The Wounded Otter

by Michael Hartnett - translated from the Irish by the Author
From 20th Century Irish poems selected by Michael Longley. Published by Faber and Faber.

A wounded otter on a bare rock a bolt in her side,
stroking her whiskers stroking her feet.

Her ancestors told her once that there was river,
a crystal river, a waterless bed.

They also said there were trout there
fat as tree-trunks and kingfishers
bright as blue spears -
men without cinders in their boots,
men without dogs on leashes.

She did not notice the world die nor the sun expire,
She was already swimming at ease in the magic crystal river.

Break your ties

The Tsurezuregusa Of Kenko
(Translated by Donald Keene)
What follows is an extract from an essay that is from a collection written by the Japanese Buddhist Zen priest Kenko between 1330 and 1332.
They are taken from a small pocket book entitled "Essays in Idleness" published by Charles E. Tuttle Co.

Essay 75

I wonder what feelings inspire a man to complain of "having nothing to do." I am happiest when I have nothing to distract me and I am completely alone.
If a man conforms to society, his mind will be captured by the filth of the outside world, and he is easily led astray; if he mingles in society, he must be careful that his words do not offend others, and what he says will not at all be what he feels in his heart. He will joke with others only to quarrel with them, now resentful, now happy, his feelings in constant turmoil. Calculations of advantage will wantonly intrude, and not a moment will be free from considerations of profit and loss. Intoxication is added to delusion, and in a state of inebriation the man dreams. People are all alike: they spend their days running about frantically, oblivious to their insanity.
Even if a man has not yet discovered the path of enlightenment, as long as he removes himself from his worldly ties, leads a quiet life, and maintains his peace of mind by avoiding entanglements, he may be said to be happy, at least for the time being.
It is written in Maka Shikan, " Break your ties with your daily activities, with personal affairs, with your arts, and with learning."

I lie with you

I lie with you

I lie with you along the great river's banks...
The leaves are falling down.
The leaves are falling down.

I have learnt some secrets by now.
How long it seems since those early days.
How long between then and now.

untying the knots of identity.
cutting through the chords of memory and time.
I look now upon this world as a place of sleep.

Everything here is the passing shadow of a dreamed light source.
Everything, but that which is behind attention.

Silence is conversation too.

I am the End of Journeys


Can you let your fears go?
Can you step out the door of the house of all you know?

I am the blind man on a busy train being guided to a seat by a kind stranger.
I am the kind stranger.

I am the melting heart falling for the beautiful girl.
I am the sadness that cloaks the hidden meaning I have been seeking.

Can you sit alone and not feel deprived?
Can you look back on all that has happened with an easy smile?

I am the end of the road, ...where it draws deep breaths from the ocean breeze,
I am the long day just now dawning.
I am the end of journeys where all change comes to a natural end.

the start of someting without end.
something that calls out to you in moments of deep uncertainty.

Can you join me in the secret garden?
Join me where we are one with the blue dawn...

and I am lost
in the avenues of the mind.
At least that is what I have lead myself to believe.

I am here to unlearn all influence...
here to distance myself from the idea that I am body or mind.

Quiet is the hush of realization.
It descends with blessings upon he who is ready to heed the lessons of the
Heart that links all.

A Cry in the Dark

A Cry in the Dark

Through the winding cypress trees that lead down to the brooding expanse of blue...
Along the train tracks that convey the city folk to their place of work...
Down the ages, tossing and turning
after the midnight hour,
the threshold of many dreams...
Caught in the shrill wail of island winds,
Winds that are close and others far off....
speaking of long sea voyages
Midst all these passageways
comes a cry in the dark.

I am lost and do not know my place in this world.
I am asking, like a wounded soldier, if there is a place I might rest.
If there is something to heal my tired frame...
Some answer to my question.
Some light to clear the darkness of its rude insistence.

I do not put too much faith in temples or churches...
I do not see wisdom in the loneliness that captivates me.
and for that insight I am grateful.
It is slowly destroying me.
Undoing my clutches on the mundane story that I have come to shed.

Nothing is lacking but the idea of lack itself

Nothing is lacking but idea of lack itself

I travel now on a twisting journey.
A journey through shadows and glimmering passageways.
A journey of unlearning; of discarding and derobing myself of all that is not
what I am.
A journey to the fount of silence.

It is a journey that hungers for meaning.
A journey that finds meaning when the search for meaning
A journey that reveals to me that nothing is lacking but the idea of lack itself.
A journey that shows me that attachment is not to things of the world, but rather
to thoughts of things of the world.

I watch the journey through the mind.
And over the contours of the body's map of varied senses.
But I am not here.
I am not of the body or of the mind.
I am in the stillness beyond time.
Yet I am not inactive.
I am the very essence of activity.
I am being.

I am the thinker.
He who is not a creation of his thoughts.
He who is master of the mind and the body.
He who is an extension of reality.
Inseperable from the source.

