San Jose Poetry Center: Saturday, March 24, 1990
Poetry Workshop with Gary Snyder & Norman Fischer

Norman Fischer, Abbott of the San Francisco Zen Center, handed out a sheet
of 60 randomly-chosen words. The 10-minute speed writing exercise was to
use as many of these words in a poem. (Here's my poem that day.)


The spruces rise high to the azure sky
and tractors can't maneuver well in these woods.
I prod along the forest, sidle against the trees.
Shadows of the afternoon sun skulk among the grove,
and a storm looms in the distant clouds.
Is the shadow a slaver to this body,
or the body a slave of the ego?
Freezing the thought, I remember nothing
of my past except the asparagus field before me,
their tips kissing each other as the wind sweeps by.
I kick up dirt along the path, scoop up a pine cone
and flakes of cedar twigs. The plates of the earth
are breathing. Give me a hammer to put up the sign
that has fallen. The spatula left here is rusty
and who needs a flyswatter out in the woods.
The clouds decorate the sky like cosmic curtains and
a peach crate serves as my chair, while I grow a bit
taller eating bread at the end of the trail. I toss
crumbs to the flycatchers, and although they're bland,
the birds gobble them up. A wheeze of wind splits
the silence as I rub my ankles for the downhill journey.
The seal of my water bottle is leaking, and a rattle
of gunshots ring out. Are they deer hunting here?
Let's do away with logical arguments, formality and
lists of likes and dislikes. Use ginger and oil
to cook that elegant dish of eggplant and garlic.
I'm leaving my crystal ball to the child who loves the
present moment, wears no disguise, and is terse in speech.
Don't obligate yourself to another. Be free— cajole your
inner child out to play— there are wonders that belie
these socks that look so manly. My eyesight sharpens to see
the white rose, the mounting black acacia and gracious snow
mountain peaks, the pearls of great price, whole and free
the brilliant yellow auras around the spruces make me shudder
that this forest is a congregation of living saints.

Peter Y. Chou
San Jose, 3-24-1990

Norman Fischer's 60 Random Words Exercise