Prayer in Gratitude for the Right Song Arriving at the Right Time, for Example Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings or Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising,” or Chet Baker’s “She Was Too Good to Me”

Because you know and I know that a song can save your life. We know that we don’t say it much, but it’s true. When you are dark and despairing a song comes and makes you weep as you think yes yes yes. When you are joyous a song comes to top off the moment and make you think the top of your head will fly off from sheer fizzing happy. A song makes you sob with sadness for such pain and loss as throbs inside the bars of the song. A song roars that we will not be defeated by murder but we will stand together and rise again, brothers and sisters! A song makes your heart stagger that you found someone to love with such an ache and pang. A song comes—how amazing and sweet and glorious that is! And this is not even to get into how amazing and miraculous music itself is, the greatest of all arts. But this evening, haunted by a song that slid out of the radio and lit up your heart, we pray in thanks that there are such fraught wild holy moments as this one. And so: amen.

By Brian Doyle

Collage by Carolina Perrone

be alone by Charles Bukowski

when you think about how often
it all goes wrong
again and again
you begin to look at the walls
and yearn to stay inside
because the streets are the
same old movie
and the heroes all end up like
old movie heroes:
fat ass, fat face and the brain
of a lizard.

it’s no wonder that
a wise man will
climb a 10,000 foot mountain
and sit there waiting
living off of berry bush leaves
rather than bet it all on two dimpled knees
that surely won’t last a lifetime
and 2 times out of 3
won’t remain even for one long night.

mountains are hard to climb.
thus the walls are your friends.
learn your walls.

what they have given us out there
in the streets
is something that even children
get tired of.

stay within your walls.
they are the truest love.

build where few others build.
it’s the last way left.

– Charles Bukowski

Photo by Small Circle Big Circle

A moment of sunshine

A short story about my great-grandmother

Pisa, February 1923

        After a week of wind and rain, the sun was finally shining over Pisa. Teodolinda looked outside the kitchen window and saw the terrace of her apartment full of sunlight.  For a moment she thought that everything on that terrace seemed to exist under a magnificent glow of glimmering light, under a soft, golden veil.

The kitchen had already been cleaned after the lunch she had served to her husband and her two kids, Bruna and Alberto. Teodolinda slowly walked towards the window, glanced outside, then looked back at the sink, the table, and the stove, making sure that everything was in perfect order.  Looking again towards the terrace, a slight smile began to blossom on her stern and serious face. 

This was the time of day that Teodolinda loved the most.  It was a moment of absolute serenity, rest, intimacy, understanding, and utter simplicity.  Perhaps, more than anything, this was a moment of affection, innocence, and playfulness.

Before opening the window, Teodolinda took off her apron and hung it in the closet next to the kitchen broom and mop.  She went out onto the terrace and grabbed an old black sweater that was hanging on a rusty hook.  Without worrying too much about her hair, she put on the sweater and covered her long skirt with an equally long black apron, this being much rougher and dirtier than the one she had just used in the kitchen.

Teodolinda took the wooden chair next to the window and opened a small gate made out of wood and metal mesh.  She carefully placed the chair in a corner, under a ray of sun.

“Gallo! Nerina! Bianchina!” she happily called with the voice of a loving mother. As soon as she sat down, first three, then four, then five, and finally six chickens arrived.  A white rooster with a majestic, deep red crest jumped onto her lap. She welcomed him like a mother welcomes her little, tired child in search of comfort and some cuddling.  Teodolinda began to pet the rooster and softly converse with him. 

​In that moment her sixteen-year-old daughter Bruna walked by the kitchen window and saw her mother sitting in the sun, inside the chicken coop that had been built in a corner of the terrace.  Teodolinda was surrounded by five chickens and had the white rooster right on her lap, her apron now covered with Gallo’s excretions.  She was radiant, happily petting the rooster, whispering affectionate words, looking at his eyes as if she were about to reveal to him great and intimate secrets.  Bruna looked at her mother and a wave of shame and repulsion ran through her entire body.  Why couldn’t her mother be like all the other mothers, like her friends’ mothers, like those who didn’t even have to cook because they had a full-time maid in their home? Why did her mother speak to chickens?

