December 4, 2016

The Constant Murmur from the Mind


“White clouds encircle the mountain waist like a sash,
Stone steps mount high into the void where the narrow path leads far.
Alone, leaning on my rustic staff I gaze idly into the distance.
My longing for the notes of a flute is answered in the murmurings of the gorge.”

-- Shen Zhou, Poet on a Mountain c. 1500. Painting and poem by Shen Zhou


In The Cascades

Above the trail to the summit
Clouds climb the mountains --
Hands through water, fingers of rain,
Smoke in dreams, as steps accumulate,
Placing first one foot, then the other,
Pacing out the rip-rap of the years.

Below the snow ghosts swirl behind
Drifts of leaf-shimmer, billowed veils
Of wind whose whispers echo back
Across the distant silence singing
To the tempo of the breath:
"Once only, once only, only once."

Above the stream in the ravine.
Watched by sentinels of stone, of fir,
Of trees so tall their tops dissolve
Into the breath of the mountains.
Ebony glints of ravens' wings
Banking into green on darker green.

Below it's all been settled long ago.
Only on foot, step by step,
Can you climb up, beyond,
And out of time -- except for the weight
You carry on your back; gossamer
Thread spinning down into the Labyrinth.

At the crest, looking back, looking below,
Herds of mule deer graze beneath pylons
Where a survey crew measures the steel river,
For a grid of concrete and copper cables
Connecting the Matrix coiled on the coast.
Above, the mountains' shoulders shatter the rain.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at December 4, 2016 1:55 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

I sit and gaze on this highest peak of all;
Wherever I look there is distance without end.
I am all alone and no one knows I am here,
A lonely moon is mirrored in the cold pool.
Down in the pool there is not really a moon;
The only moon is in the sky above.
I sing to you this one piece of song;
But in the song there is not any Zen.

Han-Shan, 750
Translated by Arthur Waley
Zen Poems

Posted by: John Hinds at August 3, 2014 11:18 AM

Shen's drawing is on the cover of David Hinton's Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China, one of my favorite poetry books. ISBN 0-8112-1624-1

Posted by: ELC at August 3, 2014 6:53 PM

And I? I am a madman most,
running mazes in my mind.
And I wonder what I'll find,
here in this world
I call my home.

Howard Nelson
so long ago

Basho (d. 1694) spoke of his wondering even towards the end, "On a journey, ill, and across fields all withered, dreams go wandering still."

Posted by: Howard Nelson at August 5, 2014 5:46 PM

Clouds, silent, punctuate the the scroll of sky,
Their message is clear --
With ease I lift my burden and
Proceed with a thankful sigh.

Posted by: Howard Nelson at December 4, 2016 9:17 AM

And if when playing the poet I stutter here or there, I'd hold my tongue if not fearful of choking on my toothbrush. Part of my burden is wondering how to punctuate that other 'the.'
Whoa is me, say I, haltingly.

Posted by: Howard Nelson at December 4, 2016 5:37 PM