drafty mountain hut

always at home, forever on the way

Tag: poetry

Alone, Looking for Blossoms Along the River

by tendo zenji

 

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Alone, Looking for Blossoms Along the River
A poem by Tu Fu, translated by David Hinton

1

Who understands the grief these riverside blossoms inflict?
It makes me crazy, and there’s no one here to tell, so I go

searching for our southern neighbor, my old friend in wine,
but he’s gone ten days drinking. All I find is an empty bed.

2

A thick frenzy of blossoms crowding our river shorelines,
I wander along, listing dangerously, in full fear of spring.

With poems and wine against all that profusion, I endure:
arrangements for this ancient, white-haired man can wait.

3

Deep river repose, two or three houses in bamboo quiet,
and such goings-on: red blossoms blazing among white.

Answering spring’s radiant glories, I too have my place:
sending them off with a  lovely wine on the shores of life.

4

Looking east to the city all smoke crowded with blossoms,
I love our little Hundred-Flower Stream tower even more:

to open gold jars and label out fine wine, calling beautiful
women to dance on embroidered mats: who could bear it?

5

At the monastery abbot’s grace, the river flows away east,
spring’s radiant glories idle and tired among sparse winds.

In this crush of peach blossoms open without their owner’s
empty mind, I can treasure reds deep or shallow the same.

6

Blossoms crowd orchard paths where the abbot’s wife lives:
thousands, tens of clustered thousands weigh branches down,

and ceaseless butterflies linger in playful dance, as exquisite
oriole song tumbles along empty and altogether its very self

-Tu Fu
translated by David Hinton in The Selected Poems of Tu Fu

the dark teaching

by tendo zenji

Vultures follow
vanishing snows north, feeding
easily on winter-

kill death. How
exquisite the death-

teaching their
flight offers: endlessly
patient, effortless,
indifferent. Some-
times, silence.

grown altogether
dark and deep, I must
decide to
breathe, decide

breath after
breath. And in the silence
before I

decide, I glimpse
how that dark
teaching sets us
free, how it
sets us free, and then

lifts away
again into flight.

David Hinton, from Desert: Poems

North Cascades Mountain Practice (I)

by tendo zenji

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This mountain
seems somehow
lonely as I

am. People
come and go
through its empty

distances, and those
distances remain

empty. I’m getting old
now, but this
mountain’s
been here almost
forever. No

wonder it understands

loneliness so much
better than
I ever will. Every
time I come

here, we both
promise never to
leave, and mountains
always keep
their promises.

The eye, the mirror–
deep eye is
magic. Things seen

go all the way
inside me
and vanish there. It seems
impossible, I

know, but everything
heals from inside

out.

David Hinton, from Desert: Poems

Pilgrimage

by tendo zenji

CCP.jpg

 

Pilgrimage

still dwelling on the death of a poet
I made my way to the peninsula
to pay homage in the woods

but amidst the throngs, nothing felt right
and so I returned to the island
with only a thin volume in my hands

After Morning Rain

by tendo zenji

A few small sails, barely moving,
dot Fidalgo Bay. As the sun burns away
the last pale clouds, a confluence
of robins descends to explore
my neighbor’s garden—
brown grass, muddy beds and the last
fading roses of the year.

It is September, the end of summer.
My backyard maples turning orange
and red and gold. From my high window,
the great mountain looks
painted on the horizon line,
small mountains at its feet, then
headlands and the Salish Sea below.

I can read no more today
about the agonies of this world,
its desperate refugees, the men
of arms and gold whose death tolls
are as numberless as the stars.
I’ve grown weary, impatient,
as I’ve grown old.

After this morning’s rain, I dream
only of a woman’s gentle laughter,
her fingers on my arm as we sip wine
in the evening, telling tales,
lighting the heart’s small fires
that will get us through the rains
of autumn and dark winter.

Alone at my window, I watch
a silent world and find it
welcome, my own silence welcome.
Longing has its own quiet place
in the human heart, but love
is sometimes rapturous, noisy,
almost uncivilized, and knows
no boundaries, no borders.

And what am I but its solitary
pilgrim—lost, found, lost again—
on the long journey whose only end
is silence before the burning
of my body, one last moment
of flame, a whiff of smoke
washed clean
and gone with the rain.

