Figures of Zen
On a whim —or sparked by inspiration’s
on a glorious day we drove to the sea.
You held the car steady at a flawless ninety an hour
in a motion that was so perfect I had credence in it
& did not disturb you by talking. To have done so
would have been a lack of faith in the motion
with which you drove us through familiar landscape,
in which I did not know if your skill was one of attention
or letting go but content that the outcome would be
all we wanted it to be; something I relaxed into
until we came to the beach & saw those statues in the sea,
those figures of Zen standing passive, silent, open-eyed,
set in the sand which shifted underneath their feet
the tide made wet & dogs pissed on
then moved away indifferently from, though I was not indifferent.
It was as if Easter island had come to our Flemish shore,
as if the mysteries had entered ordinary lives —& they had—
in an artist's realization of stillness & motion, of distance & nearness,
of the unsteady borders between the marvelous
& the everyday; a zone we had traveled into when in truth
we had traveled nowhere beyond the motif of the day.
We also faced the same horizon, we also stood between two elements
& surely for some onlooker we were also statues in the sand
suggesting much but offering no conclusions.
If conclusions existed they existed beyond the horizon
& what can I tell of distance & nearness & stillness & motion
that you might know by reading this?
You said that letting go was the motion I needed to understand
what was at work here, so again I was the passenger of your direction & pace,
receiving instruction, being inducted into the rites of bronze,
the intentions of stillness, the many silences you said I should listen to
and the fluctuations of the horizon as the tide came in and in.
What moves us to that which is beyond ourselves?
What do we answer the horizon with?
Whatever it is it was active then and still is in the memory by which these
lines are written.
And there we were
as if sweet Chagall had drawn us
elongating into the air
to embrace in the coils of each other.
Some stars appeared and then some more
some music played a lilting cadence
we swayed above the roofs of the world
then swayed above the world itself.
How frequently I remember this
and recite it to myself
as I elongate from memory into
the coils of your arms again.
2003 Martin Burke