Category Archives: Nature Poetry

Lost in Zen

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Lost in Zen

Born like a dream

in this dream of a world,

How easy in mind I am,

I who will fade away

like the morning dew. — Zen poem

*******

Born like a dream

Says the poet, 

This dream of a world.

Ah, but 

Even Issa,

troubador of liberation,

wept when 

his child died,

his little girl.

This world may be a dewdrop, 

he said,

This world–

 and yet….and yet…
Keenest of Zen poems and
the most awakened.

Don’t believe that Zen monks

in their mountain abodes

Did not weep,  were not lonely.

Even Satori may not bring peace

from the grasp for 

child- warmth,

From heart loss of the smile

That lit the mornings?

We are not awakened who do not love.
Even those who see Being

Illusory, transient, 

reach for the  sudden reflection on the water

of the  vanished image,

May listen, heart beating for the absent one,

To the calling of night birds

Under stars and pines

in the hut on the hillside.
…Deep Autumn,

How does my neighbor live,

I wonder?

How happy to drink

wine with a visitor,

If only in memory.

Alone with the rocks

And tathata, oneness,

We still hope to see  a

human form on the hillside.

…As I gathered firewood

You came to visit!

Your sandals stirred the dust on the floor,

But I was not here.

…Don’t worry, Spiders,

I keep house casually–

you are my companions

among the jagged granite,

the ever more windblown hemlocks.
Even a Zen master

May long to see Buddha

On the road… to kill him?

Look first in his eyes to

see your true nature,

Just 

As the gray mouse

Appears  and whisks away

Behind these thin pine walls.

The human eye,

Better to look into than to

Gaze upon God!

Said  Melville,

The master of destruction,

Shiva Nataraja who

Dances away the world!

Blake,  thought, 

eternal seer,

whispers:

Sorrow is not fit for immortals

And is useless to anyone.

Loss:

No loss.
The forest stirs in  soft wind,

Rain patters the hut roof

And I sleep, again in peace

With transitory being.

I have washed my bowl.

After the Zen poets, especially Issa.

–Ladybelle Fiske
(Isabella Fiske McFarlin)

March 1 2017

Pisces…

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Elegy for Prospero

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Written in about May, 1990, after my father died on April 25, 1990.

I speak here as Miranda, returning to “the magic isle” to see the place once more, and to seek for the magic her father renounced, hoping to find in it a sign of him.

Elegy for Prospero 
 
Miranda.
The landscape is without its central figure:
No gleam of silver hair
Nor laughter in the grove.  Gone is the wizard.
Singing birds move among the trees,
The sun is hot and rich, but he is gone.
I land my yellow boat upon the shore
And pull it in. Fish splash in reed and lily cluster
Round my bare feet in clear, still water.
Climbing the sandy path, I brush
An ancient, silvered stump which long ago
Served me for castle. Acorn kings dwelt there:
They, too, have gone.
This lush and tropic afternoon
A thousand-memoried scent
Emits from tiny budding figs
That he’ll no longer taste.
The ivy vine he raised around his window
Curls: abundant, and untroubled by his death.
                                    II.
Prospero, you are gone. Your absence
Permeates all. This red clay road, the stars,
The water– filled with your presence,
Filled with your absence.
Forlorn now the owl’s cry:
´There was lived here so vast, so powerful a life
That they who journeyed to our strange abode
Lingered, enchanted and amazed.
Yea, in this magic place,
A thousand spells were cast, a thousand dramas played,
Here miracles were wrought,
Here human and spirit did cavort,
But our revels now are ended.’
Unto this mysterious island I now return in wonder:
Into the silence, into the singing of birds
I inquire. The sky is deepening, empty.
Prospero, whence does that magic go
When the conjurer has renounced it?
Has it gone hence with he
Who stirred the storms?
Pine forest and memory answer:
“It yet awaits. It is in you.”
The whippoorwill begins its evening incantation.
–Isabella Fiske McFarlin

 

More Poems by Dillard K. Henderson, QH’s Poet Laureate

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Poems about Quarry Hill by our amazing Poet Laureate (since the 60s)

Q H Poems

 

Sonnet # 40

 

Quarry Hill

 

For twenty years, I never understood

What made this place survive, expand and grow?

And made it be so peaceful and so good,

But now, at last, I think, perhaps, I know.

It contradicts itself in every way;

Its anarchy is quite well organized;

Its rules, which don’t exist, they all obey;

Beliefs, which some deny, some have surmised.

Its unity is its diversity,

For in each stage each one’s evolving through,

Each individual is free to be

Herself until he learns and grows anew,

But most importantly, I’ve learned to see

Its spirit I can spread and keep in me.

