FRAGMENTS : trouble and love are the world's only teachings
© 2008 Clay Moldenhauer


Plastic flowers for a stone Buddha
© 2008 Clay Moldenhauer

Plastic flowers for a stone Buddha
Stand motionless in the glass vase
On the radiator beneath the open window.

The old woman who brought them
Touches her head to the wooden floor once, twice, three times,
And then walks home to feed her cat.



The Dialogue
© 2008 Clay Moldenhauer

Said the drip to the drop,
In precipitous sorrow,
We're air today
And fog tomorrow.

In the blink of a sky
We're all wa'shed down.
Not even a gutter
To lead us around.

So what's the use?
It's all in a breeze
Whether we wet
Or whether we freeze.

I'd rather be solid
Like a grain of sand,
To measure time
Or scour a pan.

Stop, said the drop.
Why cry to me?
I fly with the clouds.
I flow to the sea.

I wash every street.
I clean every dish.
In the well of the town,
I hear every wish.

In engines of fire,
Wheels turn when I push.
And on cold winter days,
Kids slide with a whoosh.

So what can you do
For goodness's sake?
You can do what I can't.
Keep people awake.


Commentary for Teachers on "The Dialogue"
© 2008 Clay Moldenhauer

As well as being a poetic expression of the play of the 5 elements, the poem "The Dialogue" reflects two voices or forces within nature. This duality is also found in the poem "Beaver Pond In Crow Moon" found elsewhere [See Ten Best Poems]. The first force, speaking in the first 4 stanzas, dominated my personal feelings as a younger person. Later, the other force emerged to produce the last 4 stanzas. Both expressions were a quick burst of clarity that lasted a few days, followed by years of fussiness with word choice. The poem was crafted to be formatted in two columns of 4 stanzas each so that meanings beneath the words would be more apparent. These meanings are not so apparent in the one column version which is the way it should first be presented. Like water, meanings too easy to come by are easily spilled.

In the evolution from the first version to the present one, "precipitious" replaced "crystalline," "scour" replaced "clean," "wash" replaced "meet," and "You can" replaced "Go." I am least happy with the "precipitious/crystalline" word change. If you had before you the Dialogue version with the original word choices to compare with the final version, you could easily visualize how editing can indeed craft better word choices for an already established meaning. This is always a bitter pill for young writers, but better swallowed early than late. In editing, the writer's loyalty is to the meaning not the words. Obviously, too many word changes will shift the meaning. To arrive at different versions, you can experiment with leaving out some of these key words of this poem to see what you or your apprentices will use in the blanks, and then discuss the subsequent shifts in meaning.

Dialogue started with the phrase "air today and fog tomarrow," a tonal and semantic parallel to "here today and gone tomarrow". Around that thought the first 4 stanzas unfolded. The part of me that wanted this poem written was in the beginning filled with both despair and wonder-ment. The despair in its details is irrelevant here, but the wonderment, which is worthy of attention, found itself pre-occupied with water. If the creative force had to choose a place to reside, would it not be water? I still live in that wonder-ment, and so water continues to be a preoccupation for me in my writing and in my everyday life.

It is ironic then that the word water does not occur in "The Dialogue" poem although water is its focus. I truly did not notice this fact until after the poem was published by the National Library of Poetry in its 1992 annual publication (
View From The Edge ). Then I noticed the same phenomena in the poem “The Whippoorwill” which is also about water. I have no explantion for this.



The Whippoorwill
© 2008 Clay Moldenhauer

The river builds itself up behind the dam
Fingering its way back
Down the mountain valleys.

The pine trees, tall and indifferent,
Quietly acquiesce
In their slow aqueous death.

The whippoowill calls the silence into question
From a high,
Dry
Limb.



Cassiopeia, the blue collar angel
© 2008 Clay Moldenhauer

Cassiopeia, the blue collar angel,
Sees the dreams the goddesses have given up on,
The dreams hidden away in sugar jars of bliss.

