Shel Silverstein

Words For The Weekend (The Poetry Edition. Plus Gus, Johnny, Shel and Nina), Volume 38

This is the latest installment of quotes and words that move me for the weekend of 6/8/13 (Volume 38). I hope you enjoy them too. Feel free to share your favorite quotes, poems or videos in the comments.

This week is a selection of poetry (musical and written) that I’ve been wanting to share for a while. A tad lengthy, but I’m making up for the last two reposts.


A special mention first — Gus Sanchez blogs at OutWhereTheBusesDon’tRun, and he has been a long-time supporter of RunningOnSober. Well, Gus recently published his first book Out Where the Buses Don’t Run: Seven Years of Rants, Raves, Dirty Jokes, and Bad Ideas From a Small But Loud Corner of the Blogospherea collection of work from his many years blogging. Gus is a fellow music lover and runner, he has a wicked sense of humor, he’s a talented writer and cheerleader for aspiring wordsmiths, and the word “sober” doesn’t send him screaming and running for the hills. (Though, don’t mention Ayn Rand or James Patterson to him without expecting a rant.)

Gus is offering a free .pdf file or electronic version of his book, for a limited time, in exchange for an honest review on either Amazon or Goodreads — it doesn’t even have to be a positive review, just honest. Click HERE for Gus’s contact e-mail and details on how to obtain your free copy of his book. You can also click HERE to purchase directly from Amazon. Check him out, he’s a good guy, and I know he’ll appreciate your support.


“My daddy left home when I was three
And he didn’t leave much to ma and me
Just this old guitar and an empty bottle of booze.
Now, I don’t blame him cause he run and hid
But the meanest thing that he ever did
Was before he left, he went and named me Sue…”

“A Boy Named Sue” written by Shel Silverstein and performed by Johnny Cash, available on album The Essential Johnny Cash (video)

Shel and Johnny perform a snippet of this song on The Johnny Cash Show (video). You know I’m a huge Shel fan (here and here), I’ve even spotlighted him once (here.) BUT, I HAD NEVER HEARD HIM SING. You’re in for a special treat! He reminds me of a combo of Louis Armstrong, Bobcat Goldthwait and Crazy Harry–the muppet who was always blowing stuff up (see HERE for a fun video of Crazy Harry and the fabulous and recently departed Jean Stapleton performing together on The Muppet Show)


Alternate song: “Wild Is The Wind” performed by Nina Simone on album “Wild Is The Wind,” video link HERE. (This song is absolute poetry set to music. The power of Nina’s emoting, the longing, the building tension… sigh. It’s the ultimate love poem to me.)

“Love me love me love me
Say you do
Let me fly away
With you
For my love is like
The wind
And wild is the wind…

Touch me
I hear the sound
Of mandolins…”


The Guest House — by Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks

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 are 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 whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

– Jelaluddin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks, The Essential Rumi


505 I would not paint — a picture — by Emily Dickinson

I would not paint—a picture —
I’d rather be the One
It’s bright impossibility
To dwell— delicious — on—
And wonder how the fingers feel
Whose rare — celestial — stir —
Evokes so sweet a Torment—
Such sumptuous—Despair —

I would not talk, like Cornets —
I’d rather be the One
Raised softly to the Ceilings —
And out, and easy on—
Through Villages of Ether —
Myself endued Balloon
By but a lip of Metal —
The pier to my Pontoon —

Nor would I be a Poet—
It’s finer own the Ear—
Enamored — impotent — content—
The License to revere,
A privilege so awful
What would the Dower be,
Had I the Art to stun myself
With Bolts of Melody!

“#505″ by Emily Dickinson. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson


Iowa City to Boulder — by William Matthews

I take most of the drive by night.
It’s cool and in the dark my lapsed
inspection can’t be seen.
I sing and make myself promises.

By dawn on the high plains
I’m driving tired and cagey.
Red-winged blackbirds
on the mileposts, like candle flames,
flare their wings for balance
in the blasts of truck wakes.

The dust of not sleeping
drifts in my mouth, and five or six
miles slur by uncounted.
I say I hate long-distance

drives but I love them.
The flat light stains the foothills
pale and I speed up the canyon
to sleep until the little lull
the insects take at dusk before
they say their names all night in the loud field.

