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John Guzlowski

6 Short Poems about the Monk Ikkyū 

 

1.

 

Ikkyū stands

at the edge

of the great sea—

 

there are waves

in his eyes

so he shuts them.

 

2.

 

If Ikkyū falls asleep,

his dreams don’t. 

 

They live

in the river country

of trees and sunshine.

 

3.

 

Ikkyū sits

in the marketplace

and tries to explain

everything:

 

Here’s what he says

to a soldier:

 

A tree is

the palm of my hand

and the face

of all there is

in the universe

to wonder about

 

It is the tree to heaven

and its roots start

in my heart and yours.

 

4.

 

Ikkyū knows

Buddha can’t tell him 

why the rain falls

or why sin is a wide road

with many curves

 

or why he grows old 

when he has struggled 

so much to know 

so little of life.

 

5.

 

Ikkyū watches

the snow fall

at night

 

He’s happy

it’s warm

and that others

sleep in the shadows

with him.

 

6.

 

Ikkyū  eats

a black cherry

and remembers

a dead friend

 

how much he loved

strawberries

their dark

sweetness

early in the morning

 

the harvest

never lasted

long enough

 

 

John Guzlowski's writing has appeared in The Ontario Review, Salon, Margie, Poetry East, Exquisite Corpse, Atlanta Review, Crab Orchard Review, Mississippi Review, Negative Capability, War, Literature and the Arts, Madison Review, Manhattan Review, The Drunken Boat, and other print and online journals. The poems in his book Language of Mules won an Illinois Arts Council Poetry Fellowship Award in 2001. His poems have been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes.