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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, July 31, 2016

Short Poem on the Origins of the Multiverse

Four voids diverged in the hour
Of my darkest mood
And sorry I could not travel them all
And be one traveler still, long I stood
Until I decided, demiurge that I am
That it would be better to demerge
The unity of the world in favor of
A far less coherent plan

This poem was inspired by the imaged posted above, which I came across on Twitter.  I love the image and wish I could make out the signature so I could properly attribute and thank the artist named in the lower right hand corner.  That of course and a tip of the hat to Robert Frost.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Frontier Living

Another day and another member of the tribe receives a bad diagnosis without warning.  This is when the entire earth begins to resemble a charnel house under the pale blue sky for an awning.

When the wheel turns
It’s time to be tested again
By illness and worry
Counting the t-cells and platelets
As love falls captive
To the pharmacological state
Mismanaged and uncertain

Living on the frontier
Where the broad sky
Opens to affliction and
Where death lurks
Like a scorpion in your boots
Or else in the top dresser drawer
Mixed with socks and undies
Every morning we must remember
To laugh and check carefully
Before pulling on our pants

Friday, July 29, 2016

Gan Yu - II (Zhang Jiu Ling)

This is from a short series of poems by Zhang Jiu Ling.  The series is called Gan Yu - a phrase impossible to translate succinctly, it means something like feelings encountered along the way.  It is used as a title by Tang poets to indicate poems of a more contemplative nature.

Zhang Jiu Ling was a remarkable figure.  You can read a brief Wikipedia entry about him here which chronicles his adventures as a high ranking government official in the 8th century, maneuvering through a period full of palace intrigue in the years prior to the An Lushan rebellion.  As a high government minister he was apparently held in high regard for his plain spoken honesty.

I find the same quality animates his poems, particularly the Gan Yu series, which I believe may have been written in his later years, after he fell into political disfavor.

Gan Yu – II

The orchid leaf
So lush in spring
And the cassia
With its brilliant
Autumn flowering

The sheer delight
Of the force of life
As each being unfolds
According to scheme

Whoever takes
A forest perch can learn
These simple pleasures
By sitting and listening
To the wind

As grass and trees
In turn show
Their intentions
Revealing what   
Beauty is to man
Before disappearing










Tuesday, July 26, 2016

From Poetry to Silence (composed in meditation)

From poetry to silence
Is much closer than you think
A half step at most
Only six inches
From capitulation
To silence's brink
Whereas prose pitches
Its tent much closer to bombast
And obstinacy

* * * * *

Working the knots out
Just won't do
And then
It's up to the pursuit
Of Nothing else
Outside the musculature and
Even beyond the exoskeleton
To discover how energy
Unfettered zips about

In the Zhongnan Mountains (by Wang Wei)

I've written before (here and here) about the wonderful book by Francois Jullien, which I keep close by my side these days -  The Great Image Has No Form.  Here's a brief passage explaining one of the book's central ideas:

When the Chinese painter says from the first that "the mountain is a great thing" (Guo Xi), it is clear that "great," far from being flat description, must be understood in the sense of the "great image."  Its greatness lies in the fact that it does not have one form but, as the Shi-tao says "ten-thousand" - like the "ten-thousand" things within the Tao. A mountain is without form in the sense that it contains countless forms, with no single one predominating.
As a fine illustration of the point Jullien is making about the mountain's greatness, here is a poem by Wang Wei that I translated this morning:

In the Zhongnan Mountains

Taiyi reaches Heaven
Already it seems and
From there the mountains  
Run down to the sea

White clouds encircle
The highest peaks
Merging them together
Sky and cloud intermixed
Obstructing the view

The boundaries among
The peaks grow indistinct
Shadow and light
Crowd together
Filling up the ravines

Hoping to find
Lodging for the night
From across the river bank
I call to an old woodcutter


太乙近天都     连山到海隅
白云回望合     青霭入看无
分野中峰变     阴晴众壑殊
欲投人处宿     隔水问樵夫