 

Dillard K. Henderson

Quarry Hill, VT

July 12, 1987

 

Ladybelle, the Belle of the Ball

 

No gild nor gold improves a maple leaf;

No paint nor pigment matches nature’s hues.

 

Just there she lies upon the mountain side,

  Reclining on a couch of softest leaves.

Her inner beauty is her ballroom gown.

A scarlet maple leaf will be her fan.

 

Her orchestra is whispered winds and birds and bubbling brooks.

Her ball room is the forest and the meadows all around.

She dances there with nature in the waltz of rhythmic life,

Enjoying and well knowing all the freedom of the void.

 

She was a seed grown free to bloom and blossom as she chose;

She is a wildwood flower now of nature’s own free ways. 

 

Dillard K. Henderson

Quarry Hill, VT

September 17, 1976

 

From the Lower Woods

 

At dawn, the fog enshrouded mountain tops,

But now, they are a rainbow in the fall,

All garlanded by gold and growing green

And burning orange, flaming leaves,

Surrounded by soft misty purple haze,

A simple symphony of sight that’s set  

To murmured music of a lazy wend,

Which whispers through the trees, and splashing streams,

All tumbling down majestic mountain sides.

 

Dillard K. Henderson

Quarry Hill, VT

1976

 

 

After the Rain

 

The rain has stopped for now

But still the clouds are gray,

And still the water drips

Straight down from each birch leaf

To patter on the roof.

The maple trunks are dark;

The grass is shiny green.

Some ferns are beaten down,

But from this summer rain

Far many more will spring.

Now through the upper leaves,

Among the fleeting clouds

I see the sun return

To warm and dry this world. 

 

Dillard K. Henderson

Quarry Hill, VT

September 17, 2976

 

 

Sunset from the Knoll

 

The path slopes slowly down into the dark green trees,

All rising jagged, high in silhouette.

Behind them, darkening mountains arise.

Behind them, higher, lighter mountains rise.

Beyond, above, around them all, the sky,

Is blue until the sun shines red and sinks

Behind the highest and most distant peaks.

 

Dillard K. Henderson

Quarry hill, VT

September 17, 1976

 

 

While Hanging Out at Quarry Hill

 

I sat upon a rock and watched the wind,

Then ate some luscious leaves and roots and fruits.

I talked to three raccoons outside their home –

A swinging woodland threesome, I suppose –

Beneath somebody else’s home above.

I watched knights fight with flashing silver swords

And took a trip to ancient China too.

 

Dillard K. Henderson

Quarry Hill, VT

September 17, 1976

 

 

High on Quarry Hill

 

All free to travel anywhere I wish

While on a journey, as I’ve often done,

I sat upon the bench upon the knoll

And wore the four white pine trees as my hat.

My sister Moon was full and shed her light

On silhouetted mountain tops and sides.

It shimmered on the meadows, houses, paths

And silver boulders half around the knoll.

With legs stretched out and feet upon the ground,

I watched bright squares of golden light ignite

In all creative houses which I saw.

Alone, I gazed on beauty undisturbed

   And felt my spirit fill with perfect peace,

For all that is is perfect as it is.

 

Dillard K. Henderson

Morganton, NC

November 28, 1991

 

 

Silently Smilingly Sitting

 

(To Irving)

 

Well Bodhidhar wasn’t Buddha yet

In any of his older lives, but then

Upon his last rebirth, he quickly met

The ultimate reality of Zen

And nothingness and all. He therefore knew

All sermons preached could be but one small clew –

One atom of one grain of truth to you

And all – and opposites would be as true.

He ceased to speak and sat in silent peace

And never spoke again, so hear the boom

Of Buddha’s voice, now free to never cease  

 To penetrate imaginary gloom.

He looked upon illusionary life

Of mindless struggles fought by day and night

For nothing real and only death and strife.

They are so blinded that they see no light.

He knew that there was nothing left to do,

So that is what he did in pure release,

And that’s nirvana for all of us too –

Smilingly, silently sitting in peace.

 

Dillard K. Henderson

Morganton, NC

May 16, 1987

 

 

Monuments to Irving

 

Yes Irving left his poetry and his plays,

All great and lasting monuments indeed,

But Irving left us greater gifts than these

Which will long serve as monuments to him.

One greater gift he gave was Quarry Hill.

It’s not Shambhala yet, not paradise,

Here in the mountain meadows of Vermont,

But Quarry Hill’s still close enough for me.

Though strange and weird to some, I’m free to be

Just what I need to be in Quarry Hill.

He never tried to make men fit one mold.

The children grew in natural beauty here,

All free to be themselves all free from fear.

This is a place of open skies and minds.

 I could then say, as it was said of Wren,

“If you seek his monuments, look about you.”,

But Irving earned a greater tribute still.

