A Selection
by Armand Schwerner

Curated by Adam Schwerner and Michael Heller


. .


'the waves are the practice of the ocean'

                               for my son Ari; Greystone: sesshin 5/82

here, happy outside of pursuits
I see you lift up your red canoe. you in the still
are lifting up your red canoe
your powerful canoe companion of the Temagami Wilderness assists,
bears the four sacks, 2 personals 1 heavy, one semi-heavy
your companion Mark is giving you help
I have wanted to give you this poem
for 13 years, since you were 5, and now,
free now of my terror for you life
I can make and offer the fluid confirming of this verse;
the pain in my knees and lower thighs and ankles
remembers you in your antic fortress, your attic
closet bed-room years, you and Girl
as if by the wandering moat you invented
made anxiously safe up high and deep in
and my heart bearing you as if, in a high-pulse
of endless heavy white,
two floors of Atlantic separated you from me
myself never so alone as with you high in the fort
controlling your floating push-button eyrie.
here outside of pursuits at Greystone sesshin, this sleeping-bag cellar
my knees and thighs have woken me at 2:25 a.m., or
the sweetness of my stereopticon of you
woke me, is simple, and casts no shadow. it casts no light either.
it is in my mind like my mind. like my body where on my back
in two places equidistant from my spine
between my neck and shoulder the pain of Shoro's
keisaku-blows also maps like the sculpture inside Rodin's stone
the curve of his finger's stratigraphy where he barely positioned me
before he bowed to my bow after the blows. whoever asks. whoever
gives. one. you.
                          you'd given yourself a cuneiform of cuts
on your forearm last June
swellings of the finger-joints from chops at the freezer door,
part of your rite, myself in despair seeing challenge and a fall into
your desecration of skin and cartilage and your left biceps
the knife tattoo you share 'with three friends,'
alone together
                       like me and Hans in this dharmic quiet
who allowed himself last night after zazen to murmur
'sit down by me. . . .coffee' in the weather
of the power of no set in the mind, falls
of falling in spirals of fall in angers and strains of heart
present through an airiness, replacing nothing, it seems straying, moist, in-
                      Ari dear I took refuge
on your birthday in '75 in snowheavy Vermont, here in May
my birthday you visit my body
                                                    we are lifting
your red canoe, you take Refuge
in the Temagami Wilderness in the embodying dream
of last August discipline
dream into being slowly earned
and in your coming August may find the spruces there
your thighs, and the camp already your habitation you at 18, coursing . . .
to keep coming upon your nature in your freeing North, such
happy shifting-mirrors of our namewaves
grid of jewel singlenesses reflecting each in each
vivid liquids of change
in my time-tumored heart

                through the Denkoroku: Records of the Transmission of

                                                                       with thanks to Glassman sensei,
                                                                       who assigned this practice

the forest floor is white
the sparrow touches
down, finds the bread crust in the snow
bamboo leaves fall only in May and June

his heart beats like a ferryboat
between two islands, endless
dream of docking

why do you apply mathematics
to your pain
as if the turtle in a warm haze of spring
evades its shell

the two fat inmates on the bridge
are hoping for rain
the self-confident guards
try to tell the weather apart
one and one and one and one

although the understory of the wood is white
you apply three, nine, thirty-three
to your pain
do you think they are one and one or perhaps one
like the observant healers
who try to tell the healing apart

his heart beats between
an endless dream of docking
and the idea of number
does the turtle choose between itself?

no islands - or is it
no continents? in and out
as if an eye

to be clear about this, with
with no place to be clear from. . .
might as well call yesterday's lentil soup
tomorrow what's left is
one is left. no words. no book.

having arrived at this no-place
you see how the adjectiveless world
in its practice
can't see itself
as its attributes.     such
nonesuch.     o bright crust
of snow unseperable
magic show.

not who you are
but how you act, is that
the law of form? is it,
that is, how you act means
who you are, a means test -

so there's no present
outside the circle of your flighty
cockrush, glinty sand all scattering and the traces
of where to start
domineer or lie fallow; when you choose
you fall adream
in the sleep of out-there,
happiness, how pleased, you,
to have to deal with the harassment
of such zests and gauds

you want acute access
of forgetfulness, so many pieces
of world, high decorative exile.

ah here, earth; now, soil
of minute uncountable pearls.
not the wind. not the copper bells but the mind
rings. you feel betrayed
by a straight line, rush
cocklike to undo its appearance
whose origins you've lost.

all right, toilsome spinner, let's say
you need your melody or say
you become it, uncaring and free, inside a fine
round dawn,
why these crampons, these iron
shoe-plates, anti-glide

to be clear about this, with
with those paradigmatic voicemaps
you nightmare, full of twos, eat,
kill them, crush them, so much
laborious autism - or anger of damp

in the flaked light
as you walk alone
thinking of your son alone in his bed
his true origins the same cause
as yours in the tracing
of no emergency but a conditioned
wish to discover and leave
and leave alone...
          you ask
is anyone too damaged?
you recklessly tie yourself
to the idea of a sanctuary-city, not
to learn but to hide as if places to hide
existed there, as if
the bright flakes differed from darkness
or could so any way differ

unhappiness, islands, continents
such thorns as we are, until...
and so, still, the bright thorns, the dark leaves

the brotherhood and the sensations of happiness
                                                 with masterials from Milarepa and from
                                                 second and third-order American and Italian
                                                 computer-generated Shakespearean monkeys

to dea now nat to be will and them be does doesorns
when I think of this my heart is filled with grief
I open the words True, House, Hill, Porcelain
or soon will fade or vanish.

when I think of this my heart is filled with grief
the gluepot of mind orders the rose
or soon will fade and vanish
as toise mosen to all yours you hom to to
I can't touch

self-control will still be hard. Though now you feel
like my teacher, crystal skull increasingly transparent,
I can't touch you
eselices hall it bled speal you...

like my teacher, crystal skull increasingly transparent,
the stoned rhetor in me divagates
eselices hall it bled speal you...
unattached to any home

the stoned rhetor in me divagates:
I envision my sons Adam and Ari falling through the street
unattached to any home
entre trintio e e desultto isenore si itolanon

I envision my sons Adam and Ari d=falling through the street
how I love the sensation of happiness
entre trintio e e desultto isenore si itolanon

how I love the sensation of happiness
I feel they deliver
of light

I feel they deliver
to dea now nat to be will and then be does doesorns
of light
I open the words True, House, Hill, Porcelain


Copyright © 2004 by Adam Schwerner and Michael Heller

Sources and Credits:

Selected Shorter Poems by Armand Schwerner
Junction Press
P.O. Box 40537 / San Diego, CA 92164
Copyright © 1999 by Armand Schwerner

Michael Heller, Conservator of the Literary Estate of Armand Schwerner;
and Mark Weiss, Publisher, Junction Press.