About That Bowl
Round it is, the bowl I placed
in a hut in a mountain valley.
For a moment, its dominion
arises, a matter of form and space,
or so one thinks – that bowl and
emptiness – giving and taking
like nothing else.
But it’s not about one or the other –
or wilderness or hearth. In usefulness,
wildness is swept away,
for a moment, but then it returns
like nothing else.
When my eyes open at dawn’s light
the question naturally arises,
whose arms are these – flaccid pink
skin draping off brittle bones?
On the pillow there’s some long hairs – mine
or the two dogs, Roxy and Daisy, sleeping on
the bed? Before, the long hairs were always
a woman’s, her body pressed close
in the morning chill.
Now part of my lung is gone, infiltrated
by swarming molecules hungry to
devour my breath. It’s rationed now.
My heart beats harder to help
its neighbor. My heart’s comforting
sound fills my chest, but my morning
cough sounds like a sick man.
One beat, one breath….
Good practice for a lazy man.
As Su Tung p’o said,
“I’m a tired horse unharnessed at last.”
Minding My Time
Awash in mind time. Mind’s always mattering:
sensations, feelings always forming stuff.
Words always mattering in Universe of Matter –
That’s all (not really for Roy & Laddawan
and the Thai band playing Eric Clapton).
Mind called self is just the go-between
for no-body. Big Self is every thing.
It knows like a bone every thing’s just co-
existing meaning-matter like the sky.
Right now in Chiang Mai at 1:18 a.m.
as a tiny candle lantern rises golden
in the night like a star.
On James’ Birthday
Unwrap this, it’s for you
to take along on your search
for the perfect back beat
and still sea.
On this still-light morning
breaths draw slowly.
Sleeping bodies throughout
the house, too much drink
last night. The still cat
sits in the window sill
Beyond is the Great Outdoors
but what is it?
In last night’s dream
there was a man with
three hooks piercing his
chest, bound and hanging
on a swaying rope.
Is he you and me?
Now comes the first morning sound.
A bird feeling the Sun
on its tongue on another
moment of birth.
A Poem for Red Pine
Bill Porter went West,
took a new name
and came back from the East
to spread the word.
A master of the shadow art,
he trails behind, recasting Chinese ideograms
into new lines for English minds.
He works from a second floor study in Port Townsend,
deciphering black strokes from faraway days
with sharp eyes, diamond mind –
a time of flaming hearts:
writers of the Silent Word.
On the wall of his study, a Tibetan tanka.
A small painting of bamboo with a poem by Wang Wei.
Through a window, the Cascade Mountains.
Through another window, the ocean.
Through another window, the branch of a plum tree.
Pine trees and bamboo sway in the morning wind.
Light brightens a new day
as the pine tree’s shadow disappears,
leaving no trace.
It’s like your skin is on my body
despite your excess and betrayals.
You warned me, “I can be very bad…”
None of it matters. I am bound
to you: You are my lover and my daughter.
It’s OK – embrace your young lover and your old man,
bookends of orgasmic silence.
I only wish I was young and fresh like you
or I could carry you with me into death,
into a long, long night of love
Riding the Wind
In my dream
you gave me your
Book of Poems
“Read this one:”
The wind was Love
and what the was was
Well, yes – exactly – that’s the problem.
All travelers experience it
at each step on the Way. Is it
here, there, up, down,
backwards, forwards, all around,
or somewhere else? How are we to know,
if it doesn’t tell us so?
We all have our maps, but they are the
artifacts rubbing our noses in it.
My worn map I drew myself. I traced
a line from Birchman Street in Fort Worth
through dark caves as a Boy Scout, to Saigon
(and flowing dresses) to Ubon and
Thailand’s temples to Third Street in Denton –
a college town – to Dallas (there’s the dead president)
to Arlington to Thailand again and Laddawan – to Denton
(the college town again) to Waco – a crazy town –
to Alpine and the airy Big Bend where I met and lost
so many friends, to here and now in Chiang Mai.
Ok, just breathe deep and let go.
That’s as close as I can get to it.
For Dead Tom Copeland
I found your clear, plastic ruler
between the pages of a book
I bought for $2. Oriental poetry.
