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Lions Roar : March 2007
A PRIMER ON PARALLEL LIVES Bees and sprinklers employ the silence, and a horse screaming over the hill. According to Euclid, Hades has no depth, no valleys, no echoes, no heart’s embrace. Now the faintest curve of a sycamore begins to shine through the fog. And the window we look out of becomes the frame in which we’re displayed. THIS POEM BY DAN GERBER mystified me for nearly two years, tacked as it was to the bulletin board above my desk. This was especially puzzling because I had been a friend of the poet for forty years. We had become Zen students so long ago, studying under Kobun Chino Sensei and Bob Watkins, with Dan becoming a serious student and me a hopeless amateur, my disordered mind quite overwhelmed by my novels and poetry. Kobun gave me an Achala* medal to signify my tendency to fall off a burning log into the fire over and over and then get back on the log over and over. Here was the clue to my incomprehension that was discovered while leafing through the Nelson Foster/Jack Shoemaker anthology, The Roaring Stream, which I look at nearly every morning. Tung-shan wrote: Earnestly avoid seeking without, Lest it recede far from you. Today I’m walking alone Yet everywhere I meet him. He is now no other than myself. But I am not now him. It must be understood this way In order to merge with Suchness. Gerber’s poem has entered the dimension of stillness and has left the absurd baggage of personality far behind. As Gary Snyder once said, “Zen cuts through everything, even its own knife.” The poem exists in the actual world where “a poem should not mean but be.” The bee, syca- more, horse, and fog are bees, sycamores, horses, and fog, just as the landscapes of Han-shan are presented without the decal of Han-shan pasted to them. Gerber understands Tung-shan, and we only see him at the end framed by the window as we all are. The void is full of beauty, which is even more beautiful when we let it be what it not so simply is. ♦ * The Hindu god Achala, a symbol of destruction and regeneration, is a manifestation of Vishnu. About a Poem: Jim Harrison on“A Primer on Parallel Lives” SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2007 120