STOPPING THE MIND

If stopping were easy,
a thought beam
properly directed
would thread silently
through atom after atom
and bring the entire universe
to a standstill.
An empty mirror
reflected in itself.

If stopping were difficult,
the spider mind would jumble on,
piling thought on thought,
trapped in its own web;
the threads spreading out in all directions,
the atoms like so many jostling beads
dancing and tangling in ever clashing patterns,
keeping the entire universe
in eternally pulsating chaos.
A many-headed monster
glaring at its own reflections.

Not easy.
Not difficult.
A judicious response
to the Problem of Pain.
A letting go
of all phenomena.

Again.

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POEMS

Poems are diamonds,
everywhere
embedded in living rock.

You see them
you dig them out
you polish them.

(Sometimes you don’t see them.)

Polish them too much,
they break into fragments,
blow away,
a handful of dust.

(Each mote of which is a diamond.)

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NOW

Now.
Sit down.
Let go.
Tomorrow’s now will be no more than this
another was.

Nothing is enough
to distract
your present thought.

And your present thought
is only movement between two points,
a wave that leaves the water behind,
plotted by an electrical mind.

So take your nothing.
Now.

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WAITING

Magdalen’s grounds
are full of life,
full of space.

Space, which is mown
and cleared,
tended and enclosed,
its waterways unchoked,
brown and sparkling clear.

It is home to ducks
and coots,
to dragonflies and deer.

Grass and paths and gates
and streams
and yesterday’s undergraduates
are waiting.

Not for the return of the past
nor the coming of an awaited future.

The past once gone
is a steadily fading photograph.
The future, once conceived,
is never as imagined.

No. They wait
for someone
with an empty heart
to play his part
without reluctance
or reserve;
to acknowledge
all this labour
of hand and eye
and the genius of the green and living.

To see
and bless
it all
and say,
“Yes!”

Then it can all begin,
the breathing out of being,
the eternal sigh,
the letting go at last
and surrender
to the sleep
of not being planned,
of not having to remember,
of not having to hold apart
future and past.

Of being at peace again.

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THE SUN SHINES

The sun shines
on the path
silent and still.

Either side
shadows
twist and turn
calling on the mind
to lose itself in a dance
with its own reflections.

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LORD OF THE JUNGLE

In the Jungle of the World
and the tangle of the Senses
we build us huts
of mud and heartache
and make (and mend) our fragile fences.
“This is ME! This is MINE!”
is the burden of our song.

We cannot see, still less define,
that pain and sorrow prove us wrong.
This is NOT mine, this is NOT me,
is the beginning of our Sanity.

Letting go of what does not concern us
leaves that alone which, meddled with,
will burn us.
The Law is mirror-like in its precision
and its simplicity needs no revision;
that Good breeds Good
and Evil has its price;
that Virtue is its own reward.
And so is Vice.

That all things pass away,
from butterflies to stars,
and though the World’s a prison
it’s the Mind that makes the bars.

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UNFINISHED

A face half in shadow
in the gallery;
sudden silence
among the guests,
candlelit at the long table below.

Girls
serving sherbet
in the caravanserai.
Before the whirlwind
in the sandstorm’s eye
tears up the desert.

A severed head
and the black mask of the executioner
on Tower Hill.

Broken masts and torn sails
sliding
beneath the waves
and sailors crying,
“Christ have mercy on me!”
until their lungs fill with sea.

A pewter plate
on a thin chain let down
from a barred window
above the city gate.
Swinging,
to and fro,
like tomorrow’s pendulum.

Imprints
in the mind
from this lifetime or that
or something altogether earlier;
pressing against
the edges of consciousness
like a dream,

that is – but is not what it seems,
seeking its quietus.

Shadows following footprints,
looking to be reunited
with last year’s feet.

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SHELL

The great doors swing
on noiseless hinges
oiled by the tears
of a thousand years,
keeping the outside out.

The doors are the doors
of the heart’s desires,
trying to possess the eternal fires,
trying to keep the sun in.

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NEW RECRUITS REPORT TO THE GUARDROOM

On Tuesday after a silence
of three months,
suddenly,
where the jungle
throws evening shadows over the bougainvilleas,
all the cicadas shouted out at once;
stretching and releasing their tymbals
like the shimmering and vibrating
of a thousand silver cymbals.

No notices were posted on the trees.
No announcements in the press.
No sergeant major shouted, “one, two, THREE!”
No ragged more or less.
Nothing in their diaries told them when to come.

They all march together to a single, silent drum.

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GNOMON

The shadow of the gnomon
slides at a steady rate.
Even if the dial is ancient,
the time itself is up to date.
Though the train sleeps in the station,
the sun just will not wait.

And the ever moving sun
and the clocks that tick and chime
are the chains we use to bind our minds
and imprison them in Time.

Time has no bird, no scythe,
no power over man or Fate.
Having wanted to be early,
we decide that we are late.

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