Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Dick Allen

from The Zen Master Poems

The Zen Master Accounts for Himself

I’ve climbed a mountain of knives.
Ignored, except by local friends,
into each night, I persisted.

There was an owl.
There was a scratching at the side of my house
that could only have been a water rat.

I counted pennies
and longed for gold coins.

It was difficult to hear my voice
among so many others of my time.

There was a stone fence I stared at.
Buddha statues cast shadows
far across my living room.
There was the constant small pain
of the never quite well.

I knew the daze I lived in was a daze
yet could never quite shake it.

Often, I’d start out, then head back in.

Each night, the moon climbed the sky.


“What is it?”

What is it?
The constant sound of water running off the mountain.
What is it?
A cricket making its way across the floor.


What is it?
The constant sound of water running off the mountain.
What is it?
A cricket making its way across the floor.


“Cherry blossoms are edible”

Cherry blossoms are edible.
Use them for coaxing out flavor
in wagashi or anpan.
But most wonderful,
drunk deeply at weddings
are cups of sakurayu
cherry blossoms
pickled in salt with umuzu
yielding a vague taste of plums.


“When you’re in trouble”

“When you’re in trouble,”
the Zen Master said, smiling,
looking up from his sushi,
“ask, ‘What is this?’

“You must ask it three times,
in three different ways:

“What is this?
What is this?
What is this?

“It’s a question-koan, of course.

“There are as many answers
as people on earth.

“For instance:

1)    aizu—the Japanese word for sign, signal.
2)    an illusion with a heartbeat
3)    Salt and the sea on the tongue.”

The Zen Master’s Found Poem

“The largest collection of haiku
translated into English
on any single subject
is Cherry Blossom Epiphany
by Robert A. Gill,
which contains some 3,000
Japanese haiku
on the subject of cherry blossoms.”


The Zen Master Follows Another’s Example

I see him around the village,
planting his karmic seeds
in every lawn—
a minor Johnny Chapman
walking Connecticut.

Carefully, he sows,
always allowing for drainage,
hoping he’s fooled the slugs.

May root systems take hold!

May there be germination!

They’re so fragile, he says,
especially at the start,
before the first four true leaves.

Loving wishes, quiet favors,
compassionate acts, small good deeds.

How pleasant his stooped back,
to know he’s at work
over carrots and peas.

Near at hand, may great pumpkins
swell from the ground.

The Zen Master’s Evocations

“I like the phrases,
‘at the base of the cliff,’
‘deep in the forest,’
‘at the edge of the field,’
‘on the shore of the lake,’”
mused the Zen Master.
“‘Adrift on the river,’
“obscured by the mist,”
‘lost in the clouds,’
‘beside the waterfall,’
but also,
‘lighting a candle,’
‘in evening shadow
a lone monk tolling a bell.’”


“I Heard, said the Zen Master”

“I heard,” said the Zen Master,
“a special transmission.

“It was as if I was a child
searching with a crystal radio,
scraping a cat’s whisker across the crystal.

“I read about it nowhere
but it was pointed at me,

“turning me inside out,
so that someday,
five hundred lives from now
I might become a Buddha.

“More likely, however,
is that I’ll be a sled runner
on somebody’s Flexible Flyer,
speeding down hills
under the streetlights,
snow falling lightly, like static.” 


“Ha, ha, ha, you and me”

“Ha, ha, ha, you and me,
Little brown jug, don’t I love thee,”
sang the Zen Master,
climbing Cold Mountain.
“Ha, ha, ha.  Hee, hee, hee,
just you and me, Jug, you and me,”
sang the Zen Master,
descending Cold Mountain,
which really wasn’t Cold Mountain,
but a mild peak in the Catskills
he liked to pretend was Cold Mountain,
singing his happy song,
his jug full of Pu-her tea.


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