PZI Teacher Archives

Han Shan


Poem by John Tarrant Roshi. 1992.

Black boughs
rigged with spider silk
sail into light
as I into 500 lives of walking;
walking over brick and stone, walking
into moonlight laid before me like a palace,
walking home, walking to exams,
walking downstairs to be introduced
to a dark haired woman, walking to zazen,
walking in the rain with my collar turned up, walking
to comfort a baby, walking while full of the unsteady light
of fever, walking under stars,
walking under plum blossoms to accompany the woman
in labor, walking while confused, hesitant,
lost in memory and mist, walking
while singing, walking with a dear companion,
walking with purpose and without,
and the chestnut does put out fingertip
pale fires of green in winter’s midst;
birdsong, stored like honey,
pours from the cliffs of comb, the sun calls it,
calls my daughter’s hand
with its sensitive heft
to rise and I take it.
This is the two shilling piece
I lost at the wharf as a boy,
and this is the meaning of winter entire
with its cold, cold toes.
Frost crunches like toffee,
mist gathers its hem and rises, moss is green
on the path with its wavering clubs.
I go into the hermitage
and draw the gate.
I have books and silence
but there is some deeper view.
The heart doesn’t hoard the scraps of the day,
the forest is calm for mile on mile
and the real naturally appears:
On the floor by the heater
the small girl sings and dresses her doll.