It might happen that when describing the minutiae of the physical world, actions and pleasures we take for granted come into focus. The micro-movements of our wrists and fingers tell a beautiful story on their own, regardless of the motor goal, if we are willing to watch. Other aspects that inhabit the work of Ian Haight: vacillation between maturity and kid-like playfulness, the corners and hollows of the odd, decorative objects we humans surround ourselves with.
Feel your way through the streets and neighborhoods of each of these meditations. Inhabiting different feelings simultaneously may be a most pleasurable way to experience poetry, regardless of your preferred methodology.
Ian Haight has won Ninth Letter’s Literary Award in Translation and has been given translation grants from the Daesan Foundation, the Korea Literary Translation Institute, and the Baroboin Buddhist Foundation. He is the editor of Zen Questions and Answers from Korea, and with T’ae-yong Hŏ, he is the co-translator of "Borderland Roads: Selected Poems of Kyun Hŏ" and "Magnolia and Lotus: Selected Poems of Hyesim"—finalist for ALTA’s Stryk Prize—all from White Pine Press. Poems, essays, and translations appear in Barrow Street, Writer’s Chronicle, and Prairie Schooner. For more information please visit ianhaight.com.
Meditation in My Dining Room
Where the sun enters black granite:
a dog walks under summer poplars
the back rubbish burns
to ashes. Nothing
dissolves into nothing.
Children find grass
on the hill
ants in the dirt
or someday, the soft hair of lovers.
In my mind’s eye
plucks a beetle
below the iron bridge
a dog lopes home
deer leg bent
drooping from its mouth
and an old man
digs a bed of roses.
Place the grinder next to recessed stone
pour water into a small reservoir.
Back straight, take the pestle,
grind in clockwise motions, the pressure
thickening liquid. Dip brush whiskers
lift, stroke, exhale,
fine ridges of silk
absorbing the wet
wrist steadily nimble
down goes the stroke
lift the fluid brush
liquid black in black stone
a breath exhaled
short slanting down the touch
left to right
the breath slowly released
with the last brushing wet
right and then down
down and then right
the last drops
settling in the tip of the brush.
Beyond the last
hermitages lived in by lone monks
on this mountain, below a steep incline
of hundreds of feet, a path of smooth-faced boulders flanked by two
ponds rises to Eunha Temple’s embanked hill. Feeder streams trickle by the path, meet below steps, pour
into a brook. All the trees leafless. A bell tower, cracks in the red wooden pillars wider than the side of my hand, bent
by gravity’s pull. A lecture pavilion—floor planks, original hundred-year-old wood warping in places—the roof rebuilt, having collapsed from wind. Below this, the body of the temple. Once quarters and storage; now a tea shop. Cups of pine-berry juice drip condensed
water; oak-log chairs, circle-sliced tables of trunks. Beyond this pavilion the path ascends to the temple head: a two hundred-year-old shrine in traditional Choson design. Black-tile shingles decline a steep-angled edge, then curve upwards in a lightly sloped wave; roof beams of six-inch diameter trees, the turquoise painted eaves and dragon-eye corner ornaments well-faded; grayed whitewash walls crumble at edges of weather-darkened frames,
I look out over plains of Kimhae from this last shrine, the eyes of the mountain; above, the granite’s topsoil recedes, the peaks succumb to an ever-widening embrace of sky.
The regular numbers of florets running to centers of sunflowers, or evenly distributed spiral pinecone scales are my rhythms here and now.
Before seeds there were spirals of wind, solar wind, systems, the turn of an arm of stars, and galaxies. The shapeliness of simplicity and meditation wends from one observation to the next; the vision of solids and spheres is my mind conforming to order. Lifetimes
of summer-winter patterns on this planet’s mountain temple,
to and away from the sun, wobbling,
embrace the newt on the mossy ridge
and birth of a child.