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Two Tributes to Ryokan By Robert Rhodes 1. Daigu Your name, Soto monk, has come to mean a sword-sharp wisdom, made foolish and real. The indigo arc of moon and stars outside your window never ends. The great wisdom eye stands there asleep in your Jizo statue, the one you used as a pillow those nights when tears, not rain, soaked your folded sutras. Your name, Soto monk, keeper of a Shinto shrine, has come to mean a sword-sharp wisdom, as sharp as a fistful of long grass or rushes on the riverbank where you wash your priceless, mirror-deep bowl. And so, imperfect saint, I will contemplate with you Lu Chi’s enigma — the Chuang Tzu — the quietly read poems of Cold Mountain. We will stick our legs out straight, unafraid should a knock come to interrupt our dissipation, our throbbing knees. Daigu, night falls early around here. There’s no rice left, so why waste time being hungry? The moon, this same old hunter’s moon, is viewed this night by Taoists on Chinese mountains where no one else has set foot in 200 years. No one comes here, either, so let us watch the moon in silence — shed a tear perhaps — quietly read the poems of Cold Mountain. No foolishness is too great for us. * * * 2. A Memento of Gogo-an If it were not for rain, you might not know this settled dust from the amber cast of evening askance on your books beneath the window of Gogo-an. Dogen, Cold Mountain, Tu Fu, they all possess this same memento -- the sign of the true dharma eye and nothing less, old buddha. I have seen your sutra of understanding brushed on maple-stained paper. What does it matter if few can follow you? Next time I pass near Gogo-an, I’ll stop and we can read together from the Eihei Koroku for awhile. Perhaps we can even sit and disrupt a few illusions that hang in the air around here like ancient evening dust, like the slant of daylight reflected in amber. Continue »
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Eliza Crosses the River Heather Ross Miller jumping sheets of floating ice little boy in my arms little girl by the hand I mean to make it to land sisters crows watch me black against the snow other side hateful birds peck your eye out and a wind blowing sharp as razors no time to doubt I keep jumping pulling the children finding us a way out of this always hated winter the cold dread turning skin into blue blue into dead but I reach the far shore even ahead of myself annoying the crows who rise shitting furiously to fly away and here I pause to breathe sink down to hug the girl with the boy as around us the sky snows and snows soft soft patting us with its hands we lick out our tongues to eat to drink the body of winter safe and silent soft soft sleep Continue »
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In the sudden dusk, freezing at the corner of Duke and Orange: Starlight atop the copper spire of St. James Episcopal Church, by a decade older than the country but not the land. I think of a girl I knew in Arkansas who loved twilight above all other hours: the dying clocks of autumn. Taking my hand, she would lead me to the edge of town, out past the cotton gin, railroad tracks, the abandoned icehouse, for no other reason than to look at the sky and whisper: “Imagine!” Windward, caught tangled in my scarf, leaves flood the indigo sky: crimson, spinning, descending like a school of fish. * * * Now, this morning before dawn: the stars say nothing. Continue »
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A Pocket of Christmas Heather Ross Miller My husband, a boy, told them not to wrap his slice in waxed paper. Slip it in his pocket naked. That way, he said, weeks from now, the fruitcake gone, he might find a pecan, a raisin, treasure to pleasure his tongue. I think of that cake sticky, crumbling in the corners of his woolly jacket. His fingers stumbling over raisins and pecans, a bright bite of citron. I see him smile, eyes shut against January snow, and I taste the delight of his amazing knowing. Continue »
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by Sally Jo Sorensen Mostly I'm happy being single, lingering over coffee these summer mornings while the just-cut hay dries in the sun. There's no one to ask permission for the late ride through the park coasting and pedaling no rhythm but my own. Some few early mornings I come home to trolls awaiting my approval. My moderation's just for them. They speak their truths to the power of uploads I've taped and constructed those stars in my pocket they take at face value. Out of the dark considerations for the skin they think they see they leave their desires I wouldn't share for all the world. Only then, I want to know to another man taking my hand. And later curled against my spine, holding my night back while I sleep. Continue »
