Zen

This poem appeared in the February 2014 issue of Poetry Pacific Literary Journal, along with A Measure of Grace.

http://poetrypacific.blogspot.com/2014/02/2-poems-by-cm-rivers.html

Zen

Fingers of light

touch down on the garden

Wild green things grow thick

‘round the entranceway

Spotted fawns have come by,

mother not far behind

Cat sits and watches

Here

I am here, partly cloudy morning, café window next to me, floor to ceiling. Man in corner adjusts burgundy necktie, looking haunted by the money game. Tall young woman changes tables. I can’t help thinking of a gazelle as she crosses the room, brings book in front of her face and taps foot. Panhandler outside is shackled to the world, smoking fat rolled cigarette in jean jacket, moves eye-patch from one eye to the other. I think of pirates, how they did this down in the bellies of ships when they turned from firing muskets across bright water to see into the dark surrounding them.

We are here, striving to be left untouched by the world, or just naïve, we float across the street this morning, all birds and salamanders and rhinos and piranhas on their way to everything. We are axles turning our wheels. We’re a science project, a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. We are by turns significant and insignificant, as the owl in the hollow, as the mossy creek bank, the huckleberry bush, the woodland path cobbled with stones and woven with roots, the whale that breaks the surface and chills you to your fingernails.

You are here, in a future decorated with foreign accents, moist heat sticking to your skin, rice in a bowl, the expanding and diminishing circular sound of cicadas, the bark of trees curling back, paper-like, on the shores of lakes that listen when you speak to them. A future phone call, a voice saying “he can’t walk anymore, I don’t know how much longer”.

You are here, in a past of two people getting to know each other, of bucket lists both predictable and depressing, of stolen glances, blondes and brunettes, life on the run.

You are here, in a present of thinking the world is for the young and beautiful, and feeling you are no longer either of these things, and where have all your obsequious flatterers gone.  Yet you are learning to hold all your ideas – every thought running through your mind – in very little importance. And in this, arriving just where you are.

 

Now and Again

Now the giraffe-like lily, turning its head to look northwest out the window in graciousness.

Now the blackberry – summer’s thimble – is incubating, its exquisite shape perhaps philosophized over at a celestial seminar where Father Sun and Mother Moon are merely attendees, two out of ten-thousand apprentice magicians. The fruit will not be on a bush beneath a tree in some faraway land, but here, now, staining my skin with its potent nectar, nestling among the tissues in my hands, softened by enough olive oil to last many lifetimes of a home cook.

Now the argumentative weather, now the three, four, five, six (no, seven!) hawks circling overhead, descending as if taking a circular stair. Now the clean birth of plants, not the messy one of animals. Now the mystic light whose source is unidentifiable, falling – like you – into the category of mysterious beauty.

Now and again, the contemplation of time and how it doesn’t exist, confused by the human mind with earthly cycles and a construct of our own devising. Now and again, the world seen as a poem.

Now the sound of the woodpecker seeking his morning meal, same as an egg frying. Now the grain of the wooden beams that are the rib cage of this house. Now us, the heart of the house. Now us, always at ease but still wrestling with everything. Now us, always going to new places without ever leaving the room. Now us, rocking gently on calm waters after the typhoon.

Now the ghost of the cat returning, following me from room to room, both of us always eating, sleeping, always doing the dance of sitting then standing then sitting again, always looking out the window, he in graciousness while I just try for it.

Now we return to the lily.

 

Witness

Again, I rose early and walked in shale gorges both smooth and jagged, by the wild water and evergreens.  I moved through the day like an athlete though my feet are broken, my throat so sick of onions.

Again, I sense the presence of a bear, and wonder if that is your animal spirit – vast, warm, strong.  Steam rises from a bowl of soup, the wind sways the treetops, and I long for company.

Again, I long to burn, a flare in a dark wet cavern.  I long to illuminate, pluck at the beaded web, reach for a single strand of – not transcendence – something earthly, simple.  Fill my rib cage ordinarily, break my back over the knee of witnessing the world.

 

Cooperation

The waterfall,

with all its power

and noise,

took none of the majesty

from the small stones

downstream.

And the stones,

in turn,

borrowed no wisdom

from the waterfall.

The two only

respected each other.

 

Late January Things

The cardinal, for one, content to go about his business.  The fox, for another, at ease in his auburn jacket.  The groundhog, still putting off the errands she needs to run.  The soft gaze of the doe regarding you, not for long, yet seeming for a brief moment to consider you as a being of great importance.

The frozen arteries of streams drawing lines to the lake that is the heart of this place.  A cascade of water stopped dead in its tracks by earth science.  Snow turning almost blue just after the sun slips behind west hill, like that framed photograph of Sweden in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, its top edge dusted once a month to the barren sound of an occasional cough, the next name called exactly as the last name was, a clean copy of how all future names will be called, unless the ratio of consonants to vowels tips the scale too far in a given direction.

Standing beneath spruce boughs watching snow flakes fall, unhurried, particles of ash or feather.  Standing in close to the heart of the tree while wind sways the limbs, as if you have been welcomed aboard an evergreen ship charting an imaginary course up to Canada, or Nova Scotia.

Another storm warning issued, another mug of hot liquid slurped, welcomed into a body cocooned inside many layers of fabric, some woven by hand, some by machine, another silent halleluiah spoken either way.  An obsession with time and temperature, forecast and calendar, with saying we know the new year will be a great one – this last among so many other unfounded claims, clothed in a largely American propensity to keep one’s chin up.

 

A Great Many Sparrows

You know there are a great many sparrows in a tree when your view of the tree itself has been almost completely obscured by the birds.

There are three ways to see these birds as they leave the tree in the morning, a single entity swirling up and away, as if together they made a rippling embroidered cloak worn by the night as it turns on its heels and marches away.

The first way is to be hardly aware of them at all, wrapped up in whatever it is you’re doing, or give them a sideways glance.

The second way is to see them, finding your attention momentarily captured by a spark of wonderment before your attention shifts away.

The third way is to be transformed by this thing you are witnessing, pulled by your transfixed gaze from your own body for a moment, a part of you taking to the air in the same way the birds do, following them with your close attention until the last black speck has vanished altogether.