Preface: Morning Star:
Selected Poems 2020

Buddha seeing the Morning Star

    The first poem "The Janitor Crushed Me Debating on Rodin" (1-1-2020) recounts an experience on August 15, 1992, at Stanford's Rodin Sculpture Garden. Arrived at 11 pm for Waverley Writer's Poetry Reading, and my friend said "Nobody is here except the janitor." After reading my poem honoring Camille Claudel, hinting Rodin had stolen ideas from his mistress, we had a spirited debate about Rodin. Turned out "the janitor" was Prof. Albert Elsen, world's foremost scholar on Rodin, and I was sorely embarassed. (Notes)

    "Where Is My Veggie Plate?" (1-5-2020), tells about a dream where my plate of vegetables was taken away by a waitress from my dining table. The manager promised me a new plate, and the chef served me an angel cake as I woke up. Wanted to return to the dream and eat that cake.

    "Initiation Time"" (1-25-2020)— Exam question: "What is initiation time?" "Protocols in spiritual traditions" I answered, but the instructor wants more details, provide some concrete examples. Offered 16 examples, yet my paper was a blank— then POOF!— it was all a dream!

    "Memories of Miriam Scheraga" (2-5-2020), honors the wife of my Cornell Professor Harold A. Scheraga for 76 years died on Jan. 5, 2020 at age 98. Fond memories of her in this poem. (Notes)

    "Tasty Snack Anyone?" (2-17-2020)— The tasty dish frm New York Times was not caramel-coated walnut pieces or popcorn kernels for snacks, but kernels, the size of Texas, from the Sun's surface.

    "Seventh Birthday Poem" (3-5-2020)— For my grandniece Lilly 7th birthday, wrote 11 stanzas of rhyming couplets. My favorite is "7 sides make up the triangle & square / Together they form a house of prayer".

    "Meditations on 43" (3-11-2020)— Written for my niece Elisa's 43rd birthday (2-27-2020). Poem composed using writer's words appearing in verse 43, sonnet 43, chapter 43, line 43, or page 43. Poem arranged essentially in chronological order from writings spanning 3000 years. (Notes)

    "The Humongous Pepper Tree" (3-18-2020)— This pepper tree is 30-feet high, but 24-feet in girth by the entrance to Madrone Apartments on Rengstorff Ave. It's a block away from the Central Expessway train tracks. Fantasized this humongous tree attending a Halloween Ball,
and the lady trees— Bay, Beech, Birch, wanting to dance with him.

    "Slaying Dragons & Monsters" (3-23-2020)— Rudy told me his computer Python project is "Slaying Dragons & Monsters", saying he's on his hands and knees. Sent him web links to 500 million dragon drawings and 600 million pictures of monsters from Google Images. Also books from Los Altos Library on dragons and monsters. Told him to embark on a hero's journey & read Joseph Campbell's writings. "Dragons & monsters are not outside of us but within— our doubts, fears, and worries. Do what you love and love what you do— Focus on Oneness for there's no other— then all the dragons & monsters are slain."

    "Panic Buying & Hoarding" (3-24-2020)— Empty shelves of canned goods, eggs, toilet tissues at Safeway, Walmart, Whole Foods— panic buying everywhere. The COVID-19 virus pandemic has brought out this ugly behavior of hoarding, and boasting "I've got the goods and you don't."

    "Cabin Fever?" (3-28-2020)— On KDFC radio, Hoyt Smith plays music of Georges Enescu's "Romania Rhapsody" the whole family could get up & dance to. We need more music to bring cheers in these dark days.

    "Be Watchful" (3-28-2020)— Confucius said "The superior man is watchful when he's alone." Due to his good karma, the sage weathers all storms, being always at peace.

    "Great Graphic Design" (3-30-2020)— A jumbo tomato in the whole Safeway shopping cart.

    "Poetry, Painting, Music" (3-31-2020)— Sent this poem to Katharina Powers after reading in Mercury News (5-4-2020) that she opened her Art Ventures Gallery in Menlo Park, saying "Art galleries are essential." William Blake wrote in A Vision of the Last Judgment (1810)— "Poetry Painting & Music: the three Powers in Man of conversing with Paradise which the flood did not sweep away." Emailed her (5-6) "Coronavirus-19 has killed 255,000 worldwide, but the Flood killed the whole world except for Noah's family & animals he brought aboard his ark. Menlo Park Police Department may think that opening your art gallery is ridiculous, but Blake is on your side and knows that your action is honorable & heroic." She emailed (5-6-2020) "you are so nice, thank you very much. A good poem is all I needed just now."

