A Mystic's Journal Entry: June 16, 2010. Poems by Richard Nowogrodzki.
My dear friend Richard Nowogrodzki wrote the following beautiful and wise poems. Richard is dying of cancer. We first met many, many years ago. Richard would drive me to the Meditation Center in Valois, through the Blueberry Patch, past Tburg, down winding single lanes, when the world was young, when we were young. We have been good friends ever since, and the news of his terminal illness was a terrible shock. He has been sending his new poems out to friends, here and there, and I asked him if I could include them as A Mystic’s Journal Entry. I find them quite extraordinary:
I wonder how many different cultures independently invented baskets,
how many times human ingenuity first began to shape space
by intertwining the merest wisps of substance:
sweetgrass stems, reeds, twigs of willow or birch, or thin splints of beechwood.
Each basket surrounds emptiness with form,
and seems to ride through air or float on a Nile,
holding much more than its freight.
My lifetime is a basket, too,
woven of lived and living strands:
sweet and green or dry as reeds, supple as willow or bitter as birch, sometimes smooth as thin-split wood.
Nowadays, it seems, my basket is getting lighter and emptier
the more I can give away, forget, forgo, forgive.
One day, I imagine, when the basket’s light enough,
it will be ready to relinquish to its elements,
wind and water.
Losing My Hair To Chemotherapy
As I walk, I leave a trail of strands.
Sitting, I slowly shower my surroundings.
I am a one man cloud.
I suppose I could shave it all at once,
like setting the clocks on a Saturday night:
instant Hairloss Savings Time.
But so far I prefer the slow, steady shedding,
each moment losing another small bit
of my shell.
The Softness Competition
Looking at the year’s first dandelions.
I imagine summer.
Which lands on the grass most softly:
Or my thought?
My sense faculties are fading, it seems.
Various medicines are eroding my taste buds, perhaps
my sense of smell.
Age continues to weaken my hearing and my eyesight,
and my body feels chills when others around me
Yet as I eat a meal, I powerfully sense its goodness and
Gazing at my front yard, I drink in the warm, soft
sweetness of the fruit trees in bloom,
and I can almost taste the almost impossible beauty of
As strength subsides, and as the senses waver,
I find I’m still aware of life’s sweet savor.
Where I’m headed. Maybe
Maybe I’ll come upon a wide beach
where every rock has been worn smooth, round, and
and, looking back at my memories, maybe I’ll see only
And maybe I’ll gently open my hands
and let them go.
Hot weather haiku
In the heat of summer
the soft green moss:
reminder of spring rain.
The cat twisting on her back
at my feet
begs for some pats of my hands
to turn her squirming commas into semi-colons.
The backyard plum tree
blossoming in glowing pink
transforms the lawn’s
into an exclamation.
And as I review the years gone by,
blue editing pencil in hand,
how many of my urgent plans and struggles,
once bristling with dashes and underlining,
I now enclose
in thin parentheses.
Ah, I think I see a few of the tricks now.
It's easy not to cling to the last snow of the season,
coming as it does at the end of so long a winter.
And the last daffodil, the last swallowtail butterfly, the
last ripe pear -
they're noted only in retrospect, so it's not very
difficult to let them go.
In the fall, the maple leaf devotes itself so completely
to its changes that,
blazing into a timeless moment,
it simply releases from its branch
and softly descends.