This content was published: October 21, 2020. Phone numbers, email addresses, and other information may have changed.
Two Deep Breaths: I Was Reading A Poem
Posted by justin.rigamonti
A Weekly Poem to Lift Your Spirits, to Help You Catch Your Breath
This week, fall colors have been on full display, so I’d like to offer you a couple of quiet poems about autumn leaves. The second poem, “I Was Reading A Poem” by David Rutschamn, was published a few Octobers ago in The Sun magazine, while the first is the untitled gem that inspired Rutschman’s poem, and it’s quite a few Octobers older— from the early 19th century, written by Japanese Buddhist poet/monk Ryōkan.
What more needs to be said about the exquisite beauty of falling maple leaves than the few physical details Ryōkan gives here? Except perhaps to use them as a metaphor for the mystery of life and death, as Rutschman does. I hope you enjoy a few moments of contemplation with these poems.
by Ryōkan, written in the early 19th century
I Was Reading A Poem
by David Rutschman, written in the early 21st century
I was reading a poem by Ryōkan about a leaf, and how it showed the front and the back as it fell, and I wanted to call someone — my wife, my brother — to tell about the poem.
And I thought that maybe my telling about the poem was the front of the leaf and my silence about the poem was the back.
And then I thought that maybe my telling and my silence together were honestly just the front of the leaf, and that the back was something else, something I didn’t understand.
And then I thought that maybe everything I understood and everything I didn’t were both actually just the front of the leaf— so that the totality of my life was actually just the front of the leaf, just the one side — which would make the other side my death. . . .
Unless my life and death together were really still only the front of the leaf?
I had left the branch. I was falling.
I was loose now in the bright autumn air.