no poems, no books, no bells
could steer failure away
failing to master my shortcomings
I harvested the sour grains of my mistakes
Stoics and Epicureans from the West
Taoists and Confucians from the East
wise minds from every time and sort
all have me in deep contempt
back in my garden I now in earnest work
to allow that gentle sunshine return
to learn back what I mindlessly forgot
hoping that once again, as a student of life,
I will stand up straight and walk
among the profusion of stars
there are a precious few
that without pretense or delight
guide my way through the night
the humble mission to care
the noble task to provide
the lofty goal of an understanding mind
while holding them close to my heart
I no longer fear the dark
sailing away with renewed strength
amidst long sought inner peace and calm
bring short summer nights
very early at dawn
pouring rain wakes me up
drops splashing sharp
crisp voices all around
reminding me at once
never to let pass
this clean slate
this new chance
to grow out of failures
and embrace the joy
the fortune of being alive
brought me long ago
to these poorly known
deep innermost shores.
Keen on the harvest of the spirit
but weary of ritual and dogma,
I was neither leader nor follower
and so these lands alone I entered.
In becoming faithful to myself,
self-reliant and authentic,
I stayed close to the essential and simple
and away from extremes and excess.
Along rough paths I progressed,
felt terror alongside crags,
suffered thirst on dry hot plains
and in pestilent mires delayed.
I settled at last in a simple hut,
plucked weeds and cleaned around,
planting with great care some good seeds
brought from the ancient West and East.
Under a gentle Sun steadily I worked,
in earnest this inner garden tended,
taking at last of myself possession
and becoming one with Nature.
In arriving back to these shores,
I finally feel a calm strength,
hard-won and deeply felt,
crucial to set course and sail,
out in the unknown again.
days and nights
self and community
hermitage and service
voices, smiles and frowns
silence and solitude
ten thousand early mornings
ten thousand late afternoons
a million thoughts
this winding path
wherever it leads
the mere fact of remembrance
the austere peace of understanding
what we learned
what we left
what we meant
not passing clouds
but gentle suns shining upon each other
I was young and naive
and among kindred souls
in a harbor for curiosity,
in a comradeship in inquiry
hoped to be.
I worked hard and somehow shone,
but failed to please and bow.
Loads of darkness and philistinism,
pettiness and nepotism,
I came to see.
My heart-mind understood
that something wasn’t right,
I had grown a stranger,
and no longer felt part.
And so I left.
I did not slam the door,
as Nietzsche did.
but just as T’ao Yuan-Ming,
calm and resolute,
walked out of that inn.
I now stand alone out in the unknown,
and the wisdom of ancient sages implore:
admired spirits! help me inside grow
a garden of serenity, understanding and joy
upon which the Sun will always gently glow.
(on recently leaving my last academic post)
Perched in silence,
we listened to the whisper
of these unnamed mountains.
Altars of solitude,
hidden treasure of the south,
an austere paradise
only known to condors
and pagan gods.