New Writing: 'Retreats' by Rob Yates
The Tung is pleased to continue its relationship with poet Rob Yates by showcasing a new work.
I stepped on a wasp, three times,
I, nominally a free man, not knowing,
with bare feet.
‘Very auspicious’ said my teacher.
Turning muddy stings into bright signs.
Outside my cabin, loosened the porch moss
with a wire brush, let the autumn soak
carry off the algae. The clean revealed
how I had scratched the wood.
I like my cabin, but at night you piss
in the dark and the pine symphony
drops with the sun. I think of unfriendly
dim figures living like the evergreens.
We live on slopes, like these trees,
sheer as ladders.
My other teacher isn’t quite the Buddha.
She’s struggling with something and herself.
Reporting on my practice, I asked her:
‘How are you?’
But it should be the other way around.
Perhaps all things should be another way.
I am nothing like hill fire. It is early winter.
The fields with no sheep, pointless and fenced.
There is no hill fire, but once a cow gave
birth and died in the same half-hour breath.
I watched, then phoned the farmer.
I’m confusing the spring and the winter.
No. Cows should not give birth dead in the cold,
should live to see their babies trying to walk,
not wail on clipped pasture near the pond weeds.
Perhaps some things should be another way.
At breakfast, most stayed nervous and quiet.
I stared into the milk, my teacher laughed,
and then I climbed out most of a valley
and saw something living on the heights, and
Jasmine and I struggled with the Welsh snow.
She slept on the motorway, home, my hand on her hair.
Perhaps some things could be another way.
Am I a dull, utterly caring summit, or a fraud wind?
In June, fog still pressing the upper reaches,
the summer seeming tiresomely late,
buds unloading themselves, impatient and confused
into the stretched out frost, the mountain tracks
mottled with precocious, shivering flowers.
I had tea, down, on the stone steps.
An alcohol counsellor said:
‘If you climb the mud path, past the cabin, the scree
stacks, the ferns coughed up with dew, the loud
pines, the hand-built stupas piling high, past
the empty fields, the no sheep, through the
living to the top, you’ll see
the morning’s white coat sits on everything
and all is blank, except the valley’s spine,
high, the brave birds and the sun.'
But I climbed nothing, conquered none.
Perhaps some things can be another way.
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Rob Yates is currently based in London following a two year stint abroad in Indonesia and New Zealand. He is working through a third draft of a second novel and has had poetry and fiction appear in Bodega, Agenda, Envoi and other magazines.