MINDFULNESS

Watching the flow
of middle-earth
as all things go
from birth to birth.
Here, one can know
what it’s all worth.

An empty tide
of rise and fall.
Nothing outside
is mine at all;
nothing inside
nor large nor small.

The mind reflects
vague shadowy drifts.
The mind connects
blank mists with mists.
The mind projects
meaning – where none exists.

Rich and poor
in ragged procession
pass the door
and dispute possession
of what they cannot own;
like dogs, growl and groan
over an imaginary bone.

Ever so long ago. Today.
And ever-after.
Tears will wash away
your broken laughter.

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IN AND OUT OF WINDOWS

“In and out the windows
as we have done before.”

Moving in and out of being
stopping just this side of seeing,
in and out of life they pass,
kestrel, robin, spider, mouse.
Each their special shapes they wear,
striving on from here to there.
From here at the start of a brand new day
to there where life just bleeds away.
Filling up the time between
crawling ,walking, flying, creeping,
laughing, shouting, humming, weeping.
Still not knowing what it might mean.

The leaf that shrinks and flutters
from the unwounded tree
is a lifetime’s education for you and me.

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ONE

Holding a candle to drawn curtains,
shielding tired eyes against the Sun,
almost, but not quite, now half-certain
that one and one and one is one!

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SQUARING THE CIRCLE

How glad I am
that I am here
and not somewhere else.

(If I were
somewhere else,
I’d be here.)

No escape, then!

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MAKING MERIT

“There’s nothing either good or bad
but thinking makes it so.”

And riding on that apophthegm,
to lower worlds they go
until the pain compresses them
and makes them scream out, “No!”

There is some truth in points of view,
that what seems good to me
might not seem so to you;
but can you say that how you see
affects the way a thing may be?

“Good” actions do not depend
on the viewpoint you happen to select,
but on what you intend
and whether it produces good effect.

No matter what the label may be,
by its fruit we judge the tree.

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CUT INTO THE HUMAN WOOD

Cut into the human wood
chop; pare;
to find what is already there.
Will the knife reveal
what we have outgrown?
Or does the sculptor feel
along the veins and in the bone
the shape already in the stone
and gently, where the stone is brittle,
cut only not too much and not too little?

Or there again,
you might be just the wall,
my favourite picture on its hook;
behind (if I should ever look),
nothing at all.

Like sea
with sky reflected
deceiving me,
by birds rejected.

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SELF-DISCIPLINE

Sitting quite still
and with Nothing
to hold on to.

While the planet
on which you sit
(a kind of ball, flattened at both ends)
is spinning
at a fair old rate of knots.

And rolling all the while
in a great circuit
round a vast, exploding Ball of Fire.

Sitting quite still
(and with Nothing
to hold on to).

It takes a lot of self-discipline
to say, “How do you do?
And your family?
And your dog?…”
and wonder,
“Will it rain tomorrow?
“Will the Stock Market continue to fall?
“Might it be a good idea
to grow asparagus this year?”
(After, say,
another forty-four
circumnavigations
of the Ball of Fire?)

Assuming, of course
that we don’t fall off
and the Ball of Fire
doesn’t suddenly go cold
and freeze us all to death.

A great deal of self-discipline indeed
I assure you
is needed.

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TRAVEL LIGHT

The Mouse
that scuttles down the bank
across the bricks
and back again,
carries no wallet
and all its baggage
is in the simplicity
of its brain.

The Bird that slides
across the wind
has left its briefcase
in a former life,
together with its house
its mortgage
(and its wife).

The Beetle with antlers like a stag’s
needs no loan,
pays no tax
and lives inside its bone.

Only Man
has spread his thought
far and wide;
is caught in its pulsating web,
and, grasping every thread,
is trapped inside.

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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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ARMISTICE DAY

“Died some pro patria non dulce non et decor.”
So Ezra Pound adapted Horace’s lines
for those whose sufferings for their nation
had bred a dull, dark, painful generation
with gloria cauterised from their minds.

In the calendar their deaths are still recorded.
Poppies and medals and uniforms are worn.
Services are held and sacrifices lauded.
Public concern and private grief are borne.

On a cold November day.
In a cold November wind.

In Oxford 1993,
in remembrance of their sufferings and trials,
cars are towed untidily from St. Giles
and scattered without symmetry
in surrounding streets.
To protect old rememberers
from new bombs.

This is the point where past and present meet.

Cadets march tidily down George Street,
to run the gauntlet of upper windows,
from which insults are scattered
like intellectual litter:
‘What a lot! What do you look like?’
Hard and bitter.

This is the recompense the present shows,
as they turn and turn about,
from windows set
in golden stone in upper storeys,
which had been saved, no doubt,
pro patria (sed cum dolore)
by those who fell in thousands,
cast like human litter,
broken and bitter,
upon the dying fields of Flanders.

What they
fell for then
is out of fashion.
They too are not protected
from jibes and slanders;
and their spirits are blown
down Broad Street, past Martyrs’ Memorial
(which commemorates others
who died for a faith
which is also out of fashion).
Stripped of their glory, all
like transcendental dust,
seeking a refuge
among the Just.

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