Terry Lucas

Dharma Rain

In the summer of 2008 when wildfire descended on Tassajara Zen Center, 
the oldest Zen monastery outside Asia, The Forest Service evacuated all residents. 
Five monks turned back and met the fire, saving Tassajara.  

          —Adapted from Fire Monks: Zen Mind Meets Wildfire at the Gates of Tassajara

It was Dharma Rain 
          met you, Dharma Rain
from granite wine 

          pumped from the creek 
through PVC pipe 
          soaking wooden buildings, 

dirt, stone, skin—
          sprinklers the sound 
of sustained violins—

          strings creating their own 
sultry atmosphere—
          your fiery, brass choir 

waiting for the director’s baton 
          to cue you in. It was the Fire
Monk Jazz Quintet

          rearranged the score, 
re-harmonized the minor-chord flame-song, 
          Jump, Jive, An’ Wailin’ 

fire-hose saxophones 
          swingin’ with your drivin’
hot-rock rhythms 

          and log-rollin’ bass notes,
 cascading down into the smoke-
          filled Tassajara gulch,

the whole valley smelling 
          like the world’s original singe—
you, up on the ridge,

          ripping off red blouses 
from manzanitas and madrones, 
          becoming more aroused 

with each naked limb, each torso 
          exposed in firelight. 
You crowned them one-by-one,
          but couldn’t penetrate 
the V-shaped ravine, though you tried
          like a groom on his wedding night

but in the end, more out of duty 
          than desire, you stumbled drunk 
into the bed
          of the garden, soft
glow buried in her
          soil, her mist.

*   *   *

Conceived of flash
           between earth and sky, 
I smoldered three days 

	beneath dust. Born hungry 
for live oak, sycamore, 
	maple—compelled to carve 

paths through the chaparral—
	maroon-barked manzanita,
chamise, ceanothus, yucca—

          to enlighten all flesh 
in my oven mouth—
          in one breath 

to translate a trillion tree lines, 
          a billion pages of bay laurel 
into fire beetles and whispering bells.

          O Tassajara,
when your lanterns were lit 
          along the Engawa

surrounding your zendo
          this morning, I saw you—
 the frost of your skin, your body, 

          your vulnerable ground, 
fire monk boots making little Buddha-shapes
          in the wet dirt.

I saw your treetops aligned 
          like piano keys,
each taut string 

          tied to nothingness, waiting
for my vermilion finger
          -nailed touch. 

Then I turned 
          to the moist commerce
of your temple gate and yurts,

          sheds and chemicals,
pine rooms and cabins,
          birdhouse and pool,

your schist stone Buddha,
	eyes brushed closed,
buried in the bocce ball court,

          calling down my parched tongues
to lap your Dharma Rain, your granite wine,
          to suckle the icicle of you.