The way is every place. Love appears
as nothing when we begin to know it,
nothing that is not its opposite, or
whatever opposites mean, in this case—
coming and ebbing, a kiss and heartache.
The place where no love waits
is also love. Legs uncrossed, benumbed
but tender, tenderly. Gratified when answers
rose up in a field without questions.
Eyelids lifted like hoods or wings,
then a mise en abîme of eyes
flying open, endless hoods and wings.
Still, a moment’s suspicion that existence
churns on without a doubt, without
significance or beauty. At least
we are not helpless in this:
remember that Ram Bahadur Bomjon
cut a path through the forest and sat
in a hollowed tree for days, defying
“modern science”. Not a relinquishment
in the banal sense, but as Jiddu Krishnamurti
calls it, a tremendous energy comes,
until the body registers its extremities again—
almost everything lost but that airy room
of memory. That one expansive room.
All knowledge is but a raft—zoom up
and out—on a sea of the unknown.
The poet focused on the nail-biting void
when a whole rainbow of interpretations
was always nearby. Leaning into air, uncertain
what air is; the body knows, inhaling
its secrets—air is everything we do.
Inhale and that radio is a death-trap,
melancholy unraveling this morning’s calm;
exhale, at last, and melodies are notes
arranged to mimic fissures in a life. Love
has no opposites, after all. How alarming
the impossibility, when reconsidered.
Every thought a reflex of memory
with no chance for a possible window
to be left ajar. Meditation is not
the mind pressed down for the void
to burn right through, but an awareness
that the senses are already on fire.
Years burn holes through clothes, brand
age-spots on skin, lick skeletal tinder.
Minds catch slowly, reduced to less than air.
All of us eaten by flames invisible
to the naked eye that melts faster
than butter at the crematorium.
Then no window, no room either
for the past to make a home
since infinity extinguished my borders.
Note that Thich Quang Duc neither
flinched nor cried out as Vietnam
blazed into him. The First Lady offered
to supply fresh gasoline if supporters
intended to hold another “barbecue”.
What is no longer alight is not necessarily
dark and cold. What fails to be reined in
pushes out, freezes, breaks off—crashes.
No telling who might place a chunk
in their mouth. (Who wouldn’t pay to watch them
taste it?) Some protrusions merge with air, but
not before melting a little, flowing everywhere
within the self, hardening in places it never
meant to make a home. Don’t misunderstand
when I talk about “nothing”; it is not
the fact of a deserted hallway, an empty pail.
Let me explain: habit-energies, habit-energies
cajole us into a romance with the absolute.
What have I been saying? Fire, windows,
thought, repetition, hardness and love. Love
for attention. Love, but attention. Attention
to love. Love then attention. Attention
is love. When the absolute is a lie,
a distraction from signlessness, aimlessness
that is ever-growing. Empty, not empty
but a plenitude. Stop hoping and
it arrives. Stop striving and suffering is
excised. After immolation, the monk’s heart
stayed intact and was displayed as a relic.
The trouble with things is that we believe
they are ideas made permanent—
bed to my bed, cheek to my cheek.
Notions lock us outside of that future
beyond imagining. Forget to be elated
and elation is already here.
A votive without motives in a moment
without distinction. The revelation stayed
long after the high was gone, that there
is a way to observe each chiseled body
as something foreign or terrifyingly
new. I took part in the orgy, but instead
of being ploughed by lust, I wanted
all of you to abandon self-hatred
for joy. Sometimes love is unfulfilled
vanity: touch me, hold me, fuck me.
He kept checking his iPhone to see if
there was another party in the other room.
Since nothing lasts, let’s rehearse
by saying farewell to this bed;
these curtains that kept nakedness
from view; not forgetting you, you and you.
Death’s dog pawing at the door of every
sun-filled gesture, every dogged embrace.
Time, no time; space, but in relation
to what? Words, just words when
nothing will do. No longer a vanishing
but a reappearance, a resurfacing.
The description is not the described,
no matter how close. Any desire
to blow out desire is also desire—blah,
blah, blah—when desire may turn on itself;
a means to an end or happy suicide
of the self. The last of any identification
redraws our exits from this mental hell.
Not difficult to see how dangerous
life can be if nothing changes.