    "Where Are Our Heroes?" (4-7-2020)— With COVID-19 killing so many worldwide, I wondered where are our heroes like Louis Pasteur, Florence Nightingale, and Nostradamus. Even dreamed being like those Seven Sleepers of Ephesus or Ramakrishna in a trance, and wake up when this pandemic crisis is over.

    "4 Haikus for 4th Month" (4-18-2020)— These four haikus adhered to the traditional Japanese haikus of 5-7-5 syllables per line for total of 17 syllables.

    "Butterfly Bush" (4-24-2020)— The Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii) outside my door plus five more on Montecito Ave on my way to Bus #40, inspired this poem. Plato's Timaeus 35b tells how God used Λ to form "Soul of the Universe"— amazing the Butterfly Bush flower has the Platonic Lambda Λ shape! Found oldest butterfly motif is the "Great Mother" from Mycenae (1500 BC).

    "Alone But Not Lonely" (4-27-2020)— A friend asks if I'm lonely sheltered-at-home, nowhere to go— I try to emulate the serenity of sages, being joyful at all times. Having art, music, and poetry around keeps my mind active and alert. Interesting emails from friends are special spiritual treats.

    "Thirteenth Birthday Poem" (5-19-2020)— Written for my grandniece Sophia's 13th birthday, these 17 illustrated stanzas try to put a positive spin on this number believed to be unlucky.

    "Homage to Wang Yang Ming" (1-9-1979)— A friend emailed me her Mom's old newspaper cartoon showing the bride wondering when the groom will show up. Recalled my favorite sage Wang Yang Ming forgot his wedding date. Found this poem honoring his 450th death anniverary.

    "The Old Witch Is Dead" (6-12-2020)— After a month with a yellow ribbon around it "Heritage Tree Removal", they finally chopped it down on Montecito Ave, Mountain View. I think of it as "The Old Witch" but its twisting & turning branches made it a delightful sculpture to see.

    "Received Emails from Best Poet & Best Fiction Writer on the Same Day" (6-18-2020)— Found two emails from February 11, 2010 from Joyce Carol Oates (most prolific fiction writer, whom I chatted with at her 2009 Stanford Colloquium) and Kay Ryan (whom I regard as best current poet), attended her 2010 Stanford Poetry Workshops.

    "Ring of Fire Late Show" (6-21-2020)— It's the Summer Solstice, and news about "Annular Ring of Fire". Although it's not visible in the U.S., live-stream video let us watch the moon covering up the sun in Asian countries. This poem was written afterwards, with photograph from Taiwan

    Inspired by "Ripple" (6-24-2020)— I'm not familar with Grateful Dead's songs. But the Mercury News article (5-28-2020) made me explore their songs. I was touched especially my their song "Ripple" with its many symbolisms that inspired this poem. Since their 3rd stanza is a haiku, composed my poem with 27 lines, 9 stanzas of 17-syllable haikus. (Notes)

    "Home Is Where You Find Happiness" (5-10-1987)— In my poem “Inspired by 'Ripple'”, the last stanza is "If you're lost, don't worry— / stay calm and pray for / sages to bring you home." Considered Odysseus as a sage to bring you home. Recalled this 1987 poem containing Odysseus and home, in my dialogue with my 10-year-old niece Elisa, so am including it here.

    "Solid Geometry Lesson" (8-2-1987)— This 1987 poem recounts an event from high school (1959), 28 years earlier. The images are still vivid in my memory since it was my first demerit in school. I studied hard to redeem my honor and scored 100% in the Solid Geometry Regents Exam.

    "On Intuition" (8-23-1987)— My friend Ann downloaded 14 scientific papers to find where my Cornell thesis advisor attacked the Chou-Fasman Protein Prediction Method as "intuition". She found the "golden goose" in the last paper in Biochemistry (1976). Searched in old folders to find my 1987 poem "On Intuition" after meeting James D. Watson.

    "Morning Star" (7-24-2020)— On July 23, Al Guzman woke me up and showed me how to use Zoom. We downloaded an older version of Adobe Photoshop compatible with my old Apple Laptop, I feel like those medieval knights with weapons intact ready for battle. Told Al that Photoshop is like the spiky ball weapon, but didn't know its name. After finding out it's not the "mace" but the "morning star", this poem was born to my surprise.