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Inside My Own Room Heather Ross Miller These poems lick me all over like a gang of cats, little hot sandpaper tongues grittier and worse than sunburn, licking me desperate and selfish. I tell them people don't read poems, people look at television commercials. Did you see that one about condoms? In German it was, wittier and more eloquent than any poem I might write how kids drive you crazy, your little spoiled jackasses wrecking stores and kicking strangers. All action. Then two big words crawl the screen: Use Condoms. I have a life of comfort and seclusion, some days nearly happy. I know well the good doctor said nobody gets the news out of poems. A good good poet, he helped to heal us, showed us old women eating plums, old wheelbarrows getting rained on, eloquently, deftly, catching babies, pronouncing the dead. Now I have embarrassed these poems, made them run off to look at television, sneak out to my own kitchen and churn up polygots in my biggest best pots, spilling stuff down the sides, making it spit and hiss on the burners, gigglesnickergigglegiggle. Tonight they will make me eat this. Continue »
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Link: The Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry: Speeches -. Found this cool link on Twitter. If you follow the link, there are a bunch of audio files of the speech as well. It's only like 11 minutes. It is pithy and sweet, and funny, as we say. I'll excerpt some bits. Paul Farley, 2007 International Griffin Poetry Prize Shortlisted Poet, Opens the 2008 Awards Ceremony It’s always a great pleasure to be invited back anywhere, especially from a land of bad orthodontics in the age of the giant plasma screen. When I was asked if I’d like to say a few words this evening, I called up one of the Griffin Trustees for some advice. And he told me: I shouldn’t worry about it. They’ll be far too busy laughing at your ridiculous accent. This put me smartly in mind of other solicitations for advice, and of a reading several years ago, back in the UK, where I found myself sandwiched between two well-known poets many years my senior, old hands who’d seen it all before. Sitting there in the bright light onstage can be unnerving, as many of you will know, so naturally I turned to the august presence on my left – and I think, in the absence of a Griffin Trust witness protection programme, we should call him Famous Poet A – I turned to this writer in the hope that some sage advice might be forthcoming. And he said to me: If you write poetry, it’s your own fault … I found out later this was something he’d been told by another poet many years before, and so was passing on the dark baton of disappointment. Slightly rattled by this point, I switched to the literary lion on my right, and in an attempt at easy joviality, I heard myself slowly falling into a black hole: I liked the way you dealt with the closing cadences there; [silence] you’ve a very commanding delivery [longer silence] … you handled the introductions with real aplomb … By this point Famous Poet B had fixed me with the kind of stare that my mother used to say could turn an apricot into a lemon. Desperate for any kind of acknowledgement, and beginning to experience what’s known in the trade as the ‘crumbling dam effect’, I blurted out: What I’m trying to say is, you read brilliantly … To... Continue »
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THAT SHOUTING By Franz Baskett Many have spoken of The famous agonies of love. Describing on long pages The writhing of the heart On the rack of love, The medieval torture, The burned homes and the bodies Festooned with arrows, The violence compulsively done In the name of tenderness. Who has not heard the tales Of Heloise who waited Or Abelard who bled? Turn on the radio And you hear of them yet. And of those who starved Proceeding half and half Towards those who did not love them, Never arriving like the runner In Zeno's Paradox Or Yeats. I had heard these tales And so had you, Who never imagined When we had never met, That they were meant to warn us Like confused screams From around the block That we hastened eager foolish To investigate When we should have run away. Continue »
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Rained all day, so I thought a lot about staying in bed and sleeping, then how old my bed was, how I needed a new mattress, but talked myself out of bothering. Wrote a poem instead. Much cheaper. My Resting Place Heather Ross Miller The same old bed has cradled me since you left, kept me lazy spraddled like the cat’s hind legs. I could be carried out on a litter at ninety, thin webs of gold spread over me, and me weighing next to nothing, a dried old skin. Carried right out into open air, as I love trees and cut grass and the smell of digging. But I’m more likely to be in this bed, a sleeper wrapped to the eyebrows, a cozy sack of old woman to be got rid of. No sickness, injury, no misadventure. Just me going off to sleep where you left me, and the sides of the house still breathing. Continue »