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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 ...

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Another Poem - version 3

Another poem
Another wisp of smoke
A fragrant cloud
That wafts from
The bedroom window
Across the hedgerows below
Until with many millions
Of cilia I'm ready 
To believe
In the inherent
Beauty of utterance
All over again
How like a jumbling tower
Built from the most
Ordinary of expressions
It may reach extraordinary heights
Simply by following a natural order
As with birth and death
Both rhyming and

Another Poem - version 2

I wonder which is better, version 1 or version 2?

Another poem
Another wisp of smoke
A fragrant cloud
That wafts from
The bedroom window
Out across the hedgerows
With many millions
Of cilia I begin
To believe
In the inherent
Beauty of utterance
All over again
Like a jumbling tower
Built from the most
Ordinary of expressions
But following a natural order
As with birth and death
Both rhyming and

Another Poem

Another poem
Another wisp of smoke
A fragrant cloud
That wafts from
The bedroom window
Out across the hedgerows
With many millions
Of cilia I begin
In the inherent
Beauty of utterance
All over again

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Poem for Frank O'Hara

This is a poem I wrote after reading the Lunch Poems for the first time.

Just the other day
Frank explained to me
All about the light
He’d seen that seemed
To be eternal

A light I might add
That I merely comprehend
As being external to me

And likewise he explained the joy  
He beheld as something inexorable
That strikes me
At least sometimes
As remotely accessible

Not so much foolishly
Found in the wind
As indulged in
Whenever I happen
To be so lucky

Saturday, December 14, 2013

An Artist's Prayer

This is a short poem I wrote this morning that is extracted from a longer work-in-progress that is provisionally entitled  My Life.

As if there might ever
Be serenity in such Art
Daily I pray to
Whichever Gods
Or incarnate beings
Might grant me
The wisdom to
Discern the difference
Between lines still
Needing change and
Those approaching perfection
And in peace to abideth
The world's indifference
But nonetheless with courage
To continue giving voice to words
That may better serve as
Transom to my soul

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Poem for Roger Waters

I wrote this poem (or maybe better to call it a song) after reading the poem by Du Mu that was said to have inspired the Pink Floyd song Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.  Is it mere coincidence, I wonder, that today is Pearl Harbor Day? 

* * * * * *

Little by little
The night fills with sounds
The waters run deep
In darkness purple
If not overly profound
Please don’t set the controls
Unless you’re sure where
You’re bound

But if you’re one of those
Still inclined to search
For meaning in the lyrics
Of a song on the B side
That was said to be inspired
By a 9th century poem

Then please
Please don’t be
Surprised to
Discover that
It’s otherwise
Based on a simple
Because if pigs had wings
Then surely bacon wouldn’t
Be quite so tasty
And if novices had leaves
Then most likely they
Would never utter a sound

It’s high time
It’s high time you
Turned your back
On the west wind
My friend
Whatever else it is
Please realize
It’s time to turn
Yourself around

It's time
It's time
It's time to 
Turn yourself 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Ode to the Seductive Mode of the Dimly Visible

Oh to the equally
Seductive mode
Of the dimly visible
How I writher and squirm
Trying to overcome
The barriers separating me
From your realm
In my half-assed way
Seeking passage
Through an inner doorway
Towards an ascending column
Of pulsing light
From Gaza to Hollywood
Sightless and prophetic
Though with bleeding gums
Slightly pathetic too

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Poem First Enclosed in An Email Written to Ken

this poem is written in thanks to Ken for the incredible help he has provided to me and Michel

Just yesterday
When you showed
Us your work for
For the Wolfsonian
We realized how reality
Is organized much
Like Photoshop itself is 
Consisting of layers
That may be variously
Assembled or not
And often synchronized
Though sometimes not
Nor always unidirectional
As the objects float by
Either which way 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Spampoetry -- the Genre Evolves

Earlier this year I started a series of poems called Spampoetry.  My work on this series has languished but meanwhile the genre seems to be flourishing.  Just the other day I got this email – a tasty little bit of marketing spam – that arrived in my in-box as a ready made poem.  Here's the email I received.

