Every single person is vulnerable to unexpected defeat in this inmost emotional self. At every moment, behind the most efficient seeming adult exterior, the whole world of the person's childhood is being carefully held like a glass of water bulging above the brim. And in fact, that child is the only real thing in them. It's their humanity, their real individuality, the one that can't understand why it was born and that knows it will have to die, in no matter how crowded a place, quite on its own. That's the carrier of all the living qualities. It's the centre of all the possible magic and revelation.
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In a cage of wire-ribs The size of a man's head, the macaw bristles in a staring Combustion, suffers the stoking devils of his eyes. In the old lady's parlour, where an aspidistra succumbs To the musk of faded velvet, he hangs in clear flames, Like a torturer's iron instrument preparing With dense slow shudderings of greens, yellows, blues, Crimsoning into the barbs: Or like the smouldering head that hung In Killdevil's brass kitchen, in irons, who had been Volcano swearing to vomit the world away in black ash, And would, one day; or a fugitive aristocrat From some thunderous mythological hierarchy, caught By a little boy with a crust and a bent pin, Or snare of horsehair set for a song-thrush, And put in a cage to sing. The old lady who feeds him seeds Has a grand-daughter. The girl calls him 'Poor Polly', pokes fun. 'Jolly Mop.' But lies under every full moon, The spun glass of her body bared and so gleam-still Her brimming eyes do not tremble or spill The dream where the warrior comes, lightning and iron, Smashing and burning and rending towards her loin: Deep into her pillow her silence pleads. All day he stares at his furnace With eyes red-raw, but when she comes they close. 'Polly. Pretty Poll', she cajoles, and rocks him gently. She caresses, whispers kisses. The blue lids stay shut. She strikes the cage in a tantrum and swirls out: Instantly beak, wings, talons crash The bars in conflagration and frenzy, And his shriek shakes the house.
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That's the paradox: the only time most people feel alive is when they're suffering, when something overwhelms their ordinary, careful armour, and the naked child is flung out onto the world. That's why the things that are worst to undergo are best to remember. But when that child gets buried away under their adaptive and protective shells-he becomes one of the walking dead, a monster. So when you realise you've gone a few weeks and haven't felt that awful struggle of your childish self - struggling to lift itself out of its inadequacy and incompetence - you'll know you've gone some weeks without meeting new challenge, and without growing, and that you've gone some weeks towards losing touch with yourself. The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn't live boldly enough, that they didn't invest enough heart, didn't love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.
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I had let it all grow. I had supposed It was all OK. Your life Was a liner I voyaged in. Costly education had fitted you out. Financiers and committees and consultants Effaced themselves in the gleam of your finish. You trembled with the new life of those engines. That first morning, Before your first class at College, you sat there Sipping coffee. Now I know, as I did not, What eyes waited at the back of the class To check your first professional performance Against their expectations. What assessors Waited to see you justify the cost And redeem their gamble. What a furnace Of eyes waited to prove your metal. I watched The strange dummy stiffness, the misery, Of your blue flannel suit, its straitjacket, ugly Half-approximation to your idea Of the properties you hoped to ease into, And your horror in it. And the tanned Almost green undertinge of your face Shrunk to its wick, your scar lumpish, your plaited Head pathetically tiny. You waited, Knowing yourself helpless in the tweezers Of the life that judges you, and I saw The flayed nerve, the unhealable face-wound Which was all you had for courage. I saw that what you gripped, as you sipped, Were terrors that killed you once already. Now I see, I saw, sitting, the lonely Girl who was going to die. That blue suit. A mad, execution uniform, Survived your sentence. But then I sat, stilled, Unable to fathom what stilled you As I looked at you, as I am stilled Permanently now, permanently Bending so briefly at your open coffin.
