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  • Ian Haight

Meditation in My Dining Room: Ian Haight

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


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

an oriole

plucks a beetle

tides lull

below the iron bridge

a dog lopes home

deer leg bent

drooping from its mouth

and an old man

digs a bed of roses.

信 (Faith)

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

into ink

lift, stroke, exhale,

fine ridges of silk

absorbing the wet


wrist steadily nimble

down goes the stroke


into plush

lift the fluid brush

liquid black in black stone

a breath exhaled

short slanting down the touch

to silk


left to right

each push

ridges moist


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.

Lunar Corona

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.

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The image of Quasimodo is by French artist Louis Steinheil, which appeared in  the 1844 edition of Victor Hugo's "Notre-Dame de Paris" published by Perrotin of Paris.


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