 *  *  *  *  *

·                             Russ Qualidad  Yahoo Mail
To Me
Nov 6 at 1:06 PM

Your old dog has a leaky bladder.  Your spouse is overly fond of drink.  Your mother and father are both on dementia’s brink.

The roof of the old summer cottage is on the verge of collapsing.  Your supervisor at work scowls every time she passes.

Monthly bills and dental expenses, cups of coffee followed by packs of gum, it all adds up; the tens and twenties keep getting siphoned out of your wallet. Soon enough you’re reduced to counting the change in the bowl on the dresser.

Fortunately you can bridge all your cash needs and then some too, enabling you still to enjoy a few of life's little pleasures!

Look here to learn how to make smackers in plain abundance:

 *  *  *  *  *

Certainly something appears to be going right in my life.  I'm finally beginning to receive a much finer caliber of spam!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Discovered by Accident - by Du Mu

Here is a poem by the Tang poet Du Mu I stumbled upon this morning and decided to translate.  The poem has an interesting title -  偶题 - which literally could be translated as Accidental Topic.   But that doesn't seem quite right as the title for a poem as supple and profound as this is, as perhaps you'll agree once you read my translation.  Hard to believe this was written in the early 9th century.

The Way through
The human state of things
May be transmitted by verse

When we’re young
We tread light and easy
But that changes with
The coming years

Today finds us embarked
On a long ocean voyage
Raised on the waves
And buoyant with hope

Not yet arrived
At the Island of Peng Lai
Still short of those Immortal
Shores it seems

*  *  *  *  *

One explanatory note.  The reference in the last stanza to the Island of Peng Lai - this is a place where the Immortals resided located not so far off the coast of Mainland China.

Here's the text of the original:






October Frost

A morning that
Passes for perfect
With the crispness in the air
The crabgrass wan and forlorn
With October's first frost

But a colorful swatch lies draped
Along the fringes of the lawn
Red maple and yellow ash
Even those JumpUps
Carmine pink and red
Still remain at the ready
For one more allegro leap
Dreaming of noonday's
Final blast of warmth 

I hope there’s an extra
Set of blueprints
For a day passing perfect
Just as today is
Somewhere safely
In storage

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

An Open Letter to Bill Gates On the Occasion of Downloading OpenOffice

Dear Bill --

For the majority of
My adult life writing
Legal briefs
Business plans
A novel and poems
Of assorted length
You've been my
Constant companion
As uber software vender
And grammatical scold
(in addition to other roles
you sometimes chose)

Long did I chaff under
The yoke of those lines
You insistently served up
Always spewing vermillion
If ever I ran even slightly afoul
Of some grammatical
Stricture you
And Mister Softie
Sought to uphold

When quite suddenly
Thanks to my laptop's
Untimely crashing
Yesterday I found myself
Bereft of further recourse
To the full function and use 
Of what I had previously
Deemed indispensable

But in such mishap
I found greater license
For reward as I'm now
Writing to inform you
Of my immediate withdrawal
From the ranks of the loyal hobbyists 
And assorted others who remain 
Licensees in good standing
Of your copyright
Protected work

As I have declined
To enroll as a member in
Your new software
Subscription scheme
(which by its evergreen 
terms seems more than
a tad overreaching)

Instead I've opted
To download a freeware
Program called
OpenOffice Pro
By which means
From this day forward
I am officially severing all
Legal connection between
You folks in Redmond
And the text of my poems
As henceforth my work
Will be exclusively based
On open source code

Very truly yours,

Joe Lamport

Friday, October 11, 2013

Another Poem by Du Mu

Here's my translation of another poem written by Du Mu in the mid 8th century.  This strikes me as incredibly contemporary in sentiment.

Parting from Minister Shen

What’s done is done
A ragged dream
What’s still to come
Is the road that winds
Into autumn

Old friends unseen
But remembered
Time brings us
To a sacred tower
Facing east




Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A New Blank Document

A few thoughts about Enlightenment are coming into better focus for me this fall.  Maybe it’s not a mental state after all.  I mean maybe it really starts as a physical condition.  And that’s why so many religious disciplines cultivate a wide variety of physical regimens to help open the Path to novitiates and other seekers.

