For the one still caught in flashbacks, that one here ongoing, this medicine came for him to say:
No matter what is happening to me
I am a child of the Buddha.
For any who can use it.
For the one still caught in flashbacks, that one here ongoing, this medicine came for him to say:
No matter what is happening to me
I am a child of the Buddha.
For any who can use it.
Zazen last night at Red Cedar for the first time in some weeks. My mind was a drifty sleepy jello, nothing new there. I moved from following my breath to following sounds. No alertness for me there so I switched to taking refuge
I take refuge in the Buddha
I take refuge in the Dharma
I take refuge in the Sangha
one on each exhalation. Just the utterance for itself, not trying to connect with what it means, I don’t know what they mean, honestly I don’t. I mean, I could try to explicate it, but phhhht. Nothing special happened and I left before service, tired after a long day and under the weather.
What we want’s so simple. To be loved. It’s so little and so much.
This morning, two poems by Jean Valentine, facing pages, saw me face to face.
I lay down under language
it left me and I slept
—You, the Comforter, came into the room
I moved my head—
my blood, my mouth
all buttoned away—
Makers of houses, books, clothes-
A LEAF, A SHADOW-HAND
A leaf, a shadow-hand
blows over my head
from outside time
now & then
this time of year, September
—it’s well known—
a soul locked away inside
not knowing anyone,
walking around, but inside;
I was like this once,
and you, whose shadow-hand
(kindness) just now blew over my head, again,
you said, “Don’t ever think you’re a monster.”
That Comforter, that kindness, I know them, & not just in memory.
& not only, please let it be, their recipient.
Sumas Mountain ochre, olive oil, egg yolk, water on paper.
Got caught in a post-breakup jag of self-hate for a bit there. No one loves me, no one will want me, why should I bother. You know, that drill. It can be pretty compelling; it can be a rock fast at your head; a rock sunk fast in your head.
For me – I’m noticing this more and more lately, and wonder if it’s a lumpy fruit of years of practice, zazen, psychotherapy, artmaking – it was powerful but also clear-edged, I couldn’t push it away but it couldn’t take me over, either. Like, I can’t repress much anymore, walls of the mind don’t work so well anymore. What arises, I gotta suffer. But as recompense, what arises doesn’t wash me away either.
Or is it just getting older? Anyway, it came with a migraine, there was that much wave to it, and as I lay on my bed in the afternoon, near naked with the sun on me and the cat beside me, window wide open and the wind in the dogwood outside, and all the little birds, and traffic sounds, a thought came, and it was, the world wants you here. And another thought came, and it was, the evidence is, you’re here.
That is all.
I miss my lady. Got my coffee, books piled round me, sun on me through the big window as I work, some beautiful songbird being ceaseless on the patio, it’s all good. And I miss my lady. And it’s still all good. And still I miss her.
Painting of us, hers, angel as broke stick.
Zoketsu Norman Fischer on listening:
From Taking our Places: The Buddhist Path to Truly Growing Up
So much of being grown up, yeah, is an unconscious choice not to listen to most of what goes on inside.
How to listen and let it, another, oneself, in. Not give it sway but look after it.
Asked before what just sitting following the breath could possibly offer as a response to Trump and what’s happening.
This thought, just now. Trump’s first failure is a failure of inner listening.
I know that sounds 180 degrees wrong. But I mean Norman’s sort of listening – the friendship given another, given to oneself. Trump has no such friend.
The image atop: three Daruma dolls. I saw one last summer in a store window in Toronto and wished for it and … oh, it’s a long story, but my dear friend Barb went to great lengths, and then some more. And over pancake breakfast at the Old Town Cafe a few days ago passed it across the table to me. Daruma = Bodhidharma, Zen founder, spent nine years in a cave listening.
With thanks to Nomon Tim Burnett for passing the text on.
A sickness is spreading, here and now, and fucking hell.
Three gunmen opened fire in a mosque in Quebec City during evening prayers on Sunday, reportedly killing at least five people, according to the mosque’s president, Mohamed Yangui. Around 40 people were reportedly inside the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Center (Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec) when the gunmen opened fire.
Police say they arrested two people and aren’t ruling out the possibility of a third person being involved. Officials confirmed there were multiple fatalities but won’t specify how many.
