Poem: Day Lily

For my Mom and her flower garden

In summer, the day lily opens its lavish orange petals for the sun
and withdraws at night, enfolding itself in a sacred and secret stillness.

This is where the myriad songs of the million birds dwell:
nestled in the throat of the lily.

And in the lily’s protective keeping,
a dream of the moon rises over the blue, forested hills
and follows its dream course through a universe of stars,
warm in their remembrance yet cold in their distance,

while the starry winds and the night birds’ tentative
twitter nudge the dreamy head of the lily,
whose sleep is the half-held memory of the sun,
and the song of the birds kept safe in their nests.
The lily encloses the whole of earth, night and day, as a flower.

In the moonlight hum of the blue-green valley,
the lambent stream trickles over stones.

Sediment swirls, round rocks
and settles at the bottom of dark pools.

Along the bank, within the soil the hairy toes
of the lily’s roots stir
as if to remember:
the stars are sparkling
settling into the streambed
of their earthen home,
and coursing through the lily’s veins—
green, languorous leaves arced shadows
in the moonlight.

It is when the lily, like the dream flight of geese at night,
begins to sense within the colder strands of its valley,
warmer winds at interims mingled;
then it slowly begins, just so much,
to rouse: while lapses of the beneficent wind as curved or long,
lingering or swift as the slopes of green hills
and blue oceans beyond the horizon and beneath the sun:
Come like the underwater sway of currents through the tree limbs:

The maple breathes as a breath of wind,
climbs through its limbs and the tree one,
and every leaf, heaves with a faint rising flutter
so soft it holds the thunder of ocean swells
and the night clap of a billion twinkling stars:
a warm wind upon the ear and petal of the lily: opens

Clouds come cumulous and white,
as wave-spawn upon the crests of hills.

Abreast the horizon and darkened forests
there is a silence as of waking in the light of stars
gathered as dewdrops on pinnacles of pines.

The song of birds rises out of the dim reaches
of the forests, as swift-beating hearts and buffy feathers,
little silent eyes swivel curious among the treetops
and a little bird in its nest, somewhat startled,
chirps as if another sang through him:
(a call) and another from hillside to valley and valley to hillside,
again and again in distinct and expanding song
like a thousand-stringed instrument played upon by the cool,
morning breeze: the last whisper of night
and the distant stars,
who are far closer than we have ever imagined.

The face of the earth turns, as if to listen.
The hidden corners of the woods are as familiar
as the presence of one’s ear.
And each secretive corner, in the morning light,
is a place made known by a bird’s song,
each leaf, limb, tree and incline of slope its singing—
revelation.

The lily blooms beneath the maples.

What dream we face when we arise,
the sediment in our eyes,
can be as tentative as the day lily,
who wakes a dream in its opening though roots
hold it as firm as our feet, which know nothing but of walking.
And though the birds flitting from limb to limb speak
so well of flight, their twig-like feet are the roots,
branches, reeds, and grasses of their earthen bower:
While the roots of the lily, though holding taut,
Still retain a sleeping dream of flight and
Separation from the land

What is this dream?
In the light of day,
have things become so hidden or weary
that all lies latent as sediments of sand
at the river bottom?

And do we long to remember and bathe
suspended in the celestial water of our true home,
our quiet beginnings and silent,
subtle returns to what guides us like the kinship
of the lily and the sun,
or the geese with glossy eyes
on a forgotten, familiar land?

A north star, a sailor needs when lost at sea.
But we do not, when each filament and leaf of earth
and each star can guide us towards our return.
The sun holds us and we are kin to all beings,
and are blessed, greatly blessed to know.

Brother Phap Tue, True Dharma Wisdom, is a monk living in Upper Hamlet, Plum Village.

PDF of this issue