Suspended in frozen states of “happy”
or “unhappy”, such that we neglect
a frown creeping up a face, or the mood
melting without reason as we speak.
That difference between love and
ambition, being and the vertical slope
of becoming. My heart repeats: to do,
to do. To experience means to go
through, and come out whistle-clean.
Stop swinging and the world swings
like a gate into you; the trick
is to move with the gate. Give the mind
an open road and watch it stagger to a halt.
To not-act is also to act. Ripple to
calm; wave to bigger wave to calm again.
Let the weather outside settle into
the weather inside. Sun beats, wind
sits, leaves rest in a circle around us.
Forget to remember; remember to forget.
Light carves my shadow into a rock,
beckons and merges it with the shadow
of a tree. A child’s laugh calls down
bridges into this world. That slow walk
back to the car, our minds filled with
inaudible music. Listening is its own silence.
Rocks and shells have nothing to say.
Why not pay attention anyway?
I think Shunryu Suzuki was trying to explain
that you are that which is sound.
Inhale, exhale: success is only possible
whenever you fail. He closed his eyes
to chant but nodded asleep instead.
Don’t do it because you want to arrive,
then nothing can appear as love
for the very first time. At the height
of their meditation, their brains lit up
in a way never before seen by scientists.
The difference between self-hypnosis
and meditation is the difference
between escape and a settling into clarity.
Wind chimes urged us into a sudden
state of knowing. After saying the word
Buddha, the monk rinsed his mouth
three times. An earthquake between
idea and reality. Belief, disbelief;
self, non-self; to cling or not to cling.
Look down and you have already fallen.
Look up and the sky is a bluer earth.
Look away and the way is everywhere.
Forgive the past for repeating for it knows
not what it does. No one truly vanishes,
which is the root of every crisis. Call it
a paradox; call it anything you like. What is it
about living that fills me with this gift
of fraud. Pain unconvinces. Neither does
relief. The difficulty of entering
the oasis of a familiar tree, the sky as sky.
We impose our straight lines upon nature
which is squiggly. Alan Watts describes
Euclid as possessing a weakened intellect
for his simplistic geometrical shapes.
String theorists themselves cannot agree
on which theory best describes
the universe. U. G. apologized for having
“no teaching here, just disjointed, disconnected
sentences.” And emphasized, “There is
nothing to understand.” If you must burn,
burn away every preconception and see
what happens. There is a place called alone
that we would rather die than visit.
Happiness is the poorest aim; we lose
when we think we have gained.
Mother was only interested in heaven;
nibbāna made no sense, no sense at all.
Why is birth so significant? Why is death?
Because, because, because. Edge thought out
so serenity spreads from cell to cell to cell.
Search for the mind and find only things;
search for things and find only mind.
I began to see myself from a distance,
a bundle of energies instead of feelings.
One enlightenment after another and another.
What have I said thus far? Webs
of images spun out of electrified air,
flickering and flickering out.
Everything, nothing; past and present;
design, no design; what do you cling to
to save your life? Deep breath now,
deeper, even deeper still. Your heart
sails to that old woman pushing her cart,
but what can you do to lift her burden?
To store the present: use, reuse,
abuse; compare, repair, despair.
At the coffee-shop, tired migrant workers
daydreamed in silence, an interval
like a sieve between past and future.
Time is the murderer of perception.
After I became aware, nothing was ever
the same again. Each night Gandhi
slept naked beside young girls to affirm
his sanctity. Even behind every ritual,
hope lurks like a seasoned stalker.
Don’t overrate your holiness!
Put down the prayer book and gaze
upon your innermost want without shrinking.
Listen, why won’t you listen
to everything that I have to say?
The mystery can be solved if you would
lower the gun or magnifying glass.
The molester who was arrested had
asked victims to place their hands
on his chest to “feel” his heart.
The hardest part is admitting that no wrong
has been committed. Thank you
for loving me in spite of yourself.
Waves of addiction rode me back to you.
Accustomed to oblivion, we repeat
our quarrel for no reason.
He pinned me in order to find release.
One gloryhole after another! Each fort-da
a re-enactment of an earlier loss,
a struggle for control that merely
deepens the wound. Then I understood
that everything was an end in itself.
The observer and the observed
but twin poles to a singular event.
No separation between the controller
and the controlled. Eyes saw the leaf
because of that light, but light and leaf
were possible because of the eyes.
