No robe of patches, no yogin’s hut
in a secluded mountain gulch,
but still, each morning,
I long for a poetry with the taste of gnarled wood,
a poetry to make children laugh and old men glad,
of little solitary humans in cloud-covered mountains,
poetry wrapped in mist or moonlight,
where there are deer and wild cranes,
dark clutching forests,
simple things: tea, wine, moonlight,
those calm fleeting pleasures,
for each night the world comes at me
swifter and swifter, wave upon wave. Thoreau wrote,
“Hardly a man takes a half hour’s nap after dinner
but when he wakes he holds up his head and asks
‘What’s the news?’”
In upper New York State, the wind keeps blowing
through a grove of white pines;
someone right now, right at this instant,
is smelling cinnamon. Someone else
has just put down a book and sits quietly staring at a wall,
fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high. . . .
What struck me years ago
as the greatest title in American English,
Hot Afternoons There Have Been in Montana,
comes into my mind, then fades. A grudge appears.
How serene the Buddha’s face forever looks.
Old MacDonald had a farm,
ei ei o. How difficult it is to calm the mind,
nearly hopeless: the Iraq War,
Where’s Monica Lewinsky? What’s she doing now?
Yo, ho, ho, and a bottle of rum. And then,
through all the electrical and magnetic forces that hold us together,
stroll the wandering-cloud poets,
their lives of drinking and writing and farewells,
one branch of plum blossoms come into bloom
among ten thousand frozen trees;
the mountain rivers, the still lake with a battered wooden boat
moored in the distance.
To die and leave only
“a five-string zither and an ailing donkey.” In Chia Tao’s poem,
“Overnight at a BuddhistMountainTemple,”
One Buddhist monk,
Eighty years old
Has never heard
Of the world’s affairs
and is not diminished.
© Dick Allen