Tuesday, February 15, 2011

February Poems

An angel came last night

to my ear and whispered “love.”

I whispered back, Buddha’s name.

Last night in a dream an angel said,

“love” and Buddha’s name came to me

over and over, it went on

like this: whisper—name,

name whispered; love—Buddha, Buddha’s love.

Just a dream, I knew, but in the dream

I smiled, and was glad.


Songs come, they come

from where they come—so

sing, just sing

as the children do.


Stay with dis-ease, as long as

it stays, that is—

sometimes it lingers sometimes

not—of the many gifts of light,

shadow is



Of this life…

The challenge lies in the fallow fields

of the wintered heart, hardened by promises

hidden beneath its own cold crust.

Probed by the simple persistence

of the pen, turned, over time, to reveal

the multi-flowered faces,

the myriad silent poems released into voice

at the singular touch

of sunlight.


Not surrender, no, not closing

down; but realizing, an opening,

a fallen away.


As night’s blackness retreats, horizons

first emerge dark

against thinning ribbons

of salmon-pink, and morning wakens

across the sky-spread face

of the bay.


I’ve come to notice in the morning hours

before light or just as light breaks, or

in the evenings past sun down and the air

settling, Buddha’s name

rises readily

to the lips,

and that this is not so for me

in between, in the sun’s time, as if

Buddha’s work is more fluid

closer to dark, and otherwise moves

as all but silent…bubbles



From past notes

The abiding silence often spoken of, carries—it’s not

the reverse—it carries us, coaxes,

encourages along an inner current of vulnerability

that remains quieted, unless exposed

to lighted air, in an out-rush release of joy.



a certain sadness

seems appropriate enough

for it does indeed end

but sadness motivated by joy

is no barrier



So close a companion for so many years,

the writing, the poems,

I’d almost never have guessed it my way

or that so many would so readily see

it that way too—such sparkling newness

at this late age.



North coast forests crowd right down to the bluffs

overlooking the breakers

and the distant horizons of their coming.



All along the road, California Lilac sing

by their common name—blue-blossom.



“From here on out,”

wrote Issa…beginnings…

From here on out,

I will live this life, as given

in the poetry that is nembutsu.

No more “abouts”—that

I’ve done, can leave to others

—but the living, as given,

that’s for me

from here on out…


New Poems 2011

Face to Face

There are certain silences, distinct.

The weighted air of descending fog

that floats luminous shadows under street lamps,

that covers empty sidewalks

like loneliness resolved, that warms

the singular sound of our own footsteps.

And that most intimate relation, most likely

ignored relation, where relation is

everything: death--the only face the mirror ever projects,

the push of reflection, the pull of creation, companion


death breathes the collective and the singular,

the vital sigh we call life,

extended to every, to each, to the fullest.

Our fears are unfounded, the whole is not fractured

but seen piecemeal, a pulsing relation

merely presumed severed. A rightly sensed presence

in the silence of a fully open gate.



Doves in the acacia

do not relent—darkness leaves,

light slips in, all at the call

of waiting wings.



Owl Canyon Lament

Noon and the hills are still in shadow,

season’s moistures quietly working

grounded sprouts skyward, to green.

The gurgling creek too, sustains,

but barely heard, under the heartfelt labors

of a distant woodpecker.

Were I half as attentive to the human hearts

all around, all at work,

what different face might all the world

then show?



That glow in the west, the sun,

in the same spot the falling moon

illumined morning’s breaking clouds.


thoughts of other lives surface

periodically; but then

I’ve not yet learned to live one


Careful listening suggests

nothing to fear,

no one to be saved.


For the grand daughters,


Eyes a’flame with allergies,

tears flow, the nose runs

and she sings

her way through dinner.


The warmth of the past few days

prompts the fruit tree to small white blossoms

and the grand daughter to shed her clothes.

Neither knows it’s still winter.

This young girl walks an earth

that always meets her feet. Eyes like light

in love, she seldom cries,

is never alone.


As dark settles, the moon turns its bottom just so

and lights the whole

night sky.


“Hard is it to be born into human life,

now we are living it.”

From the Shin Buddhist liturgy.

Report from the poets:

Buddha’s wish, as best I can tell--that we learn

to live fully, completely, and die

without doubt.

The American poet, ex-pat in Japan some forty plus years,

Cid Corman wrote, he had no need for belief because

he had no doubt.

This is not ego-speak but lack of ego speaking

from thoroughgoing trust in the movements of moments

as given, as fulsome, as complete.

“No doubt” leaves us right where we stand--Corman continues,

the critical issue, not who you are but THAT you are. Beginning

with this reveals the rest.

Every event reveals the fully possible, writes fellow ex-pat

poet Edith Shiffert, the critical question

--Can I see well enough from where I am

to step carefully over my own time

to trust in “my own” life-death

in the world’s time?

*Cid Corman, from letters to Louise Landes Levi, 1996 and ‘98

**from Shiffert’s poem, “Looking”