CHINA BOUND GIRL

China-bound girl,
not-yet-happiness-made-her-found girl.
Airport-station-taxis girl,
brand-new-outside-sensations girl.
Three-plus champagnes-anything can-do girl,
anywhere-go preferably-Katmandu girl.
From-past-sadness-ever-fleeing girl,
balanced-on-the-very-edge-of seeing girl.
Wonderful-from-the-very-beginning girl,
so-afraid-of–losing-she-must-be-always-winning girl.
So-shy-her-confidence-is overwhelming girl,
she-keeps-her-captains-firmly-at-their-helms-ing girl.

China-bound girl,
Love at her heels,
how does she think what she knows she feels?
Glides like an image one flower ahead of sorrow,
floating through sun-mist to yesterday’s tomorrow.

Through the moving shadows
of this world’s blind-man’s buff
she has cared and been cared for
(but not-loved-too-much enough).
In her mind what pleasures lead her from A to Z?
In her heart what treasures are silenced by her head?

China-bound girl!
Carrying through Customs (for the fun of it)
a bucket of water with the sun in it.

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WHAT SHALL I DO?

There’s a lot to be said for a balanced world
stable and well-fenced-in,
that plays early that prays late
and industriously fills the within.

This world’s a strange place to find one another
with alien flesh labelled father and mother.
Flesh is just dust
in a clearing of air.
And air?
A flicker of light-waves out there.

Yet the masses still form
and the movements take place.
Two faces stare blankly back from the glass,
that of a mind and that of a mask.

So let us watch shapes,
shapes and their lovers,
praise them and give them their due
and beg them, discreetly, to let us in too.

There is no molecule but strives to be the whole
(or if it can’t encompass that, a soul).
They slide together each to each
like spider crabs to scavenge a whole beach
and sucking each its tremor from the rest
contrive to make their own illusion best;
so each to each binds close behind their targes.

Swa priketh hem nature in hir corages.

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TWO TREES

Khun’s house stands impermanently
by a large and ancient Bodhi tree.
This has lent him its shade
since the house was first made
and has spread its branches comfortably.
Under such a tree was Buddha enlightened.

Hundreds of birds come here
to nest,
to rest,
to watch the night fade
and the dark sun appear.

Khun has heard of chicken flu.
Seeing all those birds, he fears
that he might catch it too.
He drew the Council’s attention to it.
He wanted the tree cut down
and the Council to do it.
The Council refused,
said no, declined, demurred.
But Khun was not so easily deterred
and hired a local man to do it for him.
But first he knelt down on the ground
(Suchit saw him).
He put his hands together
in a gesture of submission
and asked the Bodhi tree’s permission.

I do not know
what the tree had to say
but I do know
it was chopped the very same day.

Opposite Wat Krathum,
a large and ancient banyan tree
has been blown down by the wind.
A Medium says the deva
has been complaining it is homeless.
On Sunday the old Headmaster (eighty three)
announced in the Temple
that local people had collected
seven thousand baht
for a large Spirit House to be erected
next to the stump.

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US AND THEM

The tree relaxes there
with no thought of going anywhere.

Bird-song-bird.
The song is overheard.
Perhaps we invent the birds.
They might invent us
if they could spell.
Freak!
They don’t even listen when we speak.
Just as well.

Foolish cat
plodding around like that
what does it think it’s at?
We are trying to show
what we know;
that simplification was always wrong,
that a General Truth on a General Matter
will emptily clatter……..

But where does the cat belong?

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TREASURE SHIP

The Treasure Ship returns to harbour.
The wave disappears without a trace.

Heureux qui, comme Ulysse,
a fait un beau voyage.

Happy the hero,
who dies full of years
under the tumulus
with his sword.

Happy the young man
who dies young
beloved of the Gods.

Happy, too, is Vanity.

The wave subsides without a trace.
Who will rejoice in its arising
and lament it in its passing?

Who will write its history
with words of vinegar and honey;
how it arose and how it pressed,
against an empty sky?

Who will cast flowers
on the empty ocean?

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CURE

Waiting; the fires grow old
waiting; fears grow bold
waiting; the third eye brightens
waiting; the old mind quietens.

Patiently, the patient heals himself.

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PLUS ÇA CHANGE

The world still piles
storm on storm,
(though happiness remains the norm.)

The spider mind spins
thought on thought

(and in its own web still is caught.)

The sun (still)
shines
in a bucket of water
(and doesn’t
get
wet).

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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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OXFORD: MICHAELMAS

Christ Church meadow
is awash with driving rain
and a wind which bites the skin
and chills the blood within.
Its paths are sticky, yellow mud.
And the Cherwell, brown and dull,
slips ever higher.
Ducks, moorhens, squirrels endure it.
As they endure frost and ice
and the teeth of pike,
the ill-will of dogs
and the harassment of herons.

I retreat to Merton,
and the medieval silence
of its Tower.
Greeted by the bell,
I stand quite still in the chapel
and look to the east
through glass which escaped Thomas Cromwell’s
iconoclastic rampages
and still permits a medieval vision.

The Tower grew
out of 15th century wealth,
at the high-tide mark
of a millennium of Christian culture.

Forty years later,
Columbus set sail,
carrying this Christian culture and began
the destruction of the culture
of the New World
(Man’s inhumanity to Man),
inaugurating five hundred years
of poverty and misery
for its survivors.

Here. Now. The peace is palpable,
the chapel empty.
A patient fountain
round which thirsty crowds swirl and turbulate
in the December cold.
They wander along St. Aldates and Merton Lane,
through Magpie Lane and eastward up the High,
trying to appease an undiagnosed,
spiritual ache
by scratching
where
it does not itch.

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THE FOUNTAIN

The fountain
reaches upwards into space
and, finding nothing
to sustain it there,
falls back into its proper place.

And in this endless
rise and fall,
we see the start and finish
of us all.

Time flies
through summer and through wintry skies;
measures elephants and butterflies,
marks where this is born and that one dies.
See the world dissolve and fade before your dying eyes!

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