Browsing Category "Poems"
7 Aug
Posted in: Poems
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Back in Dharma Town

I’m back from visiting with family in the woods of Wisconsin, but buried in emails and catching-up details. So for today, I’ll just say I’m back!….and leave you with another poem:

by Mary Oliver

I was walking by. He was sitting there.

It was full morning, so the heat was heavy on his sand-colored head and his webbed feet. I squatted beside him, at the edge of the path. He didn’t move.

I began to talk. I talked about summer, and about time. the pleasure of eating, the terrors of the night. About this cup we call a life. About happiness. And how good it feels, the heat of the sun between the shoulder blades.

He looked neither up nor down, which didn’t necessarily mean he was either afraid or asleep. I felt his energy, stored under his tongue perhaps, and behind his bulging eyes.

I talked about how the world seems to me, five feet tall, the blue sky all around my head. I said, I wondered how it seemed to him, down there, intimate with the dust.

He might have been a Buddha–did not move, blink, or frown, not a tear fell from those gold-rimmed eyes as the refined anguish of language passed over him.

24 Jul
Posted in: Poems, Talks
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Just Traveling Through

I listened to a beautiful talk last night by Jack Kornfield called Mystery and the Graciousness of Uncertainty. It’s a talk he gave after visiting with my friend, Steve, who recently had a stroke and as a result, discovered that he has advanced and terminal cancer. Jack begins with this quote from a poem by Hafiz:

The impermanence of the body
Should give us great clarity,
Deepening the wonder in our senses and eyes

Of this mysterious existence we share
And are surely just traveling through.

Jack talks about visiting Steve in the hospital and says, “…it was like visiting some saint in India…it was like darshan…we looked at each other…his eyes were just gleaming bright…and his heart was so open like some miraculous…” ……and here words being to fail even Jack.

In honor of Steve, here is the full text of the poem Jack quoted in his talk. Deepening the Wonder by Hafiz:

Death is a favor to us,
But our scales have lost their balance.

The impermanence of the body
Should give us great clarity,
Deepening the wonder in our sense and eyes

Of this mysterious existence we share
And are surely just traveling through.

If I were in the Tavern tonight,
Hafiz would call for drinks

And as the Master poured, I would be reminded
That all I know of life and myself is that

We are just a midair flight of golden wine
Between His Pitcher and His Cup.

If I were in the Tavern tonight,
I would buy freely for everyone in this world

Because our marriage with the Cruel Beauty
Of time and space cannot endure very long.

Death is a favor to us,
But our minds have lost their balance.

The miraculous existence and impermanence of Form
Always makes the illuminated ones
Laugh and Sing.

(image from: Tarot Espanol)


22 Jul
Posted in: Poems
By    Comments Off on One More Mary Oliver Monday

One More Mary Oliver Monday

In Praise of Craziness, of a Certain Kind by Mary Oliver

On cold evenings
my grandmother,
with ownership of half her mind–
the other half having flown back to Bohemia–

spread newspapers over the porch floor
so, she said, the garden ants could crawl beneath,
as under a blanket, and keep warm,

and what shall I wish for, for myself,
but, being so struck by the lightning of years,
to be like her with what is left, that loving. 

(image from: A Whole World, by Couprie and Louchard)

15 Jul
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Mary Oliver Monday, Again

What Is There Beyond Knowing by Mary Oliver

What is there beyond knowing that keeps
calling to me? I can’t

turn in any direction
but it’s there. I don’t mean

the leaves’ grip and shine or even the thrush’s
silk song, but the far-off

fires, for example,
of the stars, heaven’s slowly turning

theater of light, or the wind
playful with its breath;

or time that’s always rushing forward,
or standing still

in the same–what shall I say–

What I know
I could put into a pack

as if it were bread and cheese, and carry it
on one shoulder,

important and honorable, but so small!
While everything else continues, unexplained

and unexplainable. How wonderful it is
to follow a thought quietly

to its logical end.
I have done this a few times.

But mostly I just stand in the dark field,
in the middle of the world, breathing

in and out. Life so far doesn’t have any other name
but breath and light, wind and rain.

If there’s a temple, I haven’t found it yet.
I simply go on drifting, in the heaven of the grass and the weeds.

(image from: A Whole World, by Couprie and Louchard)

8 Jul
Posted in: Poems
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Another Mary Oliver Monday

Blackwater Woods by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees are turning their own bodies into pillars of light,
are giving off the rich fragrance of cinnamon and fulfillment,
the long tapers of cattails are bursting and floating away over the blue
shoulders of the ponds,
and every pond, no matter what its name is,
is nameless now.
Every year everything I have ever learned in my lifetime leads back to this:
the fires and the black river of loss whose other side is salvation,
whose meaning none of us will ever know.
To live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal;
to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go. 

