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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 ...

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Cache That Can't Be Cleared (by way of reply to William Blake)

There's a smile of delight
And a smile of regret
Another day older
Still carrying all that
Credit card debt
In between the worlds
I've failed to mention
And what I manage
To scribble down
There's a score more hits
Recorded to the weblog

But what of that other smile
Unprompted it appears
While sitting in meditation
Perceived yet unrecordable
From one session to the next
It's there - remote but palpable -
Beyond Self with all its memes
In the cache that can't be cleared


Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Tweet for Leonard Cohen


"Poetry is just the evidence of your life.  If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash"     -- Leonard Cohen

I stumbled on this quote online a few months ago.  It captures something very close to the way I've come to feel about writing and art -- that it is nothing more than a residue of the way we live at any given moment in time. And as Cohen suggests, the purer the flame, the better the poem may be and the closer the poet will then be to living exactly as he or she says; and then perhaps, the poet will also become even more familiar with silence and the taste of ash upon the tongue. 


When art is purest ash
It’s life that’s all aflame
Best to be a poet burning
Instead of worshipping what remains

*  *  *  *  *

-->
November 11th update:  Yesterday morning, the day of Leonard Cohen’s death, my glasses fell off the dresser and the frames snapped, sending the left lens skittering across the floor; and since then, quite literally, everything is cracked, including my field of vision, and I’m unsure how the pieces fit back together, even as the light keeps streaming in.

Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering 
There is a crack in everything 
That's how the light gets in

Monday, October 24, 2016

For Marissa

Today is my beloved wife's birthday.  On Saturday night we celebrated with family and friends.  Our party culminated with a bonfire in our newly installed firepit in the backyard.  Here is a poem I wrote but didn't have a chance to read on the occasion.


Love alone has 
Never ruled the world
But tonight it seems
Ever more preponderant
Triumphant in a single glance
Of your face in the firelight
Luminous and inspiring
So poetry begins and ends
Bracketing a decade
Of conjunctive bliss
With the simple truth
Of our bond forged
In love's flame
Overleaping
Mere words as
Our separate
Life strands 
Are forever
Annealed as one


Ten years ago - on Marissa's last milestone birthday - I also wrote her a poem (which you can read here).  That was one of the first complete poems I wrote.  This one feels like it may be the last, at least for now.  In the ten year interval I've had a chance to write more than 500 poems, most of which you can read here on my blog.  The truth of the matter is that without the example and inspiration of Marissa's artistry I likely never would have tried my hand at writing poetry, so it seems only appropriate, however belatedly, to dedicate this collection, as it begins and ends, with all my love for her.


This photo is a birthday selfie Marissa took in her studio.  As she explains it: "I took this selfie , sans makeup, to show what 60 looks like, and what I am thinking about these days. Not to get compliments on how well or badly I look, just to put it out there, as a statement saying I will not hide what I look like or what I do because of my age."  More and more I realize that an essential part of the artist's gift is to be able see and present beauty without adornment or disguise.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

More Boomerang Than Arrow



Lately it occurs to me
Time is not linear and
Its forward progress
Is purely illusory because 
Not only do the seasons
Take us round and round
But our lifeline loops
Around a central hub
Weaving out and back
As we wax and wane
And centrifugal force
Gives way to centripetal
Just like any flower
With pistils stamens and petals 
Attached to its central stem
We die by slowly retreating
From our extremities



Monday, October 10, 2016

In the Stillness of Night

In the stillness of night
(but for the horn blaring)
The window propped open
With a drumstick
I sit and I sit
Meditating as I go
Wearing old sweat pants
In full lotus unfolding
On a blue exercise mat
Navel and nose in theory aligned
Ears and shoulders too
The moment flickers
Like a candle shimmering
With each breath
Illuminating the vast emptiness
Within and without
Of the bottomless pit

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

This is a meditation poem written in the manner of Ryōkan (more or less) who was an 18th century Zen monk. One of the unique elements of Ryōkan's meditation poems is that they often incorporate references of specific meditation techniques, which is not to say that they are prescriptive but merely descriptive of of both his internal and physical state. 



