Art by Norman E. Masters
Guardian, let this old body Pass. Why do you bother To question an old fool Like Me? As though precious wisdom Survives in these decaying bones... Do you think the fish bother Themselves with such superficial concerns As presented in philosophy? And if they did do you dare to think For even a moment the lake would change Its ways? Or perhaps a tadpole's Most profound conclusions would cause The rivers to turn to air? Isn't living under the sea-brilliant sun More than enough for such creatures? Why should humans be any different? No guardian you are mistaken This one has nothing to offer, Except the rags on his back and the rice In this bag to the thieves in the mountains... Sentinel! Are you deaf? Isn't it obvious I am senile As can be? Stand aside let me Finish my days among the trees and streams. If you do not let me pass this craziness Will rub off on you too. The city with all its fervid charms Will taste sour to your demented tongue, You will leave your soft straw mat In favor of a bed of briar and rock. What could be crazier than that? This knowledge you claim I possess does not exist. You would sooner Feel humid when a cool breeze blows Or bleed water if you pricked a finger Then discover anything of worth In this moss-feathered mind. It wanders hither and thither An incorrigible tramp and vagabond Sailing high in the wide air These withered feet hardly walk, Nay they 'float' above the foolish earth. To sleep simply under the stars Surviving on grubs and berries is all I ask, is this wanting too much? Like a pebble leaving fast-vanishing Ripples as it sinks in a brook, That is how I intend to leave this planet. And there you are you Young upstart pushing brush And parchment into my hands What do you take me for A poet? Ancestors! If ever there were beings To inspire pity these ones Outshine the beggars only They are worse. They haven't The common sense to beg For alms for their stomach. No they weep and pine After metaphysical tidbits, Food for the 'soul' they call it. Well, I do not believe in the soul. It is far too much A bother to have one, and The upkeep is outrageous! They are worse than any shrine You care to name because You have to keep sweeping Out impurities constantly! These arms are too weak to hold A broom. Sentry what sort of fool Are you to think you will gain Some sort of treasure trove Of spiritual riches talking To a babbling geezer such as myself? I cannot tell you anything new, Anything your heart does not Already know. That has not known For ten thousand years even Before your mother gave birth To your jackel's hide just so You could stand in my aged way! Nothing that is not made evident In the lyrics of popular songs. Sit with reverence before the open fields And graceful skies if you are so intent On gaining this 'wisdom' as you call it. A hundred times a hundred hours Of doing nothing but this And I guarantee Wisdom will sound To your ears as the world's most Meaningless word. No more decipherable Than the song of the rapids. Now if you will excuse me I have to get to the Yellow River Before the evening sun sets fire To the foothills of night... What! Still you bar my path! Very well, I can see You will settle for nothing Less than a parchment filled With characters arranged In suitably obscure columns As if they were trying to hide Some Great Truth only the sincere Will have any hope of finding. Give me the damn brush! Pass the inkblock! ... Hmmm... I think I'll call It... the Tao... yes...
~~written circa mid to latter '70's