No creator's ball for Cassiopeia. No!
But once alone,
She waltzes into the cosmic kitchen
Like the queen of spades,
Shaking those dreams out into her open hand,
Licking each one up like a wise old bitch
Cleaning her new born pups.

Need I tell you, she's trouble.
I heard that within the spider-woven basket,
Hung within her euphoric heart,
Wet dreams ride out to the stars
Where, it's said, -- Oh, I hate to snitch--
The children of lessor gods are sleeping.
Can you imagine?

Cassiopeia? Huh!
What more can I say?
Just another addict in heaven.


Commentary On "Cassiopeia, the blue collar Angel"
© 2008 Clay Moldenhauer

As I think about this poem's evolution, the words "an angel," not "Cassiopeia," came out first. [See two lines below] At the time, I was struggling with the sadness that my life's dreams were slipping away. In September of 1993, this sadness broke/spoke out with the first two lines of the poem:

There's an angel that sees the dreams I have given up on,
The dreams I’ve hidden away...

So the word "Cassiopeia" was not there in the poem initially though perhaps the entity Cassiopeia was ; the term, Cassiopeia, started approaching me somewhere earlier in the early 1990's. There was a lingering memory fragment, something from a laymans book on the cosmos which mentioned earth as a beautiful blue marble floating within the constellation "Cassiopeia" (provided you were viewing our universe from somewhere way out there). That fact aroused a whole new feeling when I looked out into the stars at night, or when I contemplated "flying" into our solar system from somewhere else. Somehow existence got bigger when the fact that our place in the universe might be referenced very differently worked its way into my imagination. So the term or name Cassiopeia as an angel had not come up yet. But the name itself aroused an awe or charm whenever I said it. This two lined poem about “angles” of 1993 stopped right there at two lines with no further content, and so I just left it alone. In late 1995, I found these same two lines in my notebook, and in re-reading them, the impulse started again, and I added these two lines :

She shakes them into her open hand
like clearing the trap in the kitchen sink..

I consciously liked the idea of making the dream/creative process less mystical and more common place, and I definitely felt the caring quality of “angel”. But reducing the process to garbage went too far ; I wanted no suggestion of the garbage dream theory (Crick). You can see how the word "kitchen" in the final version is the fossil-residue of that metaphor, once I backed off from "garbage." Still, the impulse started pushing me to get these dreams somehow to the level of earthly life, now that the angel had revealed herself and had done her work. I began to feel her effort and the danger involved, but I also felt her excitment ...that she alone was doing the necessary thing for the children, outwitting the goddesses' vanity ("..ball..") and getting around the gods' ignorance ("..lessor.."); my mind at this point was dwelling on the hindering role of the subtle "authorities" this side of heaven (See the" Nag Hammadi Library in English," words attributed to Jesus regarding the “authorities.” ).

Once I focused on the common place, I saw, I felt , the image of hiding things in the kitchen, and the sugar jar came into view ; the "bliss" got added as I felt the angels enjoyment of her role, but the experience went farther than that ; it felt absolutely blissed-out. Her care for these dreams I strengthened through dropping the word "garbage," adding the "admiring seashells" image common to children and families at the beach, which I later dropped. But the sugar and the "bliss" began to work on me, and for several days, I knew I had a problem. Intellectually, my inner critic kept saying she's been into this a long time for another reason (besides the kids) and it's the "sugar" sticking to the dreams in the jars. I could see how it happened: she did it initially to help the kids, but in tending the dreams she got hooked on the bliss laced sugar. At that point I began to let go of the poem as "self medication," an inspiration tract to compensate for the loss of my own dreams, and I let the poem evolve with the mix of feelings/ideas now dominant: which could be talked about as "a simple altuistic impulse leads to a complex human experience; a compassionate entity (the angel) discovers an unsought reward"; etc. The change from "seashells" to "pups" was a very conscious one to re-enforce the "creation" motif, with the added plus of connecting the angel with the ancient wisdom of Sophia ("wise old bitch").The term "Bitch" works also to increase the irony (the judgmental tone of the narrator). It also removes it from the kids poetry section.

