Vox Populi

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Sam Hamill: Old Bones


All the quiet afternoon splitting wood,
thinking about books, I remembered

Snyder making a handle for an ax
as he remembered Ezra Pound

thirty years before,
thinking about Lu Chi.

Using the ax, I forget the ax.
Closing my eyes, I see.


Thirty-one new yellow daffodils
bloom in the little garden.

Alder-seed covers everything
with little flakes of rust.

A breeze through evergreens.
Distant bird trills.

When Hui Neng tore up the sutras,
his bones were already dust.


Wanting one good organic line,
I wrote a thousand sonnets.

Wanting a little peace,
I folded a thousand cranes.

Every discipline a new evasion;
every crane a dodge:

Bashō didn’t know a thing about water
until he heard the frog.

From Habitation: Collected Poems by Sam Hamill, published by Lost Horse Press. Included in Vox Populi by permission of the author.


Photograph by Ian Boyden

7 comments on “Sam Hamill: Old Bones

  1. Michael White
    November 12, 2015

    I know this poem well but still marvel at it.


  2. Ed Jay
    July 8, 2015

    Poetry is the long memory of humanity, the simple truth of being awake and aware of the nature around and within us.


  3. shiranirajapakse
    April 4, 2015

    Beautiful thoughts. Couldn’t help smiling at the last line. This is a poem for reading often.


  4. susan snively
    April 3, 2015

    A perfect poem to read today, or any day. I love how the acts of remembering nest inside each other.


  5. jenneandrews
    March 23, 2015

    Fabulous poem– xj


  6. John Tieman
    March 15, 2015

    I love Hamil’s poem. I don’t know when I’ve ever heard of anyone speak of Hui Nong and the sutras.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michael Simms
      March 15, 2015

      Thanks, John. I love Sam Hamill’s poetry for its careful craft and its koan-like wisdom.


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This entry was posted on March 15, 2015 by in Opinion Leaders, Poetry and tagged , , , , , , , , .

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