Poetry Friday: In Which I Share a Friend’s Poems

h1 August 13th, 2009 by jules

I’m here to share some poems a friend of mine wrote a couple years ago. His name is Chris Lance. Chris is not a full-time writer. He actually lives and works at the Austin Zen Center and is about to undergo training in the priesthood. But I think when he does sit down and write, he creates some great stuff. I’ve read a bit of his earlier poems from years ago, and when he told me recently he’d written some new poetry, I suggested he share some on a Poetry Friday. I was pleased to hear he was up for it.

I don’t want to sit here and analyze my friend’s poetry too much, but I will say this: I love how his poems strike out on such a clear and accessible note and then often surprise you. And I like how they can sometimes be so gentle and startling, all at once. I chose three to share today. Thanks and mwah! to Chris. Enjoy.

* * * * * * *

“The Abbot Told Me a Story”

The abbot told me
a story the other day
about two people he knew who
met in the Tassajara kitchen
and how one fell in love
with the other.
The feelings weren’t mutual
but they went on to
become great friends.

This morning I walked
into the zendo and bowed,
and bowed again and
again at my seat.
Every time I face my cushions
I can see you across the room
and perhaps I’m bowing to you now,
for this opportunity,
for the way that I’ve softened,
and for however it is that
we might show up together.

“Kitchen Practice”

Tonight we gather
round a lamp-lit table
laying out words and hearts,
words and hearts that tell
a particular story about
our lives together and,
how tomorrow morning,
that story continues as it has
every other day this summer:
from dawn through dusk,
putting on our kitchen robes,
stirring awake the pulse of practice.

Isn’t it our delightful duty
to do such work, the cooking of life,
of our lives and all life so that both
the difficult and delightful
become digestible?
Mmmm…delicious…

I’m holding my finger
against my lips and there’s
no one around but us now and
I want to tell you a secret that everybody knows:
how the complications of the human heart are unknotted by
kneading bread, frying onions, cleaning sinks;
how our lives unfold into endless offering
and the wide world over cared for by
scrubbing carrots, paying attention,
by saying “yes.”

“Now We Have This”

I want to
tell you a story
that explains it all,
about how I fell
in love with someone
and realized what
I was really longing for
was already here,
in the composite of me,
waiting to be given.

So I decided
I would walk through
the world this way –
you know, with those
full moon eyes

and then you walked
into this opening

and now we have this.

* * * * * * *

The One and Only Andromeda will be hosting Poetry Friday this morning—well, tomorrow morning, as I’m posting this a bit early—over at a wrung sponge.

Image above of the seated zazen from here.

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14 comments to “Poetry Friday: In Which I Share a Friend’s Poems”

  1. Oh, such lovely, quiet poems. Simple and pure on the surface, they contain such a profound inner sensitivity to all the myriad forms of human feeling. The perfect antidote to a day of discord. Thank you, Chris and Jules.


  2. …how the complications of the human heart are unknotted by
    kneading bread, frying onions, cleaning sinks;
    how our lives unfold into endless offering…

    Oh, my. These go to the soul.


  3. Wonderful! Thanks for sharing. Kitchen Practice in particular really speaks to me.


  4. I think even if I didn’t know Chris, I’d recognize that these unassuming little gift-poems came from a pure, sweet, beautiful soul. Thanks, to both of you, for sharing them.


  5. I agree with Tabatha, love “Kitchen Practice but they are all wonderful.


  6. So beautiful, calm, and peaceful. So pure! Thanks so much for sharing Chris’ poems. I will carry the spirit they convey around with me all day.


  7. Gorgeous. I want more. More, I tell you, more. And yet it feels wrong, almost, to talk of wanting, in the face of Chris’s beautiful poems, full of their “endless offering”. I’m very glad Chris allowed you to share them.


  8. Hi, everyone ~

    Thanks for the feedback on the poems. I’d like to share one with you by Hafiz which is referenced in the last poem posted above, “Now We Have This.” It’s definitely worth committing to memory. So without further ado…

    “With That Moon Language”

    Admit something:

    Everyone you see, you say to them,
    “Love me.”

    Of course you do not do this out loud;
    Otherwise,
    Someone would call the cops.

    Still though, think about this,
    This great pull in us
    To connect.

    Why not become the one
    Who lives with a full moon in each eye
    That is always saying,

    With that sweet moon
    Language,

    What every other eye in this world
    Is dying to
    Hear.


  9. Oh my gosh. These are so beautiful. Jules, shall I just go find him, somewhere here in Austin, and introduce myself and ask him to read these aloud??????


  10. “how our lives unfold into endless offering
    and the wide world over cared for by
    scrubbing carrots, paying attention,
    by saying “yes.” ”

    Perfect. Paying attention and saying yes. And carrots.


  11. Thanks, you all, and thanks, Chris, for the Hafiz poem. That really, really speaks to me.

    Liz, by all means, you and Chris should meet. I bet if you randomly dropped by the Zen Center, Chris would meet you with a full moon in each eye.


  12. Wow… so nice to see the poetry inside you outside you.


  13. Chris,
    thank you for your beautiful, heart~full poetry!
    I can see you being inspired by Hafiz & Rumi! I too am in love with Hafiz and his poetry… I know the one above very well…From The Gift by Daniel Ladinsky….the best translations there are….I am an illustrator and know that practically illustrating Sufi poetry my life’s work….

    and Jules once again…thank you!!!!!!


  14. Wow, these are lovely. Kitchen Practice is my favorite–all those wonderful details (and I thought of Tanita when I read it and then saw her comment:>). But the ending of Now We Have This, from those full-moon eyes on, that was my favorite set of lines from all three.

    Thanks for sharing these!


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