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
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
“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
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”