Mountain Hermit’s Lullaby

Another season of rain and mists
leaves more blurry footprints in the mud.
Too damp for making fire, and beneath
grey skies a cold cloak has wrapped itself
around my shoulders, fits just right.

Whatever it was I sought — it’s all vague
memories now, distant spectral shadows,
private pantomimes, need I spell it out:
the inescapable futility of ambition?

I don’t remember when this mountain cave
became my home. My hands are empty still,
just as I began — only cramps and hard callouses
to show for it all, and perhaps some brief stories
to ward off the chill when night falls again,
when searching creatures curl and huddle
in the dark, when all my fleeting images
blend together, shimmer, then dissolve.

Not far away, the mesmerizing rhythms
of surging mountain stream sounds combine
to form a single voice — my own. All along,
I’ve only been talking to myself, only narrating
a story to myself about some fictional character
I’ve taken myself to be, one I’ve blithely pretended
to be in this ongoing theatrical production.

Night and day, I listened to that smooth-talking
salesman with an eager, gullible fool for a customer,
a naive one who kept falling for the same sales pitch
time and again. At last, I stopped investing in tall tales,
alluring promises, those slick persuasive come-ons.
I finally silenced that glib silver-tongued devil.
I’m just not inclined to believe him anymore.

Maybe now I’m beginning to see: whether positive,
negative, or neutral, no view I could hold is true.
There is nothing which I can conceive or grasp
that has any inherent or enduring substance.
This lovely snow which has started to fall
is but another prop in an endless dream.
I just want to lay down and sleep like a child —
for a night and a day, for a thousand lifetimes.

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Last Page

Winter again, and all I have is one clean page left
in my writing notebook. The rest were scribbled on,
torn out, crumpled up, and tossed into the trash.

The ghosts who drift around me may grow wistful —
it’s lonely to be forgotten, once the seasons change.
Whatever seemed like wisdom — where is it now?

Old poems blur in memory, mind itself crumples a little
with each successive heartbeat. Soon enough winter
has arrived again, and there’s one page left to fill.

If this were really the last page, if this were really winter,
if all the ghosts stopped in their ghostly tracks, turning
their gaze towards me, what would I have to say?

A boy once sat here dreaming, an old man sits here now.

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After All (2)

I was born near a foggy shore,
and grew to love the ocean moods.

Valleys are rich with orchards and vineyards —
who could resist their enticing charms?

I’ve traveled through lonely deserts, stayed a while
in many cities too — each has their own special
quality, even if it’s to be bereft of any quality.

At last, the drumbeat of my heartbeat led me
to these mountains. It’s where I’ve pitched my tent.

How fortunate — to witness another brilliant sunrise
here in this wild forest of oaks and tall pines!

The birds are busy with their morning rituals,
the green trees bathe in the dawning light.

Seasons with their varied changing props are like
painted scenes upon a stage. So many characters
appear and disappear — who can say how many?

Although my eyes are open, my gaze is turned within.
The world of men and women, the world of being
and becoming — all that gradually fades away.

Breathing in, breathing out — after all my efforts,
hopes, and schemes, what will still remain?

Far off in the distance, a barking dog, and now
the wind has found me, the trees begin to sway.

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Swept Away

In my mind I’m returning to the river.
It’s all right there, everything is clear.
The concise scripture, the revelation —
I will read that book with my whole body.

Still, I’m not really going anywhere at all.
Everyone and everything is going with me.
We’re traveling without moving, it’s the way
of this world, this liquid flowing mirage.

I plunge my face into the ice cold stream.
I will seem to be awake now, but I am here,
warm and dry. I’m dreaming by the quiet fire.
Rain today — every drop falls perfectly in place.

The river is a bunch of rain, a whole generation
of rain falling into this dream I’m drenched in now,
and I am shivering, but I am happy, happy to be taken
by the river at last, happy to be swiftly swept away.

 

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Campfire Song

That bittersweet music, the poignancy of recollection,
now washes over me — I feel the whole world, its history,
its wanting, its violence, its hope and inevitable collapse.
Without a doubt, nobody is excluded from this ceremony.