Bodhisattva means a long view. Innumerable beings, innumerable worlds, and it ain’t you saving them anyway. But this – what are you going to do?
My country is burning, my other country is burning, the world is burning, the top of head is burning, here, now. And here I am grading? Somehow I am.
What the fuck is this world.
Calling my congressman does not feel sufficient. Waving a sign in a crowd does not feel sufficient. Okay nothing feels sufficient. Calling and waving do not feel me. What does then. You don’t do that, those, what are you going to do?
Sorry for the jargon folks. The Four Bodhisattva Vows, as I first learned them, and still most to heart know them –
Sentient beings are numberless, I vow to save them.
Desires are inexhaustible, I vow to put an end to them.
Dharma gates are boundless, I vow to enter them.
Buddha’s way is unattainable, I vow to master it.
Bodhisattva = enlightening being. One who puts her enlightenments aside indefinitely, even if that’s forevers, to further the enlightenment of all the others.
My Q, and it burns, is how’s it function in this present sitch. Cuz DT, that whole coterie, they sentient beings too. They can sign executive orders, definitive evidence of sentience. Save them too? Sheeeeee-it.
Don’t believe in hell as a later place. It’s where they are now.
Worst case seems to be our case. Men of great sudden power – worldly power, outer power, power a manifestly decrepit political process has bestowed on them – are telling the media they are enemy and should just shut up. Are reinstituting torture at secret sites overseas. Are abhorring abortion abroad to placate a domestic audience though that jacks up illegal unsafe abortions in the Third World, and deaths by. Are waving threats of no-more-money at cities havening immigrants doing work few else want to and their DACA children, some my own very students. Oh if I keep listing I’ll never be done. The Constitution, frail bulwark, cries to think what comes next.
I’m not a marcher. Don’t like slogans, crowds,
group thought. Guess I could suspend that, and may, for the import of opposing. Cuz this is real real bad.
Want to know what inner power is. Have started reading the Diamond Sutra again, Red Pine’s translation, thought I touched something in these lines:
After crossing his legs and adjusting his body, he turned his awareness to what was before him.
At the start of the sutra. Don’t feel qualified to comment on them, but what I hear is, the Buddha is in a body. And wholly in it. He needs to attend to it and knows it. Maybe his knee hurts, so he adjusts. He was out in the city begging for his one meal, walking barefoot, he’s an old guy by now, maybe his knee or his insole hurts. He adjusts his body. Doesn’t blame anyone for his discomfort, just does what he can to lessen it, and moves along. No arrogance.
No blame. Turns his care to what needs looking after – what was before him. Is human, not a god, not omniscient, it takes a choice and a turn to locate his mind here, in mindfulness. But he can, and because he’s love, he does.
What answer does this offer to Trump, at the apparent dawn of proto-fascism in a capital empty of competent political opposition?
I think maybe none.
Nor am I helping the petitioners, demonstrators, agitators, and such, whom I admire lots and am glad for greatly but find I am not one of, much.
only answer I know to the sickness of outer power is cultivation of inner power. I have not heard a resonant response to the ill spreading among us anywhere except in buddhadharma. Which I don’t understand, and tells me nothing specific about how to act.
And, too, I reject quietism.
Thus astray, as I dive into the Diamond Sutra, I may post a few of my misprisions here. Will share by tweet in case lonely sleepless sad POTUS eavesdrops.
NEXT DAY. This post started to turn to crap. Had I had a beer too many? (Been through a breakup, second time round with the same o so lovely heartful hurted beloved, some beers is cheery to me.) Maybe I just lost the bead.
“Group thought,” that’s out, everything I’ve heard about the Women’s Marches, they were astonishing harmonious various, true response, right action.
“I have not heard …,” that out. Soon as I said it, started hearing fierce meaningful responses all over. L. in Portland sent this from HuffPo on ethnographic blogging, its quilting of irreducibly multiple voices, as resistance to the One Voice of the State. Adam Gopnik’s annoying fondness for the sleek epigram has transmuted under a new pressure to become a majestic voice of true opposition. He wrote this in the New Yorker, from which a taste:
Whenever there is an authoritarian coup rooted in an irrational ideology, well-meaning people insist that it can’t persist because the results are going to be so obviously bad for the people who believe in it, whether it’s the theocratic revolution in Iran or the first truly autocratic Administration in America. Tragically, terribly, this is never the way it works. There is no political cost for Trump in being seen to be incompetent, impulsive, shallow, inconsistent, and contemptuous of truth and reason. Those are his politics. This is how he achieved power. His base loves craziness, incompetence, and contempt for reason because sanity, competence, and the patient accumulation of evidence are things that allow educated people to pretend that they are superior. Resentment comes before reason.