Sunday, October 9, 2016

A Short Poem on the Passage of Time

This poem is with thanks to  who earlier today posted a great photograph by Eva  Besnyö to his Twitter feed.  I don't recall ever seeing the photo before.  But then again it looked remarkably familiar.  I looked at it long enough and began to think I could see the woman in the photograph breathing.  This struck me as extraordinary and I felt inspired to write the following poem. I've also taken the liberty of posting the photograph below (with many thanks to Eva and Nicole ... (and Genie)). 


In the mid-ground stands
The Salon de Vries and
In the background there’s
A church with a couple of trees
Perhaps along the Rue Montparnasse
While Eva Besnyo’s friend
(I wonder is it Nicole Dumont?)
Stretches out for a nap
With a studio cat by her side
Looking outside
She breathes out
She breathes in
You can almost
See her diaphragm
Moving
And more time will
Elapse in the moment
Necessary to take in a single
Great photograph than a woman
Can otherwise imagine
Is possible just by
Closing her eyes
And breathing deeply
From then to now
Time traveling by means
Of a short afternoon nap
With me and the studio cat
Right by her side




Saturday, October 8, 2016

Poem For Dan on the Occasion of his 21st Birthday

By whatever means
Of extra fashizzle
Or alignment of the stars
When you were begotten
Somehow it gave rise to
The extra enlargement
Of your beating heart
Endowing you with
A massive capacity both
To give and receive love

Which admittedly
Is a mixed blessing
(but a blessing still)
In a perilous world
Constantly pumping and
Putting you at risk of bleeding
Whether needful or not
No one else can ever say

But now that you have
Attained your majority
Please indulge me in
A bit more fatherly advice
Which is that from
Such great cardio capacity
Eventually great sagacity
Also will come

Because over life’s course
The heart becomes
Ever more reliable
As both faculty and guide
Capable of reading any situation
Involving man woman or child
Or any creature from land or sea
For that matter
It’s the only character
You ever need to know
In making the most
Difficult idiom in
A foreign tongue
Completely
Your own
So live large
And let it beat wisely!



Much love ...  Dad


*  *  *  *  *  *




Thursday, October 6, 2016

A Gentle Nudge on the Journey



In truth nothing so much tests the limits of ego transcendence as an approach to my life as self-publishing another book. That’s very much the position I find myself in today, with just a week to go in the campaign to publish my all verse translation of The Adventures of Monkey King.  In the last three weeks I’ve managed to sell less than 20 copies – by far the worst performance for the first edition of any of my previously self-published books.

And yet I’m pleased to say these dismal sales receipts bother me far less than ever before.  Finally it appears I’m acquiring a much thicker skin, allowing me to present myself to the world more or less indifferent to the way the world sees me.  This is no small accomplishment – perhaps the best measure of my success (or failure) over the last fifteen years of writing.  And just in the nick of time too, because apparently I’m more in need of a thick skin now than at any time before.   An ultra-thick monkey hide to go along with my highly developed monkey mind!

But one more thing I have come to realize – being all but indifferent to failure doesn’t mean I should cease trying to find new readers. 

So much for the elaborate windup, now ladies and gentlemen, here comes the pitch! 

There’s just one more week remaining in my Indiegogo campaign.  If you join the ranks of my sponsors for just $35 you’ll receive a copy of the first edition printing – each copy will include a personalized inscription from the translator – that’s me!  Click here to order your copy now.

Did I mention that this book is about the journey to enlightenment?  Let me be clear that I do not guarantee that everyone who reads this book will become enlightened, at least not on the spot.  That would be reckless and actionable.  But I do guarantee that reading Monkey King’s adventures will make you laugh and cry out loud in delight, upon better understanding the intricacies of monkey mind; and very likely you will end up a good bit further down the path to enlightenment than you are right now.  And all that for $35 plus postage and handling.  How many of you are in a position to be cavalier about an offer like that?

Click here to support my Indiegogo campaign and begin to get a better grip on your own monkey mind …