Zen Poem: For Cham
Zen. I know nothing about Zen
Although I have heard inside
The mind’s ear that death w-h-o-o-s-h
Of night’s falling stars,
Every shape, every form of them
That landed on the cinder heap
Of razor-stropped silence
Such as a saber-tooth tiger’s teeth.
Cham, only the heart can carry
Us from the leafless woods
To the blossoming springtime,
Only soul’s cart moves us along.
Zen, I suppose, if it means
Anything it means to wait
Like a naked convalescent
For the green gown of patience.
Zen, you ask. I don’t know.
But listen. The first leaf whispers
That the Universe is at it again-
Singing to its audience.
Author’s Commentary: "Zen Poem: For Cham" was written in 2014. During the 60s, I cut my teeth on Alan Watts, J. Krishnamurti, the Russian mystic Gurdjieff, and Herman Hesse. The poem inverts perception. The universe perceives us. It's an old idea that I borrowed from the British poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and the Autralian poet, A.D. Hope. Cham is my son.
A sea angel extends her hand across
Chincoteague Channel. Her illuminaton
Spans moment and place.
Infinite births await in the dunes
Advent of existence, the contentious
Tern, dolor of the oystercatchers.
A vast spirit appears in the concurrence
Of events. Each being swims forward
In the aqueduct of becoming.
Here the repetitive disembarkations
Of living fossils transpire. Loggerhead turtle
And horseshoe crab emerge from the effusive deep.
While this sea angel from her obelisk of
Attention perceives the intimations
Of morning before day uncloaks,
The dwindling embers of stars, the crabber at
Dockside setting out his pots, one lone
Fisherman tilling with the tide,
The shrimp trawler and the winged fishes
That are above prow, the gulls that shriek
In wake of propeller and rudder.
Transfixed upon the obsidian-toned wave,
The moon is a pearl in the belly
Of an oyster.
Blind to nothing, light treads
On water, cleaves the darkness.
Before moon slips inside blue locket
Of day; before dawn’s choristry recedes
And the sun emerges from the ocean
I, steadfast concierge,
Give, in a glance,
The cornucopia of intertidal pools,
The pale silhouettes of geese and swans,
Wild horse and foal, ascent of dolphins
And humpback whales, the pelican’s plummet.
O, maritime goddess, I pray for perspective,
360 degrees of beacon, where and when to plant
my easel, to take root, a rotunda in the ripeness of time.
Now fold your watchful hand in your coat
And rest until twilight, then hang again
Your lantern upon the dark antlers of the tide.
Author’s Commentary: "Assateague Lighthouse" was written in 1999 over a period of several days after my family had visited Chincoteague, VA for a summer vacation. While there, we visited the Assateague Lighthouse. The region is filled with wild horses, abundant birdlife and the morning crabbers who we would pass each morning while going to collect seashells at Assateague National Seashore. I am a lighthouse enthusiast. I envisioned the lighthouse as a guardian angel. The poem evolved from that metaphor.
Richard Campbell (1941 – 1994)
A rough rowdy
Whose hard callused
Mask slashed daggers
Into his neon night
Bona fide hellraiser-
His thin chiseled face
Bled red tears across
All the morning after mirrors
Whose jaundiced glower
Staggered & stuttered like
In a season of rain
His wrinkled eyes
Were the rumpled maps
Of third world countries
No longer in existence
Never did he embrace
That long gone father
Of long lost
Bourbon tipsy afternoons
Nor hold even once
The mother who held
Him closely often
In the lingering dark
Nor ever found
What it was he
Never had to lose
Simpler to identify
Than explain this
Tired old litany
Of pomp and circumstance.
Here lies Richard Campbell
In a coffin
Full of medallions.
You can hear Maurice Ferguson reading “Richard Campbell” here.
Author’s Commentary: My "Richard Campbell" poem was written in 1994 a few months after he was killed by numerous Roanoke policemen. I wanted a spare, gaunt portrait with stripped down language as my friend would not have wanted a rhapsodic eulogy. I hope that I captured him.
Maurice Ferguson lives in Buchanan, Virginia with wife and a menagerie of stray animals. He retired after working 26 years for outpatient and inpatient substance abuse and alcohol treatment programs. Since retirement, he has volunteered at the V.A. Hospital, the Fincastle Jail and the Transitional Living Center. Over the years, he organized and conducted a poetry and prose contest for the Virginia Department of Corrections and collaborated with Janet Lembke in publishing a poetry anthology of prison writing titled “The Walls Crumble: A Prison Anthology.”
He has published poems in several journals, including Artemis Journal, Roanoke Review, Piedmont Review, Inlet and Foreword Magazine. He, also, has been the literary editor for Artemis Journal for many years now. He keeps composition books with him at all times and keeps copious notes, some of which becomes the fodder for future poems. He participates in an ongoing poetry group that meets 1-2 times a month at Hollins College. He has read his poetry at numerous colleges, including James Madison, VMI, Virginia Wesleyan and Roanoke College.