Teodolinda closed her eyes and raised her face towards the sun.  She felt the deep pleasure of the rays warming her skin and penetrating deep into her tired, old bones.  For a moment she imagined herself not on the fifth-floor terrace of a building in Pisa but in the garden of her family’s house in Perugia where she had played as a little girl.

As soon as the sun went away, Teodolinda opened her eyes, gave one last kiss to Gallo, a last tender caress to the chickens, then took the chair and put it back next to the kitchen window.  She took off the dirty apron and hung it once again on the rusty hook.  She went back inside the kitchen, closed the window behind her, and inspected the kitchen to make sure that everything was in order.  She then went into the living room where she sat to sew and repair the stockings and socks of her entire family, her face now serious and stern.  

Carolina Flaminia Perrone

Teodolinda

Un attimo di sole

Pisa, febbraio 1923.

Dopo una settimana di vento e di pioggia a Pisa era finalmente tornato il sole.  Teodolinda guardò fuori dalla finestra della cucina e il terrazzo sul quale si apriva era pieno di luce.  Per un attimo pensò che tutto su quelle mattonelle di terracotta sembrava essere coperto da un velo d’oro.  

La cucina era già stata rimessa a posto dopo il pranzo servito al marito e ai figli Bruna e Alberto.  Teodolinda si avviò verso la finestra e ancora una volta, prima di uscire sul terrazzo, diede uno sguardo intorno, come per assicurarsi che tutto fosse in perfetto ordine.  Guardando poi di nuovo il terrazzo, sul suo volto serio e severo apparve un accenno di sorriso.

Questo era il momento della giornata che amava di più.  Era un momento di assoluta serenità, riposo, complicità e profonda semplicità.  Forse, più di tutto, era per lei un momento di affetto, innocenza e gioco.

Prima di aprire la finestra, Teodolinda si tolse il grembiule da cucina e lo appese dentro l’armadio accanto alle scope e agli stracci.  Uscì poi sul terrazzo e prese una vecchia maglia nera attaccata ad un gancio tutto arrugginito. Senza curarsi troppo di spettinarsi i capelli, se la infilò e coprì la gonna con un vecchio grembiule, anche quello nero e molto più grezzo e sporco di quello che aveva appena indossato.  Teodolinda prese la sedia di legno che stava accanto alla finestra, aprì un cancellino in rete metallica e legno e mise la sedia in un angolo, dove batteva il sole.

“Gallo! Nerina! Giallina! Bianchina!” chiamò Teodolinda tutta contenta e con voce tenera da mamma innamorata.

Appena si sedette, arrivarono di corsa prima tre, poi quattro, cinque, infine sei galline.  Un gallo, tutto bianco e con la cresta alta e purpurea le saltò in braccio e lei lo accolse così come si accolgono i bambini più piccoli quando sono troppo stanchi e si attaccano alla gonna della mamma cercando tenerezza e coccole.  Teodolinda cominciò ad accarezzarlo e a parlargli sottovoce.

In quel momento la figlia sedicenne Bruna passò per la cucina e intravide la madre seduta al sole, dentro il pollaio costruito in un angolo del terrazzo, con cinque galline ai piedi e con il gallo bianco sulle ginocchia, il grembiule ora sporco degli escrementi di Gallo. Teodolinda, raggiante e felice, accarezzava il gallo, sussurrandogli parole affettuose, guardandolo negli occhi come se volesse rivelargli grandi ed intimi segreti.  Bruna guardò la madre e sentì nel suo corpo un’ondata di vergogna e schifo.  Perché non poteva essere come tutte le altre madri, come quelle delle sue amiche che neanche cucinavano perché avevano la cuoca a casa? Perché sua madre parlava con le galline?  

Teodolinda chiuse gli occhi e sollevò il volto verso il sole. Sentì il profondo piacere dei suoi raggi che le scaldavano la pelle e che piano piano penetravano nelle sue ossa stanche.  Per un momento riuscì a immaginare di non essere più sul terrazzo al quinto piano di una palazzina a Pisa, bensì nel giardino della casa di Perugia, dove aveva giocato da bambina.

