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July 2013, vol 9, no 2

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Ken Jones

Here Now

On this black robe
the dust of incense
silent thunder

The darkness before dawn. Fumbling for the match box, the candle holder. Bare feet on a stone floor. Shivering in my thick Welsh flannel shirt. Fired up, the pot-bellied stove roars up the flue pipe. In an hour, the black kettle will sing. From its cupboard, I drag the white wash bowl, splashing a jug of stream water on the emblazoned Prince of Wales' feathers.

Another candle and Gwan Yin, the goddess of compassion, comes to life amid a waft of sandalwood incense. The dawn vows growl deep in the belly.

Three strikes
on the brass bowl
echoing silence

On the black cushion the body sits tall, the shoulders fall, the breathing slows. Only the murmur of the stream, the muttering of the stove. Time and place dissolve.

In harsh dawn light, a new day. The snow has come. Porridge and black coffee, they never taste as good as this.

"What is Zen?" The Master replies: "Chopping wood and drawing water". So out to my wood stack and the clear spring nearby.

In the snow
fox and hare
their mingled tracks

Noon and the bliss of lentil soup into which I've chopped Carmarthen "sausages".

And so it is, day following day, as the snow begins to thaw. Taking mind for walks in the forest, and stretching on the yoga mat to keep it at home in the body. Every night –

My empty slippers
each one
freed to be itself

The familiar surroundings in the cabin are vividly made new. Miraculously the protests and irritations of an eighty-three year old body go unnoticed. The fears of an old man nearing his end melt away into simply how it is.

This dull damp day
light reflected in a rain drop
dangling from a briar