Laic's poetry thread

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Laic's poetry thread

Post by laic »

Way back I would write poetry, this way before I had any deep interest in the Dharma. In the end I gave it up. I discovered some of the good stuff (or at least, what I considered good) and my own paled into doggerel in comparison. Which is sad in a way as any creative effort has value, no matter how poor at another level.

The only poem "wot I wrote" that gained any recognition at all was called "Before Bacon (An Ode to Despair)" which was read out at a prize giving evening at a local theatre. The irony was that while I saw the poem as light, satirical and comic (though with dark undertones) it was read out rather pompously and as if totally serious. Such is life!

Anyway, here it is. Just to add that it is to do with what has been called the Copernican Revolution and all things associated, the shift of earth and humankind from the centre to the periphery and all its subsequent angst.... and nothing to do with pigs.... :smile:

Oh! I wish I'd been born before Bacon
When the sun still moved in the sky,
When hope was in more than a daydream
And beauty in more than the eye.

When the Great Chain of Being had God at the top
And Old Nic down below in his lair,
When people were burnt for love of their souls
And not just because they were there.

Back in those days before Auschwitz
When there was still trust to betray,
Before Symbol and Myth became Number
And the Cross became DNA.

Oh! I wish I'd been born before Bacon
When Saints trod the Pilgrim's Path,
When people still jumped at a bump in the night
And not at a bump in a graph.

When Crusades were fought for Truths believed
And Faith was the Devils hammer,
Nothingness only the clay God used,
The Absurd a Bishop's stammer!

When Man was seen as something more
Than atoms swirling in air,
Before the face of the Risen Christ
Became the face of despair.

Yes, I wish I'd been born before Bacon
Though there's not much to choose in the end;
But I might have had serfs and a castle
And I might have had Christ as a friend.

If no one is offended, I will occasionally post a few more. Obviously they are not "Buddhist" as such.
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Re: Laic's poetry thread

Post by master of puppets »

my comment
one word is too much if you describe the dharma
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Re: Laic's poetry thread

Post by laic »

master of puppets wrote: Fri Sep 23, 2022 9:30 pm my comment
one word is too much if you describe the dharma
Is this where we ask why Bodhidharma came from the west?

Anyway, a few more ancient poems to follow as and when.

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Re: Laic's poetry thread

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Back in McDonalds now with a cup of their white coffee. Repetition and difference. I've run some of these old poems in various places, all written about 40 or so years ago.

Others might be familiar with the plays of Samuel Beckett. One, "Krapp's Last Tape" involves this guy who every ten years or so records his thoughts, whatever, then after the interval plays the tape back, seeking connections, understanding - who knows what. Often he seems totally unable to do so. Now he prepares to record his final tape. Typical Beckett, a fine man and writer.

Well, back to the poems. We once lived next door to a couple who had a fairly severely handicapped son, Georgie. One day as I left my house a lady was chatting to the mother and the little lad was in his pushchair. As I passed by the lady reached down and tousled his hair and said:- "He's a little angel." I don't know why but I felt anger at her words, as if the little lad was being betrayed in some way.

Anyway, I wrote this....

see no wings on georgie
else he would be bound
set no seal upon him
place no fences round

see him not as what he could be
what he should or what he would be
see him as he is before you
love the living truth, see georgie

hope for guidance, hold no answers
in the mornings when you wake him
as he casts his eyes upon you
your response can make or break him

Since then I've spent a few days now and again at a Playground for Special Needs Children, where my daughter was supervisor. Once I asked her, about a particular child:- "What's wrong with that one" and she just said: - "You don't have to know what's wrong with them, you just treat them for the child that they are."

I mentioned this to her once, saying it was something I had learnt from her. She told me that she had learnt it herself from the previous supervisor, a lady called Di. I had met Di once, and have a memory of her once being struck over the head repeatedly by an irate child. Di just went down slowly under the blows (they were a bit vicious but not life threatening!) and she had a smile on her face. A lovely lady, who died far too soon of cancer.

Well, that is my poem for today.
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Re: Laic's poetry thread

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Time for another poem.

