by Ken Jones

One by one the retreatants arrive. Sip tea. Hang about. Guarded. Expectant. I gather them in a circle of black cushions. They eye one another. And they eye me, and my premature smile. The first talk opens with a silence, not too long not too short. To every phrase its own space. Hopefully I scan the faces for signs of making sense. It takes time to draw them in, one by one, for our journey to begin.

Worn clip board
the spring still grips
my scribbled thoughts

Before dawn, the Crack ! Crack! of the wake-up clappers. Muffled figures shuffle into the yard, with its hissing lamps and pools of rainwater. Following my creaky gestures, our physical jerks begin. And then some watch words for the day.

Wind blown –
an empty can
rattles over cobbles

Back inside I glance along the lines of meditators. An awesome stillness hangs in the air. To each skull cinema its own films: old news reels. future trailers, or maybe the big picture itself. Or even a blank screen. Or perhaps the projectionist has already gone home?. Through lidded eyes, downward gaze at forty-five degrees. Ah! I see him steal a restless glance. And she gets the message..

Retreat romance
by the rule of silence

Interviews, one by one. Together we watch the sky turn pale above the great field. Through a fretted line of trees a tiny light. She fingers the stitching of her leather chair. And starts to tell me… By the second evening the retreat has taken on a life of its own, and carries us along with it. Inside, as well as outside, the weather is what it needs to be.

Into our shared silence
a howling wind
a beating rain

I have them gather in groups of four around a "speaking stone." To share with one another each their unwinnable lawsuit with reality. And perhaps to empty their hearts.

Cupping the hand-warmed stone
feeling its jagged edges
he lets it speak

Five days of gathered silence . Enough to thaw the love between strangers.
The group photo includes the Goddess of Compassion in black teak. From her shrine she is looking over someone’s shoulder, a hand raised in blessing.
Her archaic smile.


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