[Prefatory Note: At the dawn of the new year, while the bitter embers of the departing year glow in the dark, it is the mysterious outreach of poetry, more than the sobering reflections of the Enlightenment mind, that best touches the raw nerves of the many disturbing realities that menace the human future. In this spirit I came across a few lines of the Zen poetry of the late eighteen century Zen poet, Ryōkan. For those with an interest in further exploration of Ryōkan’s meditative sensibility I suggest One Robe, One Bowl: The Zen Poetry of Ryōkan, with superb translations by John Stevens, published by Weatherhill (Boston) in a third edition, 2006.]
a verse from ‘The Long Winter Night: Three Poems’:
Another year lingers to an end;
Heaven sends a bitter frost
Fallen leaves cover the mountains
And there are no travelers to cast shadows on the path.
Endless night: dried leaves burn slowly in the hearth.
Occasionally, the sound of freezing rain.
Dizzy, I try to recall the past—
Nothing here but dreams.