Originally published in Red Earth Review

After a poem by Ryokan

Cut and burnt

by perceived

needs and desires,

I carry a blank

pad into the old woods.

Lichen a most patient

thing underfoot, the ancients

don’t speak, don’t listen.

And the speak and listen,

they not not speak,

not not listen

my breath touching

each one, each one

touches me back.

Past emptiness,

old man Linji once said

If you meet the Buddha, kill him.


Woodpecker rapping

a broken snag,

I take his point,

repeat with each awed step

no buddhas,

no no buddhas,

all buddhas

along this juicy trail

no matter the belief


I think I think.


Michael G. Smith  is a very-early retired chemist whose poems are forthcoming or have been published in many literary journals. He has published three poetry books, No Small Things, The Dark is Different in Reverse, and The Dippers Do Their Part, co-authored with Laura Young from their residency at the Spring Creek Project’s Shotpouch Cabin. He conducts workshops on the intersections of poetry, science, mathematics and Nature, and lives in Santa Fe, NM.