David Clark was born and raised in San Diego. A life-long resident of the county, he and his wife, Diane, have lived in Vista for the last twenty years. His poetic work reflects his many interests, but is especially informed by his study and practice of Zen Buddhism and key Buddhist texts such as the Avatamsaka and the Lankavatara Sutras. David is an admirer of the concise poetic forms of classical Chinese and Japanese poets. His work has been published in the yearly San Diego Poetry Annuals for 2012, ’14, ’15 and ’16.
Shuso Hossen Poems by Kaishin David Clark
The following are the poems that I read at the Shuso Hossen Program at the Vista Zen Center. I present them here in the order in which they were read. These poems will be included in an upcoming volume of selected poems to be published later this year.
A Fool Once Again
Writing poems again?
Capturing thoughts in words
Is like collecting butterflies
Made of smoke.
I left the many
And I took the one,
Now I dance to the beat
Of my own sweet drum,
And I don’t have a care
For what may come,
While I dance to the rhythm
Of my own sweet drum.
When you add the columns
And you read the sum,
You may gain the many
When you take the one.
And you won’t be ruled
By the things that come,
When you dance to the beat
Of your own sweet drum.
Drop the Blade
Although you cut it
All day long,
It never bleeds.
Dice it a thousand times,
There are no pieces.
Chop at it with all your might,
You will never carry a stick away!
Drop the blade and you
May take the whole thing.
Look now, in the garden!
Tell me what you see.
Is that the Blue Bird of Happiness,
Or just a gray bird of regret?
No matter either way,
In this garden
No bird alights for long…
Gone on the next breeze!
Sit quite still
And you will see,
Freed from the bonds of
Was and will be,
The boundless realm
If you watch attentively,
You’ll see that what is,
Changes every moment,
It’s the curious nature of this
Always morphing into something
Quite the same.
Dharma brothers and sisters
Believe it when you hear,
Once you’ve seen his face,
That damn ox is everywhere!
Poems by Jon Wesick Meditation Instruction
Even if an A-frame of chicken bones
is all that’s left of your last meal
and the executioner will come for you soon,
settle your awareness in the here and now.
Even if the turkey is still raw
ten minutes before the banquet,
Even if you lost the winning lottery ticket
and your future prosperity tumbles with pants in the dryer,
practice the here and now.
Even if your joke about the porn star
brought a grimace to the pastor’s lips,
Even if a fart loud as an air horn
erupted at Toastmasters,
let waves of awareness return you to the here and now.
Even if your neighbor uses your lawn as his dog’s toilet,
Even if that SUV takes two parking spaces,
Even if you obsess over your upcoming scene in Tarantino’s film,
Even if your Nobel Prize acceptance speech is tomorrow,
let your mind be a redwood rooted in the here and now.
Even if a naked Angelina Jolie (or Brad Pitt)
calls you from the bedroom,
Even if a new Lamborghini gleams in the driveway
and the keys are in your pocket,
let your mind be an immovable mountain in the here and now.
Even if you fantasize this immovable mind
will make you an action hero,
Even though this poem is only a metaphor
and such a mind is impossible,
Even though Einstein proved that now does not exist,
your here and now are enough.
Ode to Sesshin Participants
Scientists of consciousness
holders of postgraduate degrees in awareness.
The meditation hall is your laboratory.
Knees and backs aching, feet numb as clubs
you gather wearing sweatpants and rakusu
to hear the endless repetition of a Boz Scaggs song
in your thoughts while certain that damn jikido
should have rung the bell ten minutes ago.
Yesterdays’ breakfast clogs your bowels and you would kill
for a half hour without someone knocking on the bathroom door.
You hope to finally get six hour’s sleep. And although discovering
buckwheat zafu make great pillows, you toss and turn all night,
wake at 5 AM, and do it all over again – sit, walk, chant,
move zabutons, obsess about when to brush your teeth,
and unfold oryoki napkins made into red warning flags
by first-day tomato sauce. Despite wanting to punch
that guy blocking the coffee pot, you make gassho
and bow anyway.
Worst day of your lives, You don’t belong here,
don’t belong anywhere so you pack your bags
and are out the door when you decide to give it one more day.
Sometime before breakfast a geyser of joy erupts inside.
Smells of delight waft from the kitchen,
One with fruit trees and rocks you sit in the garden at ease,
convinced you are the Buddha’s children.
Somewhere past joy your inner narrators finally shut up
leaving your minds still ponds. You who couldn’t wait to leave
now find kindness in the rules and schedule.
And when you return to the world outside
you find it noisy, strange, and cruel
DILETTANTE ZEN POEM
The real Zen students were sitting in full lotus before dawn
wearing their black robes and rakusu1.
I stayed up too late watching TV.
Real Zen students don’t have TV’s.
Eventually I wake up,
light a candle on the altar,
and kneel on my meditation bench.
A gasoline powered edger begins its serenade,
and a lawnmower joins in the chorus.
By now the real Zen students are constructing monastery buildings,
working with the dying, or reaching out to the homeless.
I drive to my wrong livelihood job,
where I’m harassed by my wrong livelihood boss.
Real Zen students call this “good training.”
I call it a pain in the ass.
Real Zen students vow to return to this world of patience
for countless lifetimes to save all beings.
I wonder how I’ll get through another day.
I’ve given up trying to be a real Zen student.
I think I’ll become a dilettante instead.
If you’d like to be one too,
we meet at 7:00 most nights in the meditation hall.
If you don’t fit in at the in-crowd’s circus
and find no shelter on concrete streets of commerce,
If patrolmen of conformity roust you from your bed
of newspaper and all the bathroom doors are locked,
If faces leer from under hellish neon lights
as your nostrils sting and swell from diesel fumes,
If the masses shove you aside to snatch at shiny nickels
and hustlers’ lies drown out all thought, then let these words
be your battered spirit’s refuge: Come inside
and peel off that filthy uniform. It never fit. After a shower
you’ll find the courtyard’s a good place for reflection.
It contains an odd garden, mostly agave and cactus,
but you can pick guavas and custard apples from the trees.
The legs on the wooden bench by the well are uneven,
so try not to tumble when watching hummingbirds
probe California fuchsias with needlelike beaks. Stay
as long as you like. There’s no place else you need to be.
This poem appeared in SpeedPoets Zine, Vol. 10.8 in November 2011.