Bob Schwartz

Dragon Poems (About a Plant)

Madagascar Dragon

The Dragon at the Wall

The dragon guards the wall
I sit before.
A fine pair we are.
I breathe in the oxygen
He breathes out.
He asks for water and light
I ask to learn to sit
As naturally as he does.

The Dragon Awakes

The dragon wakes up
When I open the blinds
Long green scales
Gracefully still
In the morning light.

These poems are about a plant. A dracaena marginata, which means “Madagascar dragon.” Whether or not it is a real dragon is a question.

In his Treasury of the True Dharma Eye (Shobo Genzo), Dogen Zenji also writes about a dragon and a plant. Actually, a tree. Fascicle 65, Dragon Song, includes the question “Is there a dragon singing in a withered tree?” Is there?

Touzi, Great Master Ciji of Shu Region, was once asked by a monk, “Is there a dragon singing in a withered tree?”

Touzi replied, “I say there is a lion roaring in a skull.”

Discussions about a withered tree and dead ash [composure in stillness] are originally teachings outside the way. But the withered tree spoken of by those outside the way and that spoken of by buddha ancestors are far apart. Those outside the way talk about a withered tree, but they don’t authentically know it; how can they hear the dragon singing? They think that a withered tree is a dead tree which does not grow leaves in spring.

The withered tree spoken of by buddha ancestors is the understanding of the ocean drying up. The ocean drying up is the tree withering. The tree withering encounters spring. The immovability of the tree is its witheredness. The mountain trees, ocean trees, and sky trees right now are all withered trees. That which sprouts buds is a dragon singing in a withered tree. Those who embrace it one hundredfold, one thousand-fold, and one myriadfold are descendants of the withered tree.

Zen and Intellectualism: Sit Down and Dance

By inclination and training, I can do some pretty fancy intellectual dancing. There’s a lot of stuff I can understand and learn to understand, a lot of stuff I can talk about and write about in complex and sometimes coherent ways.

Yet I’ve cultivated a view that doesn’t exactly see all that as real, a view that puts every bit of that in perspective.

I was just reading a summary of the development of literary theory, from ancient times to modern. Structuralism. Formalism. Deconstruction. Poststructuralism. On and on. Like all of the sophisticated intellectual arts, this requires real work to understand what analysts and proponents are up to, and even more to get into the conversation and make a contribution. In the end, the aim of practitioners is not only to fill journals and books with these thoughts, but to affect and improve the way we live. Sometimes, they succeed.

Yet there is a part of me that is certain that no matter how cogent and valuable this is, by its nature it misses the target. I am so certain because I am certain of what the nature of that target is, and it doesn’t look, sound or feel like that.

If you think I am suggesting an end to all that as futile and pointless, I am not. There is no point in dancing, but many people love it, and engage in it spontaneously, as soon as they hear the beat. The only suggestion is to consider gaining the perspective that poststrucuralism is poststructuralism, dancing is dancing, and not those are not those.

My intellect loves to dance. Especially when I’m sitting down.

Music of Other Tables

Breakfast

Music of Other Tables

Half listen so
Duets from other tables
Are sounds minus meaning
Words to notes
Scales of breakfast
And lives.