HOPE AND DESPAIR

In the Present
everything gets done
here.

From the window of the mind,
the Future is there
where the consequences wait.

The mind invents this Future
in order to see consequences
there, not here,
and move towards them.

If these consequences
are seen as essential
and realisable,
the mind is Hope.

If they are seen as essential
but unrealisable,
the mind is Despair.

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MEO

He has dirty feet;
“Washing is dangerous
wash much, sicken and die.”
He wears a short black jacket
and floppy black trousers.
A large silver lock hangs round his neck.
She has a blue jacket
and a tightly pleated kilt
of hemp and cotton
with heavily embroidered
and weighted black sashes.
They stand quite still,
look without curiosity
but with open smiles.

Every three or four years their village
moves to a new part of the jungle
and burns the trees and undergrowth.
In the mixture of ash and soil
they grow maize and opium.
They are always on the move.
A hundred years ago they were
driven out of Burma and Yunnan.
They have been driven out of the valleys.
As Hill tribes they are objects of curiosity.
Formerly, the British Government in Burma,
the French in Laos,
the Siamese and Chinese
all bought their opium.
Now their former customers
tell them opium is bad,
they must grow tea or coffee.
They still grow opium
and the Thai police sent to stop them
tax them instead.
Sometimes they pay the tax in opium.
To them it is all the same;
being moved on,
selling their crops,
bribes and taxes
and being poor.

They want to live, they have to pay.
They are objects of curiosity to tourists
and cash crops for missionaries.

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ST JUSTIN

My Lord Archbishop’s
grandfather was a German Jewish immigrant,
among those who have suffered
the sufferings
of his forefathers.

My Lord Archbishop was educated at Eton
among those who have inherited
the inheritances
of their forefathers.

These included a Prime Minister who submitted
My Lord Archbishop’s nomination
to the Queen.

What was the job description
for My Lord Archbishop’s exalted office?

If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor,
and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

My Lord Archbishop
studied Law at Cambridge University.

(This is the law of mankind:
Statutory law,
millions of pages,
millions of words
and punishments
imposed
by men on men
as part of the struggle
of man against man
for freedom, power and possessions.

Divine law is different:
“The Lord is One;
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God
with all thy heart,
with all thy soul,
with all thy mind,
and love thy neighbour as thyself.”

You don’t need a BA in Law,
from Cambridge University
to learn twenty-nine words.)

While waiting for Jesus to call,
My Lord Archbishop
worked in the Oil Industry.

My Lord Archbishop
has not risen like a lotus from the mud,
to open the door to the Kingdom of Heaven
but like a financial executive from
the industry which causes
oil to rise from the mud.

Nor does he heal the sick by passing
on the Holy Spirit with his hands…

“The other day
I was praying over something
as I was running
and I ended up saying
to God:
‘Look this is all very well
but isn’t it about time
you did something
– if you’re there.’ ”

As a member of the House of Lords,
My Lord Archbishop sits
on the panel
of the Parliamentary Commission
on Banking Standards.

(poem from GNOMONIC VERSES)

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WHAT IS WHAT?

A boat
afloat
on the stream
of time.

On either bank
the dream;
a banquet for the senses.
A blaze
of colour and livingness
of music and messages
to tempt and amaze;
enticements and instant memories;
the enchanting voice
of the serpent.

Afloat
on the stream
from nowhere
to nothing.

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JUPITER SPINS

Jupiter spins, they say, three times as fast
as earth and thus enjoys a shorter day.
They say the sun will grow and then, at last,
burn up the planets which lie in its way.

They say, the universe is growing
or perhaps has grown
and having reached its fullness,
is on its way to ultimate collapse
into black holes of cosmic nothingness.

They say – and build new telescopes and peer
further and further into outer spaces
and dare not turn and look at what is here
brighter than the sun and clear before their faces.

And yet, when all is done,
not there one dies
but deep, inside, right here,
behind one’s eyes.

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MIDSUMMER DREAM

I dreamed of Paradise Garden;
sunlight sliding down
from an infinite sky
through cedar trees to emerald lawns;
oriental poppies six feet high,
Indian butterflies gliding by
through multilayered shades of blue.
Olympian Apollo’s statue
holds a fountain in his hands,
which swirls and mists, sparkles and cools,
cascading down to deep green pools,
where red carp flash on silver sands.

Gazing round I find,
beyond the mirror of my mind,
past flowering trees and shrubberies,
how all around
this fertile ground
the garden is confined
within a fence of iron bars,
which stretches high
to arch across and make a canopy
between me and the sky.
The falcons, hawks and eagles
which circle round are kept at bay
and cannot swoop to seize as prey
the song birds that sing here all day.

Beyond the bars, a crawling multitude
swarms to and fro insatiably
but cannot find its way
into my garden solitude.

Heavens! I thought, the truth is clear to me!
That restless swarming world
is a prison shut in by iron bars.
Only I, in my garden, am completely free!

(from BAMBOO LEAVES – Poetry in Thailand)

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ECONOMIC CRISIS

BE SMILE DENTIST advertises down on
Soi Anuman Rajadhon.
Next door Anglo East Surety Broker
insures diamonds and gemstones.
Having struggled with the world’s economic crisis,
faced with a shortage of government bailout schemes,
Anglo East has decided on a fundamental solution
and invited ninety-nine monks to come and chant
in this microcosm of pollution.