Other changes were going on as is evident from the dated version copies included with this essay [may be omitted until last version of this section ]. The third stanza got the dreams out of "heaven" and down to the children through the delicate ommision of her per se as the agent of the dreams delivery ; the focus is on her bliss, suggested and re-enforced through "euphoric" which heightens the addict motif. The last additions were (a) "blue collar" to increase the rich/poor-cinderella motif laid down by the words "no creator's ball' and "queen;" and (b) the various added narrator words to increase the irony ("Need I tell.."). At some point, I may make some connection to the sand in one's eyes when awaking, which can tie into the sugar/bliss motif, but that will have to wait.

I love poems that keep talking to me, and this one is still at it.



The Truth, About Elephants : A Child's Report
© 1961-2008 Clay Moldenhauer

First of all, there's a father kind,
And a mother kind, and the babies
Are born whole, but they have to be natured
Like my teacher says.
It mostly has a long nose
And lives on peanuts and stuff.
And when it dies, it just goes away
To a secret place and dies by itself
Like my dog Pettie did.
In fareign places it drags logs up hills
And crushes people who get in its way.
Elephants have chains on their legs,
But sometimes they break loose
And knock down the whole village
Until some kid who grew up there
Comes along and feeds it something it likes.
The book says that elephants sleep at night
and eat daily and is taller than anyone can reach
Except when they're little.
Also some die at birth and some are captured,
But they live mostly free. And that is all
I could find out about the truth
About elephants.



The Fear and the Antidote
© 2008 Clay Moldenhauer

The fear:
Once passing through solitude,
My body gives up its weight;
Once passing through solitude,
My mind resolves it divisions;
Once passing through solitude,
My heart lets go its heartaches;
Once passing through solitude,
My soul conjures up its commissions
And omissions.
Where then will Spirit find me
If nothing remains?

The antidote:
Body not mine.
Mind not mine.
Heart not mine.
Soul not mine.
What remains,
Not my problem.
Where Spirit finds me,
Not my concern.



March Twenty Fifth Directive To Mary
© 1978-2008 Clay Moldenhauer

Touch my body
Until we are spent, emptied, exhausted,
Until our played-out passion
Feels the cookie crumbs
Beneath us from the night before.

Run your tongue around my eyebrows
And taste the salt
From yesterday's swim.
It was from that star, there,
Shining through the window,
That we came.

I was a starfish, and you were a turtle.
That's why the seawater
Behind your eardrum hears my flutter,
Swoons to my treble moan,
Expectantly.

Be very still now, your leg over mine.
Put your mouth over my mouth,
And counterpoint the breath
Of those ancient waves
Beneath my rib cage.

Now suck in that emptiness
Between the beats,
And move, tenderly,
Until you feel that star there,
Shining through the window,
Burst through your body.
Then, childlike, sleep,
My body still lying in your body.
And tomorrow,
With my voice singing in the shower,
Open your eyes to the sun's light,
Expectantly.



Where Sky meets Earth
© 2008 Clay Moldenhauer

Where Sky meets Earth
Fire arises and descends,
Who knows why?

Bellowing white Spaces
Fill the blue above,
And turning darker,
Water the dirt into mud,
But on whose authority?

Clear Light washes the rocky cliffs
With rainbows of color.
And stones, empty and wise,
Bow to the presence of Compassion,
But where is it?



Samantha
© 2008 Clay Moldenhauer

A dark emptiness filled her,
An emptiness no man could occupy,
An emptiness no woman could absorb.
Rejecting all visitors,
It had taken on a life of its own.

So, too, it had a mind of its own,
But lacking knowledge,
And believing it was everything,
With no boundries and no content,
Declared I am god.
Vast and cold.
Eternal.

Then love struck, heart deep, by chance.
A shudder was all there was.
Her body, recoiling, fell to earth.
A strange water displaced the darkness,
Fire erupting where they met.

