Had a big epiphany this morning. The religious zeal and calling I feel is directed toward the creation of an intentional community. I also feel a very strong love and gratitude for Buddhism. My Buddhism has been a solitary practice for so long that I’ve tended to dissociate the religious/community calling from Buddhism. With the recent creation of an evening meditation group, and a planned trip to the local Zen center this weekend, I feel a merging of my calling and my Buddhist practice. Maybe I’m finally finding my path.
Chris & Jeff at the bar (aka the sages of Temperanceville)
Jeff leans over to Chris like a conspirator:
“They’re tryin’ to turn everything into fuckin’ ‘right to work.’”
He looks up at the TV news, snorts air through his nose.
On the screen: West Virginia teachers on strike.
“They wanna take everythin’ away from ’em,” Jeff growls.
Chris nods, on his fourth phone call in 10 minutes.
“How many I got left, hon?” Jeff asks the bartender.
(She’s flying past, cradling a basket of bread
like a newborn babe.) “You’ve got one, Jeff.”
“I’ll take it, then, and give Chris one more, too.”
Next story: the baseball players union is suing the league.
“Good for them. Give it to ’em!”
Welcome to Pittsburgh. Eat your hoagie.
/ / /
27 February 2018
The Village Tavern
in Pittsburgh’s West End
(formerly Temperanceville, PA)
feet sore from walking
back sweaty from early warmth
jump in shower — ah!
/ / /
25 February 2015
State College PA
I go through periods of reading and writing haiku. I’ve done it ever since I moved to Japan in 1991 and picked up a copy of Basho’s Narrow Road To The Deep North in a bookstore in Sendai. Today I listened to this talk from Upaya Zen Center (where I almost ended up living in 2013) and decided it was time to start writing haiku again.
In the past I paid little to no attention to the 17-syllable rule, given that in Japanese it’s not even syllables that are counted. But Craig Strand’s part of the talk changed my mind. He said that focusing on three elements — form, season and present mind — frees the mind to express exactly what is there. In other words, the restrictions allow for true freedom. So I’m going to try sticking to 17 syllables.
Photo of the site of the battle by Jason Crane.
Peter, George, John, Joseph, Silas, Henry and Tom
Pinkerton rifles filling the air
with smoke & screams & blood
men of iron & steel
men of flesh & bone
the ground soaks up the evidence
the birds scatter; no witnesses
now: the furnaces shut, rusting
mud colors the Monongahela
two robins rest on a sign
listing the names of the dead
/ / /
21 Feb 2018
This poem is inspired by the Battle of Homestead, which took place just down the road from my hotel. On July 2, 1892, Pinkertons hired by a steel company murdered seven striking workers, all members of the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers. Three Pinkertons were also killed. Shortly thereafter the government used the state militia to bust the strike and break the union. The poem’s title is a list of the names of the seven murdered workers.
The other day I wrote a poem called “the bodhisattva of Prospect Ave (all praise to Jah)” after a walk I took around town. Today I took another walk and discovered two things: (1) the statue is on Hamilton Ave, not Prospect; and (2) someone smashed it in the four days since I wrote the poem.
I discovered it had been smashed because I stopped by to pay my respects on my walk. I was very sad and very angry to see it lying there. I know it’s not mine, and it’s an ephemeral object, like all objects, but it still just felt … wrong. I also felt a little relief that I had placed it on the wrong street in my poem, meaning it’s unlikely someone read the poem and decided, “Hey, I dislike Jason, I’m going to go kick over that statue.”
I live in a conservative, wealth-obsessed town full of drunk college kids, and at the moment I saw the statue it was pretty easy to hate this town. That’s not a particularly Buddhist attitude, but it was my honest reaction. It’s been about 20 minutes and I’m back home, sweaty from the walk, but writing before the emotions pass, which they will. I was thinking I might knock on the door of the house with the statue and offer to help them get it fixed, as a way to turn this into something positive.