Zazen and Opium
I know what I have to give up.
Itís not the flashy green commotion
of leaves this August evening,
garden blackening, drinking,
or the dogs unsettled by thunder
I canít yet hear. Itís not the teakettleís
ongoing quarrel with itself,
or the snowís beauty coming from far away
to cover the beauty now ascending
Thereís no sense giving up
what will be taken from me anyway,
first youth, now middle age departing,
the eastern woodlands stricken
by acid and blight,
beloved sky blue-blackening,
cedar waxwings swooping
low over the pond, feeding,
fattening for their voyage
to a world devoid of us.
I know what I need to know.
No path lies ahead of me.
Where I go, it follows.
I lead it to the monastery,
where I sit steadfast in the very early hours,
a pure Zen Yankee candle, my flame a vow
to save all sentient beings, beginning with myself.
I also take it into the vast playgrounds
of distraction, confusion, intoxication, desire,
drugged by anxiety and second guesses,
and deep into televisionís alternative wilderness.
What a beautiful war I wage,
the two poles equal magnets,
perfectly matched, married Ė
my own perfect paralysis.
Present then absent then present,
I inhibit the moment or do not.
Itís one continuous decision.
The waxwings donít decide which insects
to eat tonight, nor wind pause to think before
clouding the mirror of the trees.
They leave no monuments.
Me, Iím always forsaking one place for another,
breaking branches to mark my way home,
taking leave of the tall grasses
heavy with seed-heads I crush underfoot,
birches vivid in storm-light, dogs just groomed,
fearful of thunder under the desk.
I smell garlic. Russel is making a marinade
for the trout heíll grill beneath an umbrella.
I realize, then forget, then realize that mind
is an ax that splits the one continuous moment.
Lightning! Scared dogs! Dinner! Brook music!
My eye goes home to the pond,
the bluestone slates I laid in the low places,
rain-shining their way to the water.
HORSES WHERE THE ANSWERS SHOULD HAVE BEEN (Copper Canyon Press, 2010)