He played away his life in love and joy

And taught each one who heard to play the same.

He really was a guru real and true

Who never taught his truths to anyone;

He taught us all to find the truth within.

So on this celebration day, I say,

“If you seek his monuments, look inside

“Yourself and deep within your children too.”.

 

Dillard K. Henderson

Morganton, NC

 

A Sonnet to the Winter Moon

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A Sonnet To The Winter Moon

The winter months begin with this clear night.

November’s full moon radiates the sky

And touches rim to mountain rim with light

Through shadowed branches, followed by my eye

Awakened in its glow. That silent call

Of moonlit forests, ancient to one’s heart

As, too, it is on earth, comes over all

And with its power filled, I stand apart

From daily human life’s most turgid snares.

This moment turns all thinking towards the Mind

Of light within, and leaves one’s spirit bare

As these now leafless trees with light enshrined.

By wisdom purified of all that’s done,

I am with winter moonlight now made one.

by Ladybelle Fiske (Isabella F. McFarlin)

Written on a moonlit night in November some years ago. I woke up with the moon shining in the window and this poem arose, almost complete, in my mind.

Leaving Curtis Pond

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To begin our new life as a literary/arts zine, I’m publishing a poem I wrote several years ago when I had to leave a little house I had loved more than almost any other dwelling-place. It sat by the side of a “pond,” (Curtis Pond in Maple Corner, Calais, VT).  In Vermont a pond can be  another name for a small lake as well as an actual pond.

That little ranch-style house was special, with a magic almost everyone who ever stayed there felt. It had a beautiful Norwegian-style hand- painted bed with rabbits and lambs on it. The house was so close to the grass and water and frogs groaning at night that I often felt as though I were living on a houseboat in the water itself. The wind would come up and blow around the little yellow house, which I called The House of Dreams. Now it is gone, torn down; a big, lovely, expensive house has been built on the same land but not by the water. This house was deeply loved by the wife of the man who built much of it, too, who owned it before me. It had a special magic. And so, invited to the pond by a friend named Trudy (the Lady of the Lake,) I lived in this loved house whenever it was not rented out for fifteen years. It does not negate my love for Quarry Hill that I loved the House of Dreams so much. Or my love for our little cabin in Florida, which I hope to see again one day. But how lovely it was and what peace I had there, like Yeats with his nine bean rows.

Leaving Curtis Pond

The starry floor, the watery shore
Are given thee till break of day.
— William Blake

I.

There is no farewell to these unending waters,
Or to these white lilies like candles in starlight
Invisibly closed in invisible evening.
Nymphea speak never of loss or of sorrow,
though sunlight has fled from both petal and stamen,
At least, not in any sad tongue that I know of.

I moor my canoe at the sun-colored cottage
where bullfrogs call deep as the full moon arises:
I spend one more night in the house of rejoicing,
Spend one last night with the wind and the water.
Here have I written, have loved and have listened
To the birds, to the rain, to the voices of children
Who call as they swim at the pine-sheltered inlet.
Winter shall part me no more from their laughter.

After these years by the wind and the water
The time comes to leave here. Yet, what is departure?
All things are impermanent: so says Siddhartha.
Formless is form, form returns to the formless.
Once more to the dock. Here the full moon’s reflected
In looking-glass water, where sunlit clouds questioned:
“Which is real, which reflection? This earth or its vision?”
Here is the answer, o clouds on the water,
So many years later, and so many partings.

II.

I am at one with the wind and the water.
Here is the heart of the heart of all being.
I say no farewell to the lake, to the joyous.
Like shadows that fade as the full moon arises,
All parting is form changing into the formless.

Benedictus, o wind in the trees on the shoreline,
Light that flows over the reed and the flower.
Grant unto those who come after me, vision.
Let them have passion and joy for their hour:

Small scarlet boat in its half-hidden mooring,
Crimson-jeweled dragonflies, rose-tinted light,
Red leaves of October in graceful reflection,
And unto all lovers, sweet sensuous delight.

III

The Lady of the Lake lived long upon the shore.
She held each changing season in embrace,
And to the pilgrim generous was and kind.
She guided me in goodness to this place,
The sweetest home of all my many dreams.

Deep in the looking-glass of heart and mind
The gazing eye’s one with the gazed upon.
There may the essence of her thought convene
With you, new-dweller on the singing pond.
And if you will, to others lend this peace:
May wonder and compassion never cease.

Now in this house of dreams, your own dreams spin
Who after me shall seek the water and the wind.
Nor death nor time, nor this last parting, changes
The joy in life I found here. Naught estranges.

–Isabella Fiske McFarlin
(Ladybelle)

Feb.- June 2004
Rochester and Maple Corner, Calais, VT.

Copyright Isabella Fiske McFarlin