Peter Dale Scott



My thoughts are like these finches
that flock to the six openings
of my squirrel-proof steel birdfeeder
that stands in our courtyard
“with a lifetime guarantee”

their gold now lusterless
in this late season no longer
resplendent in the dawn

they fly in and out
before my eyes wide open
that should by intention be shut
till my thoughts become these finches
and these finches are my thoughts

Between the empty cavern
of all I might have become
and this clutch
of pure finchity            

what refuge
from these faint stirrings of the heart?



  Issa: This world
           is no bigger than
      a dewdrop world

 and yet     and yet

It was the Age of Aquarius
             the 1960s
     when one followed desire

not logic or duty
             Make love not war!
     as came back to me 

at 5 a.m. this morning
             the young blonde angel
     in my Dante class
who told me in office hour
             fifty years ago
     she was dropping out of school

to dedicate her life
             to skiing in Squaw Valley
     and gave me a full frontal

erotic farewell hug
             as she asked me
     Why do you do this? meaning

why did I a campus
             anti-Vietnam war speaker
     teach eclogues in Anglo-Latin

about pastoral friendship
             from Saxon-speaking Northumbrian monks
     in the early Middle Ages

who lived among the ruins
             of Roman cities
     they called the work of giants            enta geweorc

and I     jolted for a moment
             answered      I don’t know
     which I now think was not just true

but the right answer for the moment
             I did know for sure that when
     another student in the class

came to tell me
             she had been so persuaded
     by these medieval writings

she was dropping out of school
             to become a Zen nun
     under Baker Roshi in San Francisco

I being somewhat aware
             of the situation at Zen Center
     was stricken with acute self-doubt

but still kept teaching Dante
             who inspired by a mind
     more profound than the mind

of our frontal lobes
             wrote of the need
     to transcend Virgilian reason

as well as erotic passion
             as if looking down
     from the highest heavenly circle

on our tiny world
             and whom I a fugitive
     from Sciences Po                               Institut d’Etudes Politiques

had first read while hitch-hiking
             in the French Midi
     when every Romanesque church

and Benedictine monastery
             seemed a welcome haven
     from those soulless meetings

of  the 1950s
             French Socialist Party
     I had come to Europe to study

and maybe be part of
             All this became so clear
     at 5 am this morning

after the illuminating moment
             at yesterday’s small lunch
     of authors a whistle-blower

and founders of webzines
             at the rickety round table
     in our garden courtyard

plotting how to save democracy
             by forcing the release of documents
     still held illegally by the CIA

when suddenly Ajahn Pasanno
             from the Buddhist monastery
     Wat Abhayagiri                                          Redwood Valley CA

eight hours before I expected
             walked in his saffron robes
      with placid measured tread

through the narrow passage
             between our backed-up chairs
      and the datura tree

like one of the heavenly messengers
             who changed the Buddha
      an apparition

as incongruous as a skit
             out of Monty Python
      yet my reaction was to be 

acutely embarrassed
             our machinations
     now seemed mere papañca 

proliferations of the mind
             then at 5 a.m. this morning
     my life suddenly

             I saw what I had glimpsed
      when twenty-one at Taizé

in a 12th-century windowless
             Burgundian village church     
     where the monks observed the offices

even at midday
             with candles to enlighten us
     something beyond 

the desires in modern movies
             we have access to
     an alternity    

awaiting us
             and already within us
    and I said in response out loud

That’s why I did this!
             everything that matters
     is to move us
to another way 

                                                                           July 2, 2014


Peter Dale Scott

Peter Dale Scott was born in Montreal in 1929, the only son of the poet F.R. Scott and the painter Marian Dale Scott. Before teaching as an English Professor at the University of California, he served for four years as a Canadian diplomat, at UN Assemblies and in Warsaw, Poland. His chief poetry books include Coming to Jakarta: A Poem About Terror (1989), Listening to the Candle: A Poem on Impulse (1992), Minding the Darkness: A Poem for the Year 2000 (2000), Mosaic Orpheus (2009), and Tilting Point (2012). In 2002 he was awarded the Lannan Poetry Award. His chief prose books include Drugs, Oil and War (2003), The Road to 9/11 (2007), American War Machine (2010), and The American Deep State (2014). He is married to Ronna Kabatznick; and he has three children, Cassie, Mika, and John Scott, by a previous marriage to Maylie Marshall (Kushin Seisho).