Saturday, February 07, 2009

Green lobster boat, alongside, loans bilge pump to white lobster boat tied opposite on float.
Pure and fresh are the flowers with dew
Clear and bright is the singing of the birds;
Clouds are calm, waters are blue.
Who has written the True Word of no letters?
Lofty are the mountains, green are the trees,
Deep are the valleys, lucid are the streams;
The wind is soft, the moon is serene.
Calmly I read the True Word of no letters.

- Zenkei Shibayama
Tides run higher and lower than usual.

Will we continue to want a public face?

Friday, February 06, 2009

Consider this: there's no higher power or realm of spiritual helpers or anything other than something simpler to consider. And what's that?
Gathering simples, going home
White clouds flying
Mists melt black mountains
And this wandering mystic's
Wandered astray.
Black apes call and green birds cry
A magic crane goes before me,
Dancing, leads me
To my cave.

- Yun-K'an Tzu
Consider that our parents used to think someone else was in charge: church, job boss, government, the 'system.' And we -- what do we think?

We've come to understand that no one is in charge.

It's just us. If there's something to do, we have to do it.

With a kicker. We have to do it -- but without knowing what we have to do.

So, we just do it; we do the next thing to be done.

What makes us different from our parents? Not much. Just a small thing.

We are no longer afraid of the church, the boss, the government, or the system. Nope, no fear of any of them.

We now know it's us.

To fear ourselves.

Or love ourselves.

With a kicker. They're both the same thing.

How 'bout that?

Can't think of anything other.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Nothing seems to work. Not anything. Not me. Not any of it. Just sounds in the night.

Water clunks in abandoned lock under window. Phantom boats sidle through narrow rust-eaten doors rising and falling in nether time moving to slippery memory where long gone slips of marina backed up to Bayview street.

Across room, spirits of Findley's are noisier than usual at sink and counter visiting at edge of subtle world. It's the still hour. Everything is in itself. At edge of each other. Dimensions within and surrounding, intersecting and imagining no barriers, no difference. One world of earth concealing and unconcealing truth and untruth. Heidegger's ghost carries the origin of the work of art. Goes forward. Then reverses.
Night Rain

For no reason it rains,
Whispers of reality.
How lovely it sings,
Drop by drop.
Sitting and lying I listen
With emptied mind.
I don't need ears,
I don't need rain.

- Chin'gak (1178-1234)
I've become my own specter. I haunt the places I dwell. This respite from the never-ending finishing of kitchen out at the hermitage threatens to become permanent retreat with wandering memory. I ask fellow students: Where did we come from? What story do we settle on? Back before any knowing, where and who were we?
"Listen to the secret sound, the real sound, which is inside you. The one no one talks of speaks the secret sound to himself, and he is the one who has made it all."
What is useful? So much of the useless abounds. Governing people in a time of political simony is useless. Usury becomes the national and international anthem. Wave that flagging misfortune! March on!  

What, then, shall we do? Tolstoy's ghost looks out window at Man-forgotten family losing home and hearth. Man has forgotten God. Man has forgotten Being. Moving from myth to decimal point, we have forgotten what it once meant to be alive.  Forgive all debts? Did Jesus say that? Or some revolutionary rising up from an immigrant refugee obscurity? People with guns will come to take you away from your bed and your breakfast unless you pay for them. Not only is there no free ride, we've made God into a financier, extracting interest and penalties on simple needs unmet.

In the night, desolate and dispirited, shells of former human beings crack open and fall to ground. Nor does the ground stop the falling. There is only the falling through. When shall we wake?
"The guest is inside you, and also inside me;
you know the sprout is hidden inside the seed.
We are all struggling; none of us has gone far.
Let your arrogance go, and look around inside.

The blue sky opens out farther and farther,
the daily sense of failure goes away,
the damage I have done to myself fades,
a million suns come forward with light,
when I sit firmly in that world.

I hear bells ringing that no one has shaken,
inside "love" there is more joy than we know of,
rain pours down, although the sky is clear of clouds,
there are whole rivers of light.
The universe is shot through in all parts by a single sort of love.
How hard it is to feel that joy in all our four bodies!

Those who hope to be reasonable about it fail.
The arrogance of reason has separated us from that love.
With the word "reason" you already feel miles away."

