Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Territory of Attachment - A poem

Territory of Attachment

I have a house
on top of a mountain.

Its rafters are sagging;
its shutters overgrown with vines.

People are always coming,
leaving offerings at the door.

Sometimes, I wonder how
all that food will ever be eaten.

Maybe if we hadn’t run
through the forest together,

And maybe if you hadn’t
gone into the nettle patch,

And maybe if I hadn’t known
to dip your legs into the tea,

Even as the world keeps giving,
all I have is the maybe ifs of my memory.

Every morning, at the window
I stand ready with my bowl.

I close my eyes and listen
for the sound of your footsteps.

Others come and leave prints
in the snow on their way out.

Maybe if I call your name,
but it’s already too late for that.


  1. Wow, I've never read your poetry before, and it just takes my breath away. You really open yourself up and invite me to as well. Go ahead and quit your dayjob.

  2. Thanks. I did quit the day job :) Now, we'll see what's next.

  3. Thank you for this wonderful gift, Nathan!

    I will return to this poem again and again.It has the quality that for me is the essence of (good) poetry - of saying things without saying it all.

    Interestingly, i did not interpret this as the poem about attachment. It made me think of Ryokan, for some reason. I imagine him standing with a bowl in his house in the mountains, waiting for his beloved to come. "One robe, one bowl". One love?

    Ryokan said:
    "Who says my poems are poems?
    My poems are not poems.
    After you know my poems are not poems,
    Then we can begin to discuss poetry!"

    And, in autograph lines on a self-portrait sketch:
    "It's not that I do not wish to associate with men,
    But living alone I have the better way."

  4. That's so, so interesting that you brought Ryokan up. During the first year I was a zen student, our teacher then gave me this Ryokan piece to reflect on:

    "In all ten directions of the universe, there is only one truth. When we see clearly, the great teachings are the same. What can ever be lost? What can be attained? If we attain something, it was there from the beginning of time. If we lose something, it is hiding somewhere near us. Look: this ball in my pocket: can you see how priceless it is?"

    What can ever be lost? It's almost the companion question to the post I wrote today on Dangerous Harvests!


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Creative Writing the Dharma by nathan thompson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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