We had relatives down in a small village near the coast. We would walk our then young daughter around a park. Often we would see a mother and her teenage son walking across the grass, I think between the village shop and their home. A bit ungainly, the young lad was a downs child. He was always holding his mum's hand. We mentioned to our relatives once that we had not seen the couple for a while and were told that the mother had died and that the young boy could not really understand. He kept asking where his mum had gone.

Anyway, at the time I wrote this....

he did not understand where his mum had gone
his mind was childlike and fed upon
small things and the living of day to day
more than on what the religions say
that death came through Adam eating the apple
and suchlike - his mind just could not grapple
with justifications for evil and such
he could not be expected to worry much
and never did - just smiled as he walked
beside his mum and talked
to her - because only she could understand
the awkward shaking of his hand
and everything he had to say
and all he needed in each day

O Christ, it hurts to dwell upon
his simple question - where's mum gone?

Once I spent time at a sports club for the physically handicapped and when first there there were three downs youngsters. To begin with you see the obvious similarities of their features but in time they became what they were, unique individuals with their own names. It really is a blessing. The beauty of difference.

I mentioned "Krapp's Last Tape" (maybe Beckett was having a bit of wordplay with 'Krapp' but I'll leave that aside...... :smile: ) and of seeking to find connection with past times, thoughts, memories. The poem above, unlike some others, I can still relate to. Simply seeing another and a reaction. Offering no "answers".

A favourite Buddhist writer of mine, Stephen Batchelor, often comes in for a bit of stick from the more doctrinaire because of his rather agnostic attitude towards such Buddhist teachings as Rebirth, even karma. I tend to agree with him.

He wrote in one book:-

Dharma (Buddhist) practice requires the courage to confront what it means to be human. All the pictures we entertain of heaven and hell or cycles of rebirth serve to replace the unknown with an image of what is already known. To cling to the idea of rebirth can deaden questioning.

Failure to summon forth the courage to risk a nondogmatic and nonevasive stance on such crucial existential matters can also blur our ethical vision. If our actions in the world are to stem from an encounter with what is central in life, they must be unclouded by either dogma or prevarication. Agnosticism is no excuse for indecision. If anything, it is a catalyst for action; for in shifting concern away from a future life back to the present, it demands an ethics of empathy rather than a metaphysics of hope and fear.

I think that sometimes we can throw "answers" at our experiences, and these can tend to cover them with a degree of unreality. Seeing that young lad, with his question, and simply thinking of karma or whatever, can - as Mr Batchelor claims - deaden questioning. Can actually deaden empathy, the sharing of another's suffering. Again, Mr Batchelor's approach, as I see it, has deep affinities with the full significance of the so called "silence of the Buddha" regarding metaphysical questions.

Anyway, enough waffling. My coffee will get cold.
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Re: Laic's poetry thread

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Just back from the Toby Carvery, where a mate of mine and myself had a breakfast. Lovely weather here at the moment.

Here is another poem, written in a deliberately boring monotone (so what's different from the others I hear some say..... :smile: ) About Current Affairs programmes that we can find ourselves listening to, genning ourselves up, the "concerned citizen", then we can pop off to Costa's or McDonalds and forget all about it. Thinking about it, not much has changed over the years.

Those programmes are always the same;
Those Current Affairs programmes are always the same.
The editions that deal with some new war,
Those programmes are always the same.
First the historical background is given;
How historically the conflict arose,
How the crisis began - such information is given.
Then the World Perspective is given;
Everything is put into context.
The conflict is put into focus.
The Superpowers - all are placed in perspective.
The relevant politicians are referred to;
The words and attitudes of the relevant politicians are referred to;
A relevant speech of a relevant politician is referred to.
There is some in-depth analysis.
Then some film is shown of the actual battle area;
The areas actually touched by the conflict are shown.
Where the bombs have fallen - some film is shown.
Then come the women and children screaming.
Then come the women and children screaming.
Then come the women and children screaming.
Then come the women and children screaming.
Then various solutions to the crisis are discussed;
Various proposals for resolving the conflict are discussed.
The various experts discuss the various proposals.
Those programmes are always the same.

