Poems (Sherry Priest)

Nature presents itself in small moments for Sherry Priest, in kinhin or sitting or walking out of doors.


I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself.  —H.D. Lawrence

Crow cocks one eye
At the kinhin line
And grins

Not until winter
do we see
how many
the trees hold

You have had
some small thing,
a toy,
Or maybe an old shirt,
loved into an unsustainable fragility,
Until you knew
No longer holding was the only possibility
That is how you must let go.

Opening practice and
Just past the door of our solemn rite
A grackle altercation
Two more birds and it would have been a riot

Betting Against the House

Bargaining with God
Leveraging karma
To bank against loss
Betting against the house

Zen Poem # 2

Sitting thru zazen
cricket crawls in hakama
fucking hilarious

Notes on #2: When I first started practicing zazen with a group I found the lack of external stimulation nerve-wracking, leading to an impulse to jump up screaming and run from the room. I dealt with it in a number of very un-zen-like ways, including playing the alphabet game with myself and writing poetry in my head. This was in fact what jump-started this phase of my writing career, if you can call it that.

Our group, which practices in the Rinzai style in which people sit in lines facing each other, meets right after Wednesday night aikido class, which most of us also participate in. For that reason, many times we would still be dressed in gi and hakama. Gi are the white pants and top that one associates with martial arts. A hakama is a kind of full, pleated pants, usually black or navy, that ties on and is worn over the gi.

In late summer in central Texas there are often swarms of crickets. One evening a cricket crawled onto the mats and began steadily making its way to our lines. I became fascinated with its movements and obsessed with what I would do if it crawled up the leg of my hakama. In Rinzai one is strongly discouraged from moving even a little for anything short of sudden illness. At the last minute, the cricket veered across the mat and appeared to climb on a friend sitting across from me, who, in at least the outward appearance of perfect Zen mind, never moved. Given the way zazen messes with your brain, the whole event was one of the most entertaining things I have ever seen.

Zen Poem #3

Which is worse
zazen with caffeine
or without

Notes on #3: The first one of my flashes of insight happened while I was waiting for the coffee bartender to make me a cappuccino. I was standing in the lobby of the building where I have worked for over a decade and suddenly it looked both completely new to me and completely familiar. And I felt, not knew in my head but really felt, a sense of being a traveler in my own life. I’ve had other, similar experiences, one at the grocery store, which I lost by the time I made it through check-out. Another occurred driving on a downtown street when everything, the buildings, the road itself, the other cars, all of a sudden genuinely looked fluid, like the water in a river. Either that or it was the heat.

This poem isn’t really about that, though. It’s about whether it’s harder to deal with the dull pain of struggling to stay awake while remaining motionless in a dark room late at night or to remain at least outwardly calm while double shots of espresso course through your pounding veins.

Zen Poem #4

Dark lake
Cold rain
White swans

Zen Poem #6

How is pain not suffering?
Primroses, horsemint
Wild grass.

1 comment:

Trevor said...

Really nice, short verse, Sherry. I can show you the little book of short verse (haiku?) two years ago.

crows in bare branches