What Sort of Savage?


The world is such an amazing place. So much to explore, so many discoveries to be made, so much to do. It is almost dizzying and sometimes the questions I have spin me. I doubt if I could live five, ten, a hundred lifetimes if I would learn all I want to learn.

Because I cannot live without poetry, I am just going to post a poem by Gary Snyder from his Pulitzer Prize winning collection titled “Turtle Island”.

The Great Mother

Not all those who pass

In front of the Great Mother’s chair

Get passt with only a stare.

Some she looks at their hands

To see what sort of savages they were.

Poetry: Gary Snyder’s “The Uses of Light”

Today was National Poem in Your Pocket Day. I carried Gary Snyder’s “The Uses of Light” in my pocket.

Here is the poem from Snyder’s Pultizer Prize winning collection titled Turtle Island:

The Uses of Light

It warms my bones
say the stones

I take it into me and grow
Say the trees
Leaves above
Roots below

A vast vague white
Draws me out of the night
Says the moth in his flight–

Some things I smell
Some things I hear
And I see things move
Says the deer–

A high tower
on a wide plain.
If you climb up
One floor
You’ll see a thousand miles more.

Poetry: Gary Snyder’s “The Bath”

I have loved the poetry of Gary Snyder for a very long time and have had the privilege to hear him read his poems twice. I was discussing on facebook how his poetry mellows me out and a friend commented that she enjoys the poem “The Bath”. I looked it up and reread it this evening. It is a lovely poem from Snyder’s Pulitzer Prize winning collection titled “Turtle Island”.

The Bath

BY GARY SNYDER

Washing Kai in the sauna,
The kerosene lantern set on a box
outside the ground-level window,
Lights up the edge of the iron stove and the
washtub down on the slab
Steaming air and crackle of waterdrops
brushed by on the pile of rocks on top
He stands in warm water
Soap all over the smooth of his thigh and stomach
“Gary don’t soap my hair!”
—his eye-sting fear—
the soapy hand feeling
through and around the globes and curves of his body
up in the crotch,
And washing-tickling out the scrotum, little anus,
his penis curving up and getting hard
as I pull back skin and try to wash it
Laughing and jumping, flinging arms around,
I squat all naked too,
is this our body?

Sweating and panting in the stove-steam hot-stone
cedar-planking wooden bucket water-splashing
kerosene lantern-flicker wind-in-the-pines-out
sierra forest ridges night—
Masa comes in, letting fresh cool air
sweep down from the door
a deep sweet breath
And she tips him over gripping neatly, one knee down
her hair falling hiding one whole side of
shoulder, breast, and belly,
Washes deftly Kai’s head-hair
as he gets mad and yells—
The body of my lady, the winding valley spine,
the space between the thighs I reach through,
cup her curving vulva arch and hold it from behind,
a soapy tickle a hand of grail
The gates of Awe
That open back a turning double-mirror world of
wombs in wombs, in rings,
that start in music,
is this our body?

The hidden place of seed
The veins net flow across the ribs, that gathers
milk and peaks up in a nipple—fits
our mouth—
The sucking milk from this our body sends through
jolts of light; the son, the father,
sharing mother’s joy
That brings a softness to the flower of the awesome
open curling lotus gate I cup and kiss
As Kai laughs at his mother’s breast he now is weaned
from, we
wash each other,
this our body

Kai’s little scrotum up close to his groin,
the seed still tucked away, that moved from us to him
In flows that lifted with the same joys forces
as his nursing Masa later,
playing with her breast,
Or me within her,
Or him emerging,
this is our body:

Clean, and rinsed, and sweating more, we stretch
out on the redwood benches hearts all beating
Quiet to the simmer of the stove,
the scent of cedar
And then turn over,
murmuring gossip of the grasses,
talking firewood,
Wondering how Gen’s napping, how to bring him in
soon wash him too—
These boys who love their mother
who loves men, who passes on
her sons to other women;

The cloud across the sky. The windy pines.
the trickle gurgle in the swampy meadow

this is our body.

Fire inside and boiling water on the stove
We sigh and slide ourselves down from the benches
wrap the babies, step outside,

black night & all the stars.

Pour cold water on the back and thighs
Go in the house—stand steaming by the center fire
Kai scampers on the sheepskin
Gen standing hanging on and shouting,

“Bao! bao! bao! bao! bao!”

This is our body. Drawn up crosslegged by the flames
drinking icy water
hugging babies, kissing bellies,

Laughing on the Great Earth

Come out from the bath.

Poet Gary Snyder’s “No Matter, Never Mind”

Gary Snyder has been amongst my favorite poets for a very long time. I have had the honour of hearing him read his poetry twice. Both times were in Ann Arbor. He is considered one of the Beat poets and his poetry has Buddhist influences. Here is “No Matter, Never Mind.”

No Matter, Never Mind

The Father is the Void
The Wife Waves

Their child is Matter.

Matter makes it with his mother
And their child is Life,
a daughter.

The Daughter is the Great Mother
Who, with her father/brother Matter
as her lover,

Gives birth to the Mind.

by Gary Snyder
from his Pulitzer Prize winning collection titled “Turtle Island”

Poetry: Riprap by Gary Snyder

The coyotes woke me up tonight and right now I cannot get back to sleep. It is cold in the house and I made tea. Sometimes I get frightened for no rational reason and cannot get back to sleep so I am distracting myself reading poetry. One of my favorite poets of all time is Gary Snyder. He is considered a Beat poet and he writes poems that include Buddhist elements and environmental thought. I have been enraptured by his poetry since first encountering it as a child. I have a dog eared copy of Turtle Island that has traveled with me everywhere. I have heard him read his poetry a few times and he has the same soothing presence that lulls me to sleep as the high Buddhist lamas. Here is a poem that I discovered this evening. BTW, riprap is rock or other material used to armor shorelines, streambeds, bridge abutments, pilings and other shoreline structures against scour, water or ice erosion. It is made from a variety of rock types, commonly granite, limestone or occasionally concrete rubble from building and paving demolition. It is used to protect coastlines and structures from erosion by the sea, rivers, or streams. It is used on any waterways or water containment where there is potential for water erosion.

‘Riprap’ by Gary Snyder

Lay down these words
Before your mind like rocks.
placed solid, by hands
In choice of place, set
Before the body of the mind
in space and time:
Solidity of bark, leaf or wall
riprap of things:
Cobble of milky way,
straying planets,
These poems, people,
lost ponies with
Dragging saddles —
and rocky sure-foot trails.
The worlds like an endless
four-dimensional
Game of Go.
ants and pebbles
In the thin loam, each rock a word
a creek-washed stone
Granite: ingrained
with torment of fire and weight
Crystal and sediment linked hot
all change, in thoughts,
As well as things.