Monday, July 27, 2015

Into Great Silence: Richard Wright's Haiku 743

Into Great Silence

There are haiku which depict a scene in a way that open that scene to a luminosity that reverberates in the mind and heart of the reader.  Richard Wright’s haiku 743 has that effect on me:

In the still orchard
A petal falls to the grass;
A bird stops singing.

The haiku is in 5-7-5. Each line is a grammatical unit.  Lines 1 and 2 form a complete sentence.  Line 3 is also a sentence.  The two sentences are linked by the use of a semi-colon which indicates that line 3 is an additional part of lines 1 and 2.  I think you could read line 3 as saying that the petal falls to the grass as a bird stops singing; the two are happening at the same time. 

The setting is an orchard in spring.  The season word is ‘petal’ and with that single word the season is established.  The word ‘grass’ narrows the focus a little; it would seem to be mid-spring or the height of spring.  For this reason I think of apple blossoms rather than plum when in my mind’s eye I depict the scene.

The orchard is still; there is no wind.  Into the stillness there is the smallest movement; a petal falls.  At the same time a bird stops singing, deepening the stillness with silence.

The entire haiku depicts a movement into silence and stillness.  Line 1 gives us an orchard untouched by the wind.  A petal falls, then comes to rest on the grass.  The movement of the petal ends in stillness.  A bird has been singing, but then stops.  The falling petal moves into stillness, merging with the stillness of the orchard.  The bird ceases its singing, moving into silence, merging with the stillness of the orchard.

I often go for a morning walk.  I live in a rural area of Northern California.  My walk is on a rural road which isn’t very wide; if two cars meet one of them has to pull over to the let the other one pass.  For this reason, drivers go slow and there is not much traffic on the road, so I don’t have to worry about speeding cars or crossing traffic. 

I usually walk in the hour before sunrise.  I have, now and then, noticed that just as the sun sends its first rays over the horizon sometimes there is a pause, of maybe 20 seconds, in the world around me.  For example, where I live there is a lot of bird life.  In the morning they are all singing and chattering.  But just at that moment when the sun first appears, sometimes there will be a pause, the birds will fall silent for a bit.  If the sky is cloudy, or the morning is misty, this doesn’t happen.  But on a clear morning I have observed this on a number of occasions.

This haiku reminds me of that experience; when nature moves into a silence and stillness and offers us a vision of that realm.  This vision of that realm of silence and stillness beckons us, and suggests to us, that there is a realm of silence and stillness that can be found within.  This haiku can be read as an allegory for that interior experience of silence and stillness; that realm where thoughts fall and come to rest on the ground of being, where feelings and desires cease their seductive singing, and we experience the inner serenity that can be found within.  This is a haiku about return; returning to the primordial silence and stillness out of which all things emerge.

The realm of nature and the realm of the mind within are porous to each other; they resonate with each other.  I think that is one reason why some haiku can be so moving to us; because they unite these two dimensions of our experience.  It is difficult to articulate the realm of mind because it is so close to us.  Haiku offer us a way of comprehending the interior realm through depicting nature and inviting us to see how nature and mind are part of the same vastness; that there are seasons of nature and that there are seasons of the mind, that there is a stillness found in nature which is the stillness that can be found within, in our own minds and in our hearts.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Sound of a Rhyme

The Sound of a Rhyme

Warm sixth month morning
Winding pathways in the park
Cloudless sky, earth dust

Fluctuating sunlight rays
And the sound of rustling leaves

Whispers that deceive
Journos statements on T.V.
In the afternoon

Standing on a low sand dune
By the Pacific Ocean

The cliff’s corrosion
As the wind dissolves the stone
On a cloudless night

The full moon’s achingly bright
Shadows from an owl in flight

A brief dream-like sight
Above a construction site
Clouds slowly gather

“It doesn’t really matter,
You’ll do what you want to do.”

A stain of mildew
His anger steadily grew,
It almost consumed

But as the warm wind resumes
After months of chilling cold

As the spring foretold
Day by day snow fades away
From the tangled quince

“I don’t need to be convinced.
I know you have your reasons.”

The ice-cold season
Like regrets that won’t depart
From my memory

There is a discovery
Like an ancient hidden scroll

As colored leaves roll
Past the ancient monument
Surrounded by trees

The young newlyweds are pleased
With each other and with time

The sound of a rhyme
From a poem that they have shared
Hovers in the air

Sweet incense, a scent that’s rare,
Beauty that dispels despair

The old couple stops and stares
While cherry blossoms scatter

Monday, July 6, 2015

Monte Rio

Monte Rio

I lived for awhile at Monte Rio,
A tiny town on the Russian River;
A bar, a grocery store, and not much more;
Oh yeah, there was a movie theater,
A small, refurbished comfy Quonset hut
That stood near a quiet intersection.

Time and season are an intersection
Like when the quince bloom at Monte Rio
Beside a falling-down, abandoned hut,
Beside the smooth-flowing Russian River,
Where old growth forest remains a theater
Whose ever-changing scenes always promise more.

I’ve heard several times that less is more –
A deer is crossing the intersection
Which looks like an abandoned theater,
The ghosts of burned out buildings at Monte Rio,
The moonlit flow of the Russian River,
The silent presence of an empty hut.

A crow lands upon the roof of the hut,
The ‘caw’ of the crow, silence, nothing more;
There’s a glass-smooth silence from the river,
An angel crosses the intersection,
No cars on the bridge at Monte Rio,
Closed doors at the Quonset hut theater.

Raccoons dance on the beach, like a theater,
As a possum exits a nearby hut
Bats fly swiftly above Monte Rio
While a feral cat looks for a few more
Scraps at the town’s only intersection
Not far from the moon-filled Russian River.

There are seasonal moods of a river,
Watching them’s like watching a theater,
Or people crossing an intersection,
Or shadows on the wall of an old hut,
Shadows on the wall that won’t last for more
Than a few hours as the sun sets at Monte Rio.

At Monte Rio the Russian River
Flows for eons like an endless theater

Past the hut at the intersection of dream and time.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Ghazal for Our Dreams

A Ghazal for Our Dreams

I visited you in the land of dreams
I learned what is true in the land of dreams

A polluted stream, a nightmare, a fiend,
A distorted view from our waking dreams

On the sidewalk they meet, they kiss and greet,
Love is always new in the land of dreams

Dry leaves are clinging, an old man’s singing,
Our days here are few in the land of dreams

A tree becomes a bird without saying a word
Everything’s renewed in the land of dreams

From a cloudless sky, a message, a sigh,
Karmic debts are due in the land of dreams

A mountain’s life is brief, time is a thief,
Like the summer dew in the land of dreams

My name is Jim, sometimes life is grim,
I bid you adieu from the land of dreams