By understanding Enlightenment as more of a physical than mental state I don’t intend to denigrate it.  Far from it.  Only to suggest that it may be easier to attain in literal fashion -- as a physical lightening of the load we carry through life.  You can simulate this feeling by first carrying around a 20 pound weight in your backpack and then suddenly you remove it and right away you feel a surge of energy throughout your entire body frame.  It's like a jolt of oxygen enriched air in every breath you take.  (Achieving this same sensation without the benefit of 20 pound weights or oxygen mask, that's the challenge we all face.)  This too entails mastering detachment of a certain sort, a loosening of the normal physical bounds.  

A Dream of Blue House Street

I'm trying to resume the more regular practice of translating Chinese poetry.  It's such a great way to start the day.  Clinical studies have proven that a stanza of lyrical truth provides more stimulation than a cup and a half of the strongest dark roast.

Today's translation is of a poem by the Tang poet Du Mu.

Dispatched from the Heart

Down and out
By rivers and lakes
A bottle of wine in hand

A slender girl
With a narrow waist
Light in the palm of my hand

Ten years is
A long time to nap
Even to dream of Yangzhou

Laying claim to a place
On Blue House street
Is only a meager reward






Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A FedEx Package from JPMorgan Chase

October 1st -- for immediate release.

 It was a long summer but today I feel as if fall has finally arrived.  And with it my mood has lifted too.  Melancholy took root in my soul in June and then spread out in crabgrass-like fashion, growing with abandon all summer long; but suddenly it seems to have been stopped dead in its tracks, withered overnight, and in strange counter-cyclical fashion, I find myself invigorated this morning, welcoming autumn with a strong sense of promise -- the prospect of a fresh start in my front and back yard after all.

I want to take the occasion to announce the launch of 1000 new ships.  I am re-engaging with the world effectively immediately.  Take particular note that this blog is being rechristened as part of the effort.  Henceforth this blog -- which up until now primarily served as a dumping ground for all the poems I otherwise didn't know what to do with -- is being reshaped as an online journal, my day book in fact, where you will continue having the chance to read my most personal thoughts, although now recast in prose form.  It's all still at no cost to you, I should add.

The fact of the matter is that I'm not writing so much poetry these days.  The depression pretty much killed that off, at least for now.  If there's ever a change in the status of poetry and my soul, I promise you'll be one of the very first to know.

* * * * *

Just as I was in the midst of writing this post, the door buzzer rang.   It was the FedEx delivery man summoning me downstairs for a package.  So mid-sentence I lost my train of thought and went downstairs where I found waiting for me an envelope from JP Morgan Chase.  Now usually, I'm thrilled to receive a package and am all in favor of tearing them open right away, eager for the thrill and excitement.  It could be a million dollar check, after all, albeit not very likely.

But today was different.  I was so engrossed in what I was thinking about, I hurried back upstairs, set the unopened envelope down beside my computer, and immediately resumed writing.  That's how important it was for me to get the Lampoetry blog relaunched.  If you're curious to find out what's in the envelope (as I am now, quite frankly) you'll just have to come back for more Lampoetry tomorrow.


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Ode to Serendipity

Oh to the
Of things
To the zippity-do-da
Of life itself

To the almost but
Not quite eternal flame
Of happenstance
It used to be
People would be killed
For donning purple robes
As Jean Louis had only
Just finished explaining
To me that morning
Over strong French Roast

And there I was
Standing online
At the Staples store
When this woman
Behind handed me the 
Purplemost pen
It seems we shared
An uncommon name
After a fashion

And quite miraculously
It enabled me to
To compose this poem
In haec verba
Not even yet
Outside the store
Ere these purplemost words
Were fully formed

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Poem for A Desolate Angel

This summer I read a lot of Jack Kerouac – first the Dharma Bums, then Desolation Angels, now I’m dipping into Visions of Cody.  It’s interesting to see how Kerouac’s writing developed over the course of more than a decade and how his spirit steadily deteriorated; in style he seemed ever more daring but in his heart he seemed ever more inclined to despair.  

