Saturday, February 24, 2024

l'ignoranza è beatitudine

The ex-president is loved (or mesmerized) by so many in his party.

Just to put it in context -- there are many poems I do not get.

चिन्तयतु, प्रतीक्ष्य, भोजनात् निवर्तयतु *

An old, wrapped in mailing plastic, London Review of Books under box of bamboo tissues on makeshift table next to bed in eremetic room.

In Hermann Hesse’s novel Siddhartha he has the young not-yet ascetic say the three skills he possesses are the ability “to think, wait, and fast.” *

Some day I’ll remove the issue from plastic.

like nothing else

 Reading Erasure: A Novel, by Percival Everett (2001).

Last night, at conversation, as at prison earlier, Wallace Steven’s poem Anecdote of the Jar (1918)

Anecdote of the Jar

 I placed a jar in Tennessee,

 And round it was, upon a hill.

 It made the slovenly wilderness

 Surround that hill.

 The wilderness rose up to it,

 And sprawled around, no longer wild.

 The jar was round upon the ground

 And tall and of a port in air. 


 It took dominion everywhere.

 The jar was gray and bare.

 It did not give of bird or bush,

 Like nothing else in Tennessee.

And so we took a look, had a chat, and found it, (in L’s words), “jarring”.

Friday, February 23, 2024

thanks, wallace stevens

 When is a door not a door able?

When it’s a jar in Tennessee.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

test the reality / of misty fields


In Zen To Go, Compiled and Edited by Jon Winokur (1989):

Zen is consciousness unstructured by particular form or particular system, a trans-cultural, trans-religious, trans-formed consciousness.

--Thomas Merton


Zen is a way of liberation, concerned not with discovering what is good or bad or advantageous, but what is.

--Alan Watts


Zen teaches nothing; it merely enables us to wake up and become aware. It does not teach, it points.

--D.T. Suzuki

 Suddenly, the words of Wallace Stevens come to mind:

She says, “I am content when wakened birds,
Before they fly, test the reality
Of misty fields, by their sweet questionings; ..."

(--in poem, Sunday Morning, by Wallace Stevens 

Once someone wrote me from Inman Street in Cambridge, calling me a "kindred spirit in an ellipsis-hating world."

She knew something I didn't.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

end of day

When all that is heard 

Monastery bells

Announcing compline

keeping silence, releasing any explanation

Truth is hard to hear.

Literally, not symbolically.

It is buried under soil, beneath consciousness, beyond the periphery of sight. 

Sometimes only by looking away might you catch an intimation of it. Only by dozing on brink of unconsciousness might you catch a faint echo on the narrow edge of awareness. 

Pilate asks, what is truth?

The Gospel that is truth is good news, but before it is good news, let us say that it is just news.

Let us say that it is the evening news, the television news, but with the sound turned off. 

A particular truth can be stated in words.

But truth itself is another matter. Truth itself cannot be stated. Truth simply is, and is what is, the good with the bad, the joy with the despair, the presence and absence of God. Before it is a word, the Gospel that is truth is silence, and in answer to Pilate’s question Jesus keeps silence. 


(--in, Frederick Buechner: Telling the Truth, the gospel as tragedy, comedy and fairy tale, HarperOne 1977, Notes Alison Morgan Dec 09)

Truth is not a crackerjack prize given to diving fingers. It is gift without warning to a heart/mind wandering through what is there without expectation or intention. Only oblique presence experiences the donation of truth. It is the boon of a love that knows not itself, but which is open-eyed and open-souled in its surround.

Silence, the maxim says, means consent.

If we are to construe anything, it is "yes".

so, out of holy womb

In tribute book to William J.Richardson S.J., Babette Babich includes a line from Friedrich Hölderlin -- (p.30, Reflections, in memoriium, 51st meeting of the Heidegger Circle 3March--2April 2017):

Wie du anfiengst, wirst du bleiben.

    As you began, you will remain

It is found in Hölderlin's poem Der Rhein (The Rhine). Here's an excerpt:

Ein Rätsel ist Reinentsprungenes. Auch
Der Gesang kaum darf es enthullen. Denn
Wie du anfingst, wirst du bleiben,
So viel auch wirket die Not,
Und die Zucht, das meiste nämlich
Vermag die Geburt,
Und der Lichtstrahl, der
Dem Neugebornen begegnet.
Wo aber ist einer,
Um frei zu bleiben
Sein Leben lang, und des Herzens Wunsch
Allein zu erfüllen, so
Aus günstigen Höhn, wie der Rhein,
Und so aus heiligem Schoße
Glücklich geboren, wie jener?

Pure source is a riddle. Poems even
May hardly show the solutions. For as
You started, you will continue,
Whatever the workings of discipline
Or necessity; for most is
Achieved by birth
And the ray of light
That meets the new-born infant.
But where is there anyone
Who may remain free
Lifelong and fulfil solely the heart’s wish,
In heights that will favour him, like the Rhine,
So born, out of holy womb,
Fortunate as this river?

Hölderlin says that "Pure source is a riddle." 

During Tuesday Evening Conversation Chris brought up faith, read some Merton on it, then threw it to the gathered for reflection. Asha, Doris, Tina, Saskia and I joined conversation with his prompt. It was, as often is, delightful and inspiring.

Perhaps faith has no object because source is a riddle, a koan for which no positing answer is acceptable.

