Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Notes to myself #3

February 7, 2012

“Praxis” does not simply mean practice. It means activities, actions undertaken that are fulfilled in and of themselves—whole, organic, self-fulfilling—as opposed to actions undertaken in order to accomplish a goal that lies beyond the action itself.

Shinran calls nembutsu “Great Practice,” precisely because it is fulfilled in its very utterance--praxis. Suzuki translates Shinran’s “practice” as “living.”

Poems share this quality, and I believe I’ve come closer to understanding my life in nembutsu through a greater intimacy with poets and poems.


Read “poem,” think “nembutsu”:

The point of the poem is the poem itself, catching our attention in that way that turns our head, holds us, disarms, even for a moment, all other concerns. Our being arrested in the mystery of hearing more than the words spoken.

Language as tool eclipsed by words as experienced event. An opened opportunity for learning something new.

Poems can be found in the most ordinary exchanges between us, if we’re listening.

It’s not about another “use” of our words, but a different awareness of our natural engagement with words, a different awareness of our living as humans that opens opportunities for sustenance and growth.

Nembutsu and the poem are lived events, experiences that are true, real and whole in and

of themselves, not transactions for some other purpose.

Moments of awareness that evoke not anticipation for what is to come, but appreciation and gratitude for what is happening, what has occurred. A gifted taste that most often moves us to want to share.


And in this, I pause, as did the poet Kenneth Rexroth, “in my sixth decade,” and wonder at who I am and what I’ve learned, or not, who I’ve become in this tangled, unruly insistence toward nembutsu and poems, practitioners and poets—in the truth of their lives as heard in their words, through their dedication to this, I find my own. Home then, “sangha,” community. Intimate fellows of no little significance. Namuamidabutsu

Sunday, February 12, 2012


New threads…

First time, morning with

the new daughter and grandson,

rising together.

The lunch box is blue,

a sturdy cloth bag, hand grip

hung from thin fingers.

Rains blew cold throughout

the night. Muffins, juice and tea.

The furnace kicks in.

Like heart beats, these two.

When you’re close enough to hear,

you can feel the heat.


All this time…

The beard is white, the hair thin

and wisdom as untouchable as wind

dances where it will.

And amidst the swirl, words

arise to fall to the page, names to utter

in darkness.

Nonsense sounds of sutras, and of things,

meet in the slippery moment, settled

heart and mind,


the coalescing world

as it is.

The poem is not in

the book, Sam Hamill writes,

the poem is “in the self,”

is of the self become realized,

of the world


Not an object to be held, except

as on the breath,

the poem is a lived truth.


Remembering Bali

The old woman sits beside the passing traffic

selling cigarettes through windows

opened at the stop light.

She counts a wad of bills, weighs change

with knowing fingers,

in the iron heat of afternoon.

Each window gets a squinted glance,

every return

receives its due.


The trickle

doesn’t make itself,

it’s the push

of depths at the source

and the pull

of unknown destinations


the flow rejoined…


Not one thing the world presents is unworthy

of our attention, nor separate from

our awakening.

Basho suggests one last thing left to learn,

simply, “accept the kindnesses

of strangers.”


The poem is in the self.

Sam Hamill

The words just run at times,

slip to the page, looking

a lot like poems might.

But to come to hear Hamill,

recalls for me Ryokan,

who wrote, not “poems,” but

his mind, his heart-mind, his self

as it danced and ran with the world,

as does the poem.


Closing pages

The sun drops below the horizon here

well before five, shadows quit, light shifts

to grey cool, a quiet pause,

then headlong rush to winter’s long nights

that leave me numbed, wounded

for lack of light.

“Seasonal depression,” the doctors call it,

the body-mind complex struggles

with too little light—unacceptable,

it responds with lingering sluggishness,

calling over and again for more rest, until

I remember, and speak its name.

Like this evening, the barest show of pink

above the darkening ridge.

Street lights sparkle to life in the hills,

dark’s resting place before rising

to the waiting sky, stars

marking the slow drift of the heavens.

The human mind reaches for the unseeable

by way of words, imagination

moving into waiting meaning—articulation

revealing what cannot be known,

lips saying,

in order to learn what one wants

to say.