I think something happened in the few months Jack spent on Desolation Peak. Or maybe it’s more a matter of something that didn’t happen.  He went in search of an epiphany and all he found was a trash heap.

So this is my poem for Jack, the Desolate Angel

 * * * * *

There comes a point
In Mind's development
When stoned or not
Becomes all but

It's a moment of both
And grave peril

The stage has been set
Like hostages our
Fate hangs on the balance
Of a final act

To scale the heights
Of Five Phase Mountain
The question is
Can we ever be up
To such a task

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Few Things I Learned From Edna

To borrow a conceit
From the good lady
Edna St. Vincent Millay --
There are a few important skills
A poet must acquire before
He or she presumes to speak
On behalf of humanity 

East and West will likely 
Start to pinch at your heart
Unless you first learn how  
To pump with your ventricles extended
Wide open in anticipation
Of the oncoming beat
For as long as you can

And if your soul has
A propensity for flatness  
You must learn to navigate
Sightlessly just like a bat
Because the sky is probably
Going to end up caving in
On you sooner or later

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Are You Social

Are you social
What’s your Klout Score
Do you host in the cloud
Do you disambiguate visitors
To your home page based on
Cookie or domain name
Do you tweet
Do you soar

More and more
These are the questions
That matter most
Whether you’re a corporate attorney
A con artist or a poet
It’s all the same
You must learn to reap
The harvest in these realms 
Of purely binary gold

Thursday, September 5, 2013

5774 - A New Year's Resolution

It’s 4 pm Thursday
On the first afternoon
Of the Jewish New Year
5774 to be exact
And the resolution I wish to make
Is to connect myself
To the ding an sich
Or noumena or whatever
You wish to call it
In a more direct way
No matter what
Immanuel Kant has
To say about it
From here on out
For the rest of my days

Friday, August 30, 2013

Poem Written While on Hold

Please hold
For a supervisor
If someone in your
Household is living
On extended life support
Please let us know immediately
We’re here to help you
At your local utility
Our number one goal
Is to help you continue
Breathing notwithstanding
An extended service interruption
In your area

Please hold for the next
Available operator
Visit Power Your Way
Dot Com for more
Or else stay tuned for
The relaxing music
We have keyed up
To play for you next

Thursday, August 29, 2013

For Gus the One-Eyed Cat

Gus a one-eyed cat
Climbs to the top
Of the garden fence
And perches there
As if on the lookout
Where like stout Cortez
Atop Darien’s peak
He surveys all he sees
With eagle eye

Although in Gus’ case
I imagine his glee must be
Even greater as
He’s quite literally limited
To monocular vision
Two of his eyes being
Devoted entirely to his interiority
It’s only with one of his three
That he’s able to savor
These more distant vistas

Saturday, August 24, 2013

To the Moon From a Staunch Admirer

Here I stand
The moon's
Staunch admirer   
As a passing cloud 
Transmutes your glory
Only moments passed full

It seems as if there’s
Secret knowledge 
Passing between us
Or is it just a note of sadness
As we head into the last
Lap before autumn
You’re truly less orotund
But ever more diaphanous 
With a nimbus extravagantly
Proportioned on a misty night
Such as this

Suddenly the gravamen
Of the complaint
Is not quite as expected
A slice has gone missing
For all to plainly see
It’s a figure and ground thing
And where it's trending
Is the opposite of plenty
You might even say

And yet
There’s promise too
Of harvest moons to come 
Harvest approaching soon
As one howl begets another
It’s the nature
Of moon 
Overleaping the bounds
Of things merely sub-lunar
Dover Beach included
Transporting us onward
And upward
In affirmation
With the coyotes
Because the loss of faith
Is no big deal really
Compared to the gist
That persists down
Through the eons
From one follower to the next
Breath succeeded by caesura
Each of us howling
Our verses in turn

Friday, July 19, 2013

Poem written in midsummer in the late afternoon

Among the many reasons
I’m glad Marissa secured
Her appointment
As gardener-in-chief
This year the primary one
Being that her highly developed
Organizational skills
Have proved decisive
In the abatement of chaos
Within the backyard forty

