Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thought to offer a mini-show from a new collection arriving from Cherry Grove in July 2012. This is a collaboration with my friend Lawrence Leone. We've been ping-ponging back and forth by e-mail for about 10 years, using a form I invented, the 84. The rule of exchange: every poem must total exactly 84 characters (not counting spaces). Why 84? Because the Buddha is said to have left us 84,000 different teachings, and our 84-count represents a playful gesture toward that number. Why so many different teachings? Because we're all so differently the same. From A BOUNTY OF 84s: To live within a golden bell that has no tongue to sound devoting long days to the polishing of silence * after a time the lama forbids note taking: Simply listen, he says, and students write: simply listen * Such great practice, to love a tree to take on its patience and calm, the trust that the sun will return * "Ah, dear Lama, I want so to love all the precious details!" "Is okay, just try squeezing not so hard?” * What's needed? Comes an answer: Get yourself a radish. Oh get yourself a Japanese radish. Be simple. * We're wadded up defended in our own knot, when what we really desire is to river, what we need is to flow * The great sage Soraya after years of retreat still hadn't "got it" till he was told to lie on the earth, + feel its firmness, hear the now & then barking of the monastery dogs, gaze at the stars those billions * There are days the mind clenches, a fist battering itself; other days it opens, a helping hand * What lies closed may open as a door implies a room, unguarded houses a town in boundless silence sound * more amazing than blue sky or these trees of maniac green is how seldom we pause to gaze in awe upon them * amazing that they gaze on us watching stress flow from our pores wishing us deep roots and sweet water * think of the child's amazement to learn, as he cries "I want I want," that the work of life is not to want * And so the play of life is to give but what? Your heart to your sexual dream? Your body to the bloody war? + no, pilgrim the work and play of life is to be exactly where you are with all the shadows and light awake * It would feel good to start a new project make a little transition say to speak no words for a month or so * I tell my students "Disappear, you're in the way, make space for Everything" baffled, they gaze at me * many times a day the transition from self-disdain to self-grandiosity, with tiny (ah) un-self gaps * Of the air are spoken many useless words and yet poetry all of it, comes from where we catch what we can. * Do not stretch to reach the fruits of the practice; wait for those branches to sag from their fullness * fruits of the practice: calm; reading minds; a desire that others be less troubled; pervasive calm; + immunity to most poisons, and as to life in general: terror & hilarity that the children are in charge * Rabbi, does a teacher stop opening doors when he leaves the building? No, but they are harder to find. * Elvis has left the building & likewise Jesus & so will we, leaving on the porch light for the new owners

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Inspired by kind words from former student Homer Christensen on the last poem I posted here, I've picked out another earlier effort that might serve to mark a return from long illness to my life's main work. BEGINNING AGAIN "What is it for, this labor of poetry?" -- Kenneth Rexroth The young tree just outside my window, a volunteer locust sapling, flails back and forth in the rain-driven storm, dipping and nodding this way and that in a sort of a mad-girl dance, and I, I'm freeing its chaos-rhythms in thought, pretending for comfort that consciously it tolls the mindless bells of the wind. Tomorrow I'll see it, motionless, calm, like a poised adolescent on point on five toes. Granted, our fancies won't keep us unbroken, but as we imagine compassion arises, dignity offered even to stones; for we are the choosers reporting this realm, its grand displays, its flowers, its glory, declaring the world so to be in the end – having our say, and beginning again.