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Gene Fowler

Zen 21

(A suite for Space City)

Very likely the most intriguing roshi* of the 21st century was the one who never quite got around to an answer when asked his name. He was not Japanese as was traditional and expected. But then he was not American, either, as were so many of those of the late 20th century. He once said, or perhaps only thought, that he was knot—among all the spiraling lines of Genkind’s** evolvings about the Planet, but this, of course, was patently nonsense, possibly an erupting of senility.


As biographers have pointed out, he did indeed have a monastery, or said (possibly only thought) he did. But nobody actually got an adequate look at it. Some said it was too dazzling to see properly; others that it was too vague; still others that parts of it refused to stabilize in a given moment, or momenta. Roshi apparently said that his or any monastery was, slowed down, mon-aster-y—or ‘place of singled star.’


The biographers also have noted that Roshi’s entire teaching, the phosphene of his rubbed life, existed in four thoughts. Until now, these have not been available in print or other material form. Previous attempts to print them have not produced stable counterpoised marks, but only the base 0-sum, in the older or traditional notation, ‘emptiness.’ We have reason to believe, however, that this time the words and syntax selected will hold sound.

* A Japanese term that translates ‘master’ and incorporates the sense of both ‘teacher’ and ‘prototype’ or ‘exemplar.’

** An American term introduced by Kate Swift and Casey Miller to replace the patriarchal ‘mankind,’ referring to the transgenderal Jinn in the species bottle.



‘how to sit’


The single star under our

fingers is no single star, but


five points, or six, or seven, or

bubbling laughter of



Orion’s belt, the Pleiades cluster

born of the eye’s



The gathering spires.

the expiring reach—shoulder

blades arching



spreading ribs out from keel

and forward


to bounce back and float high


points laced

by the dance of wit’s

core and eye—


the bent knee, the true thigh

rush into dark


wait ahead the star.



‘how to breathe’


In the dying time

horses dance away

from mounting,

hillsides ripple

against walking,

dreams gather up storm-dark

at the horizon,

winds sing that dying time is here,

gusts howl and moan

their dark song,

and Sirens flash sun-yellow

inner thighs,

snort through flared nostrils,

and dance away

from mounting.


‘Come to the dying time,’ merlins

caw, ‘Come

to the dying time.’


And the sea, great ball of yarns,

tangle of flawed

crystal threads running,

rises up, dancing Sirens, to flash

sun-yellow breasts

                                       and dance away

and the egg, blue-white

on the palm,

minuscule atmospheres on the palm,


of a flying thing—

grew dark—

obsidianed mirror, smoky

song intact, at the ear


its way, filaments, later, in

the cavern.



‘how to accept the Con’


Filaments outward into

vastness from the supernova lacing

dark points of space, or


sider that a question

is not, after

all a question—

the grandiose problem will

spread, and



until it is not noticed

by the eye

peering through

at its peers


(around and around you go

            trying to find the handle, or

            a corner, at least, on this smooth)

What was asked?

Or Who asked, of Whom?

Where is it dealt with?

And peering though the question

my bulging eye finds

only an old man tomorrow and

habits yesterday and

perhaps a need

to show off—


peristalsis marks eons

and beyond

the lace

only the slow winds of unmind

coil and uncoil

crystalline geometries


as I rub my magic I

but shaggy coats

wave in





‘how to re-turn’


The inner

becomes the whole beyond the atmospheres,

absolute light sources


with no constellating lines what-


though dark lines proliferate and wait

til need,

and the outer

becomes skin taut

across cheek bones, mouth

a line ready

to expand and snip out a frag-

ment of the whole,

eyes unidentifiable

flying form-

ations, ready to cross


like swords on occasion. And

then the Wait,

the Great


until to-and-froings sing

the dark web,


telling that one

comes, and


will birth


in your own image

that was before

your birth.

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