Fortune Cookies

Americans largely treat haiku as if it was greeting card verse. Zen is a term attached to almost anything these days and it has nothing to do with Zen. Eastern philosophy is probably understood by many as fortune cookie lines.  A friend once introduced me to the notion that you can read any fortune cookie advice and attach "in bed" to the end of it -   "You will find happiness soon - in bed"    "Mistakes are opportunities to learn - in bed."   - making all fortune cookies about sex from that time on.


Is my body real or just an illusion?
Who is it who can ask such a question?

See how one puzzle leads to another!
I sit on the mountainside lost in wonder

till the green grass grows up between my toes
and the red dust settles on my head.

Country folk come to me with wine and fruit,
pious offerings set out for the dead.

By Han Shan (also known as the Cold Mountain Poet)  - a favorite poet of the T'ang period. He was a Zen/Taoist hermit who took up residence on Cold Mountain to write poetry.    Here's another one of his poems:


In the third month, when the silkworms
                              are still small,
girls come, picking flowers
leaning against the wall, they play with
Down by the river, they throw pebbles at a frog.
They fill their gauze sleeves with plums.
With golden hairpins they dig bamboo shoots.

Debate all you want on the nature of beauty,
this place is finer than the one where I live.

Click here to read more poems by Han Shan in translation

Perhaps you can brew a cup of tea and open a fortune cookie now, if only virtually, and find inspiration for your next poem.
At http://rhona.com/Playthings/FortCookies.asp you can click one open, or if the muses are annoying you lately,
try a bit of cynicism from http://www.badcookie.com/

Your poem might turn to Eastern forms, or to bed, or a place finer than where I live.


Soft wind,
still your fur quivers.

Sidney Grant



When wind moves grasses
it does not think of touching
others in its path

Tornadoes touch down
most indiscriminately
without thought or plan.

We pick up pieces
sorting out what is left here
to continue on.

These are not our plans
anymore. Winds have changed us
into pawns of breeze.

Learn to love the wind;
look forward to emptiness;
succumb to its change.

Build another plan
including approaching storms,
riding all the winds!

Thus, the way of peace
is trusting a Will beyond
our frail human ken.

Catherine M. LeGault

Naturally Lucky

Every contest is fake, designed to make
you believe you are about to win, like
Reader's Digest, a host of others, plotting
to get your money, keep you in the game..
Playing along for years cost me plenty
in money, time and anguish, galore,
I knew, absolutely, the next winner would
be little "ole me who needed the purse.
Alas, I never won, not even came close,
my contest dollars shrinking to pennies.
Down in Georgia I would win the big
game, bolstered by news that one of
three winning tickets was sold near me.
Driving madly to that store, dividing my
money umpteen ways for everyone,
disgust overwhelms after winding through
the crowd to hear a giddy twenty-year old
beauty whine about how lucky
she and boyfriend are to be millionaires.
My cussing is drowned by
a loud mouth loser shouting,
"Winning the lottery isn't everything!"

F. William Broome


Come close and listen        this is secret
         I'm high     soaring      above this bed
no sleep      no sleep for days        doctors
         nurses visit my room     so lovely
they say        come closer    hold me
         hold me down    I'm flying      I think
this is heaven       this is love          they speak
love       listen       can you hear?       love
daughter       O love        can you hear?

Ruth Zimmerman


Has that snail climbed Mt. Fuji yet?
I'd like to know.
We don't often get to find out the answers
to questions posed in poems.

Inside a cookie, a tongue of paper-
A friend misses you
                                    in bed,
I add.
and begin to wonder who he might be.
     (Is it a he?)

Lucky numbers: 2, 6, 8, 14
A couplet and two parts of a sonnet,
then the sonnet. Does 14 have two syllables
as if it were four teen?

When I open my eyes, I want to see
a questionless sky above me.
In my glass, a quaff of answers.
Two lucky arms lifting me at 6 PM,
making love for two hours
climbing Fuji slowly and at 8,
he reads me the sonnet he has written.

Pamela Milne


Instead of contemplating
As in Zen
The beauty of time held at bay
We are Harold Lloyd
On the giant factory clock
Half way up or down
Dangling over the bread street
On the face of our small world.

We wonder if Time's Blade
Will slice us in half
Or our hands, tired and bloody
Will in despair open to.
"Let It Be."

Is it then?
With a plunk and a splash
That we will tumble
As brightly colored frogs
Filled with a warning sadness,
Do not swallow me, part of whole.

So Tom, the guru of my youth
Quoted his businessman peer,
Look to the zero
Ending a numerical string,
Whether one or a zillion
Look to the zeros,
The work is humbly the same.

Edward N. Halperin


This early morning I am astonished to notice
the back side of a common traffic light,
the gently rounded vertical row of yellow nipples
ripely protruding over my intersection,
and the setting moon
lingering in the opalescent sky
like an errant balloon, caught,
and delicately balanced, for a moment,
on the urban trapeze of electrical wire.
God's inscrutable grace
scuttles along the glitter-flecked street
on a gusty scrap of paper.

Laura Black


Sitting on my screened porch
Watching stock-car racing on TV,
And waving to the passer byes
Close to home, in the mundane,
I seek meaning wherever I can,
Attempting to spin golden poetry from straw.

Waves rise and fall in the narrow inlet
Rocking my schooner anchored in the wine dark sea.
I swim to shore to meet an islander.
Touched by warm breezes we eat grilled hamburgers,
And in the sand make the most of omitting the onions.

I am seduced by a beauteous life of easy casualness
Sailing from port to port,
And tempted by the challenge of a driven, creative life.
Floundering, drawn hither and yon,
With the one, barely avoiding drowning in the whirlpool of pleasure
Only to almost fatally crash onto the isolated rocks of lonely ego.

My islander has come to me.
We raise anchor and depart for new adventures.

Ellen Kaplan








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