Bugs In A Bowl
Han Shan, that great and crazy, wonder-filled
Chinese poet of a thousand years ago, said:

We’re just like bugs in a bowl.
All day going around
never leaving their bowl.

I say: That’s right! Every day
climbing up the steep sides,
sliding back. Over and over again.
Around and around.
Up and back down.

Sit in the bottom of the bowl,
head in your hands, cry, moan,
feel sorry for yourself.

Or.

Look around.
See your fellow bugs.
Walk around. Say,
Hey, how you doing?
Say, Nice bowl!
Weather Report
The weather is horrible here on Judevine Mountain.
It’s dark and cold all winter. Every day, rain and snow

beat on your head, and the sun never shines. Then
it’s spring and more rain, and ice and mud too. And

after that, the black flies eat you alive, and then the
deer flies, and then the mosquitoes, and then it’s fall

before you even noticed it was summer. Then there
might be a couple of weeks of decent weather and

then it starts to rain and snow again. It’s just awful
living here. I don’t think you’d like it here at all.

You’d better find your own miserable place to live.
Words To Myself
Ryōkan says: With what
can I compare this life?
Weeds floating on water.

And there you are with your
dreams of immortality
from poetry,

pretty pompous —
don’t you think — for a
weed floating on water?
Too Busy
Have ambition and ego ruined my life?
Where have my easy days gone?

If only I had a monk friend to wander off
into the mountains to visit. If only I were
so idle I had time to visit him. If only we
could while away the day drinking tea,
playing flutes, and talking. If only, as the
moon rose, my friend could point the way
home through the dark mountains with
the night sky’s lantern to light the way.

If only I were happy with only that.
Perched In These Green Mountains
Han Shan says, Perched in these green mountains,
letting my hair grow white, pleased with the years gone by,
happy with today.

Imagine such contentment, happiness with yourself.
Yet I know for Cold Mountain, tomorrow always brought
something else as well, for Han Shan also said,

If you hide yourself away in the thickest woods,
how will your wisdom’s light shine through?
A bag of bones is not a sturdy vessel.

Back and forth, back and forth.
That’s the way it goes.
Happy and content one day,

ambition and desire eat you alive the next.
It’s always been this way. Back and forth,
back and forth. That’s the way it goes.

[“Cold Mountain” is another name for the poet Han Shan. — Ed.]

What We Need
The Emperor,
his bullies
and henchmen,
terrorize the world
every day

which is why
every day

we need

a little poem
of kindness,

a small song
of peace,

a brief moment
of joy.

“Bugs in a Bowl,” “Weather Report,” “Words to Myself,” “Too Busy,” “Perched in These Green Mountains,” and “What We Need” are from While We’ve Still Got Feet by David Budbill. Copyright © 2005 by David Budbill. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.