“Iowa City to Boulder” by William Matthews, from Search Party. © Houghton Mifflin, 2004.


Advice to Myself — by Louise Erdrich

Leave the dishes. Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don’t patch the cup.
Don’t patch anything. Don’t mend. Buy safety pins.
Don’t even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don’t keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll’s tiny shoes in pairs, don’t worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic—decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don’t even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don’t sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we’re all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don’t answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in through the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don’t read it, don’t read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.

“Advice to Myself” by Louise Erdrich from Original Fire. © Harper Collins Publishers, 2003.


Good People — by W.S. Merwin

From the kindness of my parents
I suppose it was that I held
that belief about suffering

imagining that if only
it could come to the attention
of any person with normal
feelings certainly anyone
literate who might have gone

to college they would comprehend
pain when it went on before them
and would do something about it
whenever they saw it happen
in the time of pain the present
they would try to stop the bleeding
for example with their own hands

but it escapes their attention
or there may be reasons for it
the victims under the blankets
the meat counters the maimed children
the animals the animals
staring from the end of the world


The Genius Of The Crowd — by Charles Bukowski

there is enough treachery, hatred violence absurdity in the average
human being to supply any given army on any given day

and the best at murder are those who preach against it
and the best at hate are those who preach love
and the best at war finally are those who preach peace

those who preach god, need god
those who preach peace do not have peace
those who preach love do not have love

beware the preachers
beware the knowers
beware those who are always reading books
beware those who either detest poverty
or are proud of it
beware those quick to praise
for they need praise in return
beware those who are quick to censor
they are afraid of what they do not know
beware those who seek constant crowds for
they are nothing alone
beware the average man the average woman
beware their love, their love is average
seeks average

but there is genius in their hatred
there is enough genius in their hatred to kill you
to kill anybody
not wanting solitude
not understanding solitude
they will attempt to destroy anything
that differs from their concepts
not being able to create art
they will not understand art
they will consider their failure as creators
only as a failure of the world
not being able to love fully
they will believe your love incomplete
and then they will hate you
and their hatred will be perfect

like a shining diamond
like a knife
like a mountain
like a tiger
like hemlock

their finest art

From 70 Minutes In Hell, (video of Buk’s reading)


Hard Music — by Tom Chandler

The hammers of the builders
of the house across the street

sometimes fall by accident inside
the same beat, as if the rhythm

of our separate work can
melt without our knowing

into something far sleeker
than our laboring lives

and I wonder if the carpenters
are happy in themselves when

they realize how they improvise,
how the nails bite the wood

to such natural jazz, the house
rising tall in grace because of hard

music, lifting up its chimneyed head
and shoulders to the sky.

“Hard Music” by Tom Chandler, from Toy Firing Squad. © Wind Publications, 2008.


Clay: 37 — by Yannis Ritsos

Metal on metal
hammer on anvil
wheel on rail.
In between each clang
is a bird
not yet killed
coming from the other side.

~ Yiannis Ritsos — Poems


Bluebird — by Charles Bukowski

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I’m not going
to let anybody see
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
in there.

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
you want to blow my book sales in
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody’s asleep.
I say, I know that you’re there,
so don’t be
then I put him back,
but he’s singing a little
in there, I haven’t quite let him
and we sleep together like
with our
secret pact
and it’s nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don’t
weep, do

~ Charles Buskowski, The Last Night of the Earth Poems

(Thanks to Lynne at FreePennyPress who recently reminded me of this beautiful piece HERE.)

From Brainpickings: “This mesmerizingly beautiful animated adaptation of the poem by Cambridge School of Art student Monika Umba is the perfect piece of visual whimsy to bring to life Bukowski’s magic.” (video)


Words For The Weekend (Love Possesses Not: Beeswing, Morrison and the Big O), Volume 32

This is the latest installment of quotes and words that move me for the weekend of 4/13/13 (Volume 32). I hope you enjoy them too.


“Oh she was a rare thing, fine as a bee’s wing
So fine a breath of wind might blow her away
She was a lost child, oh she was running wild
She said ‘As long as there’s no price on love, I’ll stay.
And you wouldn’t want me any other way.'”

~ “Beeswing” performed by Richard Thompson. Available on “Mirror Blue.” Video HERE.


Alternate song: “The Chokin’ Kind” performed by Joss Stone from “Soul Sessions,” video link HERE. (Joe Simon’s original HERE.)

“I only meant to love you
(Didn’t you know it babe
Didn’t you know it)
Why couldn’t you be content
With the love I gave, oh yeah
I gave you my heart
But you wanted my mind, oh yeah
Your love scares me to death, boy
Oh it’s the chokin’ kind”


“If our love is only a will to possess, it is not love.” ~ Thich Nhat HanhPeace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life


“For God’s sake, let’s take the word ‘possess’ and put a brick round its neck and drown it … We can’t possess one another. We can only give and hazard all we have.” ~ Dorothy L. Sayers, Busman’s Honeymoon


“Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself, love possesses not nor would it be possessed: For love is sufficient unto love.” ~ Kahlil GibranThe Prophet


“Jealousy is a disease, love is a healthy condition. The immature mind often mistakes one for the other, or assumes that the greater the love, the greater the jealousy – in fact, they are almost incompatible; one emotion hardly leaves room for the other.” ~ Robert A. HeinleinStranger in a Strange Land


“That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is. Most people love you for who you pretend to be. To keep their love, you keep pretending – performing. You get to love your pretence. It’s true, we’re locked in an image, an act – and the sad thing is, people get so used to their image, they grow attached to their masks. They love their chains. They forget all about who they really are. And if you try to remind them, they hate you for it, they feel like you’re trying to steal their most precious possession.” ~ Jim Morrison


“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


The Missing Piece Meets the Big O by Shel Silverstein

The missing piece sat alone…
waiting for someone
to come along
and take it somewhere.

Some fit…
but could not roll
Others could roll
but did not fit.
One didn’t know a thing about fitting.
And another didn’t know a thing about anything.
One was too delicate.
One put it on a pedestal…
and left it there.
Some had too many pieces missing.
Some had too many pieces, period.
It learned to hide from the hungry ones.
More came.
Some looked too closely.

Others rolled right by without noticing.
It tried to make itself more attractive…
It didn’t help.
It tried being flashy.
but that just frightened away the shy ones.

At last one came along that fit just right.
But all of a sudden…
the missing piece began to grow!
And grow!
‘I didn’t know you were going to grow.’
‘I didn’t know it either,’ said the missing piece.

‘I’m lookin’ for my missin’ piece, one that won’t increase….’

One came along who looked different.
‘What do you want of me?’ asked the missing piece.
‘Nothing .’
‘What do you need from me?’
‘Who are you?’ asked the missing piece.
‘I am the Big O,’ said the Big O.
‘I think you are the one I have been waiting for,’ said the missing piece. ‘Maybe I am your missing piece.’
‘But I am not missing a piece,’ said the Big O.
‘There is no place you would fit.’
‘That is too bad,’ said the missing piece.
‘I was hoping that perhaps I could roll with you….’
‘You cannot roll with me,’ said the Big O,
‘but perhaps you can roll by yourself.’
‘By myself? A missing piece cannot roll by itself.’
‘Have you ever tried?’ asked the Big O.
‘But I have sharp corners,’ said the missing piece.
‘I am not shaped for rolling.’
‘Corners wear off,’ said the Big O, ‘and shapes change.
Anyhow, I must say good-bye..
Perhaps we will meet again….’
And away it rolled.
The missing piece was alone again.

For a long time it just sat there.
Then… slowly… it lifted itself up on one end…and flopped over.
Then lift…pull…flop…
it began to move forward….
And soon its edges began to wear off…


and its shape began to change…
and then it was bumping instead of flopping…
and then it was bouncing instead of bumping…
and then it was rolling instead of bouncing….

And it didn’t know where, and it didn’t care.

It was rolling!

“The Missing Piece Meets the Big O” by Shel Silverstein, from The Missing Piece Meets the Big O  (To view with original graphics, watch HERE or see below video.)


Words For The Weekend (“The new years come, the old years go”), Volume 23

This is the latest installment of quotes and words that move me for the weekend of 12/29/12 (Volume 23). I hope you enjoy them too.

I am currently enjoying a “mini-hiatus” from blogging, so this weekend’s quotes are reposted from Volume 5–one of the most viewed editions. I’ve also included a couple of poems to ring in the new year. I wish you all a safe and joyful New Year!


Have no fear for giving in, Have no fear for giving over, You better know that in the end, It’s better to say too much, Than to never say what you need to say again… Even if your hands are shaking, And your faith is broken, Even as the eyes are closing, Do it with a heart wide open. Say what you need to say, say what you need to say… ~ John Mayer, from song “Say (What You Need to Say)


There’s something about sober living and sober thinking, about facing long afternoons without the numbing distraction of anesthesia that disabuses you of the belief in the externals, shows you that strength and hope come not from circumstances or the acquisition of things, but from the simple accumulation of active experience, from gritting the teeth and checking the items off the list, one by one, even if it’s painful and you’re afraid. ~ Caroline Knapp


When you no longer believe that eating will save your life when you feel exhausted or overwhelmed or lonely, you will stop. When you believe in yourself more than you believe in food, you will stop using food as if it were your only chance at not falling apart. When the shape of your body no longer matches the shape of your beliefs, the weight disappears. ~ Geneen Roth


Listen to your being. It is continuously giving you hints; it is a still, small voice. It does not shout at you, that is true. And if you are a little silent you will start feeling your way. Be the person you are. Never try to be another, and you will become mature. Maturity is accepting the responsibility of being oneself, whatsoever the cost. Risking all to be oneself, that’s what maturity is all about. ~ OSHO


Trying to reason with an addict was like trying to blow out a lightbulb. ~ Anne Lamott


If you live in a past dream, you don’t enjoy what is happening right now because you will always wish it to be different than it is. There is no time to miss anyone or anything because you are alive. Not enjoying what is happening right now is living in the past and being only half alive. This leads to self pity, suffering and tears. ~ Don Miguel Ruiz


Never despise small beginnings, and don’t belittle your own accomplishments. Remember them and use them as inspiration as you go on to the next thing. When you venture outside your comfort zone, wherever the starting point may be, it’s kind of a big deal. ~ Chris Guillebeau


If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.


Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; But remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for. ~ Epicurus



An oak tree and a rosebush grew,
Young and green together,
Talking the talk of growing things-
Wind and water and weather.
And while the rosebush sweetly bloomed
The oak tree grew so high
That now it spoke of newer things-
Eagles, mountain peaks and sky.
“I guess you think you’re pretty great,”
The rose was heard to cry,
Screaming as loud as it possibly could
To the treetop in the sky.
“And now you have no time for flower talk,
Now that you’ve grown so tall.”
“It’s not so much that I’ve grown,” said the tree,
“It’s just that you’ve stayed so small.”

~ Shel Silverstein


The Year by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

What can be said in New Year rhymes,
That’s not been said a thousand times?

The new years come, the old years go,
We know we dream, we dream we know.

We rise up laughing with the light,
We lie down weeping with the night.

We hug the world until it stings,
We curse it then and sigh for wings.

We live, we love, we woo, we wed,
We wreathe our brides, we sheet our dead.

We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that’s the burden of the year.


Fragments for the End of the Year by Jennifer K. Sweeney

On average, odd years have been the best for me.

I’m at a point where everyone I meet looks like a version
of someone I already know.

Without fail, fall makes me nostalgic for things I’ve never experienced.

The sky is molting. I don’t know
if this is global warming or if the atmosphere is reconfiguring
itself to accommodate all the new bright suffering.

I am struck by an overwhelming need to go to Iceland.

Despite all awful variables, we are still full of ideas
as possible as unsexed fruit.

I was terribly sorry to be the one to explain to the first graders
the connection between the sunset and pollution.

On Venus you and I are not even a year old.

Then there were two skies.
The one we fly through and the one
we bury ourselves in.

I appreciate my wide beveled spatula which fulfills
the moment I realized I would grow up and own such things.

I am glad I do not yet want sexy bathroom accessories.
Such things.

In the story we were together every time.

On his wedding day, the stone in his chest
not fully melted but enough.

Sometimes I feel like there are birds flying out of me.

Copyright © 2009 by Jennifer K. Sweeney. From How to Live on Bread and Music