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By: Norman Fischer | 01/01/2000
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Zoketsu Norman Fischer:
ISBN 0-9351-6219-4
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In “Success”, published in 2000, in which Norman Fischer set for himself the task of composing 28 lines, every day, for a year. Excerpts from several poems included.

Tuesday, 27 February

A contribution to an organization
A place at the table
A reliable noncoercive situation
An angular facade
Overlooking an abutment
Words won’t quit
Nor will they assign themselves to purgatory
Traduce or seduce their best friends
No matter how inchoate they may become
Gurgling past
Twinning twigs and spits of leaves
Chokes of stitched pine needles
And little gnarled brambles of ivy
Four legs withstand heat
In the enigma formations that gods
Distinguished as men
Shove into ovens without rhyme or reason
Allow us to fracture once more
An alive certainty into a piece
Of coarse filings that adhere instantly
As soon as the magnet is applied
What is your primary motivation?
Then you are just like me
And your life is an impossible joke
But all right
If you leave enough space behind you
So you can take one step back

Wednesday, 28 February

Ash Wednesday of the latter days of our lives
Ash Wednesday of the feast of the bear
Ash Wednesday of a shock in a hooded device
Ash Wednesday of a clipped parcel of tides
In holiness
There is no divisibility
In the heart
There are no tides
Only stepping into a forge
There is a bitter restriction in the body
And a hole there where indecision
Inculcates and extirpates exclusion
Fanning out all around us like clouds
Low over the hushed hills
And the histories of us
The way we rally round confusion like a flag
Constantly making bad things worse
Letting the bread mold and the soup burn
Raising up what should gently be put down
To the Nth degree
An occasional altercation of supreme
Anguished anodyne conceptions
Of human possibility
These words block the narrow drains
And cause the plumbing to back up
Stinking mess under the house there
Where no one ever looks
But the smell wafts up unsubtly in the night

Thursday, 1 March

I give all the right answers
But only at the wrong times
Or the wrong answers at the right time
It’s not easy to own a turned warp
Inside a small bottle
Since the meeting got canceled as it
Generally does
There were piles of paper to attend to
Records of clouds of former thoughts
And a thirst as big as night to slake
Into the past
Where it belongs
Don’t conceal your heart
I ate something I ought not to have ate
I drank something that it was a definite
Mistake for me
To have drank it
And I have stepped where I
Should not tread
Lord bless us one and all
Tiny stars far away
Do you feel the languor of bated days?
Does your breath come short near the end
As mine does?
A table cleared of papers
A jar emptied and washed out
An exhale but no inhale: Dainin

Friday, 2 March

I don’t think you could do better than that
To write down all what occurs to you
Never mind that you don’t know nothing
No one does
They might think so
And everybody says so
But that’s just talk
Stand up right in the middle of lunch
And holler or maybe sing
Hit them on the ear with your cane
But love them just the same
Go on as much as you have to for as long as you need
Blood washes out pretty good
In cold water
If applied soon enough
And that soft spot
Around the heart
Could be got at with some kind of special
I expect
What you see is what you say
Or was that versa vice?
The seasons have a way of never quite
Arriving like Spring is almost Spring
And then it’s Summer but
Something like a stone doesn’t look like
It’s got that problem
But, you know, it does!

Saturday, 3 March

Lurch of the boat splash of the waves
Careening off the body side to side
On the loopy billowing swells
Fog at the horizon
Back on land crickets chirp continuously
In the nighttime cool
Inside a fire pokes along
On the desk a polished stone, a lamp, a
I am growing old
Like Chinese poets I say my hair is white
Though it’s not white
I say I’m growing old
Though I’m not growing old, I’m not old
I’m as old as I am
That’s how old I am
New brakes for the car
A pile of dishes to wash
Hills sliced in half for the highway
A day slides by back
Into the corners of the past
Into memory
Hope must tender addition
To a way of looking to see
Hope everywhere is to see merely
Anything as it really looks
Without anything to it
Expanding forward and backward in all directions

Sunday, 4 March

First Sunday of Lent it is the abstention of time
>From appearance, the interior
Of what comes but never goes
How phenomena appear to unfold
Is not one by one.
Compared to a folksong.
I am entirely inside some other voice.
It’s just a job is all it is
Covered with soot
It makes a difference
Whether you arrive before the party begins
Or after the game is over
It keeps on getting quieter and quieter
A great warm peacefulness
With nobody there
Maurine said
When she came out of her coma
Just before dying
So today we memorialize her, reading
Rilke, Sonnet from Orpheus
And my own of February 25
Resolving her karma
Giving her final offerings and Refuge
Saying, all of us, how we feel
Chanting Ho for a long time
Then going away slowly
As everything does eventually
All things transient, impermanent

Monday, 5 March

My face is dark
As if a cloud had descended from the sky
Into my face
Can’t see it there in the mirror
Or anywhere else
Outline of my form
Moves across distances
But there’s no detail there
No color nor articulation
At the top of the hill
A haze where ocean meets sky
No definition, no boundary
Love’s impossible
And not to love’s impossible too
To be here is to be gone
I want to leave
But there’s nowhere to go to
It’s finished
And I long for a simple beginning
Because it’s never begun
This song, a clear melody of longing
I can hear it wafting across balconies
A piercing violin
Caught in a dream
Whose incidents I can’t remember
Each step upward an ache
Walking on in the mud and dust

Tuesday, 6 March

Reading Carl’s book
About Dogen’s Meditation Manuals
The confusion about which text preceded
Which text the why how and maybe
Of whether Dogen said what he meant
When he said it or said it when
He meant it– very interesting
That Dogen’s deep pure insight
Is mixed with such a rich dose
Of blind sectarian venom, guarding
The Real Dragon, the One True Way
Of the Buddha against all fools
Who’d wreck it with too much
Enthusiasm love and sincerity phooey
On Kamakura Tokugawa Japanese Dogen Soto Zen!
Honey colored sun today deep light
Makes shadow just as deep on boles
Of eucalyptus trees where branches cross white light
Apple, plum trees a profusion of bloom
When I say these things they do not stand for
Anything other than exactly what they are
They are not signs for a human mood
As they would be in Chinese poetry
(Except insofar as a tree, an actual tree
Is never a tree but is everything that is
Not a tree– so stands in for
Everything else and in speaking of it
I bring up everything, and so nothing)