When I was a kid I remember thinking poetry was just boring. These days I can see how a simple sentence can carry more weight and more history than I ever knew.

So in no particular order, poems, lyrics and writings that at some point I’ve recognised or understood.

Oscar Wilde

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars

High Flight – John Gillespie Magee, Jr – a Spitfire pilot. Written in 1941

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds,

and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of

Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Lou Reed

Just a perfect day
Drink sangria in the park
Then later, when it gets dark, we go home
Just a perfect day
Feed animals in the zoo
Then later a movie too, and then home

Oh it’s such a perfect day
I’m glad I spent it with you
Oh such a perfect day
You just keep me hanging on
You just keep me hanging on

Just a perfect day
Problems all left alone
Weekenders on our own, it’s such fun
Just a perfect day
You made me forget myself
I thought I was someone else, someone good

Oh it’s such a perfect day
I’m glad I spent it with you
Such a perfect day
You just keep me hanging on
You just keep me hanging on

You’re going to reap just what you sow
You’re going to reap just what you sow
You’re going to reap just what you sow
You’re going to reap just what you sow
You’re going to reap just what you sow

Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
and sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
and looked down one as far as I could
to where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
and having perhaps the better claim
because it was grassy and wanted wear;
though as for that, the passing there
had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
in leaves no feet had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less travelled by,
and that has made all the difference

Robert Fulgham

Most of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to do, and how to be, I learned in Kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sandbox at nursery school.
These are the things I learned..

Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Live a balanced life. Learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon. When you go out into the world, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the plastic cup? The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the plastic cup – they all die. So do we.

And then remember the book about Dick and Jane and the first word you learned, the biggest word of all: LOOK. Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and sane living.

Think of what a better world it would be if we all – the whole world had cookies and milk about 3 o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankets for a nap. Or if we had a basic policy in our nation and other nations to always put things back where we found them and cleaned up our own messes. And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

Mary Schmich

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Sing.

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.

Stretch.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because there words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

Mary Frye

Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain.
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am the morning hush.
I am the graceful rush
of beautiful birds in circling flight.
I am the star shine of the night.
I am the flowers that bloom.
I am in a quiet room.
I am the birds that sing.
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

William Henry 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.

Wystan Hugh Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone.
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crépe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song,
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong

The stars are not wanted now, put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

George D Weiss and George Douglas

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom, for me and you.
And I think to myself… what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue, and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night.
And I think to myself… what a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces, of people going by.
I see friends, shaking hands, saying how do you do
They’re really saying, “I love you.”

I hear babies cry, I watch them grow;
They’ll learn much more than I’ll never know
And I think to myself… what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself….. what a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces, of people going by.
I see friends, shaking hands, saying how do you do
They’re really saying, “I love you.”

I hear babies cry, I watch them grow;
They’ll learn much more than I’ll never know
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself….. what a wonderful world.

Oh….. yea…..

James Sinclair – an ode to gamers everywhere ..

For years I’ve lived a double life.
In the day I do my job,
I ride the bus,
Roll up my sleeves with the hoi polloi.
But at night I live a life of exhilaration,
Of missed heartbeats and adrenaline,
And, if the truth be known,
A life of dubious virtue.

I won’t deny I’ve been engaged in violence,
Even indulged in it.
I have maimed and killed adversaries,
And not merely in self defence.
I have exhibited disregard for life,
Limb,
And property,
And savoured every moment.

You may not think it to look at me,
But I have commanded armies,
And conquered worlds.
And though in achieving these things
I have set morality aside,
I have no regrets.
For though I’ve led a double life
At least I can say,
I have lived.

Alan Watts ( transcribed from the lecture on the State of Nothing)

If you are aware of a state which you call ”is” – or reality, or life – this implies another state called ”isn’t” – or illusion, or unreality, or nothingness, or death. There it is. You can’t know one without the other. And so, as to make life poignant, it’s always going to come to an end. That is exactly, don’t you see?, what makes it lively. Liveliness is change, is motion. And motion is going mnnnnnyyyy, like this, you see, you got to fall out – and be gone – pshh. So, you see, you’re always at the place where you always are. Only it keeps appearing to change. And you think: ”Wow, a little further on we’ll get that thing.” I hope we don’t go further down, so that we lose what we already have. But that is built into every creature’s situation, no matter how high, no matter how low. So, in this sense, all place is at the same place. And the only time you ever notice any difference is in the moment of transition: when you go up a bit – you gain; when you go down a bit – you feel disappointed, gloomy, loss. You can go all the way down to death; somehow, there seems to be a difficulty in getting all the way up. Death seems so final. Nothingness seems so very, very irrevocable and permanent. But then if it is, what about the nothingness that was before you started? So, don’t you see, what we’ve left out of our logic – and this is part of the game-rule, of the game that we are playing – the way we hoodwink ourselves is by attributing powerlessness to nothingness, we don’t realize that is a complete logical fallacy. On the contrary. It takes nothing to have something, because you wouldn’t know what something was without nothing. You wouldn’t know what the form is without the background space. You wouldn’t be able to see anything, unless there were nothing behind your eyes.