I remember once when the famous UK Red Arrows put on a display very close by where we lived. They roared overhead. Even though they were "friendly" the roar shook me and had a frightening aspect. I thought (and think now) the effect such noise has on young children in war zones, knowing that missiles of destruction can wipe away everything in an instance. I think of my own grandchildren. It's enough to make me weep.
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Re: Laic's poetry thread

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Back in McDonalds and having a bad time this morning, waking up with anxiety and now as if a clamp is around my head. Maybe the coffee will help..... :smile:

I remember when I first began digging up these old poems, one in particular from yesteryear seemed to come up out of nowhere and was particularly striking in a very emotional way........this because eventually my own mother declined with dementia, and her last three or so years were particularly stressful in many ways. So my words, written before this happened, made me think of those who may have just passed my own mother by as she must sometimes have stood, bewildered and lost.

And When She Had Gone, Pity Came

She seemed to have no yesterdays
And very little else
As she stood alone in the passing crowds
Staring, talking to herself.

I approached her with a numbing dread.
Would she turn to me and speak
And isolate me from a kinship made
With all others on that street?

But I had no need to worry -
Her mouth gaped and trembled wide;
So I passed her without a sideways glance
And left her far behind.

Yet looked back. She had moved at last
To the pavements edge, still lost -
(I remember thinking how strange it seemed
That she looked before she crossed)

Well, that was my effort, and maybe others would be interested in a poem written by a lady who was caring for her husband who was suffering from dementia. Certainly, at the time, I never shared this ladies equanimity...

Assumptions and expectations

Of what I can and should do

Must be erased from my mind.

An inner voice reminds me,

"Be more sensitive and understanding."

His trousers, T-shirt and long-sleeved flannel shirt

Are placed side by side on top of the bed.

He turns them around and around,

Examining them closely.

Not knowing the difference

Between front and back,

He wears his T-shirt reversed,

And inside out at times.

When buttoning his flannel shirt

The buttons are not in alignment

With the button holes.

While cooking breakfast,

I look towards the hallway.

He has walked out of the bedroom

Through the hallway to the dining room.

He is standing beside the chair

Wearing the shirts and boxer shorts only,

Thinking he is properly dressed

To sit at the table to eat his meal.

He looks like a little boy.

His innocence is so revealing

It warms my heart.

I smile and tell him

What he has forgotten to wear;

He looks at my face and chuckles

As a glimmer of awareness dawns.

Together, we put on his khaki trousers,

Embraced in the centerless circle

Of Boundless Life.

As I posted elsewhere, suggested, the "journey is our home", the road goes on.
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Re: Laic's poetry thread

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As Rambling Syd Rumpo would say, I'm dipping once more into my tucker bag, digging out some old odes. Rambling Syd was played by the late Kenneth Williams, in the radio show "Round the Horne". Rambling Syd was an itinerant folk singer, whose songs were written by Barry Took and Marty Feldman, using Olde English words, which when placed appropriately, would be full of lurid innuendo. Such great old English ballads as "The Song of the Boggle Clencher" (who would "often clench his boggles for less than half a crown" and whose delight was "a shiney night (and a foggy night as well)" . Well, you get the idea. One of his greatest was the "Song of the Somerset Nog" and Syd explained how the nog was "half Suffolk Punch and half dachshund", a strange looking creature he added, "three hands high and eighteen foot long".
"Not much to look at no doubt" Syd would say, "but they do say as how the rhubarb in those parts of the world was something mighty fine."

Anyway, I am digressing, waffling as usual, just thankful it is now monday, not sunday, when I am never at my best.

I find sitting here therapeutic, as I keep saying, and again I think of the Samuel Beckett play, "Krapp's Last Tape" where this guy listens to himself as he spoke years before. The current Krapp has lost all connection. I think maybe this can be liberating. If we recognised ourselves then surely we have been building a "self" and, perhaps much worse, even become pleased with it?

