Selected Poems by Barry Spacks

Budda Songs

To gaze into an empty room
is not becoming Buddha.

To feed a starving lion, Buddha
gave up one of his precious lives.

As a rabbit, as food,
he leapt in the fire.

We're paired to help,
like hands, like feet.

To gaze into an empty room
is not becoming Buddha.


What's loveable about a hum?
Needlessness. It stops, or continues.

Our shadows lie
on a moving stream. be beautiful
is all we need to offer each other.

This my cat knows,
and my trees.


Audio of poem
Within Another Life

Those whose days were grudging or confused
may come back trapped within another life

as a boulder, or a pane of glass,
or a door that suffers every time it's slammed.

If I return a boulder, love, some summer day
come sit by me and contemplate these horses and these hills.

And if a windowpane, gaze through to see
the meadow on our walks where the brown geese strut.

And if I am a door, come home through me,
be sure I'll keep you safe.

And if a knotted, twisted rope,
from long self-clenching and complexity,

oh love, unbind, unbraid me then
until I flow again like windswept hair.


Whitewater Vision

Like everyone else I've served my time
lying under the weight of a mountain,
breathing stones...yet always my blood,
like leveling water, knows where it's wanted.

Once I had a whitewater vision:
beneath the rage of the rapids I sensed
the undersound to the river's sound...
indistinguishable from silence.

Who am I? Not a solving...a seeing.
I view the storm through eyes of calm.
I speak to say
where the silence is.

On days when it seems the food for the journey
is clay, not bread, and the spirit famished,
as dusk transfigures everything
I pause, near silence: listening.


Looking at a Lizard

My only purpose this moment
is looking at a lizard.
Does he know he's not alone?

He breathes with tiny push-ups,
his skin all hairline caverns
soaking up the sun.

I doubt, alive, I'm liable to get
closer to timelessness than this,
looking at a little lizard breathing.


Audio of poem
What Breathes Us

Regards to the day, the great long day
that can't be hoarded, good or ill.

What breathes us likely means us well.

We rise up from an earthly root
to seek the blossom of the heart.

What breathes us likely means us well.

We are a voice impelled to tell
where the joining of sound and silence is.

We are the tides, and their witnesses.

What breathes us likely means us well.

Themes on Love

Grading themes on love at M.I.T.,
one-man Symposium at 3
a.m., across the court I saw a light;
another office-holder working late.
While Plato on a silver pillow rode
above the waves of pre-sophistic prose
I jotted teacher's notions that were not
as brave as our two lamps against the glut
of dawn. But when I clicked mine off
his too at once was gone, had been
my echo in a distant sheen
of glass; had been my own, and I
was lonely then, and wrote
these English words.


An Emblem of Two Foxes

Simply to breathe
can make him bleed,
the fox whose leg
is trapped, whose will
awaits the kill.
Why should he flail?
Moving hurts,
so he lies still.

Around him walks
a prouder fox,
his severed leg
a homily
on going free,
as if to say
it hurts, it hurts
either way.


I'll usually give you a little poem
and a great big box of chocolates, or
more of a poem
and less of a box
and who can say which we'll have except
the chances for chocolate grow smaller word
for word...if this keeps going on
we're down to six fruits-and-nuts, no, less,
three caramels one angelcream watch out
a last Jordan Almond we'd better bite it in
whoops, it's gone, there's nothing left
but you and me, and a yen, I tell you,
heavy for what should we do
about that?


Position Paper

We'd all be known by our loveliest needs.
Please never know me too fast, too soon.

I'm Chekhov, starving the inward slave:
feeder on fear, famished gnome.

I'm Alice, partly, and partly, God knows,
Regina Victoria, Groucho's grin...

and Joyce's Stephen on Sandymount Strand,
sparking the maidens, swirled cape and cane,

lately grown Bloom-sized, a fatherly man
who learns to practice breathing well

(in Japanese characters: SEI, sex;
SHO, essence; SEKI, will).

Intimidant of Father and
Exhabitant of Motherland,

like everyone else a special case,
I settle to sit in the wilderness

till even the timidest creatures pass,
taking me for a natural rock.

I was a stoker, a roaring boy,
become at last a friend to calm;

a violence somehow holding together,
intending only excessive care.

Like fireflies in the deep nights of summer
we're glowing, glowing, to find one another.

I'll play for the dusk on my wooden flute.
I'll not disappoint this fragrance.