We’re in the midst
Of achieving great new things
Breaking various bad habits
Thinking about raised beds
And experiencing record growth
Under the new regime
Of both edible and
Decorative plants

So the summer passes
With periods of searing heat
Intermixed with short but
Intense bouts of anxiety
And self-doubt  
Hot as it was today
Even the grass heaves
A sigh of relief now
That it’s come around  
To the late afternoon
And the aperture of coolness
Dilates with evening's approach

Thursday, July 4, 2013

A Postscript on the Reclining Buddha

Several readers took time to reply to my last post and explain that yes, reclining Buddhas are more frequently found in Southeast Asia.  Another correspondent (Jacques Huynen by name) also shared this further insight - specifically that the statue I encountered in the lobby depicts Buddha reclining at the moment of entering parinirvâna, lying on his right side, head supported by his right hand and one foot folded over the other.

I find this incredibly moving.  The sensuous and physical beauty that I found so compelling in this statue may simply be better understood as the beauty of death.  As the Buddha said to his followers in the moment of yielding -- Strive with diligence!

As a further addendum, here is the result of my striving this morning - this is the poem I translated by Han Shan, the poet of Cold Mountain.

What is created 
By hand best displays
Through warp and weft
The magnificent grace
Of the human spirit

By birth we inherit
The body’s limits
By death we become
A nameless ghost

From ancient times
It’s been this way
No matter how
We may strive 
To the contrary

White clouds come
And fill the interior
Thus teaching us the song
Of Immortal longing

Monday, July 1, 2013

In Midtown, Still Awaiting Enlightenment

Either Buddha has graced us with His presence in Midtown, or not.  I’m not sure which is the case though perhaps that’s not surprising.  After all, Buddhism has always traveled best by adapting to local conditions. It figures that here in North America, Buddhism would flourish as an offshoot of the Self-Help or Entertainment Industries, or else be propagated in a cloud of misunderstanding and confusion, as is typical of our public discourse, enough so that an encounter with Buddha might easily pass unnoticed or else be mistaken for something else.

In any case, the other day I was on my way to a meeting in a lawyer’s office at 666 Third Avenue – a grade A building one block north 42nd Street –when immediately upon passing through the revolving doors I encountered this stone statue, a photograph of which appears below –

A beautiful recumbent body that had been hewn from volcanic rock.  It looked to be at complete peace – inner and outer.   And I thought to myself – “How remarkable is this? A sight seldom seen in Midtown on my way to a lawyer’s meeting no less.”

Next to the statue, there was a small sign proclaiming this was Buddha reclining.  And I said to myself – “No it’s not!  It’s not Buddha at all.  Much more likely this is a statue of Guan Yin!”  As truly, I had never seen Buddha depicted in this manner. In Chinese statuary it’s much more common to see Buddha portrayed sitting cross-legged or standing hands folded in prayer; or monumental, as at Bamiyan, or with hands perched atop a big fat belly laughing jovially as a pendant on a charm bracelet.  And even when Buddha is depicted reclining, never have I seen the figure stretched out this way, smiling and appearing so at ease, smiling in a way serene and almost seductive.

Whereas the statue in the lobby reminded me very much of Guan Yin as I’ve seen her depicted, including a statue that sits next to my desk, which was restored and repainted by my wife.  There’s a striking resemblance in the pose and demeanor, as well as in the half-formed bare breast, that’s more typical of statues I've seen of the Bodhisattva of Mercy.

I will readily concede that I am no expert in Buddhist statuary and it’s perfectly possible that the stone figure in the office building lobby was taken from Cambodia or Malaysia or a temple in some other Southeast Asian locale, where Buddha has adapted to more sub-tropical customs and climate.  But it's equally conceivable the person responsible for placing the stone statue on Third Avenue may be even less expert than I, perhaps misidentifying the statue on the grounds that all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas look alike anyway.

So as I said at the outset, perhaps the Buddha has graced us with His presence, or not, depending on one’s point of view.  And in any case, whether it’s Buddha or Guan Yin makes no difference in the beauty of the figure, nor does it diminish the significance of the presence of Buddha spirit right here in the center of Midtown.