August 16, 2012

Jinen Jason Shulman


We swim to God
because we’ve been
misled, the way we
find Cassiopeia and
bears and fish living
in the infinite sky.
But stars have no
names and picture
nothing and point
to nothing and are
only brilliant, bright,
and we were never
meant to suffer
at the hands of light.

But we do. And we
drown sometimes
in the fabled separation
that is our leaven,
and that we take
as part
of Heaven.

from Rattle #36, Winter 2011
Tribute to Buddhist Poets


Jinen Jason Shulman: “Since earliest childhood, my life has been concerned with understanding the truth of reality. This inclination, along with the usual assortment of human sufferings, led me to become a teacher of healing based on my Buddhist and Kabbalistic backgrounds and eventually found A Society of Souls, the School for Nondual Healing and Awakening, based in New Jersey and the Netherlands. Poetry and music are an important part of my practice and teaching.”

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August 13, 2012

Richard Schiffman


You say that you are troubled
by your own thoughts. Listen,
even the moth casts a shadow
when it flies before the sun.
Do you think the sun is troubled,
or the ground, or the moth,
for that matter? No, what is
troubled is the shadow thinking
it’s the moth that has fallen
to the ground, where the sun
will never shine again. The moth
that understands this
flies straight to the sun.

from Rattle #36, Winter 2011
Tribute to Buddhist Poets


Richard Shiffmann: “When I first read Whitman in eighth grade, it blew my mind. He seemed to speak from some primordial, heart space where all of us—animals, grass, rivers, stars—participate with, and are ultimately contained within, one another. This was my first taste of the spiritual power of poetry to reflect a level of inner experience that is largely unacknowledged in our rationalistic culture. I discovered that great poetry, like scripture, has the potential to reawaken wonder and a sense of gratitude, and longing for the ‘Greater than self,’ which the Buddha and others have taught is also, paradoxically, the most essential nature of ourselves. When I read or write a poem like this, it can be better than sex! Of course, not all sex is great, and not all poems come from a particularly deep place. There is a Hindu story about a poet who, in a mood of discouragement, threw his entire life’s work into a river. Most of the poems sank immediately to the bottom. A few stayed on the surface for awhile, then disappeared under the waves. But a handful, miraculously, remained afloat. The poet realized that these were the poems that God had accepted, or, to put it in secular terms, the poems that had come from the core of his own being, and were, therefore, in a sense indestructible, because they did not reflect a fleeting mood or emotion, but arose directly out of the changeless Spirit. I think that, as poets, we hope that some few poems will remain afloat and speak authentically to that place where all of us are One.” (website)

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August 9, 2012

Diana M. Raab


On the scrolls
of the twelve step program
is the assignment for daily affirmations
and mine today

is the decision to be happy,
as I wonder if this
is a conscious decision
within the realm of our abilities.

Whatever happens on our earth,
good or bad, is based on
the quest for happiness.
So why don’t we go after it

like a spear into the back of a whale,
why do we sit back
and weep in sadness.
Is it that the hunt for joy

makes it interesting?
This morning poses
so many questions
and even glances

into the depths of my ocean
do not provide answers.
I want to be happy but
linger in oblivion

as to what brings it on,
and I think back
to my publicist’s question
to reflect upon the previous year

and my happiest moments
as clues to future joys.
While sucking my right thumb
I realize my happiest moments

are when being stroked
and loved and cared for,
as I sit alone and lonely
craving all that is gone.

from Rattle #36, Winter 2011
Tribute to Buddhist Poets

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August 8, 2012

Peg Quinn


Grandpa emanated Buddha nature,
yet I doubt he’d heard the phrase.

He gave thanks after hitting his thumb
with a hammer

and when he shot milk from the cow’s teat
toward the cat’s open mouth, he never missed,
smiling, thank you.

Thank you, to the sloshing bucket of milk,
to the mud riding up his goulashes

he sang

through tornadoes and harvests, thank you.

from Rattle #36, Winter 2011
Tribute to Buddhist Poets

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August 4, 2012

Paul Pedroza


I see you, Mara.
          —Gautama Buddha


I rise early and sit on a mat
on the floor, barefoot and shivering, and
try to bend my stubborn, awkward self
into the lotus—legs crossed, feet planted
on my thighs—so I can attain Enlightenment today.

I mind my breathing, in for three seconds and
out for three, and settle my hands together
on my crotch, palms up,
the tips of my thumbs touching.
Buddha said that this is the path to the cessation of
suffering. This alone, Dogen said.
The tingling in my shins forces me to stop for the morning.

Today, I practice a vegetable juice fast. I let it
enter my mouth slowly, I make sure the upper lip of the bottle
doesn’t touch mine, and I chew the juice. This will release
the juice’s essence into my mouth. I feel aroused and
hungry. Puree of eight vegetables eases my halitosis,
but the sodium burns my stomach.
Why do I have to suffer before my suffering ceases?

as I walk around Veteran’s Park in
kinhin, I wonder what I could use to
murder God. An omnipotent pistol? Sin? Love?
A gaggle of fallen angels whisked away at the
will of the Son, and all it would really require is the
love of a decent person. I’m the obsessive type.
I wonder why I don’t have a girlfriend. An oak’s
essence wafts to me on the ripe autumn air, so I
sit beneath it and reassume the lotus. Something in my knee
pops, and I limp home.

