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Poem: Armfuls of Poetry, Drops of Sunshine

mb33-Armfuls Sunshine rides on space and poetry on sunshine. Poetry gives birth to sunshine, and sunshine to poetry.

Sun treasured in the heart of the bitter melon, Poetry made of steam rising from a bowl of soup in Winter. The wind is lurking outside, swirling. Poetry is back to haunt the old hills and prairies. Yet the poor thatched hut remains on the river shore, waiting.

Spring carries poetry in its drizzle. The fire sparkles poetry in its orange flame.

Sunshine stored in the heart of the fragrant wood, Warm smoke leading poetry back to the pages Of an unofficial history book Sunshine, though absent from space, Fills then now rose-colored stove.

Sunshine reaching out takes the color of smoke; Poetry in its stillness, the color of the misty air.

Spring rain holds poetry in its drops Which bend down to kiss the soil, So that the seeds may sprout. Following the rain, poetry comes to dwell on each leaf. Sunshine has a green color, and poetry a pink one. Bees deliver warmth to the flowers from the sunshine They carry on their wings. On sunshine footsteps to the deep forest, Poetry drinks the nectar with joy. With the excitement of celebration, butterflies and bees crowd the Earth. Sunshine makes up the dance, and poetry the song.

Drops of sweat fall on the hard ground. Poems fly along the furrows. The hoe handily on my shoulder, poetry flows from the breath. Sunshine wanes away down the river, and the silhouette of the late afternoon lingers reluctantly. Poetry is leaving for the horizon where the King of Light is blanketing himself in clouds.

A green sun found in a basketful of fresh vegetables, a tasty and well-cooked sun smells delicious in a bowl of rice.

Poetry looks with a child’s eyes. Poetry feels with a weather-beaten face. Poetry stays within each attentive look. Poetry – the hands that work the poor and arid land somewhere far away.

The smiling sun brightening up the sunflower; the ripe and full sun hiding itself in an August peach; poetry follows each meditative step, poetry lines up the pages.

Discreetly, within closed food packages, poetry nurtures love.

Thich Nhat Hanh

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A Letter from Sister True Emptiness

Dear Friend, For this Lunar New Year (February 1st , 2003) we send you our wishes of peace and joy and thank you for your practice which makes life become more compassionate and more beautiful. Because of your generosity we have been able to give thousands of donations as a gift for the Lunar New Year to starving families in Vietnam. Following are brief news from a few regions where assistance is being offered. Central Vietnam Thua Thien and Quang Tri provinces: This is the poorest part of the country, small villages are scattered in dry mountains with no running water adn no electricity or toilets. Families live on cultivating small plots of land and have to carry water from the village well or the river to irrigate their crops. But this is not enough to feed them properly. Two nunneries under Sister Minh Tanh’s guidance contribute with seventeen social workers, trained by Thay. They cover forty villages and collaborate with local groups, including two parents, one local authority and one young person.

South Vietnam Lam Dong and Dong Nai provinces have fertile red soil. The young people marry early, have children having only a small hut they build themselves and try day to day to find work on the tea and coffee plantations. We have created nursery and kindergardens. Our donations help to buy rice, soy beans (to make soy milk) and vegetables for feeding the children at lunchtime and to pay the salary of the school teachers and assistants. Eight social workers cover thirty villages on the high lands and in the jungle.

Mekong Delta in Dong Thap, Cao Lanh, and Moc Hoa the soil is marshy but fertile. There is food (fish) but also sicknesses, snakes, and mosquitos. Special rice can be grown here when the water is 50 cm, but for five years floods have reached two meters high and stay for two months and a half. Humanitarian help has gone down since 11 September 2001 and many children have died. But all your contributions have arrived to help many of those out of work and starving families. Five social workers work together with local groups.

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In North Vietnam Sister Dam Nguyen and twenty of her disciples visit poor families, typhoon victims and lepers.

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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 nd 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, s 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.

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