Butterfly WingFissioning

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...

~~john mach
~~written circa mid to latter '70's

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