Here around the campfire it grows late, and we are
softened by the wine, we huddle together, dreaming.
If we were in any other world, it would be the same,
we will never escape the destiny we’ve set in motion.

Let’s sing together then, let’s join the chorus of souls
who get suddenly sober in this mortal remembrance,
who stare into the fire, musing, because to look up
into each other’s eyes now would be unbearable.

If any imagine that they are just casual bystanders,
that they are merely here to observe — please, Dears,
don’t fool yourselves — the time for that has passed,
your secret name is emblazoned here in the flames.

I see your face in the fire, it is always my own face,
for I have taken numberless forms, the infinite forms
of every being, sexual being, spirit being, hungry beings
who hide behind their names, scheming, wanting more.

One by one they are all vanishing now — the child, parent,
the husband and wife, the lover, hater, the killer, believer
and fool, the good and bad, all the joyful and sorrowful,
all are disappearing in the fire — let them go, let them go!

Let’s sing together then, let’s join the chorus of souls
who get suddenly sober through this remembrance,
who stare into the fire, musing, because to look up
into each other’s eyes now would be unbearable.

If we were hoping for lasting forgiveness, here it is.
Whatever we ever wanted — redemption — here it is,
flickering in the flames, an image consuming itself,
a memory turning to ash, a prayer gone up in smoke.

Oh, I want to be that one whose tears tumble down
and create new worlds, new galaxies of heart music
which will make the empty space break out smiling,
and no, I won’t look back because, at last, I’m home.

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No Failure

Then the sun bends down to caress your face,
and now your soft eyes slowly open, revealing
an enormous white room — its dazzling shine!

You’re astonished — yes — you’ve sprouted wings.
You can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone.

You rise from the discarded shell of the old body.
You don’t look back, this will be the new dream.

The old gravity falls away, that cramped hovel
crumbles, disintegrates, revealing blue sky
with no horizon, only blue, endless blue.

It’s all open, spacious, unqualified vastness!
This is beyond the old stories of birth and death.

You blink your eyes and find yourself awake
amidst the turning stars — ah, you’re the matrix
from which streaming trails of pristine light connect
the galaxies in some unspeakable atomic bliss!

You blink again and now you’re home in bed.
You glance over to your sleeping lover — her beauty!

You realize that she has wandered far and deep
into the dream, sprouted her own new wings.

She can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone.
No failure is possible now, nor any binding limit.

She has become you, as you became her, there is
only one dreaming, the old gravity has fallen away,
and now we drift, untethered, through an enormous
white room, blinded by its brilliant shine, euphoric!

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Dry Creek

Black-Eyed Juncos are busily flittering
around the large bowls of fresh seeds
you kindly put out this morning, while
I sit here in my chair, not moving at all.

For so long I wanted this: to be still,
not moving even when the Jay descends
out of nowhere and spooks the Juncos,
not even when the splattering rain begins.

Even when the light in the sky goes dark,
I will remain motionless, maybe for hours,
maybe for the time it takes to hush every
thought, every impulse to have it be different.

Then, when the loud hikers trampling in the forest
pause for a moment, thinking that they may have
heard something further back in the darker woods,
it will not be me. I am quiet, I won’t move at all.

I was sitting, learning the trick of patience. It is
difficult at first. Gradually, the noise gave up.
Gradually, the silence superseded ambition.
It’s true what they say about wanting.

Desire was a stream that became a trickle.
It became a dry river bed, filled with the ghosts
of former fishes, now nameless in their absence.
There are fading grooves in the air they left behind.

Sometimes when my eyes close, I remember them —
their lovely rainbow colors, the way they darted
over the glistening stream stones, always moving,
moving, moving in and through the everlasting light.

Now they are quiet. They are not moving at all.
They’re like statues of themselves, like museum fish
mounted in the air, their hearts resting in the God,
their slippery spirits gone, gone, gone beyond.

This is how it may be with us: we will just stop moving.
The parts we thought of as ourselves will crumble back
into a dry creek bed. Then a trickle of melting snow begins,
later a tumbling brook, teeming with urgent darting minnows.

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