August 2000

Joseph Lisowski


Joseph Lisowski Joseph Lisowski's published books include The Brushwood Gate, translations of Wang Wei with original calligraphy and illustrations (Black Buzzard Press, 1984); Spring Street Blues, poems of penitentiary life (Black Bear Publications, 1987); Near the Narcotic Sea, poems of the Caribbean (Cottage Wordsmiths, 1992); and Looking for Lauren, a detective fiction novel (Amelia, 1998). The poem below is part of the unpublished collection Letters to Wang Wei.
On the Way to the Temple    Click to hear in real audio

I lost my footing and my breath.
And when I arrived, the old bell
seemed unused, discarded.
The monks were hidden,
the temple empty.
But the paths, well-worn
with passing, led to a statue
of Buddha, shabby and cheap
like the refuse of mountain men.

I foolishly looked for some treasure
the world would applaud
but found only walls and floors in disrepair.

Outside, I tramped the baked earth
around rocks carelessly scattered.
The temple was poorer than the weeds
surrounding. I wondered about the men
who lived there, their threadbare lives.
When I touched the bell, rust crumbled.
I returned to the mountain path.

My friend, you took many journeys
and found Buddha along the way.
You spoke of Zen in good order
and the poison dragons restrained.
In that Korean mountain
I saw nothing alive.

Much later, I recalled your voice saying,
"Deep in the mountains
where is the bell?"
Time shifts its shadowy peaks.
Fast coming clouds cover
not the edges, but the dreams.



Joseph Lisowski: Poetry
Copyright 2000 The Cortland Review Issue 12The Cortland Review