    This Is the Sage (8-8-2020)— Lao Tzu, Plotinus, and Wang Yang Ming are my favorite sages,
but decided to use Paul Brunton's image in poem since I knew him best. During my 14 meetings with PB, his peaceful presence influenced me greatly. I describe PB's skill in action in my poem "Nothing Is Impossible" (10-10-2017).

    Noli Me Tangere (8-16-2020)— Found postcards of "Noli Me Tangere" paintings by Fra Angelico, Lochner, Schongauer, and Correggio for this poem on Jesus telling Mary Madeleine "Don't touch me!" after his resurrection. Also Joseph Campbell on moon's resurrection after 3 days of darkness.

    "I Have a Terrible Headache" (8-22-2020)— A bighorn sheep came into my dream on 8-21-2020 complaining of a terrible headache and needing a backrub, that inspired this poem.

    Who's Who at the Round Table (8-24-2020)— Spent 6 hours writing this imaginary poem
(9:48 pm-4:04 am), uploading 18 images of people born in the Year of the Monkey.

    Meditations on 69: Beautiful music, do not cease! (8-30-2020)— Written for my friend Cathy's 69th birthday (8-5-2020). Poem composed using writer's words appearing in verse 69, sonnet 69, chapter 69, line 69, or page 69. Poem arranged essentially in chronological order from writings spanning 3000 years (Notes). Title is from Edna St. Vincent Millay's Sonnet 69 (1941).

    Safeway Shopping Not Safe (8-31-2020)— This short 12-lines poem describes my Safeway shopping experience while catching the bus as not safe.

    Memories of Professor Scheraga (9-22-2020)— After learning Professor Harold A. Scheraga died on 8-1-2020, 78 days short of his 99th birthday, wrote this poem in honor of my Cornell doctorate mentor (1963-1970). Also acknowleged biochemistry mentors Prof. Jon Applequist (Columbia) & Prof. Gerald Fasman (Brandeis) for their guidance.

    Nirvana (10-13-2020)— After writing poem "The Letter N: Neti Neti to Nirvana", realized that while cramming 60 "N" words into the poem, didn't elucidate much about nirvana. May this poem make it clearer.

    Meditations on 99: Boat to River of Heaven (10-18-2020)— Written for my Cornell chemistry doctorate mentor Harold A. Scheraga's 99th birthday (10-18-2020), even though he died 78 days short of the date, to honor his longevity & productivity. Poem composed using writer's words appearing in verse 99, sonnet 99, chapter 99, line 99, or page 99. Poem arranged essentially in chronological order from writings spanning 3000 years (Notes).

    We Create a New World (10-21-2020)— Ramana Maharshi says "the waking world is illusory
as our dream world, both made of the same mind stuff." Thus rishis and sages can replicate this world and make it disappear like the dream world which we create at night when asleep. I've seen Albrecht Altdorfer's painting "The Battle of Alexander at Issus" (1529) at Munich's Alte Pinakothek Museum. Placed the image of "cast of thousands" in the boy's dream to dramatize
the world we can create while asleep.

    And I Disagree (8-1-1987)— After reading my poem "The Letter Z", my friend Steve Gould said I forgot the "Zamboni machine" that smoothes ice-skating rinks. It triggered one of the first poems written at a poetry workshop at Foothill College (summer 1987). A girl thanked the "Zamboni machine" for her skating. The poetry instructor Rian Cooney said talking to an inanimate object
is crazy. One student shouted "And I Disagree"— the theme of this poem.

    124 People to Be Thankful (11-28-2020)— Patrick McDonnell's comics Mutts (11-26-2020) on "Thanksgiving Day" had Emerson's quote "I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new." After thanking 100 people, had to include Buckminster Fuller, Ravi Shankar, Marcel Marceau, Freeman Dyson, Albert Elsen, Peter Medawar, Adlai Stevenson, Bobby Kennedy, Anthony Eden, Joseph Campbell, who gave me memorable autographs. Also ten poets at Waverley Writers, and four more people. So poem ended with "124 People to Be Thankful".

    Christmas Tree Postage Stamps (12-25-2020)— As I was going to sleep, thought about postage stamps showing Christmas Trees. Rounded up six stamps from United States, Canada, Austria, and Norfolk Island. Wrote this poem on Christmas Day.

                                                            Peter Y. Chou
                                                            Mountain View, December 25, 2020

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© Peter Y. Chou,
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
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