Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Granite: Ekphrastic poem

An ekphrastic poem in collaboration with two sculptures by Andreas von Huene at the Centre Street Art Gallery, Bath, Maine


(Jay white granite)

Before language, there was granite.
In granite, the echo of all things -
rock wraps around, re-sounds,
echo of sunlight
echo of starlight
echoes of all
the rock has heard -
a larger sound than we can know,
found below -
granite wraps around me I
rest in the rock my
grandfather worked in the quarries -
Mosquito Mountain, Mount Waldo -
granite time is slow, slow time -
in granite time, my grandfather
is just leaving.
I can almost hear his voice

(Freeport stone)

Granite was once liquid, and moving.
You can see the flowlines, currents
in the moving rock.
wave and flow, the
grain within,
Everything rises from rock,
granite in waves, flowing -
I find myself touching
granite, asking who are you,
where are you from -
Frankfort, Prospect,
Stonington, Vinalhaven,
Freeport, Jay -
I'm saying hello to
whole mountains moving -
I'm waving back
into the rock.

Poem by Gary Lawless
Sculpture by Andreas von Huene

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

origin stories

postcard from Gary Snyder to Gary Lawless

in 1973 I hitch-hiked from Maine to California to live with Gary Snyder at Kitkitdizze. My home was a red tent under a large madrone tree with tatami and books. It didn't rain for six months.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Birds Fly Through

Tintoretto - The Creation - Accademia - Venice

Birds in a line what
language do they
speak - lagoon talk -
who flew through and
who are you
(your song, like smoke,
on wind over water)
the saints heard you singing -
birds fly through the sacred,
every day

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Tell Me Your Name

I asked the fox to
speak to you,
in your dreams.
He said there are
universes and universes,
stars move stars
move, everything
has another name.
I asked the fox to
tell me your name.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Nanao and Bikki

Last night I had a dream that Nanao asked me to tell people about his friend Bikki. When I published poet Nanao Sakaki's book of poems "Let's Eat Stars", the cover art was by Ainu artist Bikki Sunazawa (enhanced by Beth Leonard,it is an image I now have tattooed on my right arm). Nanao was a great admirer of Bikki's work, and "Let's Eat Stars" contains two poems specifically speaking to Bikki. I have included them below.You can learn more about Bikki in the excellent book "From The Playground of the Gods - The Life & Art of Bikky Sunazawa" by Chisato O. Dubreuil.

Bikki Salmon

Bikki salmon swimming
Nanao salmon swimming
Allen salmon swimming
Gary salmon swimming
Black Elk salmon swimming
Issa salmon swimming
Lao Tsu salmon swimming
Ezo wolf salmon swimming
Ainu Koroppocl salmon swimming
Yamanba witch salmon swimming
Maitreya Buddha salmon swimming
Northern Cross salmon swimming

Fair-weather cumulus floating
in October morning sky
rosy fruits of mountain ash trembling.
I stand on the cemented bank
of the River Teshio, Hokkaido, Japan.
A river straightened and strangled by man,
and on the bank, scattered eggs of salmon
left by a poacher.

Orion high in the evening sky
geese and swans head southward
maple leaves burning red
deer cry for love in fir forest
boletus edulis and wild grape
invite you into the mountains.

Just before the Sea of Okhotsk
begins to shine with drifting ice
North Pacific salmon return to mother rivers
where woods and waters nursed them years before.

Salmon means
blood and meat to grizzly
Fish of God to Ainu
Fish of festival to Japanese.

In the pebbly river
against quick running water
holding their energy
they wait and wait
and suddenly, thrusting their fins
they leap up the stream
-Hurry to the spot of their birth and death.

Bikki Sunazawa, legendary Ainu artist
for him too the time has come.
While cutting a woodblock print of the Fish of God
he becomes a salmon.
Having fish eyes, nose, scales, tattoos,
spirals and soul
He's now a seventy-centimeter-long fish, Bikki salmon.

Pectoral fin, dorsal fin,
ventral fin,
adipose fin, anal fin.

Under the river banks, heaps of trash
...TV sets, refrigerators,
...chemical flotsam in the river
...acid rain and radiation in the air

Against the flow of poison
Against the flow of decay
Mumbling Heart Sutra
Bikki salmon swimming.

