Saturday, January 16, 2010

From the year last past...

From the year last passed, poems,

from late July, on

Meeting at Bird’s and Beckett

Like cousins, almost,

the pulse and blood of words

binds us, drives so similar

as to link us as kin,

beyond tongue or skin,

real apparitions,

mind breath’s music

carried to sound.


Bathed in the passage of light,

a growing body, actually

a growing body of work.


Behold the deepening treasure store of quickened richness,

receding limitations’ collective collapsing horizons of self, into self-sustaining clouds

of endless generosities and genuine gestures of welcome,

so readily, so graciously, received

that songs of praise

carry the only possibility of appropriate response.


In Jack Kerouac Alley, at the International Festival of Poets, 2009,

I heard

that Jack Spicer said

at the gates of Babylon, God divides

Man and Words--

Words, He calls Angels

and I saw

from within the shifting shadows

freshly hung laundry flapping sunlight into the sky above

the sounds of the many tongued yet singular song

of love

and I knew

beyond uncertainty

the unbounded community

of undeniable renewal

of the human voice


Reflections on this life…

I remember, well yes, maybe as a dream, but I do remember the turmoil

and confusion seeming endless, but was not,

for the depths carry a calm of their own, as does time, that too has a way

its own, and so I have lived to learn to sing, to praise

the ever shifting depths, and that which comes of that.

And so these days, I think myself a poet, yet

for years and upon reflection, for most of the most ordinary of days,

the face of their most common rhythms remain still unspoken,

this silence suggesting, for the poet presumed,

a most purposeful puzzle.


I certainly didn’t care how old you were then

and careful consideration tells me it’s not a concern now.

As it always was and continues to be, it is about our time,

your skin, your touch.


There is the softest whisper of rain on this morning’s air.

Street lights dim, to better hear; pine needles cease their breathing;

leaves swell and shudder to silence; and shadows wait;

each confident in its hard earned wisdom, each thing in its own way,

in its own time.


A haiku life…

Seventeen distinct

drops of sound, blown past the lips

and into the world.

Of fathers and sons…

I’d have said you were gone,

but for those brief glimpses of you, there

in the smile, around the eyes—you there

in the grand son you never knew.

Fully grown now, with your own to care for,

we stand in the shade of ancient trees, speaking of poets

and students and what length makes a line and we agree

to never agree that real work is work at all,

or that, really, we would ever want it to be done.


Making music with our voices,

beauty with our words,

makes peace of places

without walls.


Fog pressed air, so thick with silence,

morning bird calls must feel their way,

ear by ear…


The poet presupposes words,

says the priest, breathing, lifting the pen.

But language presupposed

does not imply words planned.

Wondering, he breathes, lifts the pen.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Reclaiming Weeds, by Layman Gunmo

Reclaiming weeds and grasses

The leather chair creaks, a certain settled folding that only leather will do, a kind of living response, anticipated at the periphery, accepted with a sigh of the familiar delivered, like skin to skin.

Familiar too, this spacious feeling, followed so quickly with the inclination to fill it, latent dis-ease just lying in wait —once the many numbered lists are complete, what must one do?

Left to the open air, seeds sail the unseen ocean of universal sustenance, until settled by circumstance to begin their real work as seeds—reach into the earth, return to the light--all energies and effort ever-extending toward individual fruition, individual realization always the most significant return for the common whole: seeds lifting on the open air.

Weeds and grasses are profoundly prolific, most common and unstoppable, every circumstance an opportunity, cultivation a help or a hazard, dependent upon the discerning eye—one person’s grass, the other’s weed—to pull or not, a matter of time and circumstance, the only must the careful consideration of the inherent righteousness at hand, the beauty in the face of the real work.

Jerry Bolick, aka Layman Gunmo

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Nembutsu Poetics

The poetics of nembutsu

In his book of essays, Earth House Hold, Gary Snyder writes that Buddhism is a 2,500 year “conversation,” a “gentle human dialogue…on the nature of human nature and the eternal Dharma,” the eternal truths of the universe of which we are a part. It is a “quiet” conversation, as much internal as external, as much with our selves as with others.

It is “gentle” because its flow is naturally inquisitive—it is not about positions or beliefs. Yet it is vigorous, never lacking vitality, because at every turn it challenges the presumptions of the human mind with myriad “practical methods of realization

Snyder is a poet, interested in language; and the notion of a human conversation is, to my way of thinking, poetic. Though too quick of a read here might suggest that he separates the “methods” he speaks of, from “the conversation.” After all, Buddha Dharma is beyond words, about silence; we hear this all the time

But this perspective is not full enough. The point is not silence vs. words, but awareness. Shin Buddhism is rooted in language—realization is hearing and speaking Buddha’s Name (Namuamidabutsu, known as the nembutsu); that hearing and speaking itself is the heightened awareness of the significance of words in human life. A more full perspective is that “the conversation” includes methods, and that conversation is one of the methods.

Our most casual, unguarded conversations reflect, if we are attentive, both our conscious and unconscious presumptions and assumptions. We all readily assess others by the words they speak and how they are spoken; turning that attention around to see the inner face of our own words is awareness of the true nature of our own mind. “The nature of human nature” unfolds quite naturally during the course of our everyday lives, as we speak, as we are; but we are most often inattentive, unaware.

With awareness, simple attentiveness to the inner face of our own words, within the ongoing conversation—both internal and external--that is our human life, comes not only the realization of the truth of our selves, but the undeniable sensing of the ever present silence that embraces it all—words of suffering, of fear, of joy and courage, words of hate and greed, words of unstinting love and compassion, all arising from and returning to the abiding silence of the Eternal Now.

The fullness of this awareness is nembutsu, one expression of which is Namuamidabutsu. But stopping here, as we usually do, arbitrarily restricts this fullness. To repeat, nembutsu is the fullest implications of this awareness itself, which includes all words expressing this awareness. This awareness is the mark of a life in nembutsu; the dynamic, living truth of human experience in and through words. It is also the field of what we might call nembutsu poetics—the beauty and music of true and real words, arising from, partaking of, the fullness of the truth and reality that is our common humanity.