Adrift of Course

a boat far a’sea
adrift as tho’ waywardly
of course tho’ it be

 

 

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No Mind, No Attachment

Wu_nothing

The Mind in its dimensions is broad and great, like empty space. It has no sides or limits, it is neither square nor round, neither large nor small. It is neither blue, yellow, red, nor white; it has neither upper nor lower; it is neither long nor short. It knows neither anger nor pleasure, neither right nor wrong, neither good nor evil. It is without beginning and without end. But good friends, do not, hearing me speak of emptiness, become attached to emptiness.

Shin’ichi Hisamatsu, from The Characteristics of Oriental Nothingness

 

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Haiku, Senryū, and the Subtleties In Their Similarities and Differences

If I had a bit more courage and a lot more scholarship, I would have discussed the similarities and differences between a haiku poem and a senryū poem in the introduction of my newly released book of poetry Short Verses & Other Curses: Haiku, Senryū, Tanka & Other Poetic, Artistic, & Photographic Miscellany. However, seeing that I am woefully deficient in both, I will have to enlist someone adequately courageous and scholarly to discuss these subtleties for me.

What little I do think I know about these two popular Japanese poetical forms is that both are diminutive in structure yet powerful in purpose and meaning, with haiku typically involving nature settings and the zen-like moments often evoked by them and senryū typically involving the vagaries – and vulgarities – of the lives that we lead, often by employing humor and sarcasm. But then, what do I really know about it…

I have no answers
I know just that grass will grow
and that leaves will fall

For those of you who appreciate a little more scholarship and authority, here is what Richard Hass, former U.S. Poet Laureate, has to say about haiku in his beautifully edited and translated book The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, & Issa (Essential Poets). (I find no direct mention of senryū in the book; though it seems to me much of his discussion of haiku can also be applied to senryū as well.)

Robert Hass:

The insistence on time and place was crucial for writers of haiku. The seasonal reference was called kigo and a haiku was thought to be incomplete without it.

If the first level of a haiku is its location in nature, its second is almost always some implicit Buddhist reflection on nature.

When the hokku [what haiku were originally called] became detached from linked verse, it also cast off the room the tanka provided for drawing a moral (thought not all tanka do moralize, of course) and what was left was the irreducible mysteriousness of the images themselves.

There is so much to consider about these two subtle yet so often at the same time plain-spoken Japanese poetic forms. Considerations such as:

– Zen and its influence
– the influence of China and its poetry
– various poetic techniques found in much of traditional Japanese poetry, to include haiku and senryū, such as kake-kotoba (pivot words) and kireji (cutting words)
– the 5/7/5 structure and its relevance to the Western haiku poet

Hass’ book covers much of the list; however, instead of continuing to discuss about these poetic forms, let’s just experience some of the best of their kind and enjoy them as they are.


From THE ESSENTIAL HAIKU

Basho

Awake at night–
the sound of the water jar
cracking in the cold

A petal shower
of mountain roses,
and the sound of the rapids

How admirable!
to see lightning and not think
life is fleeting

Spring rain
leaking through the roof,
dripping from a wasps’ nest

Taking a nap,
feet planted
against a cool wall

Winter solitude —
in a world of one color
the sound of wind

Buson

Coolness —
the sound of the bell
as it leaves the bell

He’s on the porch,
to escape wife and kids —
how hot it is!

Cover my head
or my feet?
the winter quilt

Flowers offered to the Buddha
come floating
down the winter river

Issa

Don’t worry, spiders,
I keep house
casually

The man pulling radishes
pointed my way
with a radish

A dry riverbed
glimpsed
by lightning

All the time I pray to Buddha
I keep on
Killing mosquitos

Visiting graves,
the old dog
leads the way

No talent
and so no sin,
a winter day

From the website HUBPAGES

A horse farts
four or five suffer
on the ferry-boat

the matchmaker
speaks the sober truth
only when drunk

Zen priest
meditation finished
looking for fleas

The face of her husband
looking for a job —
she is tired of it

Richard Wright

The watching faces
as I walk the autumn road,
make me a traveler

An empty sickbed
an indented pillow
in weak winter sun

A falling petal
strikes one floating on the pond
and they both sink


 

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Life Is

image

it’s funny, life is
we are so busy living
we forget to live

 


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You As Now

You As Now

it’s not where you are
it’s why and it’s how you are
it’s the now you are

 
 

Mow

Mow

As a child we had
Scythes and Sickles

But we didn’t use them

They just hung on nails
in the garage

Silent
Anachronistic
Magnetic

Still able
but worthiness superseded
by the Pains and Privileges
of Progress

Then comes a day
one Glorious
Magical day
when a Motorcycle appears

And of a sudden
the Sickles
and Scythes
become worthy
once more
with Purpose
and Promise

The Field out back
where the Old Barn
Shrugged & Sighed
would become a Venue
for Motorcycle Adventure
and Derring-do

But first had to come
The Sweat and
The Sacrifice
And the Hardening of soft hands

For The Way
had to be
Cleared

 
 

A Meditation on an Introduction’s Opening Passage as found in “Nature” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?

