A Poem For Friday

Andrew Sullivan —  Oct 3 2014 @ 5:49pm

NYBotanicalGarden_Kiku_Exhibit_B_53963

Dish poetry editor Alice Quinn writes:

This Saturday, October 4th, at 4 PM, the award-winning poet Chase Twichell will be at The New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, one of New York’s most magical places and, at 250 acres, America’s largest urban garden.

Twichell, a practicing Buddhist, will be celebrating the garden’s fall exhibition, Kiku: The Art of the Japanese Garden. She has curated a poetry walk featuring tanka and haiku by two of Japan’s renowned female poets whose work she explores on an acoustiguide tour to accompany the walk. The first is Rengetsu (known in English as Lotus Moon), who lived in the nineteenth century and was a Buddhist nun as well as a potter, expert calligrapher, and martial artist and the second Mitsu Suzuki, who was born in Japan in 1914 and moved to San Francisco in the 1960s to help her husband establish the San Francisco Zen Center.

Twichell will read their poems and poems of her own from Horses Where the Answers Should have Been: New and Selected Poems. I like thinking about how her spiritual practice is inflected in her poetry the way I long ago enjoyed pondering how Doris Lessing’s Sufism affected her fiction. We’ll post poems by Twichell this weekend.

“Paint” by Chase Twichell:

Lotions and scents, ripe figs,
raw silk, the cat’s striped pelt . . .
Fat marbles the universe.

I want to be a faint pencil line
under the important words,
the ones that tell the truth.

Delicious, the animal trace
of the brush in the paint,
crushed caviar of molecules.

A shadow comes to me and says,
When you go, please leave
the leafless branch unlocked.

I paint the goat’s yellow eye,
and the latch on truth’s door.
Open, eye and door.

(From Horses Where the Answers Should Have Been © 1998, 2010 by Chase Twichell. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press. Photo by Robert Benson of some of the thousands of meticulously trained chrysanthemums in both modern and ancient styles currently on display at The New York Botanical Garden)