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Douglas Penick


In a bright expanse without dream
Nor birth, nor time, nor death,
Light and dark have not been parted:
There they dwell everlastingly.

If one there thought to speak,
Here a towering white cloud might appear
Suddenly within a clear blue sky.

If one there wished to wander,
Here, a long range of low mountains slowly might arise.

There, at a longing glance,
Here two great pine trees extend their tap roots
Deep in rocky soil.

Here for us, there is this moment.
Now for us, there is this place,
Where we stop and feel
The echoed names of deities.

So the chorus seated in the courtyard chants:

“The resonance of new grasses bending in the wind,
"Black rocks cooling in the night,
“Moist soil, hot white sand,
“A soft breeze, green waves curling;

“All find hearts to hold them
“And a voice."                                                          (1)                                                                                                                                                                         

Two ancient pine trees
Rooted on two separate peaks
Are lovers, man and wife,
Are gods,
Joined by centuries of longing
And by centuries of songs.

Two dancers lit by torches in the night
Extend their brocade sleeves
And embrace the endless folds of time:                                                        

A moment of love that is centuries old
Enduring in the whisper of the swaying boughs.

While in the nearby shadows
Rise from the ground, each decked with stars
Those who watch and bless in secret
The soil and the streams.


(1)  adapted from Takasago tr. Royall Tyler: Pining Winds, Cornell East Asia series, 1978pp34-5

Douglas Penick graduated from Princeton University, was a research associate at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and at The Institute for Urban Studies, and a chef at Gordon Matta Clark’s Food. He studied and practiced Tibetan Buddhism for more than 30 years, and has written and taught on Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese, and Indian religion, history and culture. He wrote the National Film Board of Canada’s prize winning two part series on the Tibetan Book of the Dead and the libretti for two operas: King Gesar (Sony CD w/ Ma, Serkin, Ax et. al.) and Ashoka’s Dream (Santa Fe Opera) with composer, Peter Lieberson. He's also written pieces to music by Philip Glass, for choreographer Katsura Kan, and on commission from the New York Philharmonic, the Boulder Symphony, Denver Eclectic Concerts and others. He is the author of three books deriving from the epic cycle on the life of King Gesar of Ling: Crossings on a Bridge of Light, Warrior Song of King Gesar and The Brilliance of Naked Mind. Short fiction, essays and poetry have appeared in Bombay Gin, The Shambhala Sun, Parabola, Porte Des Singes, Cahiers de L'Herne, Publishers Weekly and elsewhere. His novel A Journey of The North Star was brought out by Publerati this June.