Here we find Ralph Waldo Emerson, in the opening passage of his introduction to his seminal essay “Nature,” bemoaning the distance he and his generation are from anything Original and True as compared to preceding generations. As he sees it, only through the firsthand experiences and the tales of our forefathers and foremothers have we been able to learn our life’s lessons and traditions. The gleaming highest highs our civilizations are able to reach are only because of the solid foundations built from and with Nature’s sacred mud by the caring and calloused hands of those to whom have gone before us and who now uplift us still.

If the great Emerson, a transcendental man, perhaps the Transcendental Man as he was in possession of a most extraordinary ability to focus and perceive that which the eye of most mortals miss, is shocked by such a revelation, then it seems to this less-than-transcendental and exceedingly mortal man just how far we find our present selves from those God beholding foregoing generations would bring about the death of fright to such a perceptive and feeling man as he.

And it is not just a distance in generational time I am referring to, but also, mostly, a distance in understanding, as perhaps the same could be said of Emerson’s meaning; though as far as he felt his generation was from an understanding of the Original and True, just how much farther away from understanding we of the present are is too hard for me to imagine.

Just what does our generation know of Nature? of God? of the Universe? Just how many more countless sepulchres have we built and how many more countless biographies have we written? Surely we know greatly of nature and of god and of the universe through the words and misdeeds of our spawning and splintering sects and religious disorders, and through the kaleidoscopic lens and the equations of the material, the physical, carried out to the farthest nth of a degree, accessible to only but a few of our most scientific of brains. Yea, ours is but a weak and plastic generation with hardly one of us finding even a germ under the nail let alone a fleck of sacred earthen mud, so far removed from Nature and Her Elements are we.

Like the everlasting trees
Of the most symbolic

Our ancients bare green before us
Full in their lustrous branches
Roots firmed in their foundation
While with the passing breeze
Our limbs naked and thin
We waive

Lo! but look at me. Look at me, me with my naked, thin limbs waiving away my right of birth to ancient spirits more alive long dead than I whose blood still courses hot will every be. I whose blood still courses hot but whose heart has grown cold and without passion for the Original, the True. I lie content each night having yet let another day slip away without once baring my feet and stepping into the grass; without once feeling the raw moonglow on my rusty skin.

But it wasn’t always so. I wasn’t always so distant from the Original and the True. And neither were you, for we were all born of and from the Original and of the True. It is who, in essence, I am and who you are.

We just forgot, that’s all.

We just allowed each passing day to take us farther and farther from who we were born to be.

So much time has
passed since then,
since I last felt raw
moonglow on
my rusty skin,
that I have forgotten
how the breath of night
can upturn a sallow face.

Long ago,
when I could still remember
how to pause,
and how to listen,
and how to breathe,
for more reasons
than just to breathe,
I knew fields
and wood,
and calico aster;
I knew how to kneel,
and how to observe,
and how to bring myself to quiet.

And I knew,
without knowing,
that if I lay
on my back
beneath the reeds
and remained hushed,
as night clouds
floated by,
shadowed and silent,
that my Self
would simply fall
away.

Step Into the Grass, an excerpt
from Poems from the River

As romping youth we did not have to be told how to meditate, how to pray. We just knew. We had no need for such technical terms as spirituality or epiphany or satori, for it was in our unknowing that we were able to truly know them. And now that we know them, we know nothing.

I suppose the question is, then, can we return to our essence? Can we, in our knowledge and understanding, return to the bliss of ignorance, to the wisdom of youth, so that we can come back again, if even just a little closer, to the Original and True.

Are we able to do that, knowing what we know?

Tonight
I’ll bare my feet
and step old and aching
into the caliginous balm
of the cool redemptive night.


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Leave it to me

How should I know
I don’t

But I will find out
I will find out for the both of us
I will find out for the all of us

Until death do I part

I will seek
I will listen
I will meditate
I will know

And I will forget

I know
I will forget

Mostly I will forget
I mostly will forget
I will forget most

Like a tree I’ll drop knowledge
like a forsaken leaf

I will forget
I know