Kabir (The Kabir book: Forty-four of the ecstatic poems of Kabir)
That's all we need, an ecstatic seer-poet!

That is, on second glance, all we need.

A seeing that surrounds itself.

With love!



Wednesday, February 04, 2009

It's beyond me.

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

(Poem, Forgetfulness, by Billy Collins)
What is?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Not yet dawn. Water dark. No horizon. Lights from building across harbor waver on outgoing tide. Church steeple bell tolls hour. Prayer, if this be prayer, is mere presence. No words suffice. One candle. One stick incense. One stillness. Unseen choir chants soto voce their love; "Ama nesciri!"
You provide me a form;
I entrust you my Mind.
Though the body is filled
To the full by you,
The ten thousand things
Have become light.
Roaming in the universe,
In and out of mountain forests,
Why should I admire the beauty
Of red and purple robes?
I seek only that which
Frost and snow cannot harm.

- Han-Shan Te-Ch'ing
Outskirt of Skowhegan yesterday two old timers work to load antique John Deere onto flatbed. Rear right wheel frozen, bigger tractor sets plow rig against tire, other fella chains up come-along rocking inch by stubborn inch up ramps braced by lengths of beam. I step up onto metal trailer, offer help, am given gloves, and ratchet iron bar like some railroad hand switching tracks back an forth for sluggish train. Comes along, slowly, slowly. Shorten chain for last eight feet. Come to end. Done.


Around corner, green element leans to left, white dog looking out wondering why his walk has been delayed. Tractor with hard of hearing driver backs in. Chain attached to under-hook. Easy tug. Right front wheel lifts from snowy ditch. Much obliged!
The Rain Poured Down
My mother weeping
in the dark hallway, in the arms of a man,
not my father,
as I sat at the top of the stairs unnoticed—
my mother weeping and pleading for what I didn't know
then and can still only imagine—
for things to be somehow other than they were,
not knowing what I would change,
for, or to, or why,
only that my mother was weeping
in the arms of a man not me,
and the rain brought down the winter sky
and hid me in the walls that looked on,
indifferent to my mother's weeping,
or mine,
in the rain that brought down the dark afternoon.

(--Poem, "The Rain Poured Down", 2005 by Dan Gerber)
Maybe what we think is the point is not the point. Rather ways we get lost. Sorrows holding us close taking the form of what we feel we can name.

Light lengthens from behind islands in the bay. Covered sky. No name for what it drops.

One way to navigate the places where there be dragons is to go straight ahead. Dragons or salmonella or dread of the unknown is no inhibitant to one foot in front of another -- or one ratchet of a come-along, or one sorrow more or less along the way.
Thus says the Lord: ‘As the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.’     (--Isaiah 55:10-11)
Silver-tone chiaroscuro inner and outer harbor. Not knowing what is being done is no excuse for not allowing it to be done. We are entering a post-knowing age. Get used to it. There's no knowing what is most real -- only the presencing attention given us and given by us in its presence.
If a man who was rich enough in this world’s goods saw that one of his brothers was in need, but closed his heart to him, how could the love of God be living in him? My children, our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active. (-John 3:17-18)
Candle doesn't talk. Incense has burned itself through. Dawn has no words.

I pray for something for each of us -- something real. Something active.

Something out of hiding.

Seagulls circling with daylight.

May our throats be healthy with clear light blazing open sound!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Of the Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird in his poem, Wallace Stevens in the 9th way says:
When the blackbird flew out of sight, 
It marked the edge 
Of one of many circles.
It is time to begin the circle round of wondering and imagining where we will be in three months' time.

People ask. We don't know. Have hardly tried to imagine. On one level, we go nowhere. On another, it all ends. From middle ground, February will fasten us with cold.

Candlemas Day, Ground Hog Day, Imbolc, Presentation, Purification -- many coats for an early, short month.
The Lord is the sanctuary and the stumbling-stone and the rock that brings down the two Houses of Israel; a trap and a snare for the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
(-Isaiah 8:14)
The Middle East stumbles with vengeance and righteous vindication. No inclusive circles with explosive shells!

