Poems About Stillness
This page expresses some of the many aspects of stillness through poems and photographs. Be still and enjoy . . . or enjoy and be still . . .
There is a point where in the mystery of existence contradictions meet; where movement is not all movement and stillness is not all stillness; where the idea and the form, the within and the without, are united; where infinite becomes finite, yet not.
~ Rabindranath Tagore ~
Still the Body
still the body
still the mind
still the voice inside
feel the stillness move
cannot be imagined
by Arthur Osborne
Thou art? -- I am? -- Why argue? -- Being is.
Keep still and be. Death will not still the mind.
Nor argument, nor hopes of after-death.
This world the battle-ground, yourself the foe
Yourself must master. Eager the mind to seek.
Yet oft astray, causing its own distress
Then crying for relief, as though some God
Barred from it jealously the Bliss it sought
But would not face.
Till in the end,
All battles fought, all earthly loves abjured,
Dawn in the East, there is no other way
But to be still. In stillness then to find
The giants all were windmills, all the strife
Self-made, unreal; even he that strove
A fancied being, as when that good knight
Woke from delirium and with a loud cry
Rendered his soul to God.
Mind, then, or soul?
Break free from subtle words. Only be still,
Lay down the mind, submit, and Being then
Is Bliss, Bliss Consciousness: and That you are.
by R. S. Thomas
It was like a church to me.
I entered it on soft foot,
Breath held like a cap in the hand.
It was quiet.
What God was there made himself felt,
Not listened to, in clean colours
That brought a moistening of the eye,
In movement of the wind over grass.
There were no prayers said. But stillness
Of the heart's passions -- that was praise
Enough; and the mind's cession
Of its kingdom. I walked on,
Simple and poor, while the air crumbled
And broke on me generously as bread.
by Chris McCombs
Into the Heart
Let the Love
Whatever is left of you
Stillness Through Motion
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These Divine Verses
by Mirza Ghalib
These divine verses,
As I write
The hallowed revelations
From on high
The sound of the scribe's pen
In the stillness of the night is indeed
The heavenly muse
Uttering her immortal words
East Coker (from The Four Quartets)
by T. S. Eliot
Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
the world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.
If the greatest god is the stillness all the motions add up to, then we must ineluctably be included.
~ A. R. Ammons ~
by Sharon Olds
The doctor said to my father, "You asked me
to tell you when nothing more could be done.
That's what I'm telling you now." My father
sat quite still, as he always did,
especially not moving his eyes. I had thought
he would rave if he understood he would die,
wave his arms and cry out. He sat up,
thin, and clean, in his clean gown,
like a holy man. The doctor said,
"There are things we can do which might give you time,
but we cannot cure you." My father said,
"Thank you." And he sat, motionless, alone,
with the dignity of a foreign leader.
I sat beside him. This was my father.
He had known he was mortal. I had feared they would have to
tie him down. I had not remembered
he had always held still and kept quiet to bear things,
the liquor a way to keep still. I had not
known him. My father had dignity. At the
end of his life his life began
to wake in me.
by James Elroy Flecker
When the words rustle no more,
And the last work's done,
When the bolt lies deep in the door,
And Fire, our Sun,
Falls on the dark-laned meadows of the floor;
When from the clock's last time to the next chime
Silence beats his drum,
And Space with gaunt grey eyes and her brother Time
Wheeling and whispering come,
She with the mould of form and he with the loom of rhyme,
Then twittering out in the night my thought-birds flee,
I am emptied of all my dreams:
I only hear Earth turning, only see
Ether's long bankless streams,
And only know I should drown if you
Laid not your hand on me.
by J Brehmer
Forest is a palpable presence
greater than its sum of branches,
coniferous-ly expressing mystery
bottomless as deep-seas are black.
The hottest day is rendered cool
one step inside the blue-green cave -
as if you're walking underwater
through the Earth's most natural nave.
Sunlight freckles the needle-y floor
though not enough to bring it bright,
mythical creatures will appear
solid in the softened light.
Unlike drugstore perfumed candles
in the throat real pine scent stings
pleasantly, a pinch of potent
woodland ginger: tantalizing.
Time spent steeped in forest spirit
soothes the flesh though soul is bared,
in the stillness is remembrance
of how vast and loved we are.
What To Remember When Waking
by David Whyte
In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other
more secret, movable and frighteningly honest world
where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.
What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.
To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.
You are not a troubled guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents
you were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.
Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?
Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely white page on the writing desk?
Gifts of Solitude
Four years ago, dealing with professional uncertainty and a deteriorating relationship with the woman in his life, the author voluntarily took a job as a winter caretaker on a remote ranch in New Mexico's Tusas Mountains, in order to experience an extended period of silence and contemplation. Part memoir, part guide, Mahler's account of what he learned is laced with reflective excerpts from the journal he kept during this period as well as with the words of others who have drawn strength from solitude. (Publisher's Weekly)
by Matsuo Basho
the cicada's cry
drills into the rocks.
Translated by Robert Hass
Without movement and so not rhythmic
no change only a potential for becoming.
What colour does it possess?
Not known but it surely does not fade.
What sound does it make
other than constancy?
Throwing into stark relief
all of a different nature
Which do you say is the more real
the comings and goings
or stillness with serenity as its countenance?
And will you hone the mind so finely
that it may separate the two
and choose its dwelling place?
Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen - that stillness becomes a radiance.
~ Morgan Freeman ~
by Mary Oliver
Salt shining behind its glass cylinder.
Mild in a blue bowl. The yellow linoleum.
The cat stretching her black body from the pillow.
The way she makes her curvaceous response to the small, kind gesture.
Then laps the bowl clean.
Then wants to go out into the world
where she leaps lightly and for no apparent reason across the lawn,
the sits, perfectly still, in the grass.
I watch her a little while, thinking:
what more could I do with cold words?
I stand in the cold kitchen, bowing down to her.
I stand in the cold kitchen, everything wonderful around me.
Sense and Stillness
by Dilshan Boange
In the comfortable daze of half-sleep
I lay with you
Your nape a bed-couch
For my eyelids
Softness beholds us-the breeziness of exhales
Imagine freshness of cool moisture
Subtle as water grain on lily pads
Sleep prevails not to make this bliss break
The world of motion calls not to awake
In the perfect stillness of the night
In the perfect stillness of the night
Some artistic sense inspires me
And makes me think that one day I just might
Reach out from daily, dull monotony -
Achieve some lasting goal, some burning aim -
And then I wake and go to work again...