Tuesday, September 29, 2015

No bucket. No water. No moon.

Chiyono married very young. She gave one child,
then lost her husband, and, as was the custom then,
she was dispatched to an abbey to begin anew.

Thus vanished, she married wood and water,
chopping, carrying, blowing through a tube
to brighten fire beneath the rice and tea,

hoeing radishes, sun and moon her companions.
Work done, which seemed seldom, she would sit
as the black-robed women sat, hands folded,

and this attracted kindness from an elderess.
"What are you doing?" "Gathering Mind," said she,
"as I have seen them do." "There is no Mind,"

the Old One chided, "that is to say, none
to be grasped, either by sitting or not sitting.
What's to be done is the same sitting or carrying

wood to the cooks. Do you wish instruction?"
She did, and studied with this nun for years,
while not neglecting any menial task.

One night, while making use of moonlight
to bring to the cistern her ancient bucket, full,
she watched in horror as it sprang apart and spilled --

then stood amazed, free. "This," she later
said, "in spite of my ceaseless effort, was
how it was. No bucket. No water. No moon." In

after years she shook the world of Zen,
founding five abbeys, taking in
homeless women, teaching strength and grace.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The first few fires

The first few fires of autumn laid by me
Here in this stove aren't much; I acknowledge
Even the hummingbird's still caressing blooms, so I

Feeling only a brief dawn chill, build accordingly. 
In thickets of summer I range about,
Ratcheting my long-handled pruner among stout sticks,
Stealing from oak and ash, letting in a little light.
These I pile in the long room where that stove squats.

Fueling it with paper and a stack of twigs, admiring
Even the least hints of gold and vermillion therein,
We sit back, warm enough for one dark cup of tea.

For awhile; then day overtakes us, ready
In sweater and chore coat to see to hens;
Really, we shuck those soon enough, sweat on our
Ears and eyelids, summer reborn briefly in our knees.
So; until the ground grows cold that will hold our graves.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Nothing can stand still

Nothing can stand still. If it were to do so
absolutely, I could not see it; if I 
were to cease scanning, I could not then see;

therefore change is all. These were my thoughts
as I walked our dog, watching a year run down.
Apples were falling; I chose one to eat.

Hips blushed fiercely; I stuffed my pockets full.
Ash and maple and willow turned and turned.
Restless mice and voles risked their all

for seeds. We reached the river; a trout rose, an
osprey plunged; they met and rose as one.
An osprey will turn a trout head first in flight, 

you know -- for improved aerodynamics. I 
disbelieve it; surely the bird is kind. 
It turns the trout to show it what's to come.




Tuesday, September 22, 2015

She likes red in September

She likes red in September. Viney maple, poison oak;
Her plum trees dress well in it. Where she lives, all
Else goes brown. Except the dog roses 

Leavening hedges with their hips. She stuffs these
In her pockets on every walk, then does research,
Kindling a ken of potions, liqueurs, oils.
Easily, drying comes to mind; to prep for that
She'll split each pod and rake away hard seeds, 

Removing them to her freezer to stratify;
Else they might not emerge come spring. She
Digs out also myriad tiny hairs,

Irritants if retained. It's a slow business,
Not for the impatient, which well describes her;

She knows of this but means to tough it out.
Each hip's a silent mantra: she'll
Push, pull, twist, scrape, sort, and set aside
The emptied husks for drying or infusing.
Eventually the pile is done, just as light fades.
My eyes, she tells herself, are getting on,
But this I can still do. I'll make rose tea;
Evening will fill my cup of mindfulness.
Really, there's nothing more than what there is.





Just enough

The ubiquity of Queen-Anne's lace annoys her;
it's not the plant's not doing its job; her soil
is loosened and enriched; in time of human 

hunger, roots, young leaves and even umbels
would have table use. But there is so much 
of it; her chickens dislike the stuff, especially 

in its second year, allowing their yard and moat 
to fill with cohort-ranks of pungent spikes. 
Her friend keeps bees and tells her they will feed 

on this exclusively, bittering his honey, 
bringing down its price. So he watches; 
when the umbels bloom he moves his hives. 

She'd like to query those who thought of Anne;
these tiny droplets in a sea of lace
Need not have been a queen's: she tells herself

her own blood has fed this thorned and rock-
embedded acre thoroughly. So, queen
of weeds, she! Or queen of just-enough.

It is quiet out there

It is quiet out there now. She
Takes her hat, stick and forage bag,

Into which she slips her pruners, then
Slides her feet into green clogs, feeling

Quite exurban-agrarian, ready to look
Under brush piles and into cottonwoods --
In every place that might consent to harbor
Even a hint of birds' music. They have flown,
The silence tells her; those that haven't died.

Out along the roadside she waves to cars,
Understanding her neighbors have to drive,
Then pockets up her apples, rose hips, leaves

That now are turning away from green: cat's ear,
High mallow, chicory, plantain, sow thistle, her
Ears pricked for passing flights of geese.
Really, thinks she to herself, there ought
Even now to be more birds. There are 

Not so many feral cats round here as that. 
Or could it be the sprays? She supposes
War has been declared. A war on song.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Terrified of them

Terrified of them she was through long
Experience being swarmed with stings,
Running, her hands over eyes and mouth,
Running to the house or jumping in the lake,
In whatever way possible to stop the punishers.
For years, she made herself their nemesis
In revenge, setting nests afire! Or in
Evenings inverting a glass bowl upside
Down over their holes to watch them starve.

Only in recent years, as her ways have slowed,
Finding in books their part in the scheme of

Things as helpers in garden and orchard,
Has she learned to move more gently
Even as they light on her cidery hands,
Milking fingers for juice, never stinging.