Excerpts from Magnolia & Lotus
Curves of Incense
Threads of incense drift upwards
unending in my silent room—
a smoky portent, like cracks on a tortoise shell—
nine perfumed plumes twist.
An old mirror hides light with darkness—
embers flare within sullen ash.
The many folds of my silk curtain part—
what is most precious faces the wind.
Staying at Cycles of Change Hermitage, I Write Three Poems
Before Five Peaks Mountain
Cycles of Change Hermitage nestles in a rocky cave.
Snug in this retreat, planning how to live—
I laugh hysterically at how hard it has become to speak.
A kettle leg, a lip of bowl, both broken—
my days spent boiling porridge or tea.
Idle, I neither clean nor trim the garden—
the grass, like unkempt clouds, grows knee-high.
Bedding down early, I still wake late—
I do not know the dawn’s light.
I do not wash my hands or shave my head,
read sutras or keep rules,
I do not burn incense, sit in Sŏn,
or perform services to a Master or the Buddha.
Visitors think it strange, ask me what sect I am—
1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th.
Do not do not do not it is secret secret secret—
do not tell others about my untidy house.
Maha Prajna Paramita.
On Five Peaks Mountain, the leaves glow with evening—
a thin stream trickles louder at dawn’s zenith.
Night passes and morning comes: I live in sound and color—
who else resides among such pure melodies?
Four A.M. on this mountain: my window, awash with moonlight.
Several li of pine rustle near my bed, free my mind.
Riches and honors require effort, while the poor suffer humbly—
my life of calm; with whom will I discuss this pleasure?
Emotions of the Seasons
Blossoms fall, deploring spring’s evening—
birds sing, forlorn at sunset.
Longing for one’s spiritual home—
how it all slips swiftly away.
A fire burns as the sun’s luminescence—
sweat drips like a splash of rain.
Though I wander in a smoky dust
and touch a boiling kettle, I feel serene.
Leaves wither on a dismal autumn day—
cicada grieve at the evening wind’s approach.
For a lone crane nesting in an old pine
glory and shame are the same.
Bones of men chilled by the cold—
late at night, I sit, calm.
Cutting boundaries, what defines the mind?
Purity, more than the snowy moon.