Last poem of the month

One of my regular morning table visitors at GBM told me about this poem. I thought I’d end Poetry Month with it.

The Woodcarver

Khing, the master carver, made a bell stand
Of precious wood. When it was finished,
All who saw it were astounded. They said it must be
The work of spirits.
The Prince of Lu said to the master carver:
“What is your secret?”

Khing replied: “I am only a workman:
I have no secret. There is only this:
When I began to think about the work you commanded
I guarded my spirit, did not expend it
On trifles, that were not to the point.
I fasted in order to set
My heart at rest.
After three days fasting,
I had forgotten gain and success.
After five days
I had forgotten praise or criticism.
After seven days
I had forgotten my body
With all its limbs.

“By this time all thought of your Highness
And of the court had faded away.
All that might distract me from the work
Had vanished.
I was collected in the single thought
Of the bell stand.

“Then I went to the forest
To see the trees in their own natural state.
When the right tree appeared before my eyes,
The bell stand also appeared in it, clearly, beyond doubt.
All I had to do was to put forth my hand
and begin.

“If I had not met this particular tree
There would have been
No bell stand at all.

“What happened?
My own collected thought
Encountered the hidden potential in the wood;
From this live encounter came the work
Which you ascribe to the spirits.”

– Chuang Tzu
from The Way of Chuang Tzu by Thomas Merton

One Comment

  1. Holly Cairns said:

    Hi everyone,

    Did I miss Poetry Month? Darn it!

    My favorite poet is e.e. cummings

    The way he plays with syntax just amazes me.

    For example, there is a poem about a someone jumping rope, and the words bounce on the page, and you can hear the singing. You have to read it book form and then you’ll see the proper spacing, so I won’t give you a link.

    I liked to read Shel Silverstein to my kids, too. Interesting conversations happened. Fun.

    May 7, 2007

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