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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

In Meditation Withering (Han Shan De Ching)

Deep into night sitting alone
In meditation withering

Poking at lifeless ashes
But what of the flame

Suddenly the clock’s chime
Calls from on high

A beautiful clear voice
That fills the frozen skies

*  *  *  *  *

Deadwood Zen.  That's the title of this poem as translated by Bill Porter (my favorite translator of Chinese poetry).  Very evocative but not quite accurate.  The character  (ku) refers to the withering or drying up of plants.  But what better case can be made for translation that's none too literal?  In the deadest of deadwood zen, as the poet tells us, there may come a spark of illumination.

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