Alan: As a young man, before renouncing the world, Ryokan had a reputation in his village as quite the Don Juan.
Once I was known as the Bull of Echigo:
“Semen” my middle name.
Then I saw where it led:
clinging and suffering,
illness, old age, decay and death.
Now I couldn’t get it up if I wanted –
and where are those ripe young girls? –
bones, or shriveled beyond caring.
Wouldn’t they howl to see my little limp prick,
whose eyes once grew wide and eager at the sight of me?
Still, there are times, now and then, recalling those days,
I might be tempted to trade my wisdom
for one more night of deluded youth!
Daigu: “Great Fool,” part of Ryokan’s Zen name.
Nancy: April is mud and peepers, high water and fishermen. When I saw the bike I could have predicted – yes – down the rain-slicked bank a kid with a fishing pole and hope.
The Bike and the Pole
The bike and the pole
and the drizzle and the memory
of the mud and the careless slide
and the old tree and the seat
of a trunk and a curve
and a branch and the way
you could stand at the water's edge
not you, this was my edge
my tree my memory my tangle of line
but it will be his memory too
because past the bike I can look
down the bank and see a head
tawny blond boy head
and I remember what it was like
the impatience even though
in a month this will all be green
but it's April and surely the fish
will be there waiting for me
just past the mud
the tree the curve and shelter
of my seat in the trunk of the tree