Anyway, I found in my old poems a short verse that was written following the Falklands War. I wrote this after watching the news, another plane landing at the RAF base at Brize Norton with returned servicemen. A tape would be put across to hold back the families, women and children mostly. The soldiers would disembark and at some point the tape would be breached and the little kiddies would run towards their dads. Soon after came another news item, this from Buenos Aires, a funeral cortege for young airmen killed in the conflict. Following the coffins were the mothers, faces torn with grief, wringing their hands.

My poem is inadequate, but thinking back, trying to make some connection for better or for worse, I'm glad I wrote it:-

the faces of grief are on the march
far from where reunions bless
(where sons and daughters are lifted high
by arms returned to tenderness)

Short - there is another verse, but not now.

The Falklands war brought forth another of my poems, for better or worse. My country was awash with the so-called Falklands Spirit. There was to be a Victory Parade. Margaret Thatcher declared that it was not possible to accommodate wheelchairs or the like, either in the parade or in the Church service afterwards. These days such a decision would have, quite rightly, brought outrage. Back then, it was accepted with barely a whimper.

I wrote this, "Falkland's Victory Parade"

Keep well to the back there boys,
There's no votes to be won by you,
It's only the able in body and mind
We want in the public view.

No wheelchairs now, no white sticks;
I'm sorry - they must be banned,
To preserve the new found unity
That's spreading through our land.

We need just the beat of marching feet
That bursts the heart with pride;
Even, perhaps, a prayer or two
For the ones who fought and died.

So please, keep well to the back boys,
Let the healthy take your bow.
We all enjoyed the battle -
Don't go and spoil it now.

Not much more to say, except that I saw a Jonathan Pie video opening a thread in the News Section here on the forum and a discussion of the current state of the UK. I didn't really wish to get involved, the past few years here in the UK has genuinely blighted my mental health, add Covid, lockdowns, and a few other things and sometimes I feel like just pulling a blanket over my head.

At the moment, simply enjoying another coffee in McDonalds.

PS. Just scanned Youtube and found a few of Rambling Syd's old songs. I once had "The Best of Rambling Syd Rumpo" but I found a new one that was not on that album, here it is...

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Re: Laic's poetry thread

Post by laic »

Still looking up some old poems, and there are only so many. As the supermarkets say of their latest "unmissable" offer, "when they're gone, they're gone"!

I was struck once when hearing an office colleague offer some sort of response in a situation. Being instinctively judgemental I saw "fault", a lack of sincerity, a grasping after "received truths" and saw no "heart".


Convention speaks
The heart is dead
Only the remembered said.

The mind revolves
Within its files
Choosing words
And picking smiles
To convey to watching eyes
If the heart laughs or cries.

But it does neither.
It is dead.
Only the remembered said.

Maybe others here are familiar with The Blue Cliff Record, a collection of Koans. I have a book by Thomas Cleary, "Secrets of the Blue Cliff Record" and over the years I've managed to get to Case 64. Sadly, most of it remains secret to me....... :smile:

There is another little book, by Terrence Keenan, which is an updated, "modern" version of the Blue Cliff Record, with an abstract art work alongside each "case". More my style. Pretty cheap as a download on Kindle which makes a pleasant change from a few other zen books I could mention.

In the Introduction is a little verse by Joshu:-

Remake what has gone by and work with what comes. If you don’t remake, you are stuck deeply somewhere.

Which I think now can relate to the words of Yu-men, when asked what were the teachings of a whole lifetime. He answered:- "An appropriate statement".

Anyway, I would recommend Terrence Keenan's little book, available from all good ebook stores..... :smile:

As Keenan writes at the end of his Introduction.....

"May true Dharma continue.
No blame. Be kind. Love everything."
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Re: Laic's poetry thread

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Back in McDonalds, seeking shelter from the storm, the storm of our passing world that often is all too present. Not much feedback here, sorry I just tend to waffle. Way back I passed through Christianity and since I've spent time on various forums that could be called "interfaith". Most are not interested, most seem like the folk who leave the assembly gathered to hear the Buddha preach the "supreme" teaching in the Lotus Sutra, annoyed that their precious beliefs were about to be trashed. For my troubles, some have called me the "antichrist" . The doctrinaire, found in all faiths/religions/ways, never like to be disturbed. Maybe we are all "doctrinaire" in a way before the "unshakeable deliverance of mind" that is the heartwood of the Dharma" (Majjhima Nikaya) "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free" as the Good Book says.... :smile:

Anyway, as I was saying, I had a Christian phase and here are a few poems "wot I wrote" as I passed through. The first is "Palm Sunday", an ambiguous little ode. Make of it what you will.