Appena il sole se ne andò, Teodolinda aprì gli occhi, diede un ultimo bacio a Gallo, un’ultima carezza alle galline, poi prese la sedia e, uscendo, la rimise a posto fuori del pollaio, vicino alla finestra. Si tolse il grembiule sporco, lo riappese sul gancio arrugginito e rientrò a casa. Chiuse la finestra dietro di sé. Diede un’occhiata alla cucina come per assicurarsi che tutto fosse ancora in perfetto ordine e poi se ne andò in salotto dove avrebbe cucito e rammendato le calze e i calzini di tutta la famiglia. Il suo viso, ora, serio e severo.

– Carolina Flaminia Perrone

The Laughing Heart by Charles Bukowski

Photo by Small Circle Big Circle

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

— by Charles Bukowski

The pearl

Said one oyster to a neighbouring oyster, “I have a very great pain within me. It is heavy and round and I am in distress.” 

And the other oyster replied with haughty complacence, “Praise be to the heavens and to the sea, I have no pain within me. I am well and whole both within and without.” 

At that moment a crab was passing by and heard the two oysters, and he said to the one who was well and whole both within and without, “Yes, you are well and whole; but the pain that your neighbour bears is a pearl of exceeding beauty.”

– Khalil Gibran

Prayer of Thanks for Old Girlfriends, or Boyfriends, as the Case May Be – Brian Doyle

No, we don’t think about them much if at all anymore, and yes, it all worked out right that we are not together, and no, it would not have been a good idea at all to continue on in what became a murky emotional wilderness, but yes, we should be grateful that they came into our lives, or that we blundered into theirs; for in many ways they are how we came to be who we are, isn’t that so? And didn’t we learn how to love better by loving generally poorly and awkwardly in the opening chapters, before moving up to the current big leagues?… So thank You for the pain and confusion and thrill of first and second and third loves; thank You for letting us muddle along learning to be painfully honest and not try to be cool and not hold on desperately to that which is rightfully leaving the scene; thank YOU for the bruise of education, and the joy of the much deeper confusion of marriage. Deft work there, Friend. And so, amen.

– Brian Doyle

Dignity by Too-qua-stae

And what, in fact, is dignity? In those
Who have it pure, it is the soul’s repose, 
The base of character—no mere reserve 
That springs from pride, or want of mental nerve.
The dignity that wealth, or station, breeds, 
Or in the breast on base emotion feeds, 
Is easy weighed, and easy to be sized—A bastard virtue, much to be despised.

True dignity is like a summer tree.
Beneath whose shade both beast, and bird, and bee,
When by the heated skies oppressed, may come,
And feel, in its magnificence, at home;
Or rather like a mountain which forgets
Itself in its own greatness, and so lets
Vast armies fuss and fight upon its sides,
While high in clouds its peaceful summit hides,
And from the voiceless crest of glistening snow,
Pours trickling fatness on the fields below;
Repellant force, that daunts obtrusive wrong,
And woos the timid steps of right along;
And hence a garb which magistrates prepare,
When called to judge, and really seem to wear.
In framing character on whate’er plan,
‘Tis always needed to complete the man,
The job quite done, and Dignity without,
Is like an apple pie, the fruit left out.

Isola Tiberina, Roma
Photo by Small Circle Big Circle

A verse for our time by Rudolf Steiner

A Verse for Our Time

We must eradicate from the soul
All fear and terror of what comes towards man out of the future.

We must acquire serenity
In all feelings and sensations about the future.

We must look forward with absolute equanimity
To everything that may come.

And we must think only that whatever comes
Is given to us by a world-directive full of wisdom.

It is part of what we must learn in this age,
namely, to live out of pure trust,
Without any security in existence.

Trust in the ever present help 
Of the spiritual world.

Truly, nothing else will do
If our courage is not to fail us.

And let us seek the awakening from within ourselves
Every morning and every evening.

– Rudolf Steiner

Photo by small circle big circle

Patient trust by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.

And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ

Madonna del Parto – unknown Master – Italy – 1490s
Photo by Small Circle Big Circle