Now imagine yourself with a spherical eye – you see all around. Now, what’s in the middle? See? Even if I have all this behind me in view, suddenly I will find that there is something in the middle of it all; there’s a whole in the middle of reality. Like now there seems to be, not so much a whole, but a wall. But any animal, which had eyes in the back of its head, would have the sensation I’m describing. Now, you may say to me: Well, all that’s wishful thinking, because, when you’re dead – you’re dead, see!

Now, wait the minute! What’s that state of consciousness that talks in that way? This is somebody saying something, who wants to make a point. Now, what point does that sort of person want to make? Like ”when you’re dead, you’re dead, see?” Why that’s one of the people who want to rule the world. They frighten you about death: ”Death is real, you see, don’t indulge in wishful thinking. All you people who dream of an afterlife and heavens and gods and mystical experiences and eternity – all you are just wishy-washy people. You don’t face the facts.” What facts? How can I face the fact of nothing, which is by definition not a fact? You see? All this is todle from whichever way you look at it. So, if you really go the whole way and see how you feel at the prospect of vanishing forever, of all your efforts and all your achievements and all your attainments turning into dust and nothingness, what is the feeling? What happens to you?

It’s a curious thing that in the world’s poetry this is a very common theme.

“The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon Turns Ashes – or it prospers; and anon, Like Snow upon the Desert’s dusty Face Lighting a little Hour or two – is gone.”

~ Omar Khayyám, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

All kinds of poetry emphasizes the theme of Transience. And, there’s a kind of nostalgic beauty to it. “A banquet hall deserted, after the revelry, all the guests have left and gone on their ways. And the table, with overturned glasses, crumbled napkins, bread crumbs, dirty knives and forks, lies empty. And the laughter echoes only in one’s mind… And then the echo goes, the memory, the traces are all gone.” That’s the end, you see? Do you see, in a way, how that is saying the most Real state is the state of Nothing? That’s what it’s all going to come to. With these physicists who think of the energy of the universe running down, dissipating in radiation, gradually, gradually, gradually, gradually, until there is nothing at all left. And for some reason or other, we are supposed to find this depressing. But if somebody is going to argue that the basic reality is Nothingness, where does all This come from? Obviously from Nothingness. Once again, you get how it looks behind your eyes. See? So cheer up, you see? This is what is meant in Buddhist philosophy by saying ‘we are all basically nothing.’ When the Sixth Patriarch says “the essence of your mind (that’s how it is behind your eyes) is intrinsically pure,” the pure doesn’t mean a ‘non dirty story state of mind’ as is it apt to mean in the word ”puritan”. Pure means “clear”. Void. So you know the story, when the Sixth Patriarch was given his office [of] his successor, because he was truly Enlightened, there was a poetry contest. And the losing one wrote the idea that the mind, the consciousness was like a mirror. Which had to be polished. And constantly one, “I have to polish my mirror! I have to purify my mind! So that I’m detached, and calm, and clear-headed.” You know. Buddha. But the one who won the contest said, “There is no mirror, and the nature of the mind is intrinsically Void. So where is there anywhere for dust to collect?” See? So in this way, by seeing that Nothingness is the fundamental reality, and you see it’s Your reality, then how can anything contaminate you? All the idea of you being scared, and put out, and worried, and so on, is just nothing, it’s a dream. Because you’re really nothing. But this is the most incredible Nothing. And the Sixth Patriarch, likewise, went on to contrast, “Emptiness of indifference”, which is sort of blank emptiness, see? If you think of this Nothingness as mere blankness, and you hold onto the idea of blankness, and kind of grisly about it, you haven’t understood it. He said, ‘Nothingness is really like the nothingness of space, which contains the whole universe. All the sun, moon, and stars and the mountains, and rivers, and the good men, and the bad men, and the animals, and the insects, the whole bit. All are contained in Void. So out of this Void comes Everything and You Are It.
What else could you be?