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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, March 29, 2020

A Poem Composed While Traveling Downstream at Night (by Du Fu)

A light breeze stirs
The shoreline's slender grass
Alone on the open water
In a boat with a single mast

The stars hang pendant
And seem on a level
With the earth's broad expanse
And the moon in its vastness
Appears to rise out of the river's
Swift current just ahead

If only fame could be gained
From ink and a brush
Or a sinecure obtained
To provide shelter in sickness
And old age

But instead here I am
Skimming downstream
Proceeding to places unknown
Between Heaven and Earth
Like a sandpiper gliding
Along the water's edge

Sunday, March 15, 2020

The Croci of Ides

Afternoon of the Ides
Found me in the garden
The soil already unfrozen
Surprising for this time of year
At least along the 41st parallel
The daffodils and croci
In exuberant clusters
Going at full throttle
Everything racing
Racing back to life

Friday, March 13, 2020

A Tweet from My FutureSelf

Another message arrived
Today from my futureself
And along with the usual
Laundry list of apologies
For all the things I must
Prepare soon to forego
There sounded an unusual
Optimistic note at the end
In reflecting that Nothing alone
Forever lasts and this pandemic
Too shall pass

Thursday, March 12, 2020

The Enlightenment Game (for Jack Kerouac)

This poem is for Jack Kerouac, written on the occasion of his 98th birthday today.  The events described in this poem are based on a dream I had the night before.  In the dream, I'm sitting in the front seat of my car in the parking lot of our local library.  Jack is sitting to my right in the passenger seat.  I'm thinking to myself, this guy always writes about being on the road, so how come he never drives?  And then I turn and pitch him on this idea for a new business venture that we can go into as partners.  And that's where this poem kicks in ....

Today I had this idea
I wanted to pitch to you --
You and I could go
Fifty fifty partners on it

Let's make a board game
Called Enlightenment
Which would be modeled
On the old game of Life

Roll sevens you advance
Box cars you're out
Sit lotus style or
Stand on your head
You skip a turn
Don't follow leaders
Watch your parking meters
A koan answered
A prayer returned

No winners
No losers
Only those that love the game
May ever hope to attain
The next level of play
Hey Jack
What do you say

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Poem Composed While Driving Through a Parade of Old Oaks

Driving along
The old truck route
To my eye it's
These misshapen oaks
That best demonstrate
How to cultivate virtue
Out of necessity
Having taken root
Where they did

And suffering through
The annual indignity
Of having their limbs
Hacked way back
To make room for
The telephone lines
Passing overhead

How ungainly they look
But still managing to thrive
Unlikely as it is they'll
Be transplanted
Anytime soon

Instead they strive
For their late-in-life glory
Like a Civil War vet
Who hobbles on crutches
The full length of
The parade route

I think that I shall never see
A poem well balanced as these trees
Where every word and every phrase
Is interleaved with sun and shade
And while lines branch and extend
Greater harmony remains
Their ultimate end

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Into the Bardo State

Into the Bardo state
I'm traveling east
On the ferry today
Hard on the heels
Of my mother's dementia

At the ticket counter
The assistant manager
Playing with crayons
And a coloring book
Said to me
You've got to be free

Then shaking her head
She muttered
Only on the ferry

Neither here nor there
In such a non-state
I came aboard and
The engines were
Already humming

Belowdeck which
I realized would make it
All but impossible
To know the exact
Moment of arrival
Or departure

So it is and must be
As I'm traveling
East into the Bardo State
Today on the ferry

Sunday, March 1, 2020

The Green World Won't Grieve Us (a lament in anticipation of spring)

The green world won't
Reprieve or grieve us
Not in science fiction or truth
After more than a century and half
Of our unremitting abuse

Now and forevermore 
Nature must look after
Her own rites and cures
Innured to human
Demands and needs

For having laid waste
Our powers and so much else besides
We're destined to huddle
Along the shoreline
Among all the other orphans of
Our self-made storms