A great Zen master, Suzuki Roshi, was dying too young
not far from this city.
His students asked him: don’t you regret not living long?
He said: “One hundred years of life is good.
One day of life is good.”
So the basic issue is not Time (capital T)
that we celebrate but the man Carl Rakosi
and his inseparable ka,
the poet. A hundred poems are good —
one poem is good, if it falls out that way.
In his case it didn’t, luckily,
(though luck is the wrong word.) This ka,
antique Egypt’s immortal self, has its pyramids,
its lasting stones
stacked oddly, for he’s poked a hole
in the solid edifice of art, having
knocked it off of its capital A.
To wit, witty: master of the short form,
he writes “Epitaph on the Short Form:”
Here lies the Augustan temper,
a great lord
side by side
with the lark.
Pounds of cantos were unable
to quicken them
To wit: ironic. The short form
is very much alive. Besides, how short is short?
We were talking about the good,
which is neither short nor long, neither
an aphorism nor — God help us —
a theory. A sparrow is singing in the garden
and thus spins out meditations or
a Satyricon. Ancient marble dust
shakes out onto the modern threshold
to say after all There was a man
in the land of Ur, Abraham
our father. Shema Ysrael — And the rabbi prays
a modest prayer
for the responsibilities of his office
Such responsibilities for le mot juste,
la branche juste, the half-serious loop
between referent and idea?
inward is outward in ongoing curiosity:
What can be compared
in which leaves darken
like Rousseau’s jungle:
the tiger head
Will poke through
A white tiger’s head not quite
metaphysical, for there
is the eye, memory, thousands
of written words in thirty-six thousand
five hundred twenty-seven days,
counting leap year’s extras,
taking responsibility for the Word.
How can there be
closure here? Now that I am old,
must I give up
and fish for poignancy
in a safe persona?
Is there no wisdom,
only common sense?
So what’s wrong with common sense?
Or the commonplace?
Suzuki roshi said to meditators
on their cushions: look
at the frog. He sits
just as we do. Carl Rakosi says:
There goes Bash
balls and all,
into the pond again.
like an old frog.
Must be Spring,
and I’m in a small
mode of music
through a phonograph
Solid briar root,
as a mystique
passing on a stylus
from the earth
Must be spring this November. Something
splashes, frog or tiger?
Crackle of light —
Happy birthday, Orpheus —