Sky, Empty of Birds is an atmospheric collection of poems set between earth and sky, nature and mind, and self and other. Succinct, prayerlike stanzas evocative of Zen Buddhist kōans invite us to wander a real yet unreal dreamscape of meadows, flowers, trees, rivers, mountains, and beyond to the cosmos of earth, moon, sun, and stars. Observe a shepherd and his childlike companion—the zero—live out their awareness in the passing moments of nature, with eyes open and closed, gazing both into the world and into our selves.
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Language : English
Publication Date : 8/13/2009
Format : E-Book
Dimensions : N/A
Page Count : 266
ISBN : 9781728320212
Yes: when we sit down, zero,
I’ll write these verses of you,
With cheeks colored in pink and red,
And your hair blowing softly as the wind swept.
“Running in the fields, smiling, playing;
Occasionally bending to pick flowers,”
That’s what I’d write.
And so it became Sky, Empty of Birds—a poetic narrative spinning together the realities and dreams of consciousness and unconsciousness, set within a world of nature at once familiar and foreign. A narrator, or perhaps a shepherd—grounded if not afloat, certain if not vexed, happy if not sad—watches over his innocent zero, a quiet, childlike figure both seemingly detached and yet wholly engaged with the world in a way yearned for by his pensive observer.
Zero, I watch you pick flowers—
You love to pick them.
And I, watching you—
Like the sun and moon: two songs sung;
And you—not knowing.
As you read Sky, Empty of Birds, the narrator’s musings become your own as he reflects on his quest for an almost conscious unconsciousness—to see without having sight, to touch without grasping, and in the end, to think without thoughts, and to exist without self. To have or to be? This is our narrator’s central question, something mirrored in the style and the language of this book of sights and sensations. The passing wind and the stirring trees, the warm days of sun and cyclical nights of moon, the rolling green hills and the flowing of water, and the spinning, spinning of this pillbox earth amid a vast whole universe—all are symbols both abstract and real, rich with meaning, yet we are admonished to see things as they are:
When we saw trees,
We only saw trees
And not our thoughts of trees.
Not thinking: we then saw things as things.
The whole is reflected in each poem, just as each poem is reflected in the whole. While you can become lost within the rhythms and echoes of pattern, poetry, symbol, and image, at any moment you can rediscover the path of our narrator’s journey—nowhere else more apparent than in this pinnacle moment of reflection, yet everywhere found:
As if bending down …
Helping the zero of ourselves pick flowers.
And one time, I heard zero say about the stream, “It’s a stream,”
Dipping his hand calmly in the water …
Not comparing it to anything at all.
And it made me think, perhaps it’d be enough to exist.
Is it enough to exist? It may be, but perhaps only when, like the narrator, we focus not on what we see but how to see. In this new—or perhaps in this original, childlike—way of approaching the world, existence can become an end in itself as we allow the world to present itself to us, as it is. Yet the narrator’s enigma is that in our escape from the analytic of thought we become mindful—by forgetting, we become more aware.
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