Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

beginner’s noösphere (and poetry) ~

I fall in love with words. And I’m pretty promiscuous about it — no single one holds my interest exclusively. I’m kind of a polygamous word lover, I guess. Much of my writing evolves out of word love affairs.

One that I love is noösphere. I love the idea of human knowledge changing the world — it’s pretty Buddhist, if you think about it. That what we know impacts the world around us, changes even the way things happen, how they evolve. Another reason for right action. :)

So today’s poem is an ode to a word, in its own odd way. I’m always hesitant to say what a poem is, because nothing is that simple. Like knowledge. Like Buddhism…

Noösphere ~

There is so little that I know for sure

The drawers in my head spill

Steampunk trivia, the welded artifacts

Of brassy surety and broken glass

Shards and diamante crystals

Of significance.

 

I could dress a storefront window

With the Thai silk I wore to a ball

My mother’s sequined shell, the scarlet

Feathers of a fan I never bought. No

Rhyme or reason, only the seasons

Of a curiousity.

 

If there is a boundary, a membrane

That surrounds the pulsing ectoplasm

Of the human heart, I have lived for years

On the other side of darkness. Sifting

With my greedy fingers through what

We cannot know or learn.

 

Loose pearls hide in the dark corners

Of a rosewood chest, remind me of daily pain

Someone told me would become

My strength. While the winter’s geese cut

The blue Oklahoma sky with their wings

nightmares, poetry, & beginner’s heart ~

I’m trying to see learning these days. Which means I’m looking for it in unlikely places. Like nightmares.

I’ve always been prone to nightmares. Today’s poem for National Poetry Writing Month is about that, a particular ongoing nightmare that reappears in my life sporadically. I have what are called ‘night terrors,’ although less frequently than when I was a child. I was an adult before I learned the name for them, or that others suffered them as well. It was a huge relief: I wasn’t crazy! Well, perhaps I am :). But not because of night terrors…

When they return, which they do now & then, I’m once again a child. And once again anything — particularly anything bad — is possible. Only now? I realise that ‘anything bad’ has a flip side: anything I can imagine. And that means I can shape dreams, if not night terrors. And believe me: my imagination is pretty active  ~

Here’s poem #2 for National Poetry Writing Month:

tell me anything you believe that isn’t a lie ~

I dreamed that I was all alone

still a young child

no one could hear me

no one would listen

it would come that no one

saw me – I was not really there

I wandered       like a ghost

 

I would try to fly

leave behind me   beneath me

the terror catching at my feet

the clutch of hands

the hungry hungry hands

 

but my wings would not carry

the weight of me

I was straining   struggling

fighting to fly

trying to climb a thermal

like a bird of prey

and all the time prey

silent

falling out of the sky

 

Buddhism for poets (and vice-versa…) ~

I’ve written about becoming a Buddhist elsewhere, but as with most of our memories, I may have that wrong. I may have been born w/ Buddhist longings, but I also may have found my Buddhist mind through poetry.

Poetry is air and water, food and sleep to me. It has saved my life, paid karmic debts, shown me truths, and generally just made me happy. My vanity plate for my little blue car says POETIC. Get it? :)

So poetry is a big deal to me. It always has been. I wrote poems very young — I remember rhyming when I began to learn French, 8 years old. So apparently I already knew how, then. (Note to self: you never found anything to rhyme w/fenêtre) I made tiny books, wrote poems in them, and ‘published’ by giving them to family ~ my grandmother, my mother, the great-aunt who lived around the corner from my other grandmother. Of course I received rave reviews…:)

Very quickly I began to play with language. Young poets love language: they swim in it as if was a warm blue-green ocean. I wanted alliteration, assonance, consonance. There was rhythm and metre and form.

But eventually, I wanted precision. I wanted to do with words what a composer or a violinist can do with sound: make a music that produced vivid feelings and pictures. Buddhist poetry, grounded in the warp & woof of everyday life, does that.

I came to Buddhist poetry slant, as Emily would say. My ‘project’ was simply to try to learn how the old poets — and the contemporary ones who continue to invoke them — made the everyday numinous. How they managed that in the poetic equivalent of spandex: haiku, tanka, renga. The stark simplicity of image, and the interior blossoming of that minimalist language….wow. How do they do that?

What happened is what often happens with Buddhism — it snuck up on me. I began to read more & more Buddhist poets (and find that many poets I already loved were Buddhist, and/or deeply influenced by Buddhism): Charles Johnson, William Carlos Williams, Jane Hirshfield, Ferlinghetti, Gary Snyder, W.S. Merwin, Chase Twichell. It’s a long & illustrious list.

I ended up doing my doctoral dissertation — a collection of poetry and a lengthy critical introduction that talked about poetics, and my own work — on the ways in which the poetic breath is like the Buddhist contemplation of breath. It was one of the most difficult — and life-altering — pieces of work I’ve done to date.

So it’s fitting that this month — National Poetry Month and National Poetry Writing Month — I begin the month my usual way: with an original poem (still in draft form!). And one that owes its form and inspiration to so many  Buddhist poets I have loved and admired.

I’ll be publishing an original poem daily during April — or at least trying to publish. I’ll certainly be writing a poem a day :). Enjoy!

 

if there were daymoths,

they would nest in dogwood trees

pretending to be blossoms

flickering like light

white winged dogwood flowers

poised for flight


tea, best friends, and beginner’s heart ~

A couple of times a year, I get to see my best friend. She lives in Oregon, I’m in Oklahoma. It’s a long time between visits. But each time we get together, it’s kind of a refresher course in Buddhism (really — bear with me here).

What’s important in our lives? Is it what we do at work? Sometimes — certainly teaching is important in mine. And Buddhism tells us that right livelihood is part of the Eightfold Path. So it’s important enough to merit specific mention.

But in my life, my work is no longer what defines me. Remember me? I’m separating amicably :). Increasingly, what’s important to me is the moment — whatever that may hold. I’m trying to build a more mindful presence

When I visit my best friend, we sit. Like good Buddhists do :) We sit in front of her living room window, looking out over the valley. We practice tonglen both together and apart, breathing for each other’s dark places.

And we have tea ~ sharing the bliss of absolutely-in-the-moment mindfulness. Choosing that day’s tea, watching as it steeps I don’t change much, choosing Keemun. She tries something new every time, today something with fruit. There is the ritual so many women (and men) have found comfort in these many many years: scones and layered sandwiches and a tiny shepherd’s pie. Then tarts and lemon curd and the privileged decadence of decadence of macarons. But it only works if you’re mindful — if you allow the dy’s disappointments, the week’s fatigue, to ride the tea’s steam elsewhere. If you take residence in this moment, pouring amber tea into flowered cups, biting through the sugar crystals on the crust of a scone. Laughing at your best friend (who might be your own sweet self…).

There is history in each of the tiers of plates. As there is history in the contemplation of tea, in the raking of white sand, in the several ways we marry life and practice. It’s what I remember when I swim in the immediacy of being with those I love. What I take with me instead of goodbye. It’s a good lesson — each time I re-learn it — for this beginner’s heart.

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