— Sam Hamill, in After Morning Rain

Passing Through

by tendo zenji

Passing through

Kyo mo kyo mo
kasunde kurasu
koie kana
–Issa

Somewhere between Eugene and Portland,
wipers slapping time to an ancient folksong
I got on Sado Island in the Sea of Japan,
I thought again of my old friend
with whom I walked in the Rose Garden
on a sunny August afternoon
twenty years ago, walked and talked
the life of poetry as if it could be
almost a religious vow.

Rain pouring down
and hundreds of miles to go,
I pulled off the highway
and drove through town until I found
my way again and stopped in the garden
to sip hot coffee and smoke a cigarette.

He who was my brother is a stranger now.
Calls are unanswered. Letters are returned.
How does a man get up one day and simply
walk out of one life and into another
without trace or track? How does the old bear
curl up inside itself to wade the wide
fields of heaven when rain turns to snow
and bitter glacial winds begin to blow?

It was hot that August afternoon.
Late into the night, there was poetry and wine.
We spoke of others we had loved and lost,
and I thought of how I passed
like a shadow through their lives–
former friends, former wives–I wish them well,
although I do not know them now.
I make my bows alone.
It’s easier loving the dead who blossom
in the mind like roses in the wind.

After months of rain, the roses will bloom again,
the old bear com creaking down its mountain.
And the old ache that is my memory now
picks up the tempo the wiper is laying down
as I pull back onto the highway out of town,
the women of Sado turning, stepping lightly
in another world, raising their arms
and voices once again to sing
that sweet old song that carries
a weary pilgrim home.

— Sam Hamill, in Habitation: Collected Poems

in memorium of Sam Hamill who passed through this spring. I make my bows alone.

 

your life is a shadow

by tendo zenji

Your life is a shadow
lived inside a dream,
Once that is realized
self and other vanish.
Pursue fame, the glory
of a prince won’t suffice;
Take a step or two back
a gourd dipper’s all you need.
No matters in the mind
passions quiet of themselves
mind freed from matter
means suchness everywhere.
The moment these truths
are grasped as your own
the mind opens and clears
like the empty void above

— Baisao from The Old Tea Seller: Life and Zen Poetry in 18th Century Kyoto translated by Norman Waddell

only what is necessary

by tendo zenji

Hermitage at Tahoma-san

My Drafty Mountain Hut at Tahoma-san

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Dwelling in the Mountains 28

by tendo zenji

I reverently welcome sage teachings
and humbly study the ancient sutras

here in luminous mountain expanses
far from towns full of meat’s stench.

The Great Vow of Limitless Compassion
saving all things from deep confusion–

it’s nothing but feckless chatter in places crowded with people.
It needs the nourishment of Way’s solitude to fulfill its nobility.

We revere the blooming radiance of Buddha’s Deer Park gardens
and admire the summit of his renowned Spirt-Vulture Mountain,

yearn for the pure forests resounding with his voice in Kevaddha
and long for the fragrant gardens where he taught in Amrapali:

but however distant and remote the Buddh’as pure face may seem,
they say the sounds of his lament are always with us everywhere,

so I built a monastery among the quiet mystery of high peaks,
hoping monks would come, walking-sticks in hand, and find repose.

These sitting cushions seem gifts given by Pradipataja Buddha
and our meals perfect kindness offered by Gandhakuta Buddha.

Here, our struggles all fading away, through sees through it all,
and this close to the inner pattern, antiquity continues refreshed.

Hsieh Ling-yun, translated by David Hinton in The Mountain Poems of Hsieh Ling-yun

Dwelling in the Mountains 27

by tendo zenji

 

Hook and line are never cast
here, and nets never spread;

no one shoots strung arrows
or sets out traps and snares.

If you look, the Humanity of wolves and tigers is clear,
but there’s no limit to the passion for killing such things.

I devoted myself to Way long ago, when I was still young,
awakening to the love all beings naturally feel for life,

and was led by this to see it throughout the realm of things.
By now, never far from my dwelling place in this love,

I future the easy joy of soaring gulls and darting fish,
no hint of mechanical mind here among forest and lake.

Hsieh Ling-yun, translated by David Hinton in The Mountain Poems of Hsieh Ling-yun