Gary Snyder

Gary Snyder

We Wash Our Bowls in This Water

"The 1.5 billion cubic kilometers of water on the earth are split by photosynthesis and
reconstituted once every two million years or so."

A day on the ragged North Pacific coast get soaked by whipping mist,
rainsqualls tumbling, mountain mirror ponds, snowfield slush, rock-
wash creeks, earfuls of falls, sworls of ridge-edge snowflakes, swift grav-
elly rivers, tidewater crumbly glaciers, high hanging glaciers, shore-side
mud pools, icebergs, streams looping through the tideflats, spume of
brine, distant soft rain drooping from a cloud,

sea lions lazing under the surface of the sea-

We wash our bowls in this water
It has the flavor of ambrosial dew-



Beaching the raft, stagger out and shake off wetness like a
ppppppppppp bear,
stand on the sandbar, rest from the river p being

ppp upwellings, sideswirls, backswirls
ppp curl-overs, outripples, eddies, chops and swells
ppp wash-overs, shallows p confluence turbulence pppp wash-seam
ppp wavelets, riffles, saying

ppp "A hydraulic's a cross between a wave and a hole,
ppppppp -you get a weir effect.
ppp Pillow-rock's total fold-back over a hole,
ppppppp it shows spit on the top of the wave
ppp a haystack's a series of waves at the bottom of a tight
ppppppp channel
ppppppp there's a tongue of the rapids the slick tongue the
ppppppp 'v'
   some holes are 'keepers,' they won't let you through;
   eddies, backflows, we say 'eddies are your friends.'
   Current differential, it can suck you down
   vertical boils are straight-up eddies spinning,
   herringbone waves curl under and come back.
   Well, let's get going, get back to the rafts."
ppppp Swing the big oars,
pppppp       head into a storm.

ppppp We offer it to all demons and spirits
ppppp May all be filled and satisfied.
ppppp Om macula sai svaha!


Su Tung-p'o sat out one whole night by a creek   on the slopes of Mt. Lu.
Next morning he showed this poem to his teacher:

ppp The stream with its sounds   is a long broad tongue
ppp The looming mountain p is a wide-awake body
ppp Throughout the night p song after song.
ppp How can I ppp speak at dawn.

Old master Chang-tsung approved him. Two centuries later Do­gen said,
ppp "Sounds of streams and shapes of mountains.
ppp The sounds never stop and the shapes never cease.
ppp Was it Su who woke
ppp or was it the mountains and streams?
ppp Billions of beings see the morning star
ppp and all become Buddhas!
ppp If you, who are valley streams and looming
ppp mountains,
ppp can't throw some light on the nature of ridges and rivers,

ppp who can?"




Poems by Gary Snyder


We Wash Our Bowls in This Water

Excerpt of “Four Poems for Robin”


Song of the Taste
(Available as a broadside.)