Basho and Wallace Stevens – a poem by John Valentine

Basho and Wallace Stevens



What I like about language is what I like about fog. 
What comes between us and things grants them 
their shine.
- Mark Doty



How many times can a koan
stub the mind’s toe?
Or a sensei clap his hand
with no sound?
Here it is, late at night,
and you’ve come together,
like two old friends
who never knew each other.
Stillness, whispering leaves,
and a promise that only
things themselves can make,
or the moon as the ghost
of everything possible.
Step in, step in…
and together we’ll go down the long
darkened hallway
in the House of Being,
down to the last window
at the end
where the stars glimmer
in the flickering light, 
like a scatter of coins.
And later, when fog is a thief
clouding the moon,
what better veil than the mist?
I’ve fallen in love with illusion.
And if I whisper,
tell you the truth of a life,
that I lean on your lines,
will you come and sit by my side
while I read,
read everything into your worlds?

John Valentine has recently retired from 45 years of teaching philosophy courses at various colleges. 

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