White Trillium

White Trillium by Jennifer Schlick
White Trillium by Jennifer Schlick (click to see larger)

Trillium grandiflorum

They lit up the hillside
under the young maples
& tulip poplars like
a harbor full of sails

or a hundred thousand bodhisattvas,
three arms extended
in a mudra of grace

to the gardeners who came
with surreptitious trowels
& the deer with their yellow teeth.

Trillium Trail has become
a veritable Sarnath.
On any visit now

the white flag of a tail
floating among the trees
is the only lambent thing.
May all beings awake.


Notes: A mudra is a symbolic or ritual gesture in Buddhism. Sarnath is the deer park where Gautama Buddha gave his first teaching. Trillium Trail is a real place just outside of Pittsburgh.

5 Replies to “White Trillium”

  1. …three arms extended/in a mudra of grace…/the white flag of a tail/…is the only lambent thing./ May all beings awake.


    When the valley wakes up on Trillium Trail,
    the Sarnath lessons will be the hushed song
    of the sunrise breeze: these are blossoms
    from the other side where the creek turns
    blue and the rivers calm: always, always,
    in the maze of imprecise feelings, our mudra
    shall shape the passion all lovers put to use
    when love is beyond saying, beyond ecstasy.

    When we wake up to find a harbour of sails,
    we must all go their way, touch them to know
    that what we have is not our own, nor yet
    the place where we shall be but shall not be.
    Beyond longing, beyond desire, we will all
    wake up to where we are not. Where love is.

    —Albert B. Casuga
    Mississauga, Ont. 03-05-11

      1. Thanks, Dave. I thought I got into the root of your poem—and, of course, of the Zen whispers.

        By the way, I wrote another “prompted” poem. “Her Parasol’s Shadow” taking off from your “The Truth about Trees”, but was not able to append it there. I’ll send it to you via Morning or ViaNeg (a paean to my departed grandmother who died at 103 in Baguio City, PI years ago). On April 4, she would have been 132.

        See you at the Pure Land (the porch, I’d say). (:-)

  2. Here’s that parasol poem that was prompted by your “The Truth About Trees”.

    “Better to stay asleep and dream of sprouting a thousand parasols or hiding like a bird beneath its feathers. Better just to stand by the stream and listen to the water, which has mastered the art of running from the sky.”—Dave Bonta, “The Truth About Trees” Via Negativa, 02-27-11


    (For Sotera Martinez vda. de Buenaventura+)

    Her distant gaze must have transported her
    to long lost lands melting into each other,
    one cannot shape the sea around them.

    Even before she finally closed her eyes,
    she did not stay moored among the frayed
    sheets she said would bind her to a past

    when strolls were walkabouts along
    the Paseo del Mar, trips to town were
    contrite encounters at some confessional

    nook in an empty church across the house
    she lived in—La Iglesia de San Guillermo
    was her playground of pews and candles.

    She was handsome in her purple terna
    when we would walk to the Convento,
    her warm hand wrapped around my palm,

    her parasol’s shadow on her gentle face
    that would break into the bright smile
    I would look for when lost in fantasies

    of abandoned spaces where darkness grabs
    waylaid boys and devours their entrails
    falling on the narrow rain-soaked streets.

    When you left us, abuela, did you somehow
    know that it was better to stay asleep
    and dream of sprouting a thousand parasols,

    and standing by the stream to listen
    to the rain tap out on rooftops the rhythm
    of remembrances we shall never forget?

    Aunque estos son recuerdos y pensamientos
    Desolados, queridisima abuela, ellos son
    Lluvia que no puedo olvidar nunca jamas.*

    I will stay out in the rain today, abuela,
    and catch your hand in mine, and hear
    you sing the lullaby of the unceasing rain.

    —Albert B. Casuga
    Mississauga, Ont. 03-03-11
    * Although these are sad memories and thoughts,
    dearest grandmother, they are the rainfall
    that I will never ever forget.

    Re-posted in my lit blog (http://ambitsgambit.blogspot.com) March 4, 2011. How intense, did I feel? I drew the sketch of grandmother’s face from memory. Had no picture of her handy.

    1. This is a powerful piece; thanks for sharing. My only suggestion is to add a comma after “abandoned spaces” — otherwise one runs out of breath trying to read that passage.

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