Robert Bolt -- in A Man for All Seasons, a play about Sir Thomas More, -- writes that God made angels for splendor, plants for their simplicity, and animals for their innocence. But:
" to serve him wittingly, in the tangle of his mind! If he suffers us to fall to such a case that there is no escaping, then we may stand our tackle as best we can... But it's God's part, not our own, to bring ourselves to that extremity! Our natural business lies in escaping!"     (p. 126, in A Man for All Seasons, by Robert Bolt, 1954, film 1966)
Meetingbrook's concerns are small change and insignificant weight next to the collapsing consciousness that continues to assert "you are not my equal" and "we will defeat you" -- a mind that cannot fathom the integrity of God-life-with-us.

Meetingbrook is a circle nearing the edge of sight. Further and further irrelevance, nearer and nearer impertinence.

February's crowded symbology floats on a quiet harbor surface this morning. The Z-2 is not on its finger float, although the freeboard-losing smaller lobster boat has moved to tie up across from its absence.

Brigid be well in all of us this silver-white imagining day!


Sunday, February 01, 2009

We've gotta love poetry.

It is tide for us.
Bright Sun after Heavy Snow
by Jane Kenyon
A ledge of ice slides from the eaves,
piercing the crusted drift. Astonishing
how even a little violence
eases the mind.

In this extreme state of light
everything seems flawed: the streaked
pane, the forced bulbs on the sill
that refuse to bloom...A wad of dust
rolls like a desert weed
over the drafty floor.

Again I recall a neighbor's
small affront — it rises in my mind
like the huge banks of snow along the road:
the plow, passing up and down all day,
pushes them higher and higher...

The shadow of smoke rising from the chimney
moves abruptly over the yard.
The clothesline rises in the wind. One
wooden pin is left, solitary as a finger;
it, too, rises and falls.

(--Poem, "Bright Sun after Heavy Snow" by Jane Kenyon, from The Boat of Quiet Hours. © Graywolf Press, 1986.)
Rising, falling, rising. Falling. In two poems by Dan Gerber read in prison, someone notices his use of 'stumble' in both. I am, these days, one continuous stumble. It fits nicely with 'bum.'
Like the Sun
Cut down being and nonbeing
The All enfolds.
A dot of Buddha nature-
It shines like the sun.
You may grasp it right away
But can't escape a stick.
How can you then sit idly
And have a moment to think?

- Chin gak (1178-1234)
Not a moment goes by but someone's thought shoulders you aside. Maybe that's it; 'you' are a fiction. Only a poem can set things straight.
We are all Begging to have God
by Basil the Great

It is natural to look for beauty and to love it, even though the idea of what is beautiful varies between one person and another.

Now, what is more marvelous than the divine beauty? What can you think of that is more likely to give pleasure than the magnificence of God? What desire could be more ardent, more irresistible than the thirst which God inspires in the soul when once it has been purified of every vice and cries out: 'I am sick with love.' [S. of S. 2:5]

The divine beauty is beyond description in words. We could compare its brilliance to the light of the morning star or the moon or the sun. But we should be as far from a true description as midday is from the dead of night.

This beauty is invisible to the eyes of the body; only the soul and the mind can perceive it. Every time it illumines the saints, it leaves in them a sting, a nostalgia so strong as to wring from the cry: 'Woe is me, that I am in exile still.' [cf. Ps. 120:5]

By our nature we human beings aspire to what is beautiful and love it. But what is beautiful is also good. God is good. Everyone looks for the good, therefore everyone looks for God.

(--Cited from: Spidlik, Thomas. Drinking from the Hidden Fountain : A Patristic Breviary: Ancient Wisdom for Today's World. Minneapolis: Cistercian Publications, Incorporated, 1993. Page 173).
It is beauty we desire. The meeting-place, as Muriel Rukeyser suggests.
In poetry, form and content, relation and function, reach and merge This is the one skill we have not used, reaching that makes a meeting-place.
Are we to teach this? All we can show to people is themselves; show them what passion they possess, and we will all have to come to the poetry. This is the knowledge of communication, and it is the fear of it which has cut us down.
Facing and communicating, that will be our life, in the world and in poetry.
Our lives may rest on this; and our lives are our images

(--Muriel Rukeyser, p.4o, in The Life of Poetry, Paris Press, 1996 c.1949)
Just imagine the meeting-place.


We've got to love our lives.