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March 23, 2016


A Poem in Response to Suzuki Roshi

Award-winning poet Brynn Saito, intrigued by the teachings of Zen Center founder Shunryu Suzuki, shares with us her poem in response to the master’s teaching.


“Sometimes a flash will come through a dark sky…The sky is never surprised when all of a sudden a thunderbolt breaks through. And when lightning does flash, a wonderful sight may be seen. When we have emptiness, we are always prepared for watching the flashing.”—Suzuki Roshi

How to Prepare the Mind for Lightning

In the recesses of the woman’s mind
there is a warehouse. The warehouse
is covered with wisteria. The wisteria wonders

what it is doing in the mind of the woman.
The woman wonders too.
The river is raw tonight. The river is a calling

aching with want. The woman walks towards it
her arms unimpaired and coated
with moonlight. The wisteria wants the river.

It also wants the warehouse in the mind
of the woman, wants to remain in the ruins
though water is another kind of original ruin

determined in its structure and unpredictable.
The woman unlaces the light across her body.
She wades through the river while the twining
bleeds from her mouth, her eyes, her wrist-veins,
her heart valve, her heart. The garden again
overgrows the body—called by the water

and carried by the woman to the wanting river.
When she bleeds the wisteria, the warehouse
in her mind is free and empty and the source

of all emptiness. It is free to house the night sky.
It is free like the woman to hold nothing
but the boundless, empty, unimaginable dark.

Brynn Saito, author of The Palace of Contemplating Departure, has just published her newest book, Power Made Us Swoon.

1 Comment Post a comment
  1. richard benton
    Mar 24 2016

    One day, when I was coming home from the high school that I attended south of Kezar Stadium, I saw Suzuki Roshi in his work pants hanging upside-down from a tree (the south entrance — the tree was next to the stairs, east side) trimming it. He reminded me of a monkey, or an acrobat. I can’t be sure that he knew that I was coming home at that time, but I think he did. It was a funny but very deep experience to see him like that. He was like that. Once I saw him at City Center on the first floor at night (in those days City Center had a rich cultural life at night). He was walking ahead of me, and all of a sudden, he just disappeared around the corner, just vanished, like a ghost. I never forgot it.Such a small thing, which contained a big lesson about skills of invisibility.


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