(image from: Slope in a Forest on Attersee Lake, by Gustav Klimt)

2 Jul
Posted in: Poems, Talks
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Thanks for Everything

Last night at the Dharma Seed KM Group, we listened to a talk by my teacher, Lila Kate Wheeler, titled: The World of Experience. Lila is also a travel writer and novelist, and she often uses poems as part of her talks…but not just from the standard “dharma talk” poets.

Last night, she included this poem from John Giorno, an AIDS activist who spent a lot of time with Andy Warhol and friends.

Thanks for Nothing, by John Giorno

I want to give my thanks to everyone
for everything
And as a token of my appreciation
I want to offer back to you
All my good and bad habits —
magnificent, priceless jewels,
wish-fullfilling gems,
satisfying your every need and want

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

May all the chocolate I every ate
come rushing through your blood stream…
make you feel happy.

I give enormous thanks to all my lovers,
beautiful men 
with brilliant minds
and great artists.

May they come here and now
and make love to you.
May they hold you in their arms….
if you are attracted to any of them.
May they come back from the dead and do whatever is your pleasure.

Huge hugs to all the friends who betrayed me.
Big kisses to all the loves that failed.
I delight that your vacuum cleaner is sucking everything into your dirtbag.
You are none other than a reflection
of my own mind.

And America, thanks for the neglect.
I did it all without you.
Let us celebrate that you and I
never really existed.

Thanks for introducing me
to the face of my own naked mind.

Thanks for nothing. 

(image from: Paper Source)

1 Jul
Posted in: Poems
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Mary Oliver Monday

How about a little Mary Oliver to start the week off right:

Grass, by Mary Oliver

Those who disappointed, betrayed, scarified! Those who
would still put their hands upon me! Those who belong
to the past!

How many of us have weighted the years with groaning and
weeping? How many years have I done it how many nights
spent panting hating grieving, oh, merciless, pitiless remembrances!

I walk over the green hillsides, I lie down on the harsh, sun-
flavored blades and bundles of grass; the grass cares nothing
about me, it doesn’t want anything from me, it rises to its
own purpose, and sweetly, following the single holy dictum:
to be itself, to let the sky be the sky, to let a young girl
be a young girl freely–to let a middle-aged woman be, comfortably, a middle-aged woman.

Those bloody sharps and flats–those endless calamities of
the personal past. Bah! I disown them from the rest of my
life, in which I mean to rest. 

(image: Landscape by Paul Gauguin)

16 Apr
Posted in: Poems
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Fellow Travelers

How joyful to look upon the awakened
And to keep company with the wise.

Following then the shining ones,
The wise, the awakened, the loving,
For they know how to work and forbear.

But if you cannot find
Friend or master to go with you,
Travel on alone–
Like a king who has given away his kingdom,
Like an elephant in the forest.

If the traveler can find
A virtuous and wise companion
Let him go with her joyfully
And overcome the dangers of the way.
Follow them
As the moon follows the path of the stars. 

from the Dhammapada, translated by Thomas Byrom (with gender pronouns edited by me)
— image from Steampunk Tarot by Curly Cue Design

10 Apr
Posted in: Poems
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Luminous is the Mind

Luminous is the mind, brightly shining, but it is colored by the attachments that visit it. This unlearned people do not really understand, and so do not cultivate the mind. 

Luminous is the mind, brightly shining, and it is free of the attachments that visit it. This the noble follower of the way really understands; so for them there is cultivation of the mind.

from the Anguttara Nikaya, translated by Gil Fronsdal

8 Apr
Posted in: Homework, Poems
By    Comments Off on Who’s There?

Who’s There?

As part of this month’s DPP homework, we are asked to read and reflect on this poem by Stephen Batchelor:


Were mind and matter me,
I would come and go like them,
If I were something else,
They would say nothing about me.

What is mine
When there is no self?
Were self-centeredness eased,
I would not think of me and mine–
There would be no on there
To think them.

What is inside is me,
What is outside is mine–
When these thoughts end,
Compulsion stops,
Repetition ceases,
Freedom dawns.

Fixations spawn thoughts
That provoke compulsive acts–
Empiness stops fixations.

Buddhas speak of “self”
And also teach “no self”
And also say “there’s nothing
Which is either self or not.”

When things dissolve,
There’s nothing left to say.
The unborn and unceasing
Are already free.

Buddha said: “it is real,”
And “it is unreal,”
And “it is both real and unreal,”
And “it is neither one nor the other.”

It is all at ease,
Unfixatable by fixations,

You are not the same as or different from
Conditions on
which you depend;
You are neither severed from

Nor forever fused with them–

This is the deathless teaching
Of Buddhas who care for the world.

When buddhas don’t appear
And their followers are gone,
The wisdom of awakening
Burst forth by itself. 

(image: “Seated Nude with Mirror,” by Morris Hirschfield)