My thanks to friend and founding editor
Robin White for including Canvases 927 and 928 in her beautiful Fall
2017 issue of Akitsu Quarterly. I’m deeply moved to see them in
print, and am relieved on their behalf that they escaped my
ever-lengthening parade of lonely-blissful misfits. But there is much
more to Robin’s publication than these two drawings. There is such
a lovely spirit in this collection of haiku from around the world —
an insightful hush and calm, if you will, that restores one’s
balance. Precious brevity, where all else seems a landslide of words.
I don’t believe in war. I am grown
up. I am sixty-one years old. I love all the school children. I love
all the young people in love. I love the leaves as they fall. The
buds as they come on. I feel sad when I accidentally cause the death
of a bug. I’m a tree myself. A rock. The moss. I love the streets.
I love the countryside. I love the little broken-down farm houses and
cemeteries. People, walking. Holding hands. Laughing. Crying.
Millions and millions and millions and millions and millions and if
you want me to agree with this or that justification — well, just
forget it, that’s all. Keep your flags. Your pride. Your borders.
Your frightened bully guns. I know what they represent, I knew when I
was fourteen, I know now, and I’ve seen and had and lost enough to
know that love is the real courage, the real bravery, and I’m not
afraid to say it, I’m not afraid to appear weak, I am not ashamed
to admit that I can’t live without the help of others, or to say
that I love all the people of the world, all of our languages, all of
our kinds, all of our colors, and that I am sorry for any animosity I
may have created during my life, known to me or unknown, any
contribution I have made to unhappiness and misunderstanding, or to
publicly recognize that it was due to my ignorance and arrogance even
though I always meant well. But I was scared. And therein lies a
revealing truth: the stronger you wish to appear, the more scared you
are. Of yourself. Of life. Of love. You don’t want simplicity. You
shun the obvious answer. You demand complication. You are afraid to
stand up in front of the world and take my hand, the hand of someone
you have never met, and say, “We will live this way no more.” All
these powerful people, afraid to lose their money, afraid to appear
weak, all they have to do is stand up and hold hands and say, “No
more.” Then they will know what strength is. Then we can feed the
hungry and care for the ill and the old. And they know this deep
down. That is why their faces are disfigured and cold. You’ve seen
it. You know. Have pity for them. Show them how.
By my faulty, limited reckoning, this
poem is about fifteen years old. It is also as old as the hills. Too
old. New? No. Yes. Painfully so. There is something about fall. The
first rain. Bus loads of school children. Waving tired moms. What
does any of it have to do with cabbages? I don’t know. Nothing?
Everything? And in the end, it really isn’t that much of a poem. Or
a poem at all. Except, what isn’t?
And now, a little announcement: As some
of you know, back in 2007, Cosmopsis Books published two books of
poetry bearing my name. In 2011, the same concern released a limited
tenth anniversary print edition of my novel, A Listening Thing. Now, sad to say, they have closed their doors. The three titles are
officially out of print, and the remaining copies are in my
possession. There are 28 each of Winter Poems and Another
Song I Know, and 23 of A Listening Thing. The good news is,
as long as this small supply lasts, I am able to send copies to
anyone who asks. I expect no money for this. So if you would like a
copy of one or the other or all three, you need only drop me a line.
Give them to yourself, give them to a friend, give them to someone in
need. Sell them online, make a fortune, add them to your portfolio,
use them to build the retirement fund of your dreams. Or — read
them. Now there’s a novel idea. The accompanying link will take you
to a page chock-full of information, comments, and links to reviews.
I’ll close with my email address. Feel free to drop me a line. In
the meantime, many, many thanks to those of you who purchased copies
back in the day. Knowing you as I do, I can proudly say it has been
an exchange of friendship and love from the beginning. Thank you. May
it remain so.
During the night, at about one-thirty,
we were awakened by numerous bright flashes of lightning. This was
accompanied by thunder, which sounded like a giant’s footsteps
moving nearer and nearer from the east. Finally, enormous raindrops
began pelting our bathroom skylight. But the rain lasted only a
minute or two, and the night stayed smoky and humid and warm. Then,
about two hours later, after dozing off and on in a state of pleasant
delirium, I heard an owl hooting from one of the fir trees in our
backyard. And I thought — or, rather, I think now — that whether
they realize it or not, those who mock others’ beliefs are secretly
afraid they might be true. Whereas, if we understand that it is
self-defeating to define this life in the narrow terms dictated by
our pain and our fear, and by our limited knowledge or lack thereof,
then the very idea of possessing the truth evaporates in the dark
just like last night’s owl. You know it was there, but you don’t
try to hang onto it. You let it go and greet whatever is next with
solemn joy and a feeling of gratitude that you are here.
Fires, hurricanes, politics — it can
hardly be denied that we are exposed to a daily diet of terrible,
traumatic, and shameful news. But through it all, I have noticed
something very interesting. With each passing day, I find I am making
a greater, more conscious effort to treat everyone I meet with
kindness and love — and not just people, but plants and animals.
Now, I don’t want to belabor this and go off on a philosophical
tear. I only want to note that if this is so with me, then it must
also be so with others, and by the millions. We are of this life. How
else could it be? I suppose this is why I am hopeful in the face of
it all, rather than angry, discouraged, or depressed. As miserable as
things can be, for those of us lucky enough to survive, hard times
are a gift. Hate is an immature, embarrassing option, not worthy of
our better nature. Hateful actions by others are a reminder to get at
the root of the darkness in our own lives, whatever that darkness may
be. Feelings of anger, self-righteousness, and superiority prove only
that there is more work to do. Love, and that work becomes joy.