Give me air, moaned the darkness,
And it was gone, just like that.
Only love witnessed the departure,
While Samantha wept alone,
Feeling the pain of every tender soul
That had approached her since eternity
And moved on.



To Sarah : A child who will be 30 in the Year 2001
© 1977- 2008 Clay Moldenhauer

If you ever visit the backwoods country of Virginia where I lived as a child, you may see swirling across a dry dusty road in July or August what folks around there commonly call a dust-devil or wind-devil. Now local folks believed then, and still do, that a wind-devil is just dirt, old newspapers, and junk food wrappers, which is true. But it is also true that in its center, in absolute stillness, there exists only gratitude.

In the center, there exists only gratitude. No one can discover that truth for you. Or explain it. Yet it is true. If you listen to others, you will only hear the words of an interpreter translating the language of an alien friend whose country he's never been to. Ordinary mind cannot know the mind of gratitude until they are one, until there is at-one-ment. They are one already, but ordinary mind will not believe it. Ordinary mind sees a snake where a rope lies coiled in the shadows. It cannot see the rope until it lets go of the snake, until it sacrifices the reality of the snake held so tightly by past hurt and present perception. And why is the snake held so tightly?

Fear.

So the first thing I would have you remember is simply this : meditate on your fear. It will lead you to the truth. Not my fear, or the world's, or a loved one's, but yours. The beginning of its reality is the end of illusion. Not because I say so, but because your inner response to what you come to understand will supply its own authorization, its own credibility.

So all I can really explain to you about life is fear. That is what I know most intimately. But it is a bore. It is manure for the garden of self-knowledge. Suffice it to say that I ate the bread of the common lot and believed that a wind-devil was what I saw. In quiet desperation, I sifted the dirt of my life through the fingers of perception, and it was always dry, and barren, and nothing close to being unlimited ice-cream, good grades, and Mercedes Benz. My experiences, like everyone else's, came and went, piling up behind my eyes like old newspapers. I read and re-read them as was the ritual of the times. And of course, their ads did their number on me. I bought all the usual junk, and lived for the rush of the unique experience : a new car, a new sound, a new woman, a new me. Yes, I identified with all that : the dirt, the newspapers, and the wrappers, simply because I didn't understand my own fear. What can I say, oh voice of the internalized guilt tripper?

I can say that somewhere, somehow, while the wind-devil swirled around me, the snake dance of fear stopped for a brief moment, and there was simply and only gratitude. And a voice that lives unattended in the stillness of the center gave me this insight, and give it to you and to all those for whom I work and meditate. And the voice said :

The world is a friend that I don't want. It will rub my nose in the dirt of expectation. It will make me vomit up my desire, ignorance, and aggression in the most embarrassing places. Every moment, it prepares a death for me that I do not want. I can escape to a book, or a group, or a counselor's office, but ultimately I have to come out. There is no remedy. Yet breath is only a grace away. So view easily this worldly collage of faces and places kaleidoscope past, as children ride on parents' backs like ponies on a merry-go-up and down with the clock. Be clear that you need no face painted with tie or pearls, or backsides covered with patched blue jeans for acceptance through the life-plane political turnstile. Just jump over and clasp hands with all the beautiful, motley, ugly people people around you in this earthly subway of gatherings and potlucks and crises, who sit side-by-side as close as the air, sharing in the pain of change. Something inside you knows that we are all one inside this collective of moving needs and sparkling eyes which leap out their colorful energy. So hook yourself up to that daily fix of appreciation and hugs. Social security is not a number, but healthy faces and good talks and warm bodies next to yours. Say good-bye to the dis-ease that there's no religious blanket big enough to get everyone under. And be not proud that there's no barbed wire sharp enough to keep us all down. Accept the serendipity chaos of planned misery and unexpected joy, and the world's wisdom tooth is finally pulled. Incense the muses of the clogged sink and the erratic furnace, and bless the domestic daily crisis for trouble and love are the world's only teachings.