And, that, because (perhaps) source or origin is (surprisingly) not the same as beginning or starting point.

Norman Fisher writes:

The reflection on beginnings and endings is taken still further in Buddhist teachings. The closer you contemplate beginnings and endings, the more you begin to see that they are impossible. They can’t exist. There are no beginnings and endings. The Heart Sutra, chanted every day in Zen temples around the world, says that there is no birth and so there is no death either.

What does this mean? We are actually not born. We know this from science, there is nothing that is created out of nothing—everything comes from something, is a continuation and a transformation of something that already exists. When a woman gives birth, she does not really give birth, she simply opens her body to a continuation of herself and the father of the child, to their parents and their parents before them, to the whole human and nonhuman family of life and nonlife that has contributed to the coming together of preexisting elements that we will see as a newborn child. So there really is no birth. This is not a metaphorical truth.

If no beginning, then no ending. There is no death. In what we call death the body does not disappear. It continues its journey forth. Not a single element is lost. The body simply transforms into air and water and earth and sky. Our mind travels on too, its passions, fears, loves, and energies continue on throughout this universe. Because we have lived, the world is otherwise than it would have been, and the energy of our life’s activity travels onward, circulates, joins and rejoins others to make the world of the future. There is no death, there is only continuation. There is nothing to be afraid of.  

(in, No Beginning, No Ending, No Fear, When you’re afraid of what might happen, remember that all you have is now. By Norman Fischer -- Tricycle, Summer 2021)

 The line in Hölderlin, "You started, you will continue" (or, "As you began, you will remain") might be a trick poetic phrasing. The words "started" or "began" are, for a Buddhist, infinitely retroactive impossibilities (let's say).

So too, "continue" or "remain" are enticing atemporal horizons beyond which our vision cannot penetrate.

Fisher points out that no beginning, no end, (then) no fear.

Is it possible to dwell at origin? (Change that!) Is it possible to dwell as origin dwells?

And is faith the willingness to dwell in that objectless riddle wherein and through which Being and Truth dance in ever recurring surround with liberating joy -- even in the midst of turmoil, uncertainty, pain, and unknowing?

This holy womb, out of which, through which, we are ever-presently coming into existence and out of existence with nothing, to be, afraid of, and unafraid with.

for now, enough

First light off east

Red coals in firebox

Car-lights up road

Tuesday, February 20, 2024



Faith has no object

Yes without knowing

Letting go without

Going anywhere

Residing (absurdly)

With what yes is

menuha, stillness and peace

Much disturbs me.

It is a fact of linear time. A fact of populated space.

 The contention of opinion and religion and ideology.

In the mythology of the Bible, it took God six days to make the world, and on the seventh day He rested, pleased with what had been created. On this day was created menuha, in Hebrew stillness and peace. The Sabbath is therefore a place of still waters that soothes the soul; it is a different atmosphere that envelops those who celebrate it. (in, The Sabbath, by Abraham Joshua Heschel, 1907-1972)

There is, I'm told, another way.

Where stillness and peace emerge. As if of themselves.

And yet, we are creatures of chaos and conflict.

Quarrelsome and querulous. 

Menuha to you! To us!

sorrow for sin

I cannot turn away

The ghoulish horror

His face on every

Screen and front page

Fool fooling the foolish

Monday, February 19, 2024

she was smiling

I remember her face

As she left chemo

For final time

Someone quietly cried

She would not be back

the faint chattering of the songs that are to come

 In prison this morning conversation about Wendell Berry's poem --  "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front."

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

by Wendell Berry


Love the quick profit, the annual raise,

vacation with pay. Want more

of everything ready-made. Be afraid

to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.

Not even your future will be a mystery

any more. Your mind will be punched in a card

and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something

they will call you. When they want you

to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something

that won’t compute. Love the Lord.

Love the world. Work for nothing.

Take all that you have and be poor.

Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace

the flag. Hope to live in that free

republic for which it stands.

Give your approval to all you cannot

understand. Praise ignorance, for what man

has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.

Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.

Say that your main crop is the forest

that you did not plant,

that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested

when they have rotted into the mold.

Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus

that will build under the trees

every thousand years.

Listen to carrion — put your ear

close, and hear the faint chattering

of the songs that are to come.

Expect the end of the world. Laugh.

Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful

though you have considered all the facts.

So long as women do not go cheap

for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy

a woman satisfied to bear a child?

Will this disturb the sleep

of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.

Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head

in her lap. Swear allegiance

to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos

can predict the motions of your mind,

lose it. Leave it as a sign

to mark the false trail, the way

you didn’t go. Be like the fox

who makes more tracks than necessary,

some in the wrong direction.

Practice resurrection.


“Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” from The Country of Marriage, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc1973.


 cat on lap

chant down hall

purring psalm-tone 

Sunday, February 18, 2024

causes, conditions, consequences

In article about Shantideva’s thoughts on anger at Sunday Evening Conversation, this insight: anger is about the past; compassion about the future.

Forget anger.

Forge the future.

an aerobic, this

 I don't want

to be president

I will not run

nor serve if asked

I do want 

to jog residence

or briskly walk to

reserve asking

you what you want 

an inner incandescence --

if wanting is talk

turn, preserve, ask this


 Middle night 

If I pray it is 

Basement furnace

Eleven degrees

Doing what it can

Is all just that