Poetry / October 2017 (Issue 37)

Two Poems

by Leath Tonino

Poet's note: These poems came about in response to reading The Roaring Stream, an anthology edited by Jack Shoemaker and Nelson Foster. Each chapter introduces a famous Ch’an/Zen master and includes excerpts from his most significant writings and lectures. I got into the habit of sitting on my fire escape at dawn, drinking black coffee, scribbling quick responses to the ideas and images that I found in the book. What could be more fun than climbing onto the shoulders of some wise ancient monk and singing your own far-from-enlightened (but heartfelt, not to mention caffeinated) song? 
TUNG-SHAN (807-869)

playing like children
in piles of tiles and bricks,

poking with wonder
at our own shits,

to crickets, listening
to grasses,

a white rabbit
crosses the path
leading to the linked caves,

flashes in the brush, inspires us
to take off our sandals,
forget where we left them,

has nothing to say,
but who said saying
has anything
to do with saying anything?

YUAN-WU (1063-1135)

it's hard to be homeless at home,
to be both a householder and home-leaver,
hard to wander the road
while sorting junk mail, paying bills,
hard to hear a bell
inside a child's cry.

above the shingled roof
a roof of cold.

above clouds
clear sky.

householder, do your best.
do your chores.
wash the sheets and make the bed.
sleep in the backyard from time to time.
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