April, 2016

otata 4

Hansha Teki, vincent tripi, Jeanne Martin, Guliz Vural, Alan Summers, Tom Montag, Shloka Shankar, Helen Buckingham, Chad Robinson, Aditya Bahl, David J. Kelly, Kim Dorman, F.J. Seligson

F.J. Seligson on Ed Baker




KUBLAI: I do not know when you have had time to visit all the countries you describe to me. It seems to me you have never moved from this garden.

POLO: Everything I see and do assumes meaning in a mental space where the same calm reigns as here, the same penumbra, the same silence streaked by the rustling of leaves.At the moment when I concentrate and reflect, I find myself again, always, in this garden, at this hour of the evening…

                                                                                      — Calvino, Invisible Cities (trans. William Weaver)




Hansha Teki


a moth enters my waiting









without cause
the sound of water . . .
just the words













loneliness nestles into listening









in silence
a new moon’s









skylark song
gone now – a bird











vincent tripi


just one wildflower
meditation spot









how roadrunner
how can you possibly?
no path









the chickadee calls the
chickadee who call to chickadee
to call to










Jeanne Martin


one last ride…
the train whistle
whistles again









all that we know
is all that we know
spring rain









summer solstice
all night moonlight
inside the house












Alan Summers


shadows that don’t daffodils belong









sun off stubble a train in its landscape









call of geese the heart I eat inside









Tom Montag


And weeds poking through snow.
We cannot know their code.









Hawk at its watch.
Just enough is patience.









Not to be of use,
the poet;

like the crow,
to be of wind.








has nothing
to tell me —

it only

that way.









Nothing. Again nothing.
What are the odds of that?









Shloka Shankar


second-guessing itself a nightgown billows in the breeze









as an aside i shape-shift into a key









the sheen on an orange rind negative capability









Helen Buckingham


arterial road
with snow


















heads crack
the beautiful game









sweatshop city
working the red carpet
she extends a gloved hand









Chad Robinson


prickly pear——
you wake up in
yesterday’s clothes









prickly pear every weapon drawn









yellow flowers
of the prickly pear——
we choose a china pattern









late tomatoes
the scarecrow slips deeper
into its waistline









rubs off
wild apple









clocks turned back in bed we curl up









blizzard wind——
trying to fold
a fitted sheet









a pine cone
a music box









Aditya Bahl


at the shrine gate
counterfeit crocs


















David J. Kelly


Quattro Stagioni








searing until midday’s madness ends rain









and under this unblinking moon narcolepsy









winding into nothingness the earth’s return









such perfect renaissance in natural greens






Kim Dorman




After Sankara



is darkness.


is like the sun.








is a bad dream.


Wake up–
it’s gone








Words are


They vanish
in the Real.








Winnow grain
from chaff.


using Reason.








is freedom


but no cooking
without fire.








The Real doesn’t
depend on anything–


light doesn’t need
another light!








Imagine searching
for a lost necklace,


one you were wearing
all the time!








Imagine it’s dusk & you
see a snake


that’s only a rope.








Whoever knows the Real
is like a caterpillar


become a butterfly.








Whoever knows the real
is like a flame


inside a lamp.








Whoever knows the Real
is unattached


like the wind.








At one with Reality,
he or she


is like water in water,
air in air,


light in light.








There is nothing left
to do, nothing


more to know.
No greater happiness


than this.








Everything is filled
with That.


Every action shows only
That. Shining.


it makes the world











Skipping stones. Midsummer.
A shower before the dance.


Boys snapping towels. Nervous.


The Yardbirds on a transistor radio.
Scent of Jade East.