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Everybody tries to protect this vulnerable two three four five six seven eight year old inside, and to acquire skills and aptitudes for dealing with the situations that threaten to overwhelm it... Usually, that child is a wretchedly isolated undeveloped little being. It's been protected by the efficient armour, it's never participated in life, it's never been exposed to living and to managing the person's affairs, it's never been given responsibility for taking the brunt. And it's never properly lived. That's how it is in almost everybody. And that little creature is sitting there, behind the armour, peering through the slits. And in its own self, it is still unprotected, incapable, inexperienced... And in fact, that child is the only real thing in them. It's their humanity, their real individuality, the one that can't understand why it was born and that knows it will have to die, in no matter how crowded a place, quite on its own. That's the carrier of all the living qualities. It's the centre of all the possible magic and revelation. What doesn't come out of that creature isn't worth having, or it's worth having only as a tool-for that creature to use and turn to account and make meaningful... And so, wherever life takes it by surprise, and suddenly the artificial self of adaptations proves inadequate, and fails to ward off the invasion of raw experience, that inner self is thrown into the front line-unprepared, with all its childhood terrors round its ears. And yet that's the moment it wants. That's where it comes alive-even if only to be overwhelmed and bewildered and hurt. And that's where it calls up its own resources-not artificial aids, picked up outside, but real inner resources, real biological ability to cope, and to turn to account, and to enjoy. That's the paradox: the only time most people feel alive is when they're suffering, when something overwhelms their ordinary, careful armour, and the naked child is flung out onto the world. That's why the things that are worst to undergo are best to remember. But when that child gets buried away under their adaptive and protective shells-he becomes one of the walking dead, a monster. So when you realise you've gone a few weeks and haven't felt that awful struggle of your childish self-struggling to lift itself out of its inadequacy and incompetence-you'll know you've gone some weeks without meeting new challenge, and without growing, and that you've gone some weeks towards losing touch with yourself.
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The first sorrow of autumn is the slow good-bye of the garden that stands so long in the evening-a brown poppy head, the stalk of a lily, and still cannot go. The second sorrow is the empty feet of a pheasant who hangs from a hook with his brothers. The woodland of gold is folded in feathers with its head in a bag. And the third sorrow is the slow good-bye of the sun who has gathered the birds and who gathers the minutes of evening, the golden and holy ground of the picture. The fourth sorrow is the pond gone black, ruined, and sunken the city of water-the beetle's palace, the catacombs of the dragonfly. And the fifth sorrow is the slow good-bye of the woodland that quietly breaks up its camp. One day it's gone. It has only left litter-firewood, tent poles. And the sixth sorrow is the fox's sorrow, the joy of the huntsman, the joy of the hounds, the hooves that pound; till earth closes her ear to the fox's prayer. And the seventh sorrow is the slow good-bye of the face with its wrinkles that looks through the window as the year packs up like a tatty fairground that came for the children.
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A March Calf Right from the start he is dressed in his best - his blacks and his whites Little Fauntleroy - quiffed and glossy, A Sunday suit, a wedding natty get-up, Standing in dunged straw Under cobwebby beams, near the mud wall, Half of him legs, Shining-eyed, requiring nothing more But that mother's milk come back often. Everything else is in order, just as it is. Let the summer skies hold off, for the moment. This is just as he wants it. A little at a time, of each new thing, is best. Too much and too sudden is too frightening - When I block the light, a bulk from space, To let him in to his mother for a suck, He bolts a yard or two, then freezes, Staring from every hair in all directions, Ready for the worst, shut up in his hopeful religion, A little syllogism With a wet blue-reddish muzzle, for God's thumb. You see all his hopes bustling As he reaches between the worn rails towards The topheavy oven of his mother. He trembles to grow, stretching his curl-tip tongue - What did cattle ever find here To make this dear little fellow So eager to prepare himself? He is already in the race, and quivering to win - His new purpled eyeball swivel-jerks In the elbowing push of his plans. Hungry people are getting hungrier, Butchers developing expertise and markets, But he just wobbles his tail - and glistens Within his dapper profile Unaware of how his whole lineage Has been tied up. He shivers for feel of the world licking his side. He is like an ember - one glow Of lighting himself up With the fuel of himself, breathing and brightening. Soon he'll plunge out, to scatter his seething joy, To be present at the grass, To be free on the surface of such a wideness, To find himself. To stand. To moo.
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Black was the without eye Black the within tongue Black was the heart Black the liver, black the lungs Unable to suck in light Black the blood in its loud tunnel Black the bowels packed in furnace Black too the muscles Striving to pull out into the light Black the nerves, black the brain With its tombed visions Black also the soul, the huge stammer Of the cry that, swelling, could not Pronounce its sun.
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If you're all so peaceful up there, how did you get such greedy and cruel ideas?" The dragon was silent for a long time after this question. And at last he said: "It just came over me. I don't know why. It just came over me, listening to the battling shouts and the war-cries of the earth - I got excited, I wanted to join in.
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The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn't live boldly enough, that they didn't invest enough heart, didn't love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.
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