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Exquisite Corpse - A Journal of Letters and Life

More Zazen Poems
by Richard Collins ||
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Bodhidharma's Eyelids II


Those kisses,
sweet as they were,
just a dip in the shallow end of the pool,
where no one dives headlong
with impunity.

               17 Aug 01

So many things left undone
all those onanistic poems
left to sprout on a bald boulder in the sun.

               18 Aug 01

Not all of these eyelids are fully open,
some wink, some blink, and some are still attached.
Some have already fallen, taken root
and brewed tea for sages, ages ago,
opening the eyes of both fish and fool.

               20-22 Aug 01

There is no doubt at zero.
There is no faith anywhere.
No fish, no fool, no rice, no bowl,
There is no doubt at zero.
               23 Aug 01

Gather clouds in your empty sleeves
Fill your fists with wisps of smoke
tufts of air, evaporating sweat,
not nothingness - less!
This cushion is the cloud where you must sit,
solid as stone, lighter than your thoughts,
you dilettante!

25 Aug 01



Am I becoming forgetful or mindful?
I can hardly remember the person
I was before I sat down.

               Sept 01

Sesshin is over!
The world is bright bright bright!
Aka aka aka ya!
A brand new bodhisattva looks out of these eyes
A brand new baby is naked in my parking space
A brand new baby is bouncing on the earth
his dharma name swinging like a club between his ears
da dum da dum da dum da dum
and coming to rest, erect as an antenna, sturdy as a buddha pine.
Does anybody see this secret sap?

               30 Sept 01


Here and now here and now
At what price would I lose all
my memories and ambitions

to exist here and now?

My memories at almost fifty are more
     here and now than my teeth hair
     a cough a sneeze a scowl
My memories are more now, now,
     than they were then, when they
     were neither there nor particularly then, then
My memories remind me that it's me who's brand new now
     and not the teenager I remember as being
creative and energetic, it's he who's stale, an old dog
     -matic know-it-all smart-aleck didactic ass.
If I met him now I'd kick his ass.
He knew nothing, not a thing, even less than I, I,
     whose total knowledge has less substance
beauty sublimity or subtlety than a fart on the wind
So much for memory - as for ambition, ah,
     that's been gone a long time, so long
     the air has had time to clear so that all around me
     it's pure and endless uncorrupted by any expectation
     of good news or a check in the mail.

                         15 Oct 01

On Bowing

After a poem by Dogen comparing
bowing to a crane folding up into
itself, or hiding within its own form.

The map of my life
my body folds
up into itself.
Creases never the same way twice
disintegrates at the edges
takes me still where I want to go.

I look forward to throwing this old map away though
which used will never be suitable
for framing.
The well-thumbed landscape of the mind alone
is worth keeping.

I've traveled too far with this map in my hip
pocket absorbing the sweat of my ass.
I look forward to throwing it away when I know
where I've been by heart and no
longer care where I'm going.

               16 Oct 01

Doubt, the great wall, faces me down.
What am I doing here, getting up
in the middle of the night to come here and sit down?

Oct 01

Riding along the levee before dawn
between the Mississippi and the city
I cause rats to dash across my path.
They've been night-foraging in the garbage.
Swift pointed stealthy, they torpedo to water's edge on sharp feet.

Each morning I'm suckered into thinking
the old man and the boy on the bench
have shared my moment of joy! How lucky
to see a rat before dawn! What a privilege
to spot the wildlife of my city in its element!
Then I realize: the old man and the boy and the bench are one.
Rat river city levee stealthy sucker me.

19 Oct 01

What do I live for?
The glimpse of geisha breast
and a barroom cello.

               21 Oct 01


It's that old jazz sangha early-morning quartet:
Jason on the gong
Mario on the fishhead drum
Christine on inkin
and Robert on the nothing-to-fear.
It all sounds even more beautiful
knowing there is no ear.

               2 Nov 01


Only at dawn when the sky over Algiers Point is pink
does the Mississippi seem to be a deep channel of indigo ink.
The sun's calligraphy is silver over this, and quick.
My pen is clogged and, like my tongue, thick.

               19 Dec 01


The best sleep is the best romance
when body and mind
sleep together.

20 Jan 02


A year. A year of sitting.
A year of sitting. A year.
From Marigny to old Algiers.
Zazen is not the practice.
Zazen is the center of the practice,
the still point in the midst.
Zazen is not the point.
Zazen is the circumference of the practice,
all encompassing.
Zazen is the compass.
Don't be deluded into thinking
that zazen is itself.
Zazen is everything but itself,
just as you are everything but
yourself. When you practice zazen
you are zazen so that you can be
yourself. Yourself is not
the point.

               31 Jan 02

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