Great things start small

I used to think that aiming high in life was important. Like being president or the first in a race or the most popular or the top on a test had some great meaning. Yet with the passage of time I saw the beauty of small things, of living in the moment, rather than being distracted by some uncertain ideal that one might get attached to. I saw that grandiosity is not grandeur. It is quite rare in this world to meet a selfless being. We are educated to be proficient in exercising judgment....and yet there is very little wisdom in such an approach. The saint or the wise person is not a slave to the intellect.

The politicians of modern times and of much of mankind's history have held on to power using the psychology of fear and the philosophy that might makes right. The Gandhi's of this world are the exception to that general rule. Peace is born of extending forgiveness and compassion, of letting go of our group-mentalities, our comparisons, vested interests, arrogant viewpoints and our illusionary sense of separateness.

Invariably, if you listen to modern day politicians you see the worst of our humanity. You hear the twisted glorification of our nationalism, our pride and our pettiness. Just to see all of this is critical to living a different kind of life. In this world, we need to be careful not to confuse popularity for a measure of wisdom.

The world is not going to change very much. The wars will go on. The nation states will continue to bicker and disagree. After the age of the terrorist, there shall come a new threat and a new war to deal with it. And the populace, by and large will be swept along by it all...thinking themselves to be Americans, or French or Christian or Islamic or whatever ideology suits them. Very few will awaken to the insanity of it all. Democracy shall continue to produce mediocre results and captalism will go on brainwashing us into being good consumers.

Only at the level of the individual is there the possibility of change. What we do with our lives is important. But more important is whether we know what we really are. Because, how we see what we are influences everything we do. All problems start and end in the mind. The mind is the instrument of perception. By and large we mispercieve. But correction is possible - at least to those who are urgent to know what it is that ultimately percieves. In the depths of every human being there is a quality of being that has outgrown all labels.

I would say that honesty is possible. The thing we need to get over is the conception that it is somehow difficult. Real honesty dissolves the motives that keep us bound to self-centeredness.

An anonymous teacher who pours his heart into his work, a street cleaner who does his best, a bus driver who drives carefully and conscientiously....these are humble approaches. I think there is a popular view in the world that to be someone of import you have to do something exceptional. I do not think this is the case. What is important, is to recognise that whatever we do must be done with exceptional care and sensitivity...and detachment. The key is not so much what we do - but rather being aware of what we are and having a sense of deep responsibility behind how we live our lives..that and reverence for life, are absolutely essential.

To earn lots of money as a lawyer by taking advantage of others or to be a famous governor as a consequence of championing selfish interests and letting corruption to sacrifice the real reasons we came here. The real reasons we came here are related to questioning what we are...and, in so doing, undoing the misperceptions we hold about ourselves that keep us bound by the blinders of fear and a sense of lack. Life begins with nobility and is kept ever-meaningful by the guiding light of wisdom.

"What is a saint?
A saint is someone who has achieved a remote human possibility.
It is impossible to say what that possibility is.
I think it has something to do with the energy of love.
Contact with this energy results in the exercise
of a kind of balance in the chaos of existence.
A saint does not dissolve the chaos; if he did the world would have changed long ago.
I do not think that a saint dissolves the chaos even for himself, for there is something arrogant and warlike in the notion of a man setting the universe in order.
It is a kind of balance that is his glory.
He rides the drifts like an escaped ski.
His course is the caress of the hill. His track is a drawing of the snow in a moment of its particular arrangement with wind and rock.
Something in him so loves the world that he gives himself to the laws of gravity and chance.
Far from flying with the angels, he traces
with the fidelity of a seismograph needle the state
of the solid bloody landscape.
His house is dangerous and finite, but he is at home in the world.
He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart.
It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

- L. Cohen, Beautiful Losers (1966)

What is the significance of the saint's "work"?
[If you cut yourself it is not my blood that flows.]

You may wonder what hidden treasures lie between us.
Perhaps, we met for a brief moment in a journey.
Perhaps, we have been sisters and twins.
Perhaps, we dreamed of loving one another one day.
Or is it that you fathered my children?

Yet who is this I? who is this presumptive you?
My senses and mind tell me one story.
They support the notion that I am a body-mind.
If you cut yourself it is not my blood that flows.

When I sleep deeply.
When the moon arcs over the passive form of my body.
When my mind is quiet and there are no dreams
traversing the ocean of consciousness...
Then, I have no name nor apparent identity...
There is relationship with something else.

If you cut yourself it is not my blood that flows.
Still, appearances are not the full story.
There is a state transcending appearances.

A doctor is a noble profession.
He seeks to reduce or remove the suffering of others...
Using the tools of knowledge and the instruments
of science to heal the pain.
All of this has its place.

What then is the significance of the saint's "work"?
His goal is similar to that of the doctor.
Yet, rather than temporary relief, his focus goes
to the root of the problem.
Where the doctor works to cure the disease,
the saint uncovers the source of all diseases; the cause of death.

That discovery brings release from the world of appearances.
That destroys the idea of separate identities, of contrasts and distance.
Only that, ultimately, can be said to heal.

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Mind is the closest thing to our Reality...Be careful how you use it. Businessman, yogi, teacher, addicted to laughing...