And that is what the voice said. So you should know, Dear Sarah, by the year 2001 that there is and there isn't a red tape road to your own undoing and re-doing. Simply walk completely erect. The tree of life blooms unendingly in your heart. The rainbow of your unadulterated attention waters the air unceasingly with its color. The soft withdrawal of egohood is and will be our only alma-mater as life has been our only church. Be it ever so.

With love and zest,
Pappa

[EDITORS NOTE : First published in the "Co-Calendar" of the NIMH Grant : Training For Urban Alternatives, New Haven, Connecticut, March, 1977]



The Muses' Bridal Song To Humanity
© 2008 Clay Moldenhauer

To you, Humanity,
Our Brothers of the Rainbow Light,
Your Sisters of the One G-Clef Song,
Who bind all to All,
We sing to of a horizon unseen,
Of a hope unblessed, uncaressed.
So listen, Humanity, listen.
It is not for you that we come,
But for ourselves, and not for anything else,
Truthfully.

For when has the earth last sensed
Our musical touch? When has the world
Last smelled the lavender-pink mist
Of alchemal innocence?
When has our presence
Last moved you to dance in sandaless feet
Around the tree of life?
So listen, humanity, listen.
It is not for you that we come,
But for ourselves, and not for anything else,
Intentionally.

Recollect how you and we lingered, eternities ago,
Breathless and fused in ever fragrant free-fall.
Never again this.
Never again this frigid grace
Of unmoving perfected desirelessness.
Thus we parted. Reluctantly.
Yours, a denser hue of Light.
Ours, a deeper tone of Night.
So hear us, Humanity, hear us.
It is not for you that we come,
But for ourselves, and not for anything else,
Presently.

We can spin the mortal web of time no longer.
The immortal membrane of Space has broken.
We have mended all there is to mend,
Rendered all there is to rend.
What can be said, sung, rhymed, seeded, danced,
Sketched, or skinned from marble is no more.
This indwelling mansion where we live
Is emptied eternally of love, harmony, and beauty,
And so, we must emerge. One choice only remains:
Nine wills fill one Soul,
Yearning for your heartfelt recognition.
So hear us, Humanity, hear us.
It is not for you that we come,
But for ourselves, and not for anything else,
Intimately.

Will you not respond, dear one, to Sisters who have
Loved you for so long, who have shared with you all that we are?
Are you not ready to open to our cosmic tenderness,
To gently touch the galaxy with your body's heat
That we might ascend, vision struck, together
Within your solar eyes?
Feel now how lovingly your essence curls into ours.
Sense how your heart has known since eternity,
As it well knows now, that you would inevitably hear us call,
That your Sisters of the Shadow would doubtless emerge,
Driven by the persistence of God's changeless heart.
So hear us, Humanity, hear us.
It is not for you that we come,
But for ourselves, and not for anything else,
Patiently.

Yes, we are now here forever, and at last,
famished to be earthed into your wind and dirt,
quickened to be blessed by your fire and ice.
Once blood deep in your vibrant flesh,
We will pray with you, satiated and atoned, to be once more
As we once were,
Desireless for desirelessness.
So dear one, let us love one another as never before,
For as you came to know, once embodied in Space,
And as we came to know, once alone and infolded in Grace,
That we must both be here on earth as One,
Passionate for the Great Perfection.
So hear us, Humanity, hear us.
It is not for you that we come,
But for ourselves, and not for anything else,
Compassionately.



Spirit
© 1964 - 2008 Clay Moldenhauer

No cage have I,
Nor God above,
Nor am I a jailer.
But were I to perish,
Even once,
The Universe would be frailer.


Commentary on “Spirit”
© 2008 Clay Moldenhauer

The meaning of the poem "Spirit" centers around the word "Frail." Frail sits at the very end of the poem like a punch line to a joke, or an answer to a riddle. This is because what precedes Frail is structured very much like a riddle. To test this out, read the poem through once without reading the title, and then immediately ask the question verbally, "In this poem. who or what is ‘I’ ?"

