The following are additional poems on the themes of Suffering, Impermanence and No Fixed Self which are explored in the Spring 2013 issue of Inquiring Mind.

Poetry for Spring, 2013

Anne BarrowsJerry BolickMegan CollinsSean Feitelana levy
Steve Kanji RuhlCynthia SchragerRoberta WerdingerGeraldine Zetzel

 

In a Chinese Landscape

the narrow blood-red line is character
the character is narrative implied in space
between the mountain and modernity
the paperwhite is air, snow, coldness, nothing

—everything—if I could choose

I’d want the tiny shack—there between
cleft hill and running river—
where the willows bend to drink—
the solitary oarsman in his damaged boat

I’d choose the year 1080

If I could learn to give my heart its due—
infuse with no-ink the brush that renders whiteness
beautiful—and full of portent—as absence is—
and clarified—and still.

—Anne Barrows

Anne Barrows’s poetry has appeared in Runes, The Denver Quarterly, Barnabe Mountain Review, Psychological Quarterly, Persimmon Tree, and in two anthologies, Appetite and Cloud View Poets. Her book, Our Charlotte, (Serendipity Books, 2009), was inspired by the work of Charlotte Salomon, the gifted German painter killed at Auschwitz.

ornament

Preparing for my 69th in the Sierra,
Freemont Lake at 8,000 feet

Leaning against the rocks,
wondering at the movement of the years
and the certainties gathered here—ablutions

on a bouldered slope, chanting in trees
in the coming dark, in the unfolding entirety
of the life I’ve known as my own.

I write, but poems don’t find the page. So I listen
for the wind, for trees turning to shadow, for the stars
to signal of sky life

as clearly as I hear the waters
on the shores of this lake.
And they come,

one, then another, and another
of that silence so ancient, so subtle
that time can’t capture, nor distance determine

the closeness so thorough
as only a poem
can know.

And I’m here, so I write, in the headlamp’s light.
As a breeze from the lake lifts the edge of the page,
I’m here, so I write.

—Jerry Bolick

Jerry Bolick is a Minister’s Assistant with the Buddhist Church of San Francisco. He has practiced Shin Buddhism and writing for almost forty years. Over that time, the two—Dharma study and the study and work of poetry—have revealed themselves to be one. His haiku “Curious” is in the Spring 2013 issue of Inquiring Mind.

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Wakeup Call

If only you can sit still
until the bottle imp has gone to sleep,
the fog will clear from the glass,
even the glass will disappear,
and the world will draw closer,
more clear, more bright, more intimate--
and for just this moment,
more itself.

—Meghan Collins

Meghan Collins is a longtime member of Berkeley Zen Center; she received lay teacher entrustment in 2005. She is a storyteller, folk harper and author of two children’s books.

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While

people in twos orbit the thick clean stores,
their muscular viruses, hot to survive,
slide from hand to hand along the franklins;

some horses huddle near a live oak, still against the rain
or stand, wet through, eating slowly cold
green grass, haunches shining amber;

like a girl who doesn’t know her beauty, oil
presses upward through the shale, sea floor, sand, a
blue-black rainbow glistening unguent will;

a line of sunlight, dirty, gold, spreads wide
along a hilltop for a last few seconds crepuscule
two walking stop, stop talking, and stand still;

in a song about the future kids are yelling
how their bodies crash deliciously
together, how they’ll be this crash forever; while

Mohamed Bouazizi, Peace Be On Him, lights a fire. dies.

steam, like incense from his body, rises to the sky
and spreads a thousand miles on the sirocco, and despots fall.

at home, two mallards sleep in cedar shadow, heads
tucked under wing, his iridescent emerald, hers
the color of her body, brown and small

their eyes at rest, the beak’s full hardness
sheathed in sleep; dreaming silver flashes close
below the wave, of bodies given, never asked

(what would you ask for?) only
light, Mohammed said (the Other, Peace), “light
on my eyes, upon my skin, light in my mouth”

upon my pores, my dendra, capillaries, cells,
and mitochondria in their dance, light on the double
spiral and the one who climbs that stair

light on tiny drops of water rising through the air

—Sean Feit

February 2011
revolutions in Tunis, Cairo, Tripoli
may all be free

Sean Feit is a yogi, scholar, and artist, mentored as a teacher by Jack Kornfield. He emphasizes the integration of yoga, meditation, devotion, and study on the spiritual path, and is a PhD candidate in Performance Studies at UC Davis, writing on contemplative practice in the arts. His website is www.nadalila.org

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The Gift      blok smierci [death block], auchwitz, poland  november 1998

I
‘There’s an old woman standing there by the bars.
why is she crying? there’s no one in the cell.
the cell’s almost bare
just a cracked toilet bowl
and sink with decrepit rags
a raggedy blue and white jacket on the floor,
must’ve been their clothes.”