And this in the Sun, which arrived today, its dawn offering
Let America Be America Again
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America was never America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed –
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It was never America to me.)
Ironies multiply and compound. The whole poem here.
Could be said, these are buddhadharma, yo? A sutra‘s what stitches you up.
I just – I just – I don’t know how to turn acts of mind, poems and posts, to act acts. I want to knock a government down. What use, following my breath?
First noble truth. Being hurts. It just hurts, to be. What is it to sit in that? Not to gnash, flail, look for a door out of it, but just abide in it. Wakeful, curious.
Hurting with more losses than I’m used to right now. Orphaned, a friend said, and nailed it. A woman I loved and loved me she said and I thought might be my only has shifted and said no to me. Bereft. My father my dear rigid irritable father is sliding into a senescence our lengthening life spans have made famous. His wife N. who has become dear to me, I fear for her, the burdening. And my mother, wounded and wounding, I have to say a no to her I don’t know she’ll withstand.
And these are all what a young man dear to me would call “first world problems.” And he is in duress in the only psychiatric bed that could be found in the whole GD state. A sort of duress I know myself. Times I think the error might be traced back to matter, the making of it in the first place.
So. First noble truth. It hurts to be. Duhkha. Suffering, pain, unsatisfactoriness. We crave, age, we sicken, die. And it’s called noble because it’s good news. Good news because it’s the truth, said plainly, straightly.
My teacher gave me the name Kyushun. Kyu, endless, shun, spring. One of the epithets for enlightenment. Occurs to me now, this cold cold blowy night, he wasn’t giving me that name he was giving it the world.
I don’t know what my practice is. I know my heart hurts. I can try to make it not hurt, like some ruffian to it, I guess, or I can let it hurt, tender it. But even then I don’t know what my practice is.
Is all I got for now. And love. And plum blossoms, who throw off the cold.
I am thunderous sad this howly eve. Why so hard to let go of what you never held ever. Well the wind it howl all my walls round, Heathcliffs me, heathens, encliffs me, as I prep my lessons.
Here’s a few on sound-as-sound, animal meaning, gut calls. Not that they have no human meaning but they have no meaning proprietarily human. Chords that binds us to birds, rats, rocks, grasses, ice floes.
Hear sound made as its own meaning – Louis
, then write a poem of pure sound.
Do the Dada, eye
Karawane (click on the loudspeaker and give a list)
then do it again.
Make a list of sounds you make you feel are meaningless but just the same expressive, of you. For instance, “ugh,” “gahhhh,” “phphhht.” Go for as long as you can and spell them as accurate as you can.
These for my intro poetry workshop, whom I wish to shake at outset, their sense of the possible.
Am drawn to them, believe or no, by an anything but frivolous practice, liturgical chanting of sounds that, some, to me, are just pure sound, e.g. the Emmei Jikku Kannon Gyo
Kanzeon namu butsu yo butsu u in yo butsu u en buppo so en jo raku ga jo cho nen kanzeon bo nen kanzeon nen nen ju shin ki nen nen fu ri shin
because of my illiteracy. Translation,
Kanzeon! Praise to Buddha! All are one with Buddha; all awake to Buddha. Buddha, Dharma, Sangha – eternal, joyous, selfless, pure. Through the day Kanzeon – through the night Kanzeon. This moment arises from mind; this moment itself is mind.
