A Song for the Winter Garden

[Editor’s note: John Snyder is another one of my dharma brothers in the Order of Interbeing (OI) of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. He posted this on our OI Yahoo group and gave me permission to publish it here.

This poem teaches us how impermanence rules the winter and all of life. Enjoy!]

A Song for the Winter Garden

Where these lifeless stems are coiled

into the fence, let me not imagine

burgeoning plumbago. Let me see

these blasted stalks and stumps

for what they are, not as ciphers

for sun-bathed salvia, bulbine, and mallow.

These abandoned nests of bird and wasp,

no longer nests, but wintry abstractions –

let joy and wonder arise at the sight of them.

Heaped detritus of life, not yet reborn –

may wisdom arise: subject to decay

are all, yes all, conditioned things.

Let me not prefer these perennials

whose roots sleep soberly in the ground

to the annuals who dazzled then died,

betting the future on something

as uncertain as a seed.

If I cannot welcome this austere harvest

as I welcomed the abundance of spring,

how can I embrace this failing body?

How can I return peacefully to this soil

that is by turns womb and tomb?

Let the silence of this place be an opening,

neither the absence of bee and finch,

nor the cloistering of a life against death.

Carve me in ice; for my heart, leave a little

of the emptiness between the stars.

– John R. Snyder, ordinarypersonslife.com

A Song for a Winter Garden

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