In this crooked generation
salmon moves straight forward.

Now the ripples ripple in unison:
"Sing, dance as the river flows!"
"Sing, dance as life flows!"
"Sing, dance with your friends!"

Bikki salmon swimming
Nanao salmon swimming
Allen salmon swimming
Gary salmon swimming
Black Elk salmon swimming
Issa salmon swimming
Lao Tsu salmon swimming
Ezo wolf salmon swimming
Ainu Koroppocl salmon swimming
Yamanba witch salmon swimming
Maitreya Buddha salmon swimming
Northern Cross salmon swimming
Bikki, Bikki
Bikki salmon swimming
in River Teshio.


Star Bikki

A myth - a new star is born!
There are teeny, tiny six thousand stars
in the solar system, the minor planets or asteroids
which turn around the sun, day & night.

Somebody discovered a new one
& named it Bikki after my friend's name.

Bikki Sunazawa -
born in Hokkaido as Ainu
all his life he was carving
something in the empty sky with his chisel
something in wood with his soul
like his grandfathers.

Oct. 1988, his health was not good -
on one beautiful afternoon
I took my canoe & visited his studio.

Looking into my eyes, he asked
"Nanao, is the twenty-first century really coming?"

Tired out, Jan. 1989 he said
"Bye-bye" to this world.

And one day he metamorphosed into a tree,
his favorite one, an Ezo spruce in his garden.
The tree grows higher & higher above the clouds.
Today you find him in the solar system
as one of the minor planets.

Hi Star Bikki. Congratulations!

Do you know about your new identity card?
1. Registered number: 5372
2. Star Name: Bikki
3. Temporary number: 1987 WS
4. Discoverer: Kin Marudate, Kazuo Watanabe
5. Discovery spot: Kitami, Hokkaido, Japan

Hi Star Bikki! Nowadays
what are you carving?
What songs are you singing?
What kind of sake are you drinking?

Hi Star Bikki! Sometime
send me a postcard
decorated full of stars!

poems by Nanao Sakaki
photo of Bikki Sunazawa from "From the Playground of the Gods"

Friday, September 28, 2018

In Lille

Archangels raising their horns
facing the dawn
facing the river, St. John
singing the light
one hundred years of sunrise

On Saturday, September 8, 2018, I read poems at the Musee Culturel du Mont-Carmel, in Lille, Maine. For more information on this incredible building and project, please go here!
Gary Lawless

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Birds fly through the sacred

photo by Sean Hawkey/WCC

His All-Holiness, Patriarch Bartholomew, releases a kestrel into the wild sky on the Greek island of Spetses. The two kestrels released that day had been rescued and rehabilitated by the Greek organization Animas link here . One flew north, the other flew south.

Zeus released two eagles at opposite ends of the Earth. They met at Delphi, the omphalos, the navel of the earth.

"When will we learn that to commit a crime against the natural world is also a sin...for human beings to destroy the biological diversity in God's creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by contributing to climate change, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; for human beings to contaminate the earth's waters, land and air - all of these are sins."
His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew

two dark birds flew from Thebes.
One established the Siwa Oasis oracle in Libya.
One established the oracle at Dodona, Greece.
At Dodona, the bird flew to an oak.
The wind would stir the leaves, the sound
recognized by the birds as the voices of the gods.

"We have lost the spirit of worship. We are no longer respectful pilgrims on this earth; we have been reduced to careless consumers or passing travelers."
His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew

after the rain stopped, Noah released a raven. The raven did not return.
Next he released a dove, which returned, finding no other place to land.
He waited seven days, and released the dove again.
The dove returned, with a freshly plucked olive branch in its mouth.
Seven days later, he again released the dove.
This time the dove did not return, having set foot on land.

"A merciful heart...It is a heart on fire for the whole of Creation, for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for demons and for all that exists."
St. Isaac the Syrian

and the birds,
flying through the Sacred
every day.

In June of 2018 Gary Lawless and Beth Leonard traveled to Greece to attend the "Toward a Greener Attica - Preserving the Planet and Protecting its People" conference, called by His Al-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, and held in Athens and the islands of Spetses and Hydra.