I’ve written a poem in response to a zen koan. The Moon Thief will be published in the forthcoming spring issue of Urthona.
“‘The Moon Thief ’ came out of an encounter with the koan in the poem’s epigraph: the great Zen poet Ryokan, meditating in a mountain hermitage, offers his clothes to a thief but cannot give him a full appreciation of the moon. Mark writes: ‘I was walking home from work and suddenly thought, “there’s another side to this story.” Working in and around the silences of the koan brought many scenes and characters over time.’”
This long poem relates the quest of a drifter and thief desperately seeking a treasure that will heal his inner wounds. He stumbles upon Ryokan, the Japanese hermit poet.… Continue reading...
There’s a poem in The Tide Clock titled ‘The Edge’. Here’s an earlier version of it that perhaps works in its own right, before the poem took a different turn. This version is more overtly about zazen: zen meditation practice.
Waves relinquish the carracks,
make fractals, circles, then stillness.
My shadow drifts on the water,
part of the headland, tailed with rock.
Children play on the fringe of all
they can and cannot imagine.
The green sea peels back and here I am
between the inbetween; grateful,
coping, very nearly thriving,
content to be this not-self after all.
I’m scenery in someone else’s childhood
on a spit of land between blue nothings.
A fishing boat threads the bay
golden with a brazen shining stitch
lit by the falling sun.… Continue reading...
The pond was deeper than expected,
a giant footprint stamped into the earth.
It was home to a fifty-pound ghost koi
called Persephone. Music became silence,
became music again. Moonlight shone on the tiles.
Persephone broke the water with her tail.
Now gaunt and middle-aged, I saw the moon glint
on water like a ten pence coin, miles down,
and the carp circling the moon.
Reading Fire Season, Philip Connors’ account of his experiences watching for forest fires in the Gila mountain range, I was struck by the following passage:
“My own insights are fragmentary, fleeting. I write something in my notebook and forget it an hour later. I do not so much seek anything as allow the world to come to me, allow the days to unfold as they will, the dramas of weather and wild creatures. I am most at peace not when I am thinking but when I am observing. There is so much to see, a pleasing diversity of landscapes, all of them always changing in new weather, new light, and all of them still and forever strange to a boy from the northern plains.… Continue reading...
What’s in there?
Only what you take with you.
It occurred to me that entering the haunted cave on planet Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back is like shikantaza meditation, which translates literally as ‘just sitting.’ They both seem to be situations in which you cannot avoid facing yourself. The challenge is to bring your attention to whatever is present with you in the moment without getting caught up in a habitual reaction, such as decapitating your delusion with a laser sword. After this experience, Luke learns that the fear he felt in the cave was only projected onto Vader, really it was deep inside himself. The deeper connection between these characters is also hinted at. A skilful scene.
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