Zen: The Rocks of Sesshu (1969)
What do they think of
Where they lean
Like ponderous heads, the rocks?—
In prankish spring, ducks
And there, brushing tails,
Like silly thoughts shared,
Passed from head
To head? When, gong quavering
About a ripened sky, we
Up and go,
Do they waken from a dream of flesh?
In the Three Whites of
Fuji, the snow, the crane—
What startles is the black: in
Of the mountain, the branch-tips
Piercing the snow, the quills of
Here, in stainless air, the
Blazes like a crow.
Distance between the rocks,
Half the day
In shadow, is the distance
Between the man who thinks
And the man
Who thinks he thinks: wait.
Like a brain, the garden,
It is thought. Otherwise
A stony jumble, merely that
Laid down there
To stud our emptiness.
Who calls her butterfly
Pardon the snake its fangs:
In the snowy garden
Where she flits
Are sides so sharp, merely
To look gives pain. Only
Kodak aimed and ready for
The blast, ship pointing for the
Dare raise that parasol.
To rid the grass of weed, to get
The whole root,
Thick, tangled, takes a strong mind
And desire—to make clean, make pure.
The weed tough
As the rock it leaps against,
Unless plucked to the last
Will plunge up through dark again.
The weed also has the desire
To make clean,
Make pure, there against the rock.
It is joy lifts those pigeons to
Stitch the clouds
With circling, light flashing from underwings.
Scorning our crumbs, tossed carefully
Of the garden, beyond the rocks.
They rose as if summoned from
Groveling our love subjects them to.
Clear the mind! Empty it of all that
Makes every act a pecking at the crumb.
Firmness is all: the mountain beyond the
Watch how against its tawny slope
The candled boughs expire. Follow
The slope where
Spearheads shake against the clouds
And dizzy the pigeons circling on the wind.
Where no bigger than a cragstone
The climber pulls himself aloft
As by the
Very guts: firmness is all.
Pierced through by birdsong, stone by stone
Gathered light. Darkness, hauled by ropes
Of sun, entered roof and bough. Raised from
Floor where, stiff since cockcrow,
Blown round like Buddha on the lotus
To write. How against that shimmering,
On paper frail as dawn, make poems?
He waited for the rocks to split.
‘Zen: The Rocks of Sesshu’
first appeared in The
Pit and Other Poems and is © Ohio University Press / Swallow
Press. It appears here with the kind permission of Ohio University Press
/ Swallow Press.
For a note about Lucien Stryk and his titles in print see
Hearn in Matsue.