“She won’t stop crying, and
she won’t move from the bars.
she’s in the way
i can hardly read what the sign says.”

THE WASHROOM WHERE WOMEN STRIPPED BEFORE EXECUTION.
THEN THEY WERE LED IN TWOS TO YARD AND SHOT AT THE “DETH WALL”

“What’s that white shawl with blue stripes she’s wearing?
didn’t we see something like that in an exhibit with those tassels?"

“We’re the last ones in the building.
it’s late. they’ll lock her up inside if she’s not careful.
should we tell her its time to go?”
“No, let’s leave her alone. the guards will let her know."

II
they’ve all left.
please, tell me what i need to know.
you who passed through this cell more than fifty years ago
please, please let me know.

i ask for, no,
i beg for your wisdom
i was just an infant
i couldn’t help you then,
but now i can.
please, please i am listening.

ear pressed against the bars,
tears streaming
silence booming through the cold concrete and steel
tallis covers head and torso   bars hold my weight
waiting.

it arrives:

“do not add a ripple of hate

not even a ripple of hate.”

—elana levy

elana levy’s poem is from her latest book Legacies and Heresies, with blessings, published in 2012.

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Monkey Mind

maybe rhesus, maybe wooly
monkey leaping vine
to tortuous vine
inside the cortex

 

chittering
 like a fishwife
scold
  in billingsgate

 

   maybe a guenon
 monkey in the brain’s
arbor
of branching dendrites,
prehensile and hanging

 

by tail
  downside-up,
gibbering
like a bedlam
 halfwit,
maybe a howler

 

monkey shrieking
through cerebral
jungles of neurons, maybe
   capuchin or ring-tail

 

monkey enamored
 of racket,
  maybe a spider
monkey

 

  spitting seeds
 of ideas, scratching
  and tumbling
through my head,
furry adrenaline-pumped
  olympian,

 

maybe proboscis
or trunk-monkey
loudly protesting
 confinement
in the skull’s
littered cage, its tail
thrashing—

 

sometimes the monkey-house
 din, sometimes the brain’s
  primate roar,
 its rainforest chatter

 

till I inhale,

exhale:

monkey

hush
now.

 

—Steve Kanji Ruhl

Steve Kanji Ruhl has published poems in numerous literary journals and is the author of two chapbooks of poetry, No Bread Without the Dance and Dead Lift. He is a Dharma Holder at Green River Zen Center in Montague, Massachusetts. His haiku “At Zen Mountain Monastery” is in the print version of the Spring 2013 Inquiring Mind.

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What Scars Will Mark

Once when my father
took a childhood fall,
my grandmother pressed
to his forehead
the flat side of a butter knife,
an old world remedy
to make the swelling gone.
It left a slight depression,
a dented brow
that always marked the place.

The pair of them accompany me
to hospital today:
he with crooked forehead
dead five years, his mother with
thick accent, gone another twenty.
Together we wait the hour
the surgeon will remove a suspect mass
with sharp and skillful knife,
while I wonder what scar
will mark the cutting.

And they tactfully don’t say
(I’m still young enough
for vanities of mind, of body)
that scars don’t matter,
that one day I’ll become
the barest indentation,
like their presence fading
in this busy ward
or the faint impression
on the pillow
when I raise my head now
to go into the surgery.

—Cynthia Schrager
November 2010/August2011

Cynthia Schrager lives in Oakland, works at UC Berkeley, and practices being in the present moment with the Everyday Zen sangha led by Norman Fischer.

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I Have Discovered

I have discovered
I am incapable of learning
I have discovered
the winter light is a carrot

I pulled from the garden
I have discovered
the morning is a cattle train
on its way to slaughter

I have discovered
the evening air is a bracelet
around my wrists
I have discovered

all seed
all yearning
I have discovered
it is all going.

—Roberta Werdinger

Roberta Werdinger is a poet, writer, and Zen priest who lives in the redwoods of Northern California. She is currently working on a book of poetry and a memoir. Her website is www.FlyingFishWordWorks.com.

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Climbing Mount Ego

…at the retreat, hour after hour
with a rope that’s frayed
and a creased, old map

I think I see tracks in dried mud—
too wide for raccoon,
too small for bear.

Someone has been this way before—
there are old ashes in a hollow,
a cairn of stones at the crossroad.

Traveler, give me your hand,
keep my feet on the trail:
together we might just make it.

—Geraldine Zetzel

Geraldine Zetzel is the author of Mapping the Sands (Mayapple Press, 2010), Near Enough to Hear the Words (Pudding House Publications) and With Both Hands (Finishing Line Press). Her poems have appeared in a number of anthologies and journals. She lives in Lexington, Massachusetts.

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© 2013 Inquiring Mind