This Reflection is by Dave McCann, a member of the Men’s Breakfast and First Church in Cambridge.
Viewing Stones, also known as Scholar Stones, have been treasured, collected, admired, and written about for centuries in China, Japan, Korea, and other places. Large ones are placed outside, in gardens or palace grounds; smaller ones become parts of collections that individuals enjoy gathering at their homes and looking at. They take us away, back into the natural world.
Over the years up at Higgins Beach in Maine or elsewhere, I’ve gathered stones that caught my eye, not thinking of them as scholars stones. I put some of them around in our yard. I carved wooden stands for some others. I even built one into a wooden clock. More recently, I’ve read sijo poems by the Korean poet Kim Min Jeong. She has published two collections of poems, with extraordinary photographs of stones on the left-hand pages, and a sijo poem around or about the stone, in Korean and in English translation, on the facing pages.
A month or so ago, maybe trying to find a way to get myself away from the TV news and all the talk, I got out one of our stones and looked at it for a while. Then I wrote a sijo poem around it, following the ‘story’ that seemed to emerge from my looking at that stone. Then another. And then one more. I enjoyed getting away from it all for a while. Here’s one.
From gathered in meditation,
prayer, measured slow intervals
of breath, beads bracelet circles
in the distant mountain retreat,
one rises, to stand gazing back,
bidding farewell to all the rest.
I sent the poems and images to the Men’s Breakfast group for our November meeting. We talked about the sijo verse form—three lines with a ‘twist’—and the movement out and about that a poem invites us as readers or writers to follow. Then those attending made their own poems, which follow. And they do also lead us, away, to other places of vision, contemplation, experiment.
First Church Men’s Breakfast, November 7, 2020
We all ZOOM, day in day out,
Always, now, coming together,
to share lives.
The pigeon outside checks out my patio,
and flies away, disappointed.
Set your feet on the back roads
to far towns, said Basho
Walk this path, paved in weighty grace
under standing, forbidding
yet ever bidding, even joking,
they say: lighten, and look, up!
Green plant under lights,
mist blowing over them.
A little forest in our room,
hoping to get bigger.
It’s our duty to help it grow,
to find its destiny.
My sijo (in name only):
Japanese lantern sits in the corner
Light streaming at it from the sun
Water sparkling, float dancing
Another blessed morning dew.
Coffee smells signal caffein,
My doctor tells me I can’t have any.
Blue green glass, angular form,
balances, opening wide.
See the lines, circling round,
unbroken, endless movement.
T.V. light, bringing breaking news,
refracting rays, prismatic.
Looking at Neponset River Out my Window
Mills & factories dam, dredge and dissolve,
River water circles, surrounds and smooths,
Steel, wood and stone are now crawfish home.
Heart-shaped Beach Stone
Light Gray stone
dry now on shelf
Found on beach
a heart shouts “Love!”
Can it last when seas have risen?
Memories hold Cape Cod days.
Astoria, Astoria, Astoria—
The lines go down the mug.
Off to the right, the handle,
What I’ll grab in a second.
But just look! Can you believe it? Not a drop.
Plenty of reason for Back to that shop in New York!