Threads through the Denkoroku: Records of the Transmission of the Light

although the forest floor is white
the sparrow, like music,
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 woods 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 feeling apart

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

no island—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 unseparable
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

Armand Schwerner (1927–1999) was the author of The Tablets (The National Poetry Foundation). A musician most of his life, he was a member of Son of Lion Gamelan for a year; he often complemented his poetry readings with performances on various instruments.