Here the open sewers allow scavenging rats
to escape the tooth and claw of ravening cats.
The one way street is choked
by two way traffic.
Pavements are blocked
by plastic chairs and tables,
charcoal stoves and washing bowls.
Food-sellers tap into the water mains
and empty refuse and dirty water down the drains,
adding to their universal smell
charcoal smoke, grilled fish, pork and chicken.
It is a jostling compost heap of life
serving everything from bankers to bacteria.

Last night the residents closed the street
and washed and scrubbed it.
In the early morning barriers were erected.
At one end an awning protected
ninety-nine white chairs.
At the other end, another awning covered
tables dressed with white and saffron
along three sides of a square.

Over five hundred people converged
and piled the tables high with offerings;
cooked and uncooked food, new robes,
bananas, sugar, coffee, cakes, tea,
tinned milk, incense, soap and pastry.

Ninety-nine monks filed in
and filled the chairs
with an early morning blaze
of brown and saffron robes.
The faithful knelt or squatted
on pavement and road
to receive the precepts of morality
and listen to the chanting.

By the power of the Buddha
may you all be happy.
By the power of the Dhamma
may you all be happy.
By the power of the Sangha
may you all be happy…….

The monks then filed towards the tables
and made a circuit
around the inside of the square,
while lay people filled their begging bowls
from the other side.
As fast as they were filled,
attendants emptied them
into the large black plastic bags waiting there.
Round and round they went
until at last the tables were completely bare.

The monks returned to their temples.
The people returned the street to the municipality,
rats, cats, bankers and bacteria.
The awnings, chairs and tables
went back to the hiring company.

The monks had received donations.
The people had made merit.
The owners of Anglo East Surety Brokers
had made ninety-nine merit.
The demons of economic crisis
had been exorcised.

(from BAMBOO LEAVES – poetry in Thailand)

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NORMAL

Pain is in proportion to livingness.
The more alive you are,
the more it hurts
to live.
This is normal.

The young hurt most
but mend quickest.
New flesh heals
where old flesh withers.
Young mind feels
pain piercing and deep;
often so deep that of itself it heals;
a child that cries itself to sleep,
cries and forgets in eternal singing.
This too is normal.

Until clinging
enters the heart,
laying up the treasure
of its tears
to be disinterred in later years,
repented at unwanted leisure.
And this is normal.

The prophet said:
“I will give you life more abundant.”
His shadow added:
“And more abundant pain to go with it.”
Quite normal.

Amidst so much normality
the pain is what shines through,
making a mere formality
of what you think you want to do.

Grasping out and feeling pain.grasping

Letting go and letting heal again.
See where the yellow banner is unfurled:
“All is for the Norm
in this most normal of all possible worlds.”

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THE CIRCLE LINE

Round and round the Circle Line
in endless pursuit of me and mine.

Familiar scenes go hurtling past,
each new vision much like the last;
grief and suffering, hate and pain
coming round and round again.

Where are the stops where the doors slide back
and offer a respite from a circular track?

Would I exit if I could?
Is there any choice but “should”?
When the stations slide into view,
is there a way out for me? And you?

The train slows down and signs appear,
once more decision time is near.

Unlock the escape hatch from this prison?

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DYING RACES OF MANKIND

When the rich see the very poor
they know it is time
to buy their valuables.
Cheaply.

This ancient people
were driven out of Tibet
by the Tibetans,
out of China by the Chinese
and out of Burma
by the Burmese.

Ah Kah people are very poor
and cannot offer much resistance
to economic assistance.
They make exquisite silver jewellery
and headdresses.
Treasure hunters
have been buying them.
Cheaply.

Ah Kah people have bright shining souls.
Christian missionaries
have been buying them.
Cheaply.

Although the missionaries,
have been taught
that moth and rust doth corrupt
and thieves break in and steal,
they courageously bite the moral bullet
and seek treasures on earth as well.

Ah Kah are animists
and see all around them spirits
and the ghosts of their ancestors.
Their villages are small,
their houses bamboo
and on stilts.
They are accustomed
to having to abandon them
and move on.

Outside each village
is a ceremonial swing
on three poles.
Smaller than the Giant Brahmin Swing,
it serves the same purpose;
to gently dislodge the jiva
from the physical manipura
and reawaken the old self-knowledge.

The Headman reawakens
the old tribal-knowledge.
He can recite the names of the ancestors
back to the Beginning.

Carefully carrying
this self-knowledge
and this tribal-knowledge,
carefully preserving
this family identity,
they have wandered on
like Bronze Age tribes.

Like the Israelites,
who recited their ancestral names
in the Generation of Adam;
And Adam begat Seth
and Seth begat Enos
and Enos begat Cainan
and Cainan begat Mahalaleel
and Cainan lived eight hundred and forty years
after he begat Mahalaleel…

Like the Ashokhs in Transcaucasia,
reciting the story of Gilgamesh.

All these are Inheritors.

The missionaries are bookworms
and teach the Ah Kah
not to believe in spirits
but to become Christians
and go to heaven after they are dead
(which the missionaries
do not seriously believe in
and to which they are unlikely
to be going after they are dead).
The missionaries have already bought
twenty five percent of the Ah Kah souls
in these rolling green hills.
The Spiritual Inheritance of Ah Kah
is bought with running water,
fertilizers and televisions,
radios and motorbikes,
pharmaceutical drugs and jobs
and education for the next generation.

In this village there are two brick buildings,
the priest’s house and a Church.
Despite this, the recitations still go on,
as does haruspication
from the entrails of black pigs.

Further down the valley to the east,
that large white building
is where the children eat and sleep;
and are schooled in the virtues
of the neverland
of western industrial society
and its sanitized philosophies.

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