"The Beginner" by Dick Allen

Because he's read about it in a book on Zen
and there are lilies-of-the-valley on the table
in a thin white vase, he takes all morning
to look at them and only them—to concentrate
his sole attention on the lilies-of-the-valley.

Each bell-blossom on each stem is Zen,
he thinks, and the three now fallen on the table,
also Zen—as each leaf and crease, each morning,
and the way the seconds and the minutes concentrate
before they separate ... and lilies-of-the-valley.

Suspended in its bubble-universe of Zen
the sun casts window-shadows on the table.
An old refrigerator hums away the morning,
as if it, too, has vowed to concentrate
on being and not being lilies-of-the-valley.

Puns flash across his mind: Now and Zen,
Zen Commandments, Mice and Zen
. At the table,
head in hands, he scarcely moves all morning.
Images distill, dissolving like a concentrate.
I must stay focused on the lilies-of-the-valley.

But politics kill Calm ... and war and Zen
keep leaping up and leaping on and leaping off the table,
like a cat let loose will leap into the morning,
then start its stalking, tensing, and will concentrate
on anything that sways the lilies-of-the-valley.

"What takes your mind off Zen is also Zen,
dumplings and spring rolls, a vase upon a table,
blossoms, petals, stems ... " The April morning
continues floating in Time's concentrate,
and lovely, lovely are the lilies-of-the-valley.

Dick Allen

New England Review
Volume 30, Number 2 / 2009

Reprinted from www.poems.com

Charlie's Note: Everything is Zen. Zen is everything. God is everything. Everything is God. What is is. This is it. See "Living in the Kingdom of Heaven Now".