Your straight lines in black, red and green,
the stars and brackets marking
Li Po’s words that fired your mind.
From the margins your ideas rise so clear.
“Do nothing – not nothing to do.”
Text and notes joining here and now
in my mind, measuring, marking
studying the way Li Po and you and me
joined mind to Mind.
The Bowl is Always Full
It’s a matter of matter or so one thinks.
The half-full bowl and emptiness
are not one or the other.
Everything is like that.
Old babbling songbirds said it too. If you want
to know the self, know the songbird’s silence.
I knew a cowboy in Texas named Bill.
I guess I wanted him as a Father.
But he was a loner. He wouldn’t drive
till after midnight. He liked empty roads.
This cowboy made moonshine
in the woods, kept a spiral notebook
in his khaki shirt pocket, read science fiction.
We’re reachin’ out from inside. We know there
ain’t no real heaven. But maybe
that’s still where we’ll all end up––out there.
How we’ll be…
He wanted to know where West was
or he got nervous. He couldn’t handle
compliments or prosperity.
He liked without better.
This cowboy was brave,
and knew not to show it.
But this cowboy wanted reassurance too.
He didn’t want it from people.
He wanted it from the sky.
Circling the Big Bend
Insect dialogue clearly has escaped
the net of rhetoric. Yet, the natural world
speaks, epic dramas do appear
in flickering shadows.
Birds sing pure sound.
I know how the Great Way rises and
falls on the sacred search. Thus written,
I formally nominate for President
the empty space above the green basin
formed by the Chisos Mountains.
But the spell can’t be held. Or,
as Heidegger quipped, living life is
somewhat unfamiliar to us all.
I call it A Rock in the Cosmos,
a rock on the ground with no name.
But let’s be real. It is a rock,
not a rock-on-the-ground metaphor,
not a descriptive target: a white, porous
igneous outcast atop a scaly wind-blown
nob here in the cowboy Big Bend
in mysterious Springtime.
It stimulates. Does it recognize
something of its fiery history
or the bottom of the swaying Sea,
or a bit of a bright Star – its ancestry?
No matter, of itself it is enough.
Ok, let’s be real, it is a rock
on the ground in the Cosmos.
It is white, porous, igneous.
The rock can never know
the rising Sun, the waning Moon,
the ten thousand waves, but there
is this rock in my mind, too,
not on the ground, and this
mysterious non-stop, empty,
air-like chorus accompanying
all this and more.
Katy Makes an Entrance
She’s back after a three-day prowl.
Laddawan watched her jump to the top
of the wall along the back of the house
then fly up four feet like a furry bird
onto the roof to tread to the bedroom window.
Images of fangs sinking into her haunch,
blood on the road, a little girl’s touch
calling her away all disappeared
as she walked into our life again
from the Otherwhere – now returned to here,
tongue lapping the water bowl, smelling bits
of dried food, meowing non-stop as she curls
up near my feet.
“Where have you been, Babe?”
“It’s none of your business, Bud. You wouldn’t
understand anyway,” she said, licking the
half-inch, dried puncture wound
on the inside of her right foot where
the skin is pink and has no hair.
Doi Sutep high
over Chiang Mai
east and west
pearl white clouds
Thinking of Cold Mountain
for hot tea.
Raise your right hand
Human Rights are not enough.
We must accept Earth Rights,
The right of our Home in Space
To maintain Itself – to live, to replenish.
The rights of the Seas, the Rivers, the Grasslands,
The Forests, the Birds, the Insects, the Mammals
All evolving, living forms – to continue their
Natural journey in harmony with each person
Who pledges to live within boundaries
And do as little harm as possible.
We will know real Joy when
We live more naturally
With less waste
Gary Snyder’s Real Work
We can’t be whole
living outside the mind.
We can’t be whole
living inside the mind.
We are whole being
all for one & one for all.
That’s the real work
joining us all
to each thing.
A Short Story
The Macaba, the Cantinet,
Lilly, the first, Ming, the second.
Night taxis to Cholon
The whitewashed Everest Hotel –
Bome Bom, diddy moi, hai ba trung!
