Mark Thamerts Poems (Insight on Death)

Ich lebe mein Leben...                                                                 I live my life...


Ich lebe mein Leben in wachsenden Ringen,                         I live my life in expanding rings

die sich über die Dinge ziehen.                                                 which stretch themselves over the things of the earth

Ich werde den letzten vielleicht nicht vollbringen,               The last, perhaps, is beyond my achieving

aber versuchen will ich ihn.                                                       I'll make an attempt at it in any case.


Ich kreise um Gott, um den uralten Turm,                             I circle around God, the ancient tower

und ich kreise jahrtausendelang;                                             and I have circled there for thousands of years;

und ich weiß noch nicht; bin ich ein Falke, ein Sturm         and this I still don't know: am I a falcon, a storm,

oder ein großer Gesang.                                                             or perhaps a mighty song.




From Part One of the Book of Hours

"Book of the Monastic Life"


Werkleute sind wir...                                                                  We are all workers...


Werkleute sind wir: Knappen, Jünger, Meister,                   We are all workers: craftsmen, apprentices

und bauen dich, du hohes Mittelschiff.                                  and master builders, building you -- you towering Nave.

Und manchmal kommt ein ernster Hergereister,                And sometimes some grave traveler comes to us,

geht wie ein Glanz durch unsre hundert Geister                  who like a radiance thrills the souls of all our hundred spirits

und zeigt uns zitternd einen neuen Griff.                              as tremblingly he shows us a new skill.


Wir steigen in die wiegenden Gerüste,                                  We climb the swaying scaffolding,            

in unsern Händen hängt der Hammer schwer,                    in our hands the hammer swings heavily,   

bis eine Stunde uns die Stirnen küsste                                  until our foreheads feel the caressing presence

die strahlend und als ob sie alles wüsste                               of a radiant hour that knows everything

von dir kommt wie der Wind vom Meer.                              and hails from you as wind hails from the sea.


Dann ist ein Hallen von den vielen Hämmern,                   Then there's an echo from the many hammers

und durch die Berge geht es Stoß um Stoß.                         and through the mountains blow after blow resonates

Erst wenn es dunkelt, lassen wir dich los:                           Only at dusk do we yield you up at last

Und deine kommenden Konturen dämmern.                     and now your emerging contours dawn on us;


Gott, du bist groß.                                                                     God, you are great.


Advice from the Poets


The Adolf story … And here she is!



The 23rd psalm


The Lord is my Shepard, I have all I need
She makes me lie down in green meadows
Beside the still waters, She will lead
She restores my soul, She rights my wrongs
She leads me in a path of good things
And fills my heart with songs
Even though I walk, through a dark and dreary land
There is nothing that can shake me
She has said She won't forsake me
I'm in her hand
She sets a table before me, in the presence of my foes
She anoints my head with oil
And my cup overflows
Surely, surely goodness and kindness will follow me
All the days of my life
And I will live in her house
Forever, forever and ever
Glory be to our Mother, and Daughter
And to the Holy of Holies
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be
World, without end    


The Many Wines

God has given us a dark wine so potent that,

drinking it, we leave the two worlds.

God has put into the form of hashish a power

to deliver the taster from self-consciousness.


God has made sleep so

that it erases every thought.

God made Majnun love Layla so much that

just her dog would cause confusion in him.


There are thousands of wines

that can take over our minds.

Don't think all ecstasies

are the same!


Jesus was lost in his love for God.

His donkey was drunk with barley.

Drink from the presence of saints,

not from those other jars.


Every object, every being,

is a jar full of delight.

Be a connoisseur,

and taste with caution.


Any wine will get you high.

Judge like royalty, and choose the purest,

the ones unadulterated with fear,

or some urgency about "what's needed."


Drink the wine that moves you

as a camel moves when it's been untied,

and is just ambling about.



Wean Yourself


Little by little, wean yourself.

This is the gist of what I have to say.


From an embryo, whose nourishment comes in the blood,

move to an infant drinking milk,

to a child on solid food,

to a searcher after wisdom,

to a hunter of more invisible game.


Think how it is to have a conversation with an embryo.

You might say, "The world outside is vast and intricate.

There are wheatfields and mountain passes,

and orchards in bloom.

At night there are millions of galaxies, and in sunlight

the beauty of friends dancing at a wedding."


You ask the embryo why he, or she, stays cooped up

in the dark with eyes closed.

Listen to the answer.

There is no "other world."

I only know what I've experienced.

You must be hallucinating.

Rumi - Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

By Elizabeth Bishop        


The art of losing isn’t hard to master;

so many things seem filled with the intent

to be lost that their loss is no disaster.


Lose something every day. Accept the fluster

of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.


Then practice losing farther, losing faster:

places, and names, and where it was you meant

to travel. None of these will bring disaster.


I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or

next-to-last, of three loved houses went.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.


I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,

some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.

I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.


—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture

I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident

the art of losing’s not too hard to master

though it may look like ( Write it!) like disaster

Here is a lovely passage from Rilke's The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (Stephen Mitchell's translation) about poetry and writing poetry:


"... Ah, poems amount to so little when you write them too early in your life. You ought to wait and gather sense and sweetness for a whole lifetime, and a long one if possible, and then, at the very end, you might perhaps be able to write ten lines that are good. For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough)--they are experiences. For the sake of a single poem, you must see many cities, many people and Things, you must understand animals, must feel how birds fly, and know the gesture which small flowers make when they open in the morning. You must be able to think back to streets in unknown neighborhoods, to unexpected encounters, and to partings you had long seen coming; to days of childhood whose mystery is still unexplained; to childhood illnesses that began so strangely with so many profound and difficult transformations, to days in quiet, restrained rooms and to mornings by the sea, to the sea itself, to seas, to nights of travel that rushed along overhead and went flying with all the stars,--and it is still not enough to be able to think of all that. You must have memories of many nights of love, each one different from all the others, memories of women screaming in labor, and of light, pale, sleeping girls who have just given birth and are closing again. But you must also have been beside the dying, must have sat beside the dead in the room with the open window and scattered noises. And it is not yet enough to have memories. You must be able to forget them when they are many, and you must have the immense patience to wait until they return. For the memories themselves are not important. Only when they have changed into our very blood, into glance and gesture, and are nameless, no longer to be distinguished from ourselves-- only then can it happen that in some very rare hour the first word of a poem arises in their midst and goes forth from them.