Saturday, July 25, 2015

Three Poems I Didn't Write (but Which I Somehow Inspired)

     Although I have messed around with poetry a little in my life, I do not have a very poetic temperament; consequently some of the people I know are much better poets than me. (My primary fascination with writing poetry is working with the idea of conveying information and feeling in accordance with a limited, stylized form, and since most poetry in the English language lately has dispensed with most limitations that can be dispensed with, keeping mostly only the limitations shared by prose, I pay little heed to poetry that isn’t “archaic.”) It may be that over the years I have inadvertently inspired more poetry than I have written. Some of it has been love poetry from young women—of which I have received little since I became a monk, for very understandable reasons—and that sort is best left unpublished, as it is intended for private reading, maybe only by me. But some others, including my father and some good friends, have been moved by a Muse on my behalf, or to my discredit. Three of the juicier examples of this are included here.
     The first is by my father, satirizing his fanatical, extremist son. Since my lay name was (and officially still is) David, and since I really have lived alone in caves (for many years in fact), the old and well known dirty limerick starting “There once was a hermit named Dave” sometimes becomes a theme of lampoons at my expense.

A Hermit Named Dave, by John R. Reynolds

Now I'm going to tell you 'bout a hermit named Dave
     Who renounced the whole world to go live in a cave:
He didn't like cars, and he didn't like people,
     And he didn't bells that make noise in church steeples.
He didn't like dogs, and he didn't like cats—
     Didn't even like clowns who wear funny hats;
He didn't like sidewalks or clothes that were pink,
     And he really went ape when faucets dripped in the sink.

He didn't like pigeons folks feed in the park;
     He didn't like sunshine, and hated the dark.
He'd detested TV since he was a child,
     And the sound of a car horn would drive old Dave wild.
He always went barefoot 'cause shoes hurt his feet—
     So what he'd hate most was chewing gum on the street;
Each time he stepped in some he'd jump up and down
     And holler and cuss and shake his fist at the town.

So now he's a hermit and lives under a rock;
     He don't have a table or a chair or a clock;
He sleeps on a bed made of rusty tin cans,
     And he don't wash his face, or even his hands.
He eats nothing but bugs, and smears mud in his hair,
     And wears nothing but burlap, with no underwear.
So if you're out in the woods and you come near a cave,
     If you're chewing on gum keep your eyes peeled for Dave!

Actually, he was proud of me. He just liked having a little fun, that’s all.
     The next little gem may require some commentarial gloss to illustrate its peculiar exquisite tastelessness. One time an American monk, one of the few Western monastic friends I had in Burma (not because the rest shunned me but mainly because there are few Western monks in upper Burma) came to visit, and we were out in front of my cave, talking. He mentioned that, in order to reduce feelings of lust, he would often lie on his bed holding a human skull in both hands. (Human skulls are rather easy to obtain in Burma, as they can be found lying around in the weeds at old cemeteries.) I observed that his method probably wouldn’t work so well for me, lustful as I was. I told him I’d be lying there holding the skull and thinking, “Hmmm…...that eye socket…...” Conversations between Western monks can get rather raunchy sometimes. So anyway, shortly thereafter, he sent me this fine work of literature:

(Untitled, by Venerable Anonymous)

There once was a hermit named Dave
Who kept an old skull in his cave:
     The rocket in his pocket
     Just fit the skull’s eye socket— 
May all sentient beings be saved!

It’s probably best to move on quickly, without further comment.
     The next one is by my friend Conor, who usually lives in Yangon, although at the time of writing this he is in the USA waiting for his lovely mate to have a baby, while trying to seem like he’s not waiting. (He says that is the appropriate way to have a baby, and I lack the experience in such matters to disagree with him on the subject.) It may be, for all I know, that the only real inspiration I lent to the next poem, written by venerable Conor, is the term inshallah, which I rather like. It’s an old-fashioned Arabic way of saying “God willing,” or “Who knows if it will really happen! Nothing is certain.” But the poem contains some profundity as well as beauty, more even than the troglodyte hermit joke poems. There is real Dharma in the next one, a genuine reflection on the First Noble Truth and the fact that nothing in the entire universe has the power to really satisfy us. But still we may as well continue on the great adventure until we get to the end, or just get supremely fed up and quit. It’s from a recently published slender volume entitled The Glossary Lament (Vinegar Mother Publishing, 2015).

Bride of the Sun (Mantra), by Conor Adam Mitchell

Inshallah, I will pilot a helicopter
and find it wanting.
Inshallah, I will bathe in an arctic stream
and find it wanting.
Inshallah, I will wear a championship belt
and find it wanting. 
Inshallah, I will hug a corner at 200 miles per hour
and find it wanting.
Inshallah, I will guzzle chocolate melted with gold leaf
and find it wanting. 
Inshallah, I will roll on the floor with buxom, velvet women
and find it wanting. 
Inshallah, I will talk to a clairvoyant 1,000 year old fish
and find it wanting. 
I will imbibe pomegranate wine, sob underneath the stars, 
               curse every midnight thing
and find it wanting. 
I will set fire to precious tapestries, gobble endangered orchids, 
               snort mummy dust
and find it wanting. 
I will pummel a mountain, crush a diamond in my fist, 
               chop the moon in half
and find it wanting. 
Inshallah, I will finish this poem, 
and I will find it wanting.

Inshallah inshallah inshallah inshallah inshallah inshallah
               enthrall in shell and shall and shall and shall and shall




Conor submitted this as an illustration.
I don’t think it really says “inshallah.”

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