‘Poetry is one way of reading this world,’ according to poet Dane Cervine, whose new collection, The World is God’s Language, is set for release in 2021. The book’s title refers to a quote by Simone Weil, the French philosopher, mystic, and political activist, who also said, ‘Attention is a form of prayer’—a perspective that pervades Cervine’s work. The following poems are an excerpt from that book, which according to the poet is the product of the intersection of his contemplative and creative lives and also influenced by the buddhist teacher Kukai and the Santa Cruz poet, Gary Young. These short pieces are separate works, though in reading them together, we can sense the underlying unity of the mediations and how they work together to inform one another.
Redwood grove in the coastal range—two prodigious elders fused into a single trunk, burned hollow at the base from some disaster. Yet the tree still grows. Blackened redwood walls rise as a ruined cathedral, room enough for our small band to wander inside of, succumb to awe. I can feel how it happens: growing old round the burn, room now to shelter, sun drawing you where you want to go.
The big oak is down. It fell slowly, shallow roots easing the great giant across the Japanese garden into the snow without a sound. My mother, working in the forest a short distance away, returned to find the behemoth fallen just so—her house intact, one Buddha statue sitting serenely next to the huge trunk, another with its head knocked off beside the broken Torri gate.
I’m practicing dying he said to his daughter, in his last days. I slowly stop breathing to see what it’s like, then let go. His words almost eager: I think I can do this—the way a young boy steadies himself on the cliff bank over a river, gnarled rope in hand, leaps.
Yoga in the outdoor Pagoda hexagon with my eighty year old mother. The thin summer screen decorated with orange & green butterflies keeps the bugs out, still lets the world in.
A smiling stone Buddha watches every move. Six gunshots echo from a rifle in the hills, a hunter stalking squirrel, birds, even deer? My mother doesn’t mind. Death, she says, is just another way the world moves.
The Third Face of God
The orange cat sits on the orange stone, peering through green bamboo at Lord Shiva chiseled into the clay-block wall. Without belief, she knows well Shiva’s predilection for divine destruction—mouse bones to mulch, rain to mud, breath to silence. She turns to lick her wild fur—eyes the careless cricket singing in the leaves.
(Note: In Balinese-Hinduism, the Triune God is Brahma as Creator, Vishnu as Preserver, and Shiva as Destroyer)