Saturday, September 11, 2010

It is time.

Not to say.

Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent. ( -- #7, in TRACTATUS LOGICO-PHILOSOPHICUS, by Ludwig Wittgenstein, c.1922)
Morning sounds.
Silences, our desire for them and our desire to fill them, emerge as one of Dunn's motifs in this book. Sometimes the silences are unwanted and elusive, as in "Turning to the Page":
I learned there's nothing more shaming
or as memorable as an intimacy
unreturned. And turned, therefore,
to the expected silence of the page
Dunn's pages are sometimes quiet, but never silent. He concludes this same poem by writing that after turning to this "expected silence of the page," the page replies:
Bring to me, it said, continual proof
you've been alive
Such discourse is the essence of the poems contained in this volume: whether the dialogue is between two lovers, the page and the poet, or the warring factions of one's own psyche, these are poems about the conversations and silences, the stories and transformations at the heart of poetry itself.

One final silence notable in its breeching here is Dunn's reticence to write poems about 9/11. Dunn's poem "To a Terrorist" from the 1988 book Between Angels was frequently reprinted in the aftermath of the attacks of that day, yet he himself reasoned that it was impossible for the conscientious poet to write a poem about those events without appropriate distance, chronological and psychological. In The Insistence of Beauty, Dunn finally breaks his silence on 9/11 with several poems, including the title poem which invokes in its closing lines the fortifying power of storytelling and poem-making:
When word came of a fireman
who hid in the rubble
so his dispirited search dog
could have someone to find, I repeated it
to everyone I knew. I did this for myself,
not for community or beauty's sake,
yet soon it had a rhythm and a frame.
This is what we have after everything else, the poet says. A rhythm and a frame. Dunn knows of the passions such rhythms and frames can ignite and inspire, writing in "in the Land of the Salamander,"
When we returned to shore, you allowed me
to speak of barracudas and bananafish, knowing
I loved words more than anything I might have seen.
The poems contained in The Insistence of Beauty are indeed about love: of words, of what is lost to the past, of what salvation a new love might bring us. Dunn's poems reveal a mind alive within its own inner-circlings, the transforming power of loss, the fictions that lead to the core of our truths, the possibility and reality of loving another again.
(-- from Stephen Dunn, The Insistence of Beauty, in Literary Review, Wntr, 2005 by R.G. Evans)

I remain silent.

In the transforming power of loss.

In the fictions.

In the possibility and reality of loving.

Good fireman!

Good Dog!



Friday, September 10, 2010

Don't call 9-11 a conspiracy. Call it mass murder.
Turn around the light to shine within,
Then just return.
The vast inconceivable source
Can't be faced or turned away from.
Meet the ancestral teachers,
Be familiar with their instruction,
Bind grasses to build a hut,
And don't give up.

- Shitou
Rather, Eid. Rather, Rosh Hashanah. These delight.

Rather, a terrible day of murder and destruction. This devastates.

We are humans.

We want to know what happened and who did what.

We don't give up inquiry.

We will one day know.

Murder asks to be unmasked.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

If faith comes from hearing, it depends on what we choose to hear. Can we hear the movement of love beneath the shouting idiocy of hatred and bias?

Can we hear what another sees beyond the stubborn facts of division?

The movement of love is what is passing over and through every interaction. If we choose to feel it so.
Song of the Grass Roof Hermitage

I've built a grass hut
Where there's nothing of value
After eating, I relax and enjoy a nap.
When it was completed, fresh weeds appeared.
Now it's been lived in
Covered by weeds.
The person in the hut
Lives here calmly,
Not stuck to inside, outside,
Or in between.
Places worldly people live,
He doesn't live.
Realms worldly people love,
He doesn't love.
Though the hut is small,
It includes the entire world.
In ten square feet,
An old man illumines forms
And their nature.

- Shitou
Va bene.

Go well. Pass well.

Porous passage permeate.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


Monday, September 06, 2010

Summer's end. Labor Day.

Cricket chants midday salute. Cars drive south to toll booth. Sails fold around masts of small boats on lakes and harbors. Breeze waves green leaves along Ragged Mountain.
As I wend to the shores I know not,
As I list to the dirge, the voices of men and women wreck'd,
As I inhale the impalpable breezes that set in upon me,
As the ocean so mysterious rolls toward me closer and closer,

I too but signify at the utmost a little wash'd-up drift,
A few sands and dead leaves to gather,

Gather, and merge myself as part of the sands and drift.

