Virtues

from The Instructions of King Cormac (early 9th century)

‘O Cormac, grandson of Conn,’ said Carberry,
‘What were your habits when you were a lad?’
‘Not hard to tell,’ said Cormac.
‘I was a listener in woods,
I was a gazer at stars,
I was blind where secrets were concerned,
I was silent in a wilderness . . . ‘

translated by Kuno Meyer. Included in The Book of Irish Verse, edited by John Montague (Macmillan, 1974)

*

How it Starts
by Roger Mitchell

It starts with wanting to know something,
with wanting to stop being the baffled drifter,
with being the baffled drifter, of course,
in the first place, but then wanting to stop.

It’s not that I’m angry. It’s not that.
In fact, it’s a nice role, the baffled drifter.
There is so much to be baffled about,
if one chooses. And who wouldn’t, or doesn’t.

It starts with knowing enough already.
One can know enough already, and not
know it. One can go on knowing and know,
at the end of it, not how to chop wood.

Or to stand still. Sometimes I think
of standing still. For a year. Don’t worry,
it’s just a thought. But I think it anyway,
standing there thinking of standing there stone still.

from AdiRonDack (Bk Mk Press, University of Missouri-Kansas City, 1988)

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