Push or pull, the wheel doesn’t stop turning.
What sound does the ego make upon departing?
Suspended in eternity with nothing to prove.
The world as nothing beyond action
and relation. The self is simply a knot
along an endless piece of rope
that unravels like a magic trick
with the gentlest tug. Watts accused
Kerouac’s version of Zen Buddhism
of being too hostile and nihilistic.
Doesn’t matter which cave you retreat to
if the cave is not already within you.
That dream of a harmonious world
is the reason that I’m always on fire.
Love is not enough when the self
adheres to its core. What I cannot
retrieve mocks me from behind time’s
two-way mirror. Something else
is required; something a little more.
Without the mirror, past and present
penetrate. A circle, but with no circumference
you can touch. Days resume unnumbered.
Time, no time; no time to waste!
Crime, no crime. Don’t judge; don’t give up!
Fields of emptiness between the wild arc
of electrons and every atom—a vacuum not
nothing after all, but the purest form
of something like compulsion that fixes
us into being, stopping the self from
coming, no, flying everywhere apart.
Wake up, eat, drink, pass substances—
the ignorant laugh, the wise will understand.
A mirror is not a home but pale captivity.
For freedom to move, loosen the ropes
of language. Names fall off their hinges.
Every time I forgot to wrap my being
harder around love, so as to discover
a deeper love. The hours I squandered
without a note of poetry in my head,
gazing at the nonchalant moon.
Disregarding the light in a flickering
leaf; absorbing instead the dark
soul of a tree after a storm’s abuse.
Not playing the songs to restore the self,
so as to carry my misery a little longer.
What we talk about when we talk about loss
are the catastrophes: walls collapsing
and the terrible flood. What we forget is what
we fail to detect: the line opening like an eye
from one end of a dam to another;
a startled look and the averted vision
at a wrong word at yet another wrong time.
Loss is an ever-growing thing. The same
is true of how we win. Everything
woven through with its own unmaking,
a storm brewing silently in an apple,
that shattered net of clouds. Cracks in walls
rocket to a big finish in the ceiling,
one arm going suddenly numb, the final
poem of a life left unfinished on the page.
Particles, elemental dust, magnetized to form
new planets and suns with or without
a creator. Seeds of illnesses make camps
along bloodstreams, preparing for that war
on health. Nothing to be considered within
diminished vistas of hope and reason. Nothing
reconsidered, how it flows into an embrace,
revivifying every word and gesture.
Who says we cannot compartmentalise
heartbreak, break it open and employ
its parts? Grief to inspire tragic songs.
Anger stored for potential storms.
What to do, then, with resignation—how
to use it and what is it good for?
Stars faint from lack, freefalling into
deep graves of themselves, from which
no light may lean away. The future
revealed like an afterlife, which we fight
to occupy and exit with equal
courage and delight. So what if justice
is unfair? Anger is a chair. Tears
are just for show. The tenderness of doubt.
Happiness without. Nothing prevents
nothing from passing through.
Nothing, after all, to try; nothing,
after all, to do. Listen to what I’ve said.
If the truth agitates, perfect! If not,
sing along—this number is for you.
Singapore: Softblow Press (2011)
“[A] sustained meditation that recalls turn-of-the-century Geoffrey Hill in its intricately patterned probing.”
– The Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry in English
“Phrasally, ‘satori blues’ is a sort of tonal totality that balances enlightenment with catharsis, high with low, insight with outsight. Blue is a color, as well as a state of mind. Satori is an inner lens, as well as the light it focuses. And satori is a bright word, while blues are naturally noctilucent. Cyril Wong’s Satori Blues is a book-length poem that sites the sights it cites, in sound—that concentrates balance, straddles its own meditations, follows its own suggestions, and lodges everything quietly between loud vowels.”
– Mascara Literary Review
“Writing, almost speaking, in riddles and opposites, Wong teases us out of our complacencies and directs/guides our thinking along the long, hard route to self-awareness…Hence ‘blues’. Hence the extraordinary attempt to seduce the reader into somnambulance-via-rhythmic, rhymic language, the language of meditative poetry.”
“Immeasurables: Four Ways of Writing about Cyril Wong’s Satori Blues” by Jee Leong Koh on Singapore Poetry.