I pace around my living room trying to ease pangs of hunger.
Someone once said that hunger is a mental state.
I am myself, and my self is going insane.
I go to sleep early.


I ran three miles this morning on
dewy grass slick beneath my Reeboks.
Dazed, I sit on the edge of my bed—
on the edge of the world—and begin my
zazen. My stomach groans around 100%
orange juice. The mind can control craving,
and craving is suffering, but all my stomach
wants is a bagel. So I sit.

How can one murder God? I ask the walls because I’m alone
in my room, in the half-lotus position because I think
I’ve strained a tendon in my knee. How can you kill God?
You can only kill a weak abstraction in a poetry workshop.
A stabbing pain in my stomach, I want a sandwich. My breathing
falters because I’m dizzy. I get some more juice and
scratch myself in front of a mirror. I’m losing weight,
but that’s not supposed to make me happy.
Kill the ego.
Don’t worry about God yet.

It’s night and I sit again. Incense burning because I can’t
focus my mind and I need a distraction. Smoke hugs me
like a mother, like Jesus’ lapsed love. I’d need a knife maybe,
but not just any blade. An enchanted blade.
But where could you aim? Does God even have an abdomen?
Where in the universe would you bury It? Or Her?
Feet, calves, shins, knees, thighs, balls and hips tingle,
I sip some OJ and stop for the night. Can’t sleep, hungry.


Up at six. Can’t shower, no energy.
God must want to kill me.
Water fast day. Tomorrow I eat.
Walk around block a few times, gotta clear the
head. To forget my self, must forget myself.

Take water in my mouth like first-time lovers do. Buddha
nature: you kill craving, you kill suffering. Old women walk
faster today, God, I am hungry. Mercy, please,
even prisoners get three squares.

But craving for mercy is still craving. Head’s a little clearer
after I drink water. I’m not so hungry anymore.
Zazen. Focus on breathing, let mind wander,
kill emotions, and kill God. It’s simple. Force myself to try the
lotus again—breathe in, feel pain in my knee, breathe out,
in again, pull foot over left thigh, squint and clench hands, breathe
out, try other foot, breathe in, pull harder, wipe tears and breathe
out, pull foot over right thigh. I wait for my knee to—

Mind clears. Acres of golden clouds float over me. I run
my hands through the flow of nimbus and lick my fingers and
I’m nourished. The sun shines on the bottoms of my thighs, calves,
ankles. My eyes roll back and I can see elephants
mating with lotus flowers. Peace, the end of want.
I sit on nothing, I listen with nothing to nothing, I feel nothing
crawl into my nothing and settle,
I am nothing.

I open my eyes and find my Sonny Kay poster
hanging by a single tack over my bed.
I didn’t make my bed this morning. Half-burned incense sticks hang
over my dresser, their spent herbs a pile on my dirty socks. I smell
like old sweat—onions—and hunger—epidermal potpourri.
And I’m still hungry. I stand, stretch my hamstrings, yawn.
My knee doesn’t hurt, I’m still hungry, I could use a run,
but I’m at peace with my visitor.
My makyo.

And God lies dead beneath my cramped and tingling feet.

from Rattle #36, Winter 2011
Tribute to Buddhist Poets

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July 26, 2012

Alison Luterman


Slumps, glowering,
ten feet tall
in a corner of the white museum.
The little live boy is amazed
at the man’s gigantic penis,
slack, pink, hairy.
He giggles with his hand over his mouth,
pointing at the sad sack balls
ten times their normal size,
hanging like discouraged tomatoes
in the wrinkled pink scrotum.
Here, little boy, is what you get if you’re lucky,
if you live to get old:
pendulous belly, thighs like spoiled milk,
veins, splotches, wrinkles, enlarged pores.
The big naked man
has spent all his non-life in various galleries,
amazing and disgusting onlookers.
Is he really polyester?
How long did it take to make him?
They never ask, Who loved him?
Although clearly someone did:
enough to render
in perfect precision every detail of his downfall,
and then leave him
naked, and vulnerable,
just like the rest of us in the end.

from Rattle #36, Winter 2011
Tribute to Buddhist Poets


Alison Luterman: “I couldn’t take my eyes off the sculpture of the Big Naked Man—if that’s what he was called, I don’t remember—who dominated a whole corner of a museum room at the Smithsonian. I saw many other beautiful paintings and sculptures that day, but the sight of this man in all his naked, defeated sagging humanity, touched me deeply, made me shiver with revulsion, recognition and tenderness for the processes of decay that are even now taking place in my own body. I wish I remembered the name of the artist, or the title of the work. But in the end it’s just the physical fact of the piece itself—the man in all his helplessness—that remains in my memory. Which is perhaps as it should be.” (web)

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July 18, 2012

Bo Juyi
    (772 – 846)


Altho’, since last I left, it’s been 20 years,
I know it’s always spring on the roads around Loyang
But I can no longer reach the heart of my youth anymore
Everything else—still just the same as before.

“made new” by G. G. Gach & C. H. Kwock

from Rattle #36, Winter 2011
Tribute to Buddhist Poets

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