Farmer, Nebula, Plow
(Sarah Webb)

Some of the poems that come to me might be called Zen in content. Others bubble up from the muddy swamp of my life, and their mucky origins show. But they all emerge from that place I can’t see into. I can only allow the poem to come, not make it.

My teacher reminds his students, “The more you chase it, the more it runs away.” But if you sit listless and dead, you’ll never escape that dark cave. You can exert your will (and your monkey ego) and wriggle hard to see the truth. Or you can turn away, say to heck with it, what’s to see.

Neither approach will lead to awakening.Writing a poem—or rather, allowing a poem to arise--hints at a way out of that dilemma. You listen inside, you let words come. You don’t know where the poem will go, what it might mean. Maybe it doesn’t even make sense to you. But you have faith that the poem will write and something emerge.

How to go forward? My teacher has asked me to write a poem without words. I get grabby, I get discouraged and dead. I try to remember writing a poem.

The farmer plows his fields,
rye grass and oat,
and beneath him,
all the deep of hillside,
lies a great whorl,

Plow scratches soil
as thin as egg shell

over snail spiral,
body of nebula

and the red nebula heart,
a sun even the farmer feels.

He looks at the day,
at the bird startling up from grass
and longs--

for what?
the earth crumbling away from the plow blade,
the bob of seedhead,
the way his hand pulls at the rein?

Oh, it is very close--
something he almost knows,
rose fire in his chest.
a tremble like earth shifting,
he can almost say it.

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