It’s almost time. Sunset









F.J. Seligson

















The poet Ed Baker passed away on March 29 at 12:30 am after living 73 robust winters. He has given to the earth new energies and offered to human beings new sounds and colors, meanings. Google his name, with poetry after – and you will discover only one Ed Baker fitting that accurate description. He was as much as an accomplished painter as a poet, maybe more, although he didn’t offer either for fame or profit. He was content to work at his word-man-ship, drawings and colorings day after day for decades, aiming for the perfection of expression and his favorite subject: love for a woman. Not an unusual topic, yet his approach and characterization were unique fine, alive, even glorious.
Cid Corman introduced me to Ed in an affectionate 1975 letter from Kyoto and John Martone introduced me to Ed in Washington D.C. near the Washington, Monument around 2000. He was driving an old pickup truck and wore a baseball cap over his bald head, magnifying his fluffy white beard. That was the real start of our friendship. After that, whenever I was in Washington, D.C., on three occasions, I would stay with Ed in his antique house on Flower Avenue in Takoma Park, Maryland. His son lived on the 3rd floor and his daughter in the basement apartment. He occupied ground level rooms, sharing the dining room and kitchen. He was a deeply caring man toward his grown children, a father and a mother, too, for he even cooked for them. I never heard him raise his voice or utter an inconsiderate word toward them, and they I saw could live comfortably and quietly with him, despite all the eccentricities of a painter and a poet, without which there would be no art, but rather the commonplace.
Ed earned a MFA in creative Writing from Johns Hopkins University in 1973, specializing in poetry. Already his work was exceptional, reminding me of Ezra Pound, as in Ed’s poem, Hydra, in his book BUTCHER OF OXEN and other poems (1970):
 I think about the great river:
forgetting the sun  I suffer the sun
with birds that drink at the edge
with men who cast their nets.
They came as I was gazing at that sun
I tell you    dressed in white
as I was gazing at that other continent.
Great stones in the hills mark the dead; it is almost impossible to remember
other Greeks
That burned along the shore
Or on the point
Marking midnight            marking nights
that flooded the earth with stars
When ships came,
                                                 And they were good ships
their men             strong men
whose beads made the seasons
whose eyes went straight
guided by stars
that knew where they were.
I think about the river flowing
                                                                like the blood of men
like the blood of men who have known
their fears
& cast their nets into the morning sun.
However, after his divorce, in order to support his children he spent much of the next two decades working at house restoration, some of that experience recorded in Restoration Poems and Restoration Letters exchanged with his mentor Cid Corman, who resided in Kyoto. While restoring houses he was also in process of restoring his own life.
Besides watercolor and oil paintings, examples of which lined the walls of his house, he did abstract wood sculptures. It was one day about 10 years ago that I received word that “Ed had a stroke.” When visiting him last summer, 2016, he told me, “I was working outside under the hot sun, but I wanted to keep going on the sculpture, then it hit me and I was unconscious in the yard.” He survived and recovered almost completely save for high blood pressure for which he took medication. In the winter of 2015 I heard that he has suffered another stroke, and a couple months after his son notified me that he was in the hospital, where not long after his heart gave out. 
And a strong and vigorous heart it had been. After his first stroke he worked at recovery by competing in several marathons, even triathlons. But his greatest marathons had been in writing hundreds of outstanding short poems and illustrating them immaculately. Here are some examples:
He had an entire shelf full of his illustrations in carefully dated notebooks. All of his book shelves which filled two rooms were neatly arranged and filled with the classics of modern poetry and spiritual studies as well. Whenever I’d visit he’d conduct an on-going poetry workshop for me: laying before me piles of his own work, like the monumental Stone Girl E-pic, to peruse as well as well as the works of North American poets I didn’t know at all or at least not very well but who I should know, like Irving Layton, and Carl Rakosi. Poetry and painting were his life and he happily shared it with me. Had he been more ambitious his work would have been more widely known and appreciated, but it’s not too late.
Here is an example of his love poems for Fay Ling, from The City (1974)
the still slow war
has gotten beyond me
I imagine yellow flowers
on the wall
A girl in a dress
I have not seen her wear
her loose movement
in a wet dress
as she went up
houston street
These are examples of Ed short poems, and his particular sense of humor, influenced by his  correspondence with Cid Corman and others of Cid’s  school:
…. Sometimes
being myself
Isn’t so easy
(in Postcards from Myou, 2000)
Within and without
red tulip.
(from Things Just Come Through, 2004)
The last night I was in Washington I was walking back to dine and sleep as his guest by  old two-story houses along Flower Avenue when the short grass lit up with a glow my feet, and then again here and there in other yards.  They created briefly a yellow softness, silent and unspoiled.  How many millions of years had the fireflies, “lightning bugs” we Washingtonians called them, been lighting up the plants at night? It seemed to me the most beautifully sublime sight I had ever seen – so silent and gentle, oblivious that this was a dangerous place to be for us humans walking at night. For them life went on in its eternal beauty.  I wish the same for Ed’s soul.
                ~Fred Jeremy Seligson, April 9th, 2016, Seoul


otata appears
at the end of each month.
Direct correspondence to John Martone atotatahaiku@gmail.com