"I am not one who was born in the custody of wisdom. I am one who is fond of olden times and intense in quest of the sacred knowing of the ancients." Gustave Courbet

29 March 2018



The hump-backed flute player
walks all over.
sits on boulders around the Great Basin
his hump is a pack.

Hsuan Tsang (original name Ch’en I
went to India 629 AD
returned to China 645
with 657  sutras, images, pictures,
and 50  relics)
a curved frame pack with a parasol,
embroidery carving
incense censer swinging as he walked
the Pamir the Tarim Turfan
the Punjab the doab
of Ganga and Yamuna,

Sweetwater, Quileute, Hoh
Amur, Tanana, Mackenzie, Old Man,
Bighorn, Platte, the San Juan
he carried
He carried
“mind only”

The hump-backed flute player
his hump is a pack.

In Canyon de Chelly on the North Wall up by a cave
is the hump-backed flute player laying on his back
playing his flute.  Across the flat sandy canyon wash,
wading a stream and breaking through the ice, on the
south wall, the pecked-out pictures of some Mountain Sheep
with curling horns.  They stood in the icy shadow of the
south wall two hundred feet away; I sat with my
shirt off in the sun facing south, with the hump-
backed flute player just above my head.
They whispered; I whispered; back and forth
across the canyon, clearly heard.
In the plains of Bihar, near Rajgir, are the
Ruins of Nalanda.  The name Bihar comes from “vihara”
-- Buddhist temple -- the Diamond Seat is in Bihar, and
Vulture Peak -- Tibetan pilgrims come down to these
Plains.  The six-foot-thick walls of Nalanda, the
monks all scattered -- books burned -- banners tattered --
statues shattered -- by the Turks.
Hsuan Tsang describes the high blue tiles, the delicate
debates; Logicians of Emptiness, worshippers of Tara,
Joy of Starlight, naked breasted, “She who saves.”

Ghost Bison, Ghost Bears, Ghost Bighorns, Ghost Lynx, Ghost Pronghorns, Ghost Panthers, Ghost Marmot, Ghost
Swirling and gathering, sweeping down, in the power
Of a dance and a song. Then the White Man will be gone.

The the butterflies will sing
on slopes of grass and aspen;
thunderheads the deep blue of Krishna
rise on rainbows; and falling shining rain --
each drop—
tiny people gliding slanting down: a little Buddha
seated in each pearl—
and join the million waving Grass-Seed Buddhas
on the ground.

Ah, what am I carrying?  What is this load?
Who’s that out there in the dust
sleeping on the ground?
with a black hat, and a feather stuck in his sleeve.
-- It’s old Jack Wilson,
Wovoka, the prophet,

Black Coyote saw the whole world
in Wovoka’s empty hat

the bottomless sky

the night of starlight, lying on our sides

the ocean, slanting higher

all manner of beings
may swim in my sea
echoing up conch spiral corridors

the mirror: countless ages back
dressing or laughing
what world today?

pearl crystal jewel
taming and teaching
the dragon in the spine --

spiral, wheel,
or breath of mind
desert sheep with curly horns.
the ringing in your ears

is the cricket in the stars.

Up in the mountains that edge of the Great Basin
it was whispered to me
by the oldest of trees.
by the oldest of beings,

the Oldest of Trees.

and all night long, sung on
by a vast throng
Of Pinyon

Gary Snyder

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