I was standing on some low ground
Near the road to Bethany
When suddenly the distant sound
Of cheering came to me.

I looked up, saw a distant crowd
Where rocks and roadside met
But what was causing cries so loud
I could not see as yet.

Within my heart a wonder flowed -
A longing to draw near,
Yet as I reached the winding road
I found the way was clear.

The cheering crowds had moved away,
Left nothing to be found.
Just dust upon the beaten clay
And palm leaves scattered round.

I suppose you could say, "all this fuss about nothing", but, hey, that's Buddhism!

The second, experimenting with half rhymes, with a final full rhyme for emphasis, goes like this...

Once shield and witness to a faith
A platitude become
A church in silence offers now
No homage to the Son

So solitary building
Whatever be one's taste
More suggestive of bazaars
Than any saving grace

Impossible to comprehend
That stone of such reserve
Once shook in exaltation
As host to second birth

That offers now but of itself
No kingdoms to endow
No longer with compulsion acts
But as our saviour now

My final ode involves the dubious experience of a Church Service. Now I only enter a church for weddings, funerals and the like. I'm not really one for gatherings of any kind.

Our breath like demons casted out
Our noses pinched by frost and doubt
We faithful wend our Narrow Way
Betwixt the graveyard's clodded clay.
Soon the cold stone church is reached
Wherein the Crucified is preached
Demeanours miserable as sin
With solemn gait we enter in.
Then, sought and found, a frozen pew
We seat ourselves, the Chosen Few
Beneath the stained glass windows glow
Black-bibled all, row on row.
Too soon the vicar comes (with style)
Replete with oily, plastic smile
And all resigned we hear him say:-
"Welcome all, now let us pray"
Heads all bend in pious prayer
The God Man's words fly thick and fair
(Some brethren muse upon Good News
Others contemplate their shoes)
Then heads are raised, the organ booms
Throats are cleared, the first hymn looms
Hymn-book pages softly rustle
Through the flock a gentle bustle
And then all sing of Love Eternal
Voices torn and cracked, infernal
All wondering at God's wondrous ways
That turns such discord into praise.
Watched by the Vicar's gimlet eye
More hymns and prayers pass by and by
Then to his pulpit, proud he goes,
To spout his Sermon's sundry woes.
It's "Woe to this" and "woe to that"
And "woe to those who chit and chat"
It's "woe to those who smile and sing"
Woe to almost everything!
But joy! yes joy! to those who mourn
To those whose yokes are bravely borne.
To everyone now graced by dread:-
"You can all start living once you're dead"
Then down he comes, another hymn
Its words unyielding, stark and grim.
But then at last! an end to woe!
Those Holy Words "You now can go"
We shuffle out into the aisle
Shuffle up it, single file.
Just one thing now to look out for
The silver plate beside the door.
We all approach it in a line
Each fumbling for our smallest coin.
The vicar's eyes speak loud and clear:-
"Please, no Widow's Mites in here"
And so we place a note instead
And passed the vicar proudly tread
And so on through the oak door where
We breathe once more the Lord's fresh air.

Well, that's it for now. This morning we were up early to get the grandchildren off to school. Packed lunches etc, taxi to school as the bus service is trash around here.

PS Just mentioning the grandchildren (girl 8, boy 10) and remembering a little conversation. We asked about a little Ukrainian girl who now attends their school, having been taken in by the UK. We asked if she could speak English and our grandaughter told us "Śhe could only say 'hi' in English, but now she can say lots of things." We were further advised that "all the girls chat to her, but not the boys." So life goes on, "out of darkness light shall shine".
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