Wobbly Rock

By Lew Welch 1926–1971 Lew Welch
                                    for Gary Snyder
                “I think I’ll be the Buddha of this place”
                                    and sat himself
It’s a real rock
        (believe this first)
Resting on actual sand at the surf’s edge:
Muir Beach, California
        (like everything else I have
        somebody showed it to me and I found it by myself)
Hard common stone
Size of the largest haystack
It moves when hit by waves
Actually shudders
        (even a good gust of wind will do it
        if you sit real still and keep your mouth shut)
Notched to certain center it
Yields and then comes back to it:
Wobbly tons
Sitting here you look below to other rocks
Precisely placed as rocks of Ryoanji:
Foam like swept stones
        (the mind getting it all confused again:
        “snow like frosting on a cake”
        “rose so beautiful it don’t look real”)
Isn’t there a clear example here
Stone garden shown to me by
Berkeley painter I never met
A thousand books and somebody else’s boatride ROCKS
        (nearly empty despite this clutter-image all
        the opposites cancelling out a
        CIRCULAR process: Frosting-snow)
Or think of the monks who made it 4 hundred 50 years ago
Lugged the boulders from the sea
Swept to foam original gravelstone from sea
        (first saw it, even then, when finally they
        all looked up the
        instant AFTER it was made)
And now all rocks are different and
All the spaces in between
        (which includes about everything)
The instant
After it is made
I have been in many shapes before I attained congenial form
All those years on the beach, lifetimes . . .
When I was a boy I used to watch the Pelican:
It always seemed his wings broke
And he dropped, like scissors, in the sea . . .
Night fire flicking the shale cliff
Balls tight as a cat after the cold swim
Her young snatch sandy . . .
                       I have travelled
                       I have made a circuit
                       I have lived in 14 cities
                       I have been a word in a book
                       I have been a book originally
Dychymig Dychymig: (riddle me a riddle)
        Waves and the sea. If you
        take away the sea
Tell me what it is
Yesterday the weather was nice there were lots of people
Today it rains, the only other figure is far up the beach
        (by the curve of his body I know he leans against
        the tug of his fishingline: there is no separation)
Yesterday they gathered and broke gathered and broke like
Feeding swallows dipped down to pick up something ran back to
Show it
And a young girl with jeans rolled to mid-thigh ran
Splashing in the rain creek
        “They’re all so damned happy—
        why can’t they admit it?”
Easy enough until a little rain shuts beaches down . . .
Did it mean nothing to you Animal that turns this
Planet to a smoky rock?
Back among your quarrels
How can I remind you of your gentleness?
        Jeans are washed
        Shells all lost or broken
        Driftwood sits in shadow boxes on a tracthouse wall
Like swallows you were, gathering
Like people I wish for . . .
        cannot even tell this to that fisherman
3 of us in a boat the size of a bathtub   .   pitching in
slow waves   .   fish poles over the side   .   oars
We rounded a point of rock and entered a small cove
Below us:
                 fronds of kelp
Then us
                then rocks at the cliff’s base
                (hundreds of them sunning themselves)
                final starfish on the highest rock then
                4 feet up the cliff a flower
                further up more grass
                grass over the cliff’s edge
                branch of pine then
Far up the sky
                a hawk
Clutching to our chip we are jittering in a spectrum
Hung in the film of this narrow band
                to our eyes only
On a trail not far from here
Walking in meditation
We entered a dark grove
And I lost all separation in step with the
Eucalyptus as the trail walked back beneath me
Does it need to be that dark or is
Darkness only its occasion
Finding it by ourselves knowing
Of course
Somebody else was there before . . .
I like playing that game
Standing on a high rock looking way out over it all:
                               “I think I’ll call it the Pacific”
Wind water
Wave rock
Sea sand
                  (there is no separation)
Wind that wets my lips is salt
Sea breaking within me balanced as the
Sea that floods these rocks. Rock
Returning to the sea, easily, as
Sea once rose from it. It
Is a sea rock
I am
Rocked by the sea

Lew Welch, “Wobbly Rock” from Ring of Bone: Collected Poems of Lew Welch. Copyright © 2012 by Lew Welch. Reprinted by permission of City Lights Books.

Source: Ring of Bone: Collected Poems of Lew Welch (City Lights Books, 2012)

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Poet Lew Welch 1926–1971



Subjects Living, The Mind, Activities, Sports & Outdoor Activities, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Religion, The Spiritual

Poetic Terms Free Verse


Poet Lewis Barrett Welch was born in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1926. After his parents divorced, he moved with his mother and sister to a series of California towns. After high school, he served briefly in the Air Force. Welch was educated at Stockton Junior College, Reed College (where he earned a BA), and the University of Chicago. At Reed, he roomed with poets Gary Snyder and Philip Whalen, with whom he formed lifelong . . .

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SUBJECT Living, The Mind, Activities, Sports & Outdoor Activities, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Religion, The Spiritual



Poetic Terms Free Verse

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