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Gary Snyder: Online Poems

How Poetry Comes to Me

It comes blundering over the
Boulders at night, it stays
Frightened outside the
Range of my campfire
I go to meet it at the
Edge of the light

Online Source

For All

Ah to be alive
on a mid-September morn
fording a stream
barefoot, pants rolled up,
holding boots, pack on,
sunshine, ice in the shallows,
northern rockies.

Rustle and shimmer of icy creek waters
stones turn underfoot, small and hard as toes
cold nose dripping
singing inside
creek music, heart music,
smell of sun on gravel.

I pledge allegiance

I pledge allegiance to the soil
of Turtle Island,
and to the beings who thereon dwell
one ecosystem
in diversity
under the sun
With joyful interpenetration for all.

Online Source

On Top

All this new stuff goes on top
turn it over, turn it over
wait and water down
from the dark bottom
turn it inside out
let it spread through
Sift down even.
Watch it sprout.

A mind like compost.

Online Source

Hay for the Horses

He had driven half the night
From far down San Joaquin
Through Mariposa, up the
Dangerous Mountain roads,
And pulled in at eight a.m.
With his big truckload of hay
            behind the barn.
With winch and ropes and hooks
We stacked the bales up clean
To splintery redwood rafters
High in the dark, flecks of alfalfa
Whirling through shingle-cracks of light,
Itch of haydust in the
            sweaty shirt and shoes.
At lunchtime under Black oak
Out in the hot corral,
---The old mare nosing lunchpails,
Grasshoppers crackling in the weeds---
"I'm sixty-eight" he said,
"I first bucked hay when I was seventeen.
I thought, that day I started,
I sure would hate to do this all my life.
And dammit, that's just what
I've gone and done."

From Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems by Gary Snyder, published by North Point Press. Copyright © 1958,
1959, 1965 Gary Snyder. Online Source

Old Bones

Out there walking round, looking out for food,
a rootstock, a birdcall, a seed that you can crack
plucking, digging, snaring, snagging,
        barely getting by,

no food out there on dusty slopes of scree—
carry some—look for some,
go for a hungry dream.
Deer bone, Dall sheep,
        bones hunger home.

Out there somewhere
a shrine for the old ones,
the dust of the old bones,
        old songs and tales.

What we ate—who ate what—
        how we all prevailed.

from Mountains and Rivers Without End, published by Counterpoint Press, 1996. Online Source


Beat-up datsun idling in the road
shreds of fog
almost-vertical hillsides drop away
huge stumps fading into mist
soft warm rain

Snaggy, forked and spreading tops, a temperate cloud-forest tree

Chamaecyparis formosiana--
Taiwan hinoki,
hung-kuai     red cypress

That the tribal people call kisiabaton

this rare old tree
is what we came to see.

from No Nature by Gary Snyder. Copyright© 1992 by Gary Snyder. Online Source

At Tower Peak

Every tan rolling meadow will turn into housing
Freeways are clogged all day
Academies packed with scholars writing papers
City people lean and dark
This land most real
As its western-tending golden slopes
And bird-entangled central valley swamps
Sea-lion, urchin coasts
Southerly salmon-probes
Into the aromatic almost-Mexican hills
Along a range of granite peaks
The names forgotten,
An eastward running river that ends out in desert
The chipping ground-squirrels in the tumbled blocks
The gloss of glacier ghost on slab
Where we wake refreshed from ten hours sleep
After a long day's walking
Packing burdens to the snow
Wake to the same old world of no names,
No things, new as ever, rock and water,
Cool dawn birdcalls, high jet contrails.
A day or two or million, breathing
A few steps back from what goes down
In the current realm.
A kind of ice age, spreading, filling valleys
Shaving soils, paving fields, you can walk in it
Live in it, drive through it then
It melts away
For whatever sprouts
After the age of
Frozen hearts. Flesh-carved rock
And gusts on the summit,
Smoke from forest fires is white,
The haze above the distant valley like a dusk.
It's just one world, this spine of rock and streams
And snow, and the wash of gravels, silts
Sands, bunchgrasses, saltbrush, bee-fields,
Twenty million human people, downstream, here below.

from No Nature by Gary Snyder. Copyright© 1992 by Gary Snyder. Online Source

Smokey the Bear Sutra

Once in the Jurassic about 150 million years ago,
the Great Sun Buddha in this corner of the Infinite
Void gave a Discourse to all the assembled elements
and energies: to the standing beings, the walking beings,
the flying beings, and the sitting beings -- even grasses,
to the number of thirteen billion, each one born from a
seed, assembled there: a Discourse concerning
Enlightenment on the planet Earth.

"In some future time, there will be a continent called
America. It will have great centers of power called
such as Pyramid Lake, Walden Pond, Mt. Rainier, Big Sur,
Everglades, and so forth; and powerful nerves and channels
such as Columbia River, Mississippi River, and Grand Canyon
The human race in that era will get into troubles all over
its head, and practically wreck everything in spite of
its own strong intelligent Buddha-nature."

"The twisting strata of the great mountains and the pulsings
of volcanoes are my love burning deep in the earth.
My obstinate compassion is schist and basalt and
granite, to be mountains, to bring down the rain. In that
future American Era I shall enter a new form; to cure
the world of loveless knowledge that seeks with blind hunger:
and mindless rage eating food that will not fill it."

And he showed himself in his true form of


Wrathful but Calm. Austere but Comic. Smokey the Bear will
Illuminate those who would help him; but for those who would hinder or
slander him,


Thus his great Mantra:

Namah samanta vajranam chanda maharoshana
Sphataya hum traka ham nam


And he will protect those who love woods and rivers,
Gods and animals, hobos and madmen, prisoners and sick
people, musicians, playful women, and hopeful children:

And if anyone is threatened by advertising, air pollution, television,
or the police, they should chant SMOKEY THE BEAR'S WAR SPELL:


And SMOKEY THE BEAR will surely appear to put the enemy out
with his vajra-shovel.

from Myths and Texts

Felix Baran
Hugo Gerlot
Gustav Johnson
John Looney
Abraham Rabinowitz
Shot down on the steamer Verona
For the shingle-weavers of Everett
the Everett Massacre November 5 1916

Ed McCullough, a logger for thirty-five years
Reduced by the advent of chainsaws
To chopping off knots at the landing:
"I don't have to take this kind of shit,
Another twenty years
and I'll tell 'em to shove it"
(he was sixty-five then)
In 1934 they lived in shanties
At Hooverville, Sullivan's Gulch.
When the Portland-bound train came through
The trainmen tossed off coal.

"Thousands of boys shot and beat up
For wanting a good bed, good pay,
decent food, in the woods -- "
No one knew what it meant:
"Soldiers of Discontent."

© Gary Snyder. Online Source

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