Saturday, July 31, 2010


Recalling Nancy Tilden, Teacher…

and the certainty in the light in her eyes

of permissions

to sing

in the light in her eyes come from so deep

no room was left for breath

other than that—

for the beauty of the branch to last

those eyes said it’s the roots

that reach the source

that sustains true song


In Japan once, along the China Sea,

looking out at the shadow of Sado Island,

as so many others have done,

poets and brothers and teachers,

I looked out and felt that chasm

of exile, that distance of singular decision

and the empathy that traverses that misted vision

that connects

all the world over

such solitary shores.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mountain poems, July 2010

After a sleepless night

at Islands Lake in Desolation Wilderness,

the near-full moon goes down

around four-thirty

leaving the sky to the stars

before the slow turn of light

calls the lake

from the dark, and the fish

for that careful

touch of lips


The sun runs luminous

through the highest puffs of clouds

but leaves the lower to float,

faceless shadows

passing over surrounding peaks

whose west facing slopes

remain still, untouched and cooled.

Standing at the edge of the lake too,

I think to chant,

but demur—what have I to add

to all of this?

Then, encouraged by the flutter of wings

from flowered brush to either side,

in lowered tones I speak

the Buddha’s name,

and watch the wind drop to the water

in whispered silver ripples

that spread to the shore

beneath my feet,

quietly lapping light.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Receiving Refuge

To take refuge is to play

in the quiet of the 10,000 things.

Among the falling raindrops,

small, white-crested birds, fly!

Jerry Bolick, July 2, 2010

Canggu, Bali, Indonesia

In his book, Zen Wave, a study of haiku poet, Basho, Robert Aitken Roshi writes: “NamuAmidaButsu…is the cord that will draw the dying person to ease of heart.” I like the image he presents here, particularly the phrase ease of heart, because it emphasizes the assurance given in traditional Pure Land teachings, assurance of the future, assurance of lasting peace after death, but does so with a telling image of movement in the present.

We are assured that the future holds the transition from human life into the embrace of the eternal, from turmoil into lasting peace, which is to say, we are assured that it will all be OK, then.

But these teachings are not just about death, but also about life. Assurance is something we experience here and now. The NamuAmidaButsu that is pulling us to ease of heart is pulling us now. Given to us by Buddha, by eternal, timeless reality, NamuAmidaButsu emerges into time on our lips; on our lips, the movement of the eternal, continually assuring us, continually drawing us closer to fuller realization, in the present moment.

And neither is the unburdened heart restricted to those on their deathbed, because as living beings, we are all, by definition, dying. When I see clearly that I am, not that I will be, but that I am the dying person, then I see Buddha’s message is directed to me, Buddha’s assurances are for my benefit. Then I begin to hear the teaching in a different way.

Within the life of NamuAmidaButsu, the anxieties we experience due to the myriad changes that occur as we live and age, the fears, small and large, of what the future holds, our resistance to the inevitable, all become infused with the assuring movement of eternal care and concern, extended to us in and through NamuAmidaButsu. And in this we can know the ease of heart that is the content of our liberation and the certainty of eternal refuge—it will be OK then, and it is all OK now.