But we chant them in Japanese, unknowing the meaning many, because the sounds themselves are, it is said, efficacious. Then there are dharanis with no semantic meaning anywhere, only mantra value
Namu kara tan no tora ya ya namu ori ya boryo ki chi shifu ra ya fuji sato bo ya moko sato bo ya mo ko kya runi kya ya en sa hara ha e shu tan no ton sha namu shiki ri toi mo ori ya boryo ki chi shifu ra rin to bo na mu no ra kin ji ki ri mo ko ho do sha mi sa bo o to jo shu ben o shu in sa bo sa to no mo bo gya mo ha te cho to ji to en o bo ryo ki ru gya chi kya ra chi i kiri mo ko fuji sa to sa bo sa bo mo ra mo ra mo ki mo ki ri to in ku ryo ku ryo ke mo to ryo to ryo ho ja ya chi mo ko ho ja ya chi to ra to ra chiri ni shifu ra ya sha ro sha ro mo mo ha mo ra ho chi ri i ki i ki shi no shi no ora san fura sha ri ha za ha zan fura sha ya ku ryo ku ryo mo ra ku ryo ku ryo ki ri sha ro sha ro shi ri shi ri su ryo su ryo fuji ya fuji ya fudo ya fudo ya mi chiri ya nora kin ji chiri shuni no hoya mono somo ko shido ya somo ko moko shido ya somo ko shido yu ki shifu ra ya somo ko nora kin ji somo ko mo ra no ra somo ko shira su omo gya ya somo ko sobo moko shido ya somo ko shaki ra oshi do ya somo ko hodo mogya shido ya somo ko nora kin ji ha gyara ya somo ko mo hori shin gyara ya somo ko namu kara tan no tora ya ya namu ori ya boryo ki chi shifu ra ya somo ko shite do modo ra hodo ya so mo ko
And I can tell you, when you’ve chanted it, you’ve been rocked.
And if you want some words said to have meaning, here.
Lighthearted fundraising schtick, yeah! And my first time as kokyo, OMG. And my most sacred text.
The exercise: Compose a short poem with no metaphor or simile in it.
Not that there’s anything wrong with metaphor. Some of my best friends are metaphors. But we in the West are metaphor junkies, thank you Aristotle (“to be a master of metaphor is the greatest thing by far, a sign of genius”). So it’s good now and then to go dry. What can you do minus that junk? How do you make a poem work without yer fix?
Hello, syntax and line. Hello, metonymy. Hello, objectivist mode, basically, though I save that for elsewhile. And coinages, hello too! Language is full of forces we are totally out of control of and yet surf fluently in our wake and sleep with astonished ease. Tweak them just a bit and you draw them into awareness and that’s poetry. (See what went on there with wake, e.g.? Didn’t intend it, just saw it and commented latterly, and that’s prose.)
Enough preamble, on to some student work.
Here’s one by Steve Lemma – excuse me, that’s “Goldenrod Steve” – that’s quite careful, in a seemingly careless way, with the composition, the putting-in-places, of its syntax – fragments and all. It also has an admirably various line, not just its length, also how little or much torque it asserts upon the syntax of the thought passing through.
ink running down the wrist.
your irreparable attitude.
Welcome to this side of the world,
You may n
ever make it back.
belly is hungry
as much as me.
I think a couple of the moves here, re: the line, are stretches, but that’s less important to me, as teacher, than that he’s messing around, trying stuff out. (BTW, I’m counting the comparisons as not similes, since they compare extant objects in the poem’s field, to others the same.)
First aside. “Go dry.” Is that metaphor or metonym? How about “that junk”?
Another one, by Rob Jones – turns out no one wants to be anonymous, why was I doing that, don’t remember, probably had a good reason that’ll come back to bite me – short and sweet –
I will never hear again.
And less frequently,
As my eardrums become less taut.
My proposal to Rob was, cut the last line. With that line the poem is nailed to its occasion. Without it, the occasion’s forgot, and the language can widen beyond whatever thought happened to incite it. (This is an curious case of what Richard Hugo called the “triggering subject” showing up in the last line. But one feels it was held in reserve all the poem long – I’m suggesting, hold it in reserve even longer, till the poem is fine without it.)
Second aside. Compose, not write, because as I did say later, they mighta done a visual poem, and solved their problem right there. I give maddeningly open exercises. But in them every word does matter: “embody spring” means embody spring; “myth consciousness” means myth consciousness. Why so uptight? In the poem, too, every word matters, otherwise no word does, in which case, stop.
Here’s another, by Alex Hastings, who has a very Creeleyan ear for speech under pressure – pressure of strong feeling dimly understood (TOTAL INSIGHT MOMENT: Creeley was an avatar of Shakespeare), and she’s been learning how to get, not just the dimness, also the understanding and the strength, onto the page, by way of line, syntax, the tortured dance of them.
cheap carpet, we
blink at our
faces and pick
Change the slightest thing here and you wreck it. For instance, fix the syntax, “each other’s tired / faces” – wrecked. The contortion of the syntax there recalls me to how my powers of language flee me when I’m in a fight with someone I love and who says they love me but isn’t seeming like that. I mean, oh my students, you can create great storms of emotion in a poem without ever naming an emotion. Also, FYI, without many adjectives – “cheap,” “tired” are the only here.
Third aside. Since I went to Urban Dictionary (“elsewhile”) – the poetry of that. Our natural unconscious and dionysiac poetic fluency. And let’s aleatorize the fuck out of it. My pasketti is boiling so let’s be quick also. Random number generator to choose letter then entry. Let’s say thrice and see what comes.
1. A technically bankrupt company that is kept alive with large infusions of government money for the sake of “stability” in the U.S. financial system. 2. A large financial company with negative net worth that continues to operate, despite having no clear path to solvency. 3. The UnDead of Wall Street.
what stoner says when mad
stoner 1: rrrrrrrs, i need money to buy weed, but i smoke weed because i have money.
preppie boy 1: wait…..what?
Gratuitous Picture Of Yourself Every Fucking Day
I see a picture of someone who is asleep in class, “GPOYEFD”
So I was real worried, around word two, how I was going to get a poem out of this, but GPOYEFD saved the day. Does this not come together as an incisive remark upon the tedium a certain once awesome post-apocalyptic fantasia has come to?
Gratuitous picture of yourself,
every fucking day.
I go back and forth on the comma. Imagine it spoken by a career extra.
Coupla more. This by Lauren Edison, who like Alex is working in a short line, not quite as enjambed, and not quite as spare of sense data, but headed in that dir.
to a preset tune
and white plaster walls.
Barren, save for shadows.
I blink. Rollover.
My screen says 7:00
January 18. Monday.
This wall, too, is barren.
Lauren’s syntaxes are intact, untorqued – she looks for what can be got through denotation and lineation within the rules of normative syntax, inhabited austerely. I am on her case about titles.
And one more, from Haley Kenville, which I suddenly now realize is her myth consciousness poem, that I was looking for in the exercise she submitted for that assignment, and was kinda hard on. (I’ll do a post on that ex., I hope.) Hear myth mind in that third bullet point?
• Call ahead,
they’ll want to know you’ll be early
• Roll in late with hair
still wet from shower.
• Saturate trees with buds, so
they are prepped for your petal
• Reign. Relax.
They have been waiting for your ascension
Not sure what she’s doing there with punc but that last line rocks my world. Because of the indefiniteness of the “you” – possible because the poem has let go of its inciting occasion – it points to me and to you, and anything green in anyone, even as it also calls to the Persephone-figure (as I read her) of the poem’s surface levels.
Last aside. Realizing once more how much of my teaching style comes from my Zen training. Don’t feed the ego – affirm the person. Cultivate intuition, spontaneity, not-knowing. Nourish faith in their inborn abilities, empathy, insight. And, be always poking, wherever they’re at rest, unsettle them.
And, to that last, I am always causing problems – as if my students didn’t have enough problems already? One asks me a question, and instead of answering him, I respond with a question. Then, as he’s working towards an answer, I interrupt him with another question. I must be maddening.
The intent’s generous – how can I in this moment help you further your inquiry – but I’m a limited human being. Right this moment anyway I’m feeling my limits. Often the generous is mixed up with stress or my own shit or simple fatigue or I’ve got a tummyache. I’m not often the Platonic ideal of Socrates the method seems to want.
Dude. Zen, Plato, you should ride a motorcycle, and then maybe write a book.
What am I here to say. I’m grasping towards a place where fucking it up somewhat is still okay. For them or for me. Hurting other people heedlessly is not okay – don’t do that in my classroom. You’ll hurt other people, I have, you will, but not heedlessly, please. Also, don’t be lazy – this is the Zen training coming in – treat this as the matter of life and death it is (OMG did I write that, do I believe it, I do). Other than that, be free.
And with that, my dream syllabus, any course
Don’t hurt anyone heedlessly.
Don’t be lazy.
Treat it as a matter of life and death.
Other than, in that, be free.
this post must come to an end. Oh and here’s Bodhidharma for ya.