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The Journey to the West

Though we journey to the West We pray to the East More or less that's the way Each day begins and ends It’s a tale everyone ...

Monday, December 29, 2014

Bay Avenue Meditation (每精通五行)

 
Along the crook
Of Fourth Neck to
Its most easterly extent
Proceeding out on
A thin isthmus
Of asphalt and doubt
To a wooden bench
At the end of the pier
Where only tenuously
Connected to the
Sandbar behind me 
I sit and reflect upon
The sky’s reflection
And surrender to
The still wintry air
Watching daylight ascend
In layers and columns
To a higher redoubt

A dog barks
Down the street
A serene breeze
Stirs the red
Bandana affixed
To a pole
In the mouth
Of the Bay --
A slight tremor portends
Elijah and his fiery chariot
May finally be drawing near


Each packet of wind
Has its own trope
This is no projection
Or sympathetic fallacy
Merely an observation
Of the tendencies
On clear display
Out here in the harbor
As reality goes about its task
Defining a clear smooth path 
Out past the No Wake zone and
Through the Bay’s fill and chop 
Clear beyond the Point of No Return
As the waters continue parting
With a slight nod of the crown
Drawing us onward
Into the far greater depths
That lie straight ahead


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Another Year

-->
It’s Christmas day
And anomalously
Just now I plucked
A dandelion from the
Front lawn with a white
Plumose Crown

And my mother said
To me: You can’t
Be too sure otherwise
Those seeds will be airborne
Before we get to New Year’s
And I thought to myself 
Another year another war


But it seems as if
This time around
With trowel close to hand
And a new Moon sitting
Two fingers adrift in
The western sky
The spheres have turned
And the growing season 
Is already here





 

On Hold Christmas Day - 2014 (每精通五行)


for Frank
  
It’s Christmas Day
And just now when you
Asked me to hold
I noticed a few
Snowflakes
Drifting by
On the computer
Screen as if scattered
By some Java script
Onto the email below and then
I overheard you speaking
With the X-ray technician which
Didn't exactly fill me with
Holiday cheer and it being 50
Degrees plus out here on 
The East End I figure
That virtual snow is all
We’re likely to see
This time around



Frank on Christmas Day - 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

On the Five Phases of the Spirit's Journey (每精通五行)



How robust life is
In all respects
The rapid recovery
Truck sits just beyond
The front lawn all day long
Capable of addressing
Present disasters even if  
Woefully inadequate
When it comes to  
Those we imagine

 And how our continued
Sense of well being hangs
By the slenderest of threads
Through many harvests  
Through regime change
And bottoming out
In short through
All five phases of Being

When at last we emerge
From Reality’s cocoon
Our term of imprisonment
Under Five Phase Mountain
Having been abruptly commuted
Upon the arrival of
A dragon with wings
Tipped with pennants of fire


A rapid recovery truck outside the window

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Wintry Mix



For Christine Stansell
Chongyam Trungpa
Steve Davis and all
The other mentors
Real or imagined
Who taught by example
 (good and/or bad)
About the dangers
And rewards of
Mixing the personal
With the spiritual
And political realms
How the Lotus of Life unfolds
In the most intricate of ways

Please understand
From now until
New Year’s more
Than a fortnight hence
I have no frigging idea
On any given night whether
I'll end up in bed alone
Gnashing my teeth
Blessed or utterly stoned

Which was the very same
Wintry mix displayed
On the streets
Of Midtown yesterday
A surcharge of the craziness
We’re lately awash in
Anguish and insight  
With an antic twist
It's a two-step line dance called
The Armageddon Shuffle

In this case arising as a
Column of protest marchers
Chanting that Black Lives Matter
Made its way up 6th Avenue
Into the heart of Herald Square
Where a phalanx of Drunken Santas
Had already laid claim to the turf
In their riotous good cheer
They careened about
Under the street lamps
Swaying and cantilevered

Undeterred as the
Marchers proceeded
Uptown and East
While helicopters
Hovered overhead
And a cordon of cruisers
With blue and red flashing lights
Sealed off all alternate
Routes of escape

Hemmed in
On all four sides
Of the barricades
We were laid bare
In the urban grid
 Drawn and quartered
By the same police power
Those of us angry
And those of us willing
And those of us
Besotted too
All of us could
Suddenly see
Exactly where
Things stood



Monday, December 15, 2014

Finally - A Reply to Meditation #17

God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war,
some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another. As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all.   


John Donne, Meditation 17 



Enlightenment 
Entails a stutter step
Or a stammering
Thanks to the absurdity
Of the Brightness

If you're unprepared
It can be hazardous
To your health
The equivalent
To a stroke or
A Richter 10 quake

But how unlike
A beast is humankind
That we can lift
Our hind legs upward
In prayer (not merely
to urinate)
Over our heads
In submission
To the laws of
Anti-gravity

And while sitting
On the mat if you tell
Me not to ask
For whom the bell tolls
Or the siren wails
I’ll take comfort
In knowing that
It wails for me
Celebrating the
Not-self's return

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Poem for Bodhi Day


For Jonathan Stalling


From Emptiness to Enlightenment
Is but a short step (or leap) off
The end of a long dark period
As quite suddenly old Gutei
Lifts a single finger and
The first Nen clears its throat
Ready to speak of its own accord
 
 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Surreply to Wallace Stevens

I wrote this stanza answering to a double prompt - (i) a photo (copied below) that I saw posted on Facebook of footsteps trailing off in a field of snow, which basically looked like a calligraphy for half of a Chinese character or so, and (ii) Wallace Stevens' great poem The Snowman.




For the wanderer
Who treks through the snow
And beholds the Nothing
That is there along with
Various other things 
Paled by abstraction
And contingency 





The title of this poem is a cross-reference to a few of my earlier poems that were addressed to Stevens, including one which you can read by clicking here.   But what this new stanza reflects is how lately I've been considering whether The Snowman reflects a Buddhist view of Nothing (as a number of American critics seem to think it does)  as opposed to that of an American modernist insurance executive?  There are many types of Nothing and Stevens, for the most part, seems to stick to thinking about it in a spare positivist framework, at least that's how his mind of winter strikes me - not quite yet inclined to see Enlightenment as the ultimate payoff of Emptiness.