namo (Sanskrit: नामन् ): name; syllabic utterance to convey the essence of a deity, person, place, object, memory, or species.


Four Poems About Names, and Naming


I. What’s In A Name?

 

A voice mumbled across the table in the tavern, with a subtle hint of disdain:

"So, what's with this name?"

 

I said something about poets, and teachers of poets

poet-names and Dharma names.

 

I started to talk about people who follow these old traditions of being and naming,

like my teacher,

and the names placed in front of us like horizon lines to aim for.

 

I started to mention the tapestry of waking-dreamers before us --

how Tao Yuanming, at mid-life, became Five Willows

how Bai Juyi left the city and would only answer to the name “First Mountain”

how Matsuo named himself Sobo, then Tosei, then Basho

how Buson took his dead teacher’s poet-name, Yahantei, Midnight Studio

how Otagaki Todo, after a whole life of loss, gave herself the name Lotus Moon

and stayed hidden within the town, writing poetry, firing pottery, moving every year as if she lived on the surface of a stream.

 

I stopped myself, knowing full-well I cannot convey

this multidimensional mandala of oversouls and lush places of memory.

So, I just left it at: My teacher gave it to me.

 

II. Walking Toward Something - Not Running Away

 

How do you explain the poet-name?

Will it be a nourishing feast or a kettle of rotten fish to the listener?

 

How do you articulate the age-old practice

of trading-in ego concerns and Floating World grasping and greed

all in service of filling oneself up with the guiding spirit of the seasons?

 

What poem can be written, or story told,

that conveys Dawn-Light Clarity

--this stepping beyond

--this stepping into poems

--this making room for the memory-flow

--this making space for dead teachers to have their say

--this wandering with long-gone poets who are still teaching The Way

--this daily guarding of oasis-like spaciousness

for those moments when life-changing conversations need to take place?

 

How can it be described that multi-verse travel is not only possible

but happening all the time,

all while you, the poet,

are trying to maintain a body

in the here-and-now?

 

III. Scientific Classification of a Poet for the Literal Minded

 

Classification:

Mississippiensis naturae x japonicus mahayana indicus religiosa chinensis homo noeticus occidentalis mons dao poetica

Characteristics:

Nocturnal, solitary; attracted to the sound of cicadas, owls, and the scent of junmai ginjo sake'

 

IV: Our True Name Is Found in the Dawn Light

 

You have to present yourself to the morning.

The whole lot of yourself.

The bags under your eyes.

The pain from being betrayed.

All the things you were meant to give birth to

which you aborted for a half-lived life.

The travel-worn lines in your heart, hands, and face.

The scars and burns and multiple brandings from being made an exile.

Bring it all.

 

Whether shy to the light or broken-winged,

you have to present yourself to the morning

and give her

your everything.

Only then, will you be given your true name.

 

From seed-catchers

to sandpipers

bottom-feeders

to dragonflies clicking through the sunbeams --

all are after only one thing:

one humble taste of The Flow.

 

After offering your "self" to the morning

the night is where you receive your True-Self back.

This is when you learn about the Long View;

that the only mountain you need to climb is yourself

and everywhere there is a great Circle of Solace waiting;

you just have to be fully present in that moment

and enter from there.


(c) 2017 / Saizan Owen / purelandpoetry.com

To learn more about the improvisational guqin (Chinese zither) music of Vi-An Diep, visit her Bandcamp page

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