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Lay for the Day
8th December

The anniversary of the Buddha’s enlightenment, a national holiday in Japan.

Kakua’s Song

When I have gone out,
regarded the earth, inspected the ocean,
traversed space in oracular, orbital arcs,
risen and descended through the dark,
and peered
under the empty carapace of a crab,

When I have gathered up
the tickle of an electron
dancing in my pocket,
the centrestone of the world,
dust on my shoes,

When I have pierced the sun through
like a necklace shell
and brought it back to you,
smiling knowingly,

Then I’ll play, on your enquiry,
on Kakua’s bamboo flute
a one-note song.


The emperor, hearing that Kakua had followed the Buddhist way in China, required him to come and preach at court. Kakua’s sermon was a single note on his flute, after which he bowed and departed. Nothing more is known of him, but this is said to be the first teaching of Zen in Japan.


John Gibbens
from Makings ’77-’83


The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar