The best thing
Poems from Valekuun reitti (‘The path of the false moon’, WSOY, 2004). Introduction by Herbert Lomas
At first light I put my hand in the hollow of a white willow – once someone's cigarette box had been left there – now a bird flew out going seaward.
Touch of a wingquill on the back of my hand. It flew higher. In the evening I felt its touch on my shoulder blade.
A pillar of white mist on the jetty. A moment ago we were standing there so close to each other.
Early morning and your skin's glowing with far-off days, lands on the otherside of dream, from your face a springtime haze rises to my eyes to my lips rise 'it's not spring, not autumn'.
A splash on the lake near the boat from a solitary grebe, somewhere far off from here it saw a self like itself
The best thing I remember was going to buy notebooks, hard and soft backed, pocketsized to write down the best thing I remember.
How many times I went by! A year isn't a place without you. I came out of the gate, came back, someone had tossed a bicycle over the wall into the yard. Not two wheels, one wheel. Scent of honeysuckle flowering in the shade by my entranceway. All those gates that I wrote about. But the moon's always the same except that it's place it's time.
Beyond this boundary even a bird can't fly: you found that out all right when you lived by boundlessness – boundlessness lives, the bird falls.
I’ve stayed here; haven’t bothered to go
or come either. Sometimes I’ve wished
going and coming would end.
But ending is like beginning –
a going and a coming. On his deathbed
Meister Eckhart was asked by his acolyte:
‘Master, I have to know, where are you going?’
‘No need to go anywhere,’ Eckhart said.
After death there’s just nothing,
he wanted to prove -‘ I was put to sleep and operated on
and I don’t remember a thing, not even a dream’.
That’s how it is, said the other,
you don’t remember, not even
that you woke.
The sky’s listening. Half moon. You can speak to it.
You had to live as if you were here. Just as
anyone has to score a goal through empty goalposts.
Nothing is so important. As that you live.
The whole of your death. Nothing so important. Because
time is death. And we die for death.
Right now. Nothing is as dazzling as the joy
When they spoke about Man as a city with nine gates, I thought of the wait for the ninth moon. The moon passed on and opened gates. They meant openings in the body and hadn't accounted for the gate we all come through. They and their city, they hadn't forgotten that fact, they just didn't want us to be Man.
When the year is a place it's a city in the cycle of the years twelve gates in man cause and effect change places subvert each other all times all at once all around a year you can dwell there not two Jerusalem a sand mandala is wiped away built up every year.
One gate opened above yourself when you were born. When only one gate is not passed through who can say you're not passing through it while you're still alive.
The world's radiant now and unfolds. as I said, didn't I – the sky does extend between the fingers and the toes down to the ground, the grass rises up to heaven, let's walk up there, my friend, let's walk this last day.
Translated by Herbert Lomas
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