in the fireplace
Today is the birthday of Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet, and one of the great Zen poets of the West. Sadly, I haven’t managed to find any vegetarian haggis in Portland.
But pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flower, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white - then melts for ever;
Or like the borealis race,
That flit ere you can point their place;
Or like the rainbow’s lovely form
Evanishing amid the storm.
A haiku is not a poem, it is not literature; it is a hand beckoning, a door half-opened, a mirror wiped clean. It is a way of returning to nature, to our moon nature, our cherry blossom nature, our falling leaf nature, in short, to our Buddha nature. It is a way in which the cold winter rain, the swallows of evening, even the very day in its hotness, and the length of the night, become truly alive, share in our humanity, speak their own silent and expressive language.
I had no one to help me, but the T.S. Eliot helped me. So when people say that poetry is a luxury, or an option, or for the educated middle classes, or that it shouldn’t be read at school because it is irrelevant, or any of the strange and stupid things that are said about poetry and its place in our lives, I suspect that the people doing the saying have had things pretty easy.
It is difficultto get the news from poemsyet men die miserably every dayfor lackof what is found there.
On the floor, naked,
by the Christmas tree -
Christmas is coming
and so are we.
She is getting in bed when she realizes she is out
of the half-and-half she takes in her morning coffee.
He is still dressed. He tells her he’ll walk to the market
and get some for her.
The market is two blocks from their apartment.
As he walks, he looks up and sees stars
that have not existed since before he was born.
They did not know their light would travel so far.
He finds the half-and-half, selects two cartons,
stands in line at the checkout. Light of dead
stars, her asleep now in their home. Coffee
she will drink when she wakes. A journey
of two blocks in the universe.
- for Brother Ron Fender
No tailor’s artistry
could equal the elegance
of my cat’s stripes
as he walks into the bathroom
where I’m taking a shit.
Purring, he rubs
against my legs.
He accepts me on any
terms, comes close
however I smell,
loves me without illusion.
He makes me ashamed
of my own cowardice,
of the times I have flinched,
repulsed by the stench
of human beings
who only needed