The Bear Went Over the Mountain.

The Bear Went Over the Mountain.

The lake-effect snow was lovely yesterday afternoon as we began a new year with our four-hour meditation. We had ten people, maybe seven at the end. We stayed long enough afterward to make some headway in Shelley’s warm spinach dip, and by the time we were ready to leave Bill had shoveled individual paths to each of our cars!

I have four poems for you to start the new year. The first two are by long time Buddhist practitioners:

Jim Harrison describes his practice of Zen not as a religion but as an attitude toward life. (His After Ikkyu and Other Poems, 1996, is directly Zen inspired. His work owes a lot also to American-English traditions of nature-writing (Saving Daylight, 2006). The short poem below is from In Search of Small Gods (Copper Canyon Press, 2009). In it he writes of the natural world: many of his small gods are dogs, fish and birds:

Poet No. 7

We must be bareback riders. The gods
abhor halters and stirrups, even a horse
blanket to protect our asses is forbidden.
Finally, our legs must grow into the horse
because we were never meant to get off.

Jane Hirshfield’s poems are deeply affected by her practice of Zen Buddhism and her knowledge of classical Japanese verse. Besides her own collections of poems, she’s translated works by early women poets in The Ink Dark Moon: Poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Court of Japan (1990) and in Women in Praise of the Sacred: Forty-Three Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women (1994). Her own poems are often short and hinge on a turning point or moment of insight.

Against Certainty

There is something out in the dark that wants to correct us.
Each time I think “this,” it answers “that.”
Answers hard, in the heart-grammar’s strictness.
Then if I say “that,” it too is taken away.
Between certainty and the real, an ancient enmity.
When the cat waits in the path-hedge,
no cell of her body is not waiting.
This is how she is able so completely to disappear.
I would like to enter the silence portion as she does.
To live amid the great vanishing as a cat must live,
one shadow fully at ease inside another.

William Blake was a nineteenth-century visionary poet who wrote some truly strange and awesome poems. This is one of the tame ones.

To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour. —William Blake from Auguries of Innocence

And this one is by that famous poet, anonymous.

The bear went over the mountain,
The bear went over the mountain,
The bear went over the mountain
To see what he could see
To see what he could see,
To see what he could see.
The other side of the mountain,
The other side of the mountain,
The other side of the mountain
Was all that he could see.
Was all that he could see,
Was all that he could see,
The other side of the mountain,
Was all that he could see!

Check out this link! You’ll find a portion of Dick Allen’s introduction to the recent issue of the journal Rattle, which highlights the work of contemporary Buddhist poets.

Next week in our regular discussion group, we’ll be finishing the chapter “Lovingkindness” in One Dharma. This last section is called “Working with Anger.” I'll be talking about that.

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