O baffled, balk'd, bent to the very earth,
Oppress'd with myself that I have dared to open my mouth,

Aware now that amid all that blab whose echoes recoil upon me I

have not once had the least idea who or what I am,

But that before all my arrogant poems the real Me stands yet

untouch'd, untold, altogether unreach'd,

Withdrawn far, mocking me with mock-congratulatory signs and


With peals of distant ironical laughter at every word I have written,
Pointing in silence to these songs, and then to the sand beneath.

I perceive I have not really understood any thing, not a single
object, and that no man ever can,

Nature here in sight of the sea taking advantage of me to dart

upon me and sting me,
Because I have dared to open my mouth to sing at all.

(--from poem, As I Ebb'd with the Ocean of Life, by Walt Whitman)
When the man in his late 80s asked me if I was happy as I helped him into the passenger seat of his car, I said "Yes" without hesitation. There was no need to deliberate. I was happy to be asked.
In this world of dreams,
Dozing off still more;
And again speaking
And dreaming of dreams.
Just let it be.

- Ryokan

Last night at Harbor Park, just above high tide, sitting on rock by American Boathouse listening to Gorden Bok and the January Men (and Then Some) sing kindly seafaring songs, I glance about at schooners, children, faces of those attending, night sky with distant stars, and felt the fondness and generosity of all of it. Walking closer I stood beside Ed and Silvia as they took leave toward their "Fitzy" car up by street and we share a passing instant of simple greeting with each other.

I, too, leave just as fireworks begin in outer harbor. Their sound follows me. I leave their sight to others. I drive back to this valley content at having rowed so far in whitecap swell and wind this morning and having listened so near beside becalmed sea and sky this evening.

I do so love wharves and harbors, boatyards and oarlocks, the stillness and silence of solitude in community.

I am happy to be alone. I am shy about being with others, but I am happy to be so when I am.

Every other concern falls away. This behavior, that behavior, this attitude, that memory, this desire, that regret -- all these have little power when placed alongside the middle phrase of the statements above.

That phrase is "happy to be."


With great gratitude.

I am.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

If we make distinctions, let them be distinctions without separation or assigned hierarchy.
Panikkar understands what pluralism means and what it can offer us -- in his language, he is attuned to the "myth" of pluralism -- without succumbing to it as another "ism." His working proposition is that for modem persons of any persuasion "isolation is no longer possible and unity is not convincing since it destroys one of the parties." The embrace of pluralism "implies that the human condition in its present reality should not be neglected, let alone despised in favor of an ideal (?) situation of human uniformity. On the contrary, it takes our factual situation as real and affirms that in the actual polarities of our human existence we find our real being." This is the problem, so much discussed today, of the other as other, taken here with great seriousness and made the central challenge to human growth, and indeed to human survival.

Each of us represents in his or her uniqueness an irreducible quantum of lived experience. In order to claim this experience fully, however, and to discover the presence of God in that experience, each of us requires the presence of others; to be in Christ through our own experience, each of us needs the other. That statement can sound like just another call to community until one realizes how fundamentally Panikkar means it. Why such a mutual being-present with one another is so necessary, how such a presence can be brought to pass, and what it might mean for a deeper commitment to Christian faith, are questions that have absorbed Panikkar for years. He is convinced that this kind of pluralism constitutes the kairos of our times, a special opportunity given by God. Pluralism is the sociological "blessing" of the late 20th century, a true providential novum in which old forces of domination are collapsing.

(--from Raimundo Panikkar: Pluralism Without Relativism, by Peter Gorday, originally published in The Christian Century, 1989.)
Do not let the sun go down on our popularity contests before we acknowledge the inauthenticity of self-congratulation.

Two facts are two facts. They are not only one fact. Nor shall we make one true and one false.

Being present and being good is also being exactly what one is even when two is what is there.

As a Catholic Buddhist, or, Buddhist Catholic I shall not try to answer any questions except for the one asking why the chicken crossed the road.

But I cannot answer while I am on the road.