Whenever I read this poem my silent attention is not on the word Frail. It is on the word "Tender" which, as you know, is not in the poem . Tender is the feeling this poem started in. Tender gave birth to the poem, and by the time the poem was in its present state, Tender had been absorbed and Frail was the dominant word within it. That was not what I had intended or wanted. So Tender still feels to me like an invisible twin to Frail, but now only a chimera. Frail is out in the light, on the page, while Tender sits patiently in the shadows of my unspoken attention.

Somewhere long ago, Tender appeared in a line of one of my diary poems as "lost on a dying cinder// Both the old and the tender." Here obviously, Tender was meant simply in the sense of "young." But because the notion of fire is contained in the word "cinder," this particular context released the "kindling" sense of Tender, kindling as the smaller, more flammable pieces of wood you put under the larger pieces of wood to start a fire. Upon reflection, I sensed two levels of meaning being rendered at the same time : one about people, and one about wood, but both connecting to "a dying cinder" which meant "earth." I did not immediately sense the underlying nihilism of this line, but in an authentically therapeutic way my struggle with this poem brought it to the surface.

level 1: lost on earth, both the old and the young
level 2: lost on earth, both seasoned wood and young kindling.

From this point, perhaps you can guess how the poem "Spirit" unfolded from here. If you are anticipating some interest about "what is consumed and what remains," you're warm.

Tender was now resonating with its strongest meanings, and demanded a change in context, i.e. a replacement word for "lost." Lost would not allow 2 levels of meaning to co-exist. More precisely, one could speak of people being "lost" in the sense of life-purpose, but one could not speak that way of firewood. So to keep the Tender sense of kindling wood, I dropped Lost. When I dropped Lost, I gained a coherent metaphor, and the nihilistic direction of the original line altered toward a free floating idea of something burning or being consumed. The semantic chain "tender-old-cinder" was the beginning of the poem "Spirit."

At this point, the more I meditated on the word Tender, the more strongly I felt another meaning of Tender : "tender" as in the sense of "to tend, to take care of." e.g. "tending their flocks by night." This meaning was pushing forward in my awareness to join with the idea of "earth" which, as I said, is contained in the words " dying cinder." If you think of the planet earth as a planetary body with a molten core slowly cooling, then you grasp how the earth is possibly a "dying cinder."

Now here was a logical or semantic problem covering a spiritual problem. The logical problem was : how can I set up a series of words to convey a burning process if the process is both on the surface of the earth burning up (people or wood),
and underneath it burning out (in the core of the earth)? In short, is this getting too complicated, or is there an easy connection I can make between the two separate sites of "burning" ?

There was no easy connection forthcoming. Years later, however, the phrase "were I to perish" smite me on the cheek, and by the time I had turned the other, I found myself again ruminating on the consummation of people and wood again, the kindling notion of Tender, and the demise of the earth . But the more I ruminated on the kindling, the stronger I sensed the sustaining, ever-burning aspect of the flame. As it turned out, part of me had to live in the flame for many years before the words in the poem would come together. ..

And as time went by, I realized that the sustaining quality of the flame was more in my head than in the poem, so the simple answer was to provide more words in the poem to carry it. As the poem stood, the sustaining quality could be attached to "cinder" (meaning "earth"), and/or to this "I" which was now available in the phrase "were I to perish." This new resolve to get on with the poem was forcing a spiritual problem out of hiding. What was hiding was my fear of being used up in senseless and useless activities. And there was my anger which normally covered up the fear. The poem and I were now in a therapeutic struggle. My mind kept turning up unanswerable questions as a kind of damping action : "Is there a relation between the heat of those many lives burned away here on the surface and the heat of this planet's core?" "Is this God's little academic secret, etc." I decided after several years that I had a semantic connection to make and a poem to finish, and the mystery of life would take care of itself as it always had.

