Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Waterfall

The Waterfall
(Six Tanka, Five Haiku)

Before birth, we were
In the river, just upstream
You and I, unborn.
Flowing, floating in primal
Blissful unselfconsciousness

And we suddenly
Plunge over the precipice
The riverbed’s gone.

We’re all droplets now
Rain, vapor, snowflakes, mist, dew.
Made of the same stuff
And, falling, too scared to know
Can a drop recall the tide?

We’re water droplets,
Afraid, we distract ourselves
With imaginings.

We imagine that
We are individuals.
Who will long endure.
Forever? Maybe our souls,
Maybe our love—something sure.

Some of us fancy
That we’re flying, dancing, free,
More of us quiver.

We see so much our
Separations. We admire
Our dense uniqueness.
Sometimes glare at reflections,
Our projections, on others.

Gravity beckons,
Winds caress and jostle us,
The breath of karma.

Some dive quite quickly
Some soar. We're all falling though,
Flying, tumbling, down
To the worn brown rocks below.
We shall splash down soon, alone.

And as we do die
As we pool back, join the stream,
The river, the tide.

Will we miss our lives?
Will we remember our ride?
The tide fills the cove.
Will we know love? Or be love?
Does a drop know of the tide?

by Dan Gurney


Dan Gurney said...

Waterfall, a poem comprised of six Tanka (5-7-5-7-7) and five Haiku (5-7-5) poems was influenced by three people:

Jim Wilson who on February 6, 2010 posted a seven-four quatrain, “When Asked About What Happens After Death,” Jim's poetry blog, Shaping Words is a place I regularly visit.

steven from golden fish whose post on February 14, 2010 “Like a River Through Trees,” If you read the comment I left for steven on that post, you can see the seeds of this poem.

Mark Bittner in the movie, Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill who recounted what Shunryu Suzuki said while looking at Yosemite Falls.

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Breath-taking Dan! I love it all and especially the lines:

Will we know love? Or be love?
Does a drop know of the tide?

We turn the transparency and flow into a dense identity in our insatiable desire to 'know'. My life is peaceful when I can let go of the desire to 'know'. Your tankas and haikus remind me that such a desire is unskillful and futile.
Thank you ... again.

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Bonnie,

Thank you for commenting and adding your insights to the mix.

The line you especially like, "Does a drop know of the tide" was written, actually, by my friend Jim Wilson. It appears as one of the four lines in the quatrain he posted on February 6 on his blog, Shaping Words.

Jim's told me about collaborative poetry in Japan called Renga where poets write poems back and forth to each other, adding one on top of another.

Blogging offers us a way to emulate that poetic interweaving worldwide and over a vast audience.

I see the voices of poets as necessary (but not sufficient) to heal the world's troubling challenges.

Jennifer said...

Waterfalls are significant for me right now. This poem is a beautiful piece for this journey in my thoughts. Thank you.

steven said...

dan this is astonishing! i wonder if you have a sense of yourself as a writer or if this is as revelatory for you as it is for me?! thankyou. your written insights are inspirational and also a vital part of my work so thankyou again! steven

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Jennifer. Thank you for letting me know that you enjoyed the poem on your waterfall journey! May it be joyful.

Dan Gurney said...

steven, I am SO glad you like this.

It expresses a Buddhist view of self quite well, I think... there *are* "real" selves, just like there are real drops of water.

But it's awfully easy to get caught up in our drippiness and forget that there's a lot more to the experience of being water than the momentary experience of being a separate drop.

I think we can really get lost in discussions of self vs. nonself so I don't really want to talk too much more about it, other than to point out that it can be useful to take our "selves" very very verry lightly and let go of our SELF and discover what happens.

your blog, golden fish, has a lot to do with its being here.

key, actually.

I had very little sense of myself writing it.

As it flowed onto the page, it was more like just staying open and letting the words fall into place.

The syllabic "hoops" I choose to use -- the form of 5-7-5 haiku and 5-7-5-7-7 Tanka -- these "obstacles" slow me down quite a bit...

and that slowing down allows me to stand aside enough to allow a greater mind than mine (subconscious?) to find its way into the compositions.

Thank you for asking me about this.

Stream Source said...

Your love affair with words and verse is quite obvious... very nice, Dan.

As I read this, one of my favorite quotations came to mind:

"A myriad bubbles were floating on the surface of a stream. 'What are you?' I cried to them as they drifted by. 'I am a bubble, of course' nearly a myriad bubbles answered, and there was surprise and indignation in their voices as they passed. But, here and there, a lonely bubble answered, 'We are this stream', and there was neither surprise nor indignation in their voices, but just a quiet certitude."- Ask the Awakened, Wei Wu Wei

Margaret Pangert said...

Hi Dan~ Your poetic form here is exquisite. I looked up the references to yours and Steven's interchange. You do seem to be saying much of what the droplets were going through in The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill: "All the individual little droplets think that is what they are until they hit the bottom, and then they're gone. But that droplet doesn't lose anything. It gains. It gains the rest of the river." And so when we die we give up our consciousness to be a part of the vast universe. We'll have so much more.

Dan Gurney said...

Stream Source, thank you. Of late the urge to create poetry has been running strongly through me.

I love the quotation you provided. There are similar stories sprinkled about in Buddhist literature, especially the Perfection of Wisdom texts. Wei Wu Wei was Toast philosopher from England, more or less contemporary, if I recall correctly, WWW being his pen name.

Another quote of his:

Why are you unhappy?
Because 99.9 per cent
Of everything you think,
And of everything you do,
Is for yourself —
And there isn't one.

— Ask The Awakened

Dan Gurney said...

Margaret, thank you so much. Do you have the movie? I'm guessing that you're quoting exactly what Mark says in that so sweet part of that movie.

By the way, if that's a movie on your "I'd like to see it someday" list, move it up on your list. It's a good one. Or at least I think so, because I've been to just about everyplace in that movie and I've seen the parrots fly overhead. Love 'em.