Then Le Hang’s black eyes,black hair
black fan, dusty blades slowly turning
humming, turning – board bed, creaking,
“Don’t be sorry.
When we are old
This will keep us warm.”
together on the bed
in dawn’s light
a black and white
My two dogs.
A bottle of ketchup.
Nature has no frame,
no point of vieq
But I find myself
at the center
Of figure ground.
So I swallow
as pure prayer
to all that
yet moves me not
that makes me
a simple minded part
of the picture
Nearly all my life without a wife.
Now I’m old and married.
We’ve said sweet dreams
every night for 15 years.
It’s as good as wrapping
feet together on a cold night.
Humbly, To My Chinese Ancestors
At this moment
I have no similar other.
The woman I’m with
is so sour she makes
the Sun go down early.
She can’t even say
Hello without opening
I want to ride the goose’s neck
to the Moon.
But tonight the Moon casts no light.
The wine is gone.
You know this feeling.
A sparrow outside my door
each morning. Hopping
left and right listening
to my music, dancing on
two twiggy feet – your
song rises from your
feather covered breast.
Thank you for saying
If you think you can sort this out:
Mind, consciousness, thinking, language,
ego, soul, reason, meaning, knowing,
imagination, intuition, past, future, knowledge,
then get on with it –
Time will strip you clean
before you know it.
Last night it was
my dead mother
know, know, know
I love you.
Then she sent her love
Night bird in West Texas
A medicine woman, she comes
with lightning, rain and wind
in the blue-black norther
to sleep’s edge
to stand beside my bed
to press her hand hard
against my foot.
They call her Minerva.
She doesn’t talk.
She presses hard.
“Yes . . . wake up.”
I open my eyes.
Air stirs in the doorway.
She’s there, half woman
laughing at me.
The next morning
I walk slower
To Huang Ch’ao
Huang Ch’ao, a businessman who
sold salt, captured Chang-an,
the capital of China, in 881.
A poet stuck a poem on a wall
blasting his new rule.
“Kill everyone who could write
such a poem,” ordered Huang Ch’ao.
Three thousand people disappeared
like clouds––but poetry lives on.
When you’re in Chang-an
paste this poem on a wall.
The Chihuahua Desert.
More interesting people
than anyplace in the world
with a bunch of nothing as far
as the eye can see. They come
whirling out of the dust
—clinched, carbuncled fists on the
throttle of a clanking Harley,
a weathered hand dropping
the bone-dry reins of a burro
over a hitching post, a beauty in
pink short-shorts exiting a dusty
battered Buick. It takes real stuff
to hold the passing eye. But every
time she walks into a room,
you see her eyes full of stardust and sadness,
and there’s a flash— a woman
on a mission of mystery.
My Japanese-lettered walking stick’s
been to the top of Mount Fuji
but who cares?
Fog rolls into the Chisos Mountains basin tonight.
White and glowing car headlights
slice the air. Off to the west
the Solitario Mountains lie silent
like on the Moon
surrounding nothing at all.
Here’s two canyon place names
from my tattered map:
Lower Shut-up and Left-hand Shut-up.
Come morning clouds boil to life
from a Big Bend Sky Scroll.
August rains. I draw stars above names
on the map:
Sierra Del Caballo Muerto,
Terlingua Abaja, Lost Mine Peak,
Christmas Wells, Cow Heaven Mountain.
Poetry is everywhere. The dogs are smiling
at noon in Boquillas across the Rio Grande.
This morning I looked at my feet and
thought of my mother.
She died on this day fourteen years ago,
naked in a hospital bed, save for a diaper,
a breathing tube down her throat, her feet frozen still.
“Am I going to die?” she asked, agitated because
she’d rather be working on a crossword puzzle.
“No, you’re not dying.”
She’d rather be parsing letters into empty boxes,
watching TV or reading a romance novel.
Finally, in a coma, she tossed and turned,
mumbling, “Let me in, open the gate.”
The gate of Saint Gabriel or the Mumonkan?
Let it be, mom, there’s no gate.
You’re already there. Let it go.
Then the five letters – each appeared
in the empty space – Death.
Five letters for the Holy Ghost,
or Emptiness, or the forgiving