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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 ...

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Poem for the Year of the Rooster

I was born in the Year of the Rooster and now I am heading into my sixtieth year.  Among the Tang poets this was generally considered to be a big deal - a real turning point in life,  You can read more about the significance of the Chinese view of the climacteric of the 60th year in a poem by the Immortal Bai Juyi that I previously translated by clicking here.  And if you prefer something in a more contemporary vein, here's a poem I wrote on my walk down to the Creek earlier this evening in celebration of the arrival of Chinese New Year.


Poem for the Year of the Rooster


With one empty print cartridge
In my pocket and a light blue pen
In my hand

By such means I have catapulted
Myself into nothingness toot suite
I hear the morning doves calling
To me well nigh
Into the evening

In a lowering sky
My mood is exalted
Standing on the backside
Of the extremity
While again the sap stirs
Not yet ready to rise

One Dead End sign
Behind me and one
Right by my side
Yet another out past
The horizon line no longer
A mere metaphor perhaps but
Now fully cognizant
Of the landscape's
Inescapable meaning

As time's inelastic
Demand curve traces
The creek's eastern shoreline
Before opening up
In a parabolic function
Past the osprey nest
Out towards the inlet
Which really is more
An outlet to the sea













Friday, January 20, 2017

Inauguration Day ( short reply to Jorie Graham)

The wall is unbreakable
I am that I am
This is the presence
An unbreakable sorrow
Something the wall gazers
Come to understand
Only when Nothingness
Supplants our yearning
It fills us with hope not despair

*  *  *  *  *

Backstory:  This short poem may be better appreciated with its backstory.  Today is Inauguration Day – a day many of us have been dreading, with an alternating sense of resignation and despair.  The indefatigable Kaveh Akbar (@KavehAkbar) made one of his fine poetic postings to Twitter – a lovely poem by Jorie Graham called Little Exercise.  It seems uncannily apt to the present moment.  The poem begins this way:

The screen is full of voices, all of them holding their tongues.
Certain things have to be “undergone,” yes.
To come to a greater state of consciousness, yes.
This is a powerful poem about our collapsing world order.  It’s not just a political or social collapse, as Graham goes on to acknowledge, the soil being so overfed it cannot hold a root system in place.  This feels like a crisis of Biblical proportion.  And so the poem ends hauntingly:
  
Are we “Beyond salvation”?  Will you not speak?
Such a large absence – shall I not compel the largest presence?
Can we not break the wall?
-->
Our yearning for immanence has never been stronger.  But we must surmount it.  The wall itself cannot be broken or surmounted.  Staring at the wall long enough -- in the manner of Bodhidharma, who after all stared for 9 (not just 8) long years -- we begin to develop an awareness of nothing, and in that awareness we find a true alternative to all our yearnings, which comes to fill us with hope and compassion, not despair.



Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Cracked Mirror of Love

for John Maxwell Taylor

Deep inside the sleeping man
There’s a dormant woman waiting
For the love of the dormant man
Astir in the woman sleeping
On the other side of the bed

Deep inside the sleeping woman
There’s a dormant man yearning
To love the dormant woman
Astir inside the sleeping man
Who lies just across the bed

Through the cracked mirror of love
The imago rears its loving body
Informed and emboldened it embraces
The body without body that resides
Only inside the true lover’s head

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Power of Purely Becoming

What Hamlet saw
In the fall of a sparrow
I see much more clearly
In the upward thrust
Of the amaryllis flower
Which must now be
Yet is still to come
Brought to the brink
By its unfolding power
Readiness is all
(though nothing still)
Wrapped in its leaves
Until the opening hour
As it prepares to leave
What is now behind
Not so much in being
As more purely in becoming

*  *  *  *  *

To bloom or not to bloom - photo by M. Bridge



Sunday, January 1, 2017

2017: the Year of Nothing

One of the running gags in David Foster Wallace’s masterwork Infinite Jest is the idea of raising government revenue through corporate sponsorship for each calendar year.  It starts auspiciously with the Year of the Whopper, which is followed by the Year of Tucks Medicated Pad, with succeeding sponsors including Perdue Wonderchicken, Depends Adult Undergarments, etc. etc. 

With a Republican majority preparing to take control of Congress and a licensing wunderkind about take up residence in the White House it seems as if Wallace’s vision may be on the brink of becoming a reality at last.

That’s part of the reason I have decided to steal a march on the new administration by preemptively declaring 2017 as the Year of Nothing.

And how should we ready ourselves for this Year of Nothing?  It marks an occasion for us to clear our palates and declutter our lives.  Less is the new more.  With the proliferation of fake news and the dearth of real news, it’s a good time to turn off the television and let the newspapers pile up by the front door.  I’ve heard something similar from many friends in recent days – in fact, ever since November 8th many of us are opting to remain studiously uninformed. Tuning out seems to be a sensible and increasingly popular choice in light of the hopeless corruption of our public discourse.

But this doesn’t mean that we must retreat into solipsism and despair.  Starting out the New Year by looking inward and contemplating nothing, it is very possible that the upcoming Year of Nothing will provide us with a much-needed collective fresh start.  Nothing may turn out to be quite as refreshing or restorative as nothing – particularly for those of us who have been inundated by the sound and fury of the recent election and accompanying media storm. 

So best wishes to all of you in the Year of Nothing.  And in the spirit of the great George Gershwin, as we embrace plenty of nothing, I hope all this nothing turns out to be bountiful and fulfilling indeed.  

* * * * *

Addendum:  I would also like to briefly mention that my postings to this blog will be diminished in the coming months, in part as the result of my new writing project, which is a new book with the working title The Little Book of Nothing.   Now instead of just doing and thinking about nothing, I have decided to try and make proper account of myself, and perhaps give a lie to Shakespeare at the same time, by proving that a little something may come out of all this nothing after all.