Today’s Haiku

to take refuge un-

der the dripping maple tree

is to start over


Some say life is a journey– of fits and starts. But sometimes we start when we stop.  No waiting till you’re there. But staying, stillness, openness.  On such a journey we may get intimations of the origin.

Haiku 10/8:

traffic roars by

where I sit sipping hot tea

a part not apart

Today reading Hamill in Poetry of Zen on Dogen’s sitting.  Buddha-mind arises “only through deep spiritual communion between sentient beings and the Buddha.”

The stress is not on the content of the sitter’s mind but on her openness to the between.

I try to do Herbert in haiku

I’ve swept all those words

from the threshold so just knock

and it will open.

I posted an earlier version of this but it bothered me when I reread it later in the day. I’m reading Eleanor Cook’s new book Elizabeth Bishop at Work (Harvard) and her meticulous chapter on diction — Bishop very fond of Herbert — I think increased my uneasiness. I believe this version recalls Herbert, especially in the use of dialogue of man and God.

The Refresher

In my project to create a “world” of haiku along the lines of Herrick’s HESPERIDES out of my time in Oregon, I endeavor to create a poetry of unimaginable “things” — primal energies, “gods,” non-thing things that make things possible. So it’s a world “dependent” like the Taoist world of the Chinese classics on an Unnamed unmoved mover, the “Tao” or “way” (not much of a “name” is it?). The philosophical project of restoring this dimension of human consciousness seems appropriate for haiku, since the “genre” is both highly specific — a real moment in real time — and equivocal about what we can know in light of the fact that consciousness is always changing while searching for a “still point” etc etc. There’s really only so much you can say “in prose” without gagging.

The “nip in the air” today — perhaps a British expression recalling Robert Herrick — did make me think of the procession of seasons by which we are refreshed.  How can I be so naive!

A nip in the air

The Refresher just saying

now it's about time



An Old Irish Lyric

At first glance this is a remarkably fresh and microcosmic take on the popular voyage genre, but in its lyric intensity certain hermeneutic features appear that might be obscured in the longer iterations of the theme.  The brevity of lyric in its sense of compact tension often produces a sense of heightened emergency.

For the text and notes, see p. 83 of My News for You: Irish Poetry 600-1200, ed. and translated by Geoffrey Squires, Shearsman Books 2016:

A busy yellow bee

who makes

a not insignificant journey

flying joyfully out

over the great plain

in the sun

pausing at blossom after blossom

cup after cup

and then happily back again

to rejoin

the orderly community of the hive


In his note Squires comments on the difficulty of translating the word he translates as “orderly.”  He notes that bees are frequently used to symbolize a social order that is in contrast to human anarchy.

From the journey tradition we know the existential journey touches at several bases of being as it happens: the wonder of the objective world — flying joyfully out; the route inward discovering values in the shared world  as the journey continues — “over the great plain / in the sun/”; and as the journey continues its dialectical way, ” pausing at blossom after blossom/ cup after cup” there is an increasing sense of “gravity” or worldliness,  which is relieved “happily” when the turning point is reached. The journey outward-and-inward reaches its “end”:  “and then happily back again.” The  “return” is not a figure of linear repetition but a return to the  community.

Is this a model of loss of self in the hive?

The vocabulary of value (ethos) —not insignificant; joyfully; happily —suggest a “natural” (the quotes mean to dislodge this word from its naturalistic anchor in modern evolutionary materialism) harmony, in which finite individuals both exert themselves and complete themselves in light of an Order that is both subjective — happily, joyfully — and objective in both the material sense — space and process (gathering pollen for the community)–and in the transcendent sense (as reflected in the aesthetic shaping of the poem as a free act). We might call the journey “intersubjective” or better “trans-subjective.” All the while the journey is “in the sun.”

So, yes: “orderly” but not in the reductive sense but in the “hyperbolic” sense: not ironic but suggestive of that of which we cannot speak because we are both too close to it and too far from it.




time & eternity

Time and eternity

until the next wave the tide-

pool utterly clear

green of beer bottle

rounded by the violence

of the waves gleams there

in the mercury

of the upper ocean thanks

to man's unkindness

and these syllabics

inwrought with a timeless but

timely distinction


A Second Wind

The haiku seems fit for the use I have in mind. A sort of catalogue of moments of presence here in this new place, the Pacific  North West. I have come to this region after many years on the East Coast, where I was closer to Europe than Asia, and yet my last series of poems, written in Portsmouth New Hampshire, was based on ancient Chinese poems and their Zenist orientation. So now I am at the Western end of the continent and exploring it through haiku. American landscapes have always been metaphysical places, starting with the Native Americans, then the Puritans, then the Romantics with their sense of apocalypse. This eschatological sense of place has political aspects, especially with Evangelical Christians. White Nationalists camp in Eastern Oregon.  Oregon is historically the end of the way West. Eschatology and apocalypse mix with rather dramatic rivers and mountains, so I may get a second wind of the energies flowing through the pond songs. The complex psychology of certain schools of Zen seem almost native to the place thanks to Gary Snyder and respond strongly to the disfiguring of the landscape by apocalyptic schemes.  Czeslaw Milosz with his profound engagement in European religious ideas was certainly affected by these facets of the local reality.  Potent stuff.


Between immanence

and divine transcendence this

day of cool bright mist