Archives‎ > ‎Issue Eleven‎ > ‎

Dick Allen

             “Does the spoon perceive the soup?”


Does the spoon perceive the soup?

Does the rake perceive the leaves it rakes?

Does the sock perceive the foot as it enters?

Does the car perceive the man who drives the car?


Does the mountain feel the one who climbs the mountain?

Does the sea take umbrage from the fish within it?

Does the bed rejoice when lovers lie upon it?

Does the grave take notice when the body enters?


Is there a bell that hears its own ringing?

Will pockets shy from every coin they hold?

Can the laying on of hands make any difference?

Do words hear themselves?


Yes / No     No / Yes


As in a square dance,

twirl them around and do-si-do,

link hands and find your way home.


    Raking in a Japanese Sand Garden

I’m not wearing a robe
and my head’s not shaven,
nor am I trying to solve
some impossible koan. 

And it’s been months
since I last meditated
or in a small tea ceremony
patiently waited. 

Yet slowly, backing away
from one more life boulder,
I become calm, raking around it
a curving sand river 

quietly flowing,
and the leaves falling here.



             The Zen Master Thinks About Christianity


Christians say,

“Could you completely calm your soul

you’d hear God whispering to you

well-nigh incessantly.”


It would be like, I think,

becoming aware of all the radio,

TV and cell phone sound waves and light waves

constantly passing through our bodies,

how bathed we are in them,


that static, that blur,


and then hearing,

as in a heavy rainfall,

the plash of a single stone

someone unaccountably cast

upon the waters.


Zen, also, is like that.



Dick Allen’s This Shadowy Place, his eighth collection of poems, won the national 2013 New Criterion Poetry Prize and is forthcoming.  Earlier of his “Zen Master Poems” have appeared in or are forthcoming in The Hudson Review, Rattle, American Poetry Review, Tricycle, On Barcelona, and The New Criterion.  He does walking meditation around the shores of Thrushwood Lake, in Connecticut, where he serves as Connecticut’s State Poet Laureate (2010-2015).