved
by Patrick Kavanagh

Me, I will throw away,
Me, sufficient for the day.
The sticky self that clings adhesions on the wings to love and adventure.
To go on the grand tour a man must be free from self-necessity.

See over there, a created splendor made by one individual from things residual,
With all the various qualities hilarious of what hitherto was not.

Throw away thy sloth, self.
Carry off my wrath with its self-righteous satirizing blotches.
No self-exposure, the weakness of the prosa, but undefeatable by means of the beatable.

I will have love.
Have love from anything made of.
And a life with a shapely form,
With gaity and charm and capable of receiving with grace the grace of living.
And wild moments, too, self, when freed from you.
Prometheus calls me on.
Prometheus calls me: Son, we’ll both go off together, in this delightful weather.


Twilight Time
by Buck Ram

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The Opening of Eyes
by David Whyte

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Poetry Arrived
by Pablo Neruda

And it was at that age … Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don’t know how or when,
no they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names,
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
that fire,
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heaven
and open,
palpitating plantations,
shadow perforated,
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
likeness, image of
felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.


Song of the Open Road (excerpt)
by Walt Whitman

Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road,
Free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune — I myself am good fortune;
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Strong and content, I travel the open road.

* * *

You road I enter upon and look around! I believe you are not all that is here;
I believe that much unseen is also here.

* * *

Here is the efflux of the Soul;
The efflux of the Soul comes from within, through embower’d gates, ever provoking
These yearnings, why are they? These thoughts in the darkness, why are they?

Allons! whoever you are, come travel with me!
Traveling with me, you find what never tires.

The earth never tires;
The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first — Nature is rude and incomprehensible
at first;
Be not discouraged — keep on — there are divine things, well envelop’d;
I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.

* * *

The Soul travels;
The body does not travel as much as the soul;

The body has just as great a work as the soul, and parts away at last for the journeys of
the soul.

All parts away for the progress of souls;
All religion, all solid things, arts, governments, — all that was or is apparent upon this
globe or any globe, falls into niches and corners before the procession of Souls along the
grand roads of the universe.

Of the progress of the souls of men and women along the grand roads of the universe, all
other progress is the needed emblem and sustenance.

Forever alive, forever forward,
Stately, solemn, sad, withdrawn, baffled, mad, turbulent, feeble, dissatisfied,
Desperate, proud, fond, sick, accepted by men, rejected by men,
They go! they go! I know that they go, but I know not where they go;
But I know that they go toward the best — toward something great.

* * *

Allons! the road is before us!
It is safe — I have tried it — my own feet have tried it well.

Allons! be not detain’d!
Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the shelf unopned’d!
Let the tools remain in the workshop! Let the money remain unearn’d!
Let the school stand! Mind not the cry of the teacher!
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! Let the lawyer plead in the court, and the judge
expound the law.

Mon enfant! I give you my hand!
I give you my love, more precious than money,
I give you myself, before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?


In Blackwater Woods
by Mary Oliver

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Now I Become Myself
by May Sarton

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Excerpt from a Blessing
by Father John O’Donohue

May the beauty of our lives become more visible to us, so that we may glimpse our own wild divinity.

May the wonders of the earth call us forth from all of our secret prisons and set our feet free in the pastures of possibility.

May we discover a new generosity towards ourselves and encourage ourselves to engage with life as a great adventure.