So here is how I went to work. The sustaining quality of the flame I attached to the voice in the poem, the "I." It seemed clear by now that for this poem to work, the sustaining quality had to be continually present as "tender" (carer) of the burning process because the other possibility of attaching the sustaining quality to "cinder" was a dead end. Fortunately, I lived with this decision long enough for the tone of "Were I to perish" to work on my awareness. Few critical writers on the subject of English poetry give much attention to auditory tone in word groupings. Animals understand the tone on words better than humans. The tone of "were I to perish" is more than half of the colloquial-emphatic-ultimatum tone of such phrases as "if X happens one more time, I'm going to....," or " were they to see this, they would....".

The addition of "even once" re-enforced this emphatic-ultimatum tone , and the follow through of "the earth would..." completed it. The full phrase "Were I to perish, even once, the earth would..." lead quickly to dropping "earth" and using "universe," because the sustaining force as I meant it was all pervasive and inclusive, and much bigger than just "earth." Tender, however, by this time seemed very far away yet paradoxically deep within the poem continuing to push it forward. My creative attention to the poem was now how to close off "the universe would...," and how to get Tender back into the poem.

Intermittent attempts produced no comfortable resolution until I came back to meditating on Tender again and discovered the little coal car that follows behind the engine of a steam locomotive. This moved me back into old feelings that started the poem, with childhood memories of the circus and zoo animals in cages at the train station awaiting the next stop. Here the poem and I let go of the burning metaphor altogether, and my thinking was swept away by contemplating the immense freedom of this sustaining force vis-a-vie the caged animals before my mind's eye. "No cage have I" fell out of my mouth as a purely negative descriptive statement.

While the verb-first pattern is replicated in the following two lines : "Nor God Above//Nor am I a jailer," which evolved over a long period of time, it was not a conscious decision to do so. But I consciously kept these three lines

No cage have I
Nor God Above,
Nor am I a jailer

for the ambiguity of their sound together as well as for the immense economy of their semantics. As to their meaning, it was important to me now that I not ascribe anything to the voice in the poem, the "I" which is the Sustainer ; that would be at odds with my best understanding of that quality. Negative definition, explaining something by what it is
not, was important here. Something in me had hammered out a definition of my reality in a very oriental fashion, not by what it is, but by what it is not. This was the ordeal of the poem. Evolving these three lines promoted within me feelings of great destitution, of deep object poverty in what I thought was my human dignity, what in me cares to save face. But I had to see it and say it out loud. The Sustainer cannot be confined; there is no reference point beyond it; it acts against no thing or against any being's nature. It permits everything, however good, however evil. But it sustains only the good.

With the word "jailer" in the middle of the poem, the poem as evolved down to the words "the universe would..." was now locked into two possibilities: a short phrase or a word that would close off the poem as it is, or another development to which these 6 lines would stand as an introduction. "Frailer" filled the first possibility elegantly. Several years of experimenting with one word titles produced "Spirit." Tender, as you notice, never made it back into the poem. Yet it floats within me with great intensity whenever this poem is read. And so like the mother of a child that others also see, I alone experience the rich memories of that on-going and evolving presence that has changed its form over the years in order to persist.



Rocks and Fish
© (2008) Clay Moldenhauer

Rocks and fish, I ask you:
Where is this river going?
Where did it begin?
It never stays in one place!
How do I get in?


The Flower Sutra
© (2008) Clay Moldenhauer

They say a long time ago
A young India prince found relief
From worldly suffering ;
Lived long enough to say the obvious :
Fire seeks air,
Air spreads over water,
Water sits on earth, and
All comes to emptiness
Which is our nature.

From this we may consider the lotus :
Rooted to earth,
Swimming in water,
Basking in air,
Petalling sunward.

How floats this beauty on the shimmering water?,
Ask the sages of our time.
Is it the petals, or the water?
Is it the stem, or the roots?

Perhaps it is some noble wholeness
Unfragmented into parts?


END OF FRAGMENTS as of may 7, 2008