On Top

by Gary Snyder


Original Language English

All this new stuff goes on top
turn it over, turn it over
wait and water down
from the dark bottom
turn it inside out
let it spread through
Sift down even.
Watch it sprout.

A mind like compost.

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

I like this idea of psychic composting. (What else should we expect from a great Beat/Buddhist/nature poet, like Gary Snyder?) All of our lives -- our thoughts, our feelings, our relationships, every achievement, every disappointment, all the used and discarded scraps, the good, the great, the terrible, the foul, the forgotten filler, every experience of a full life -- it all goes onto the pile. Nothing rejected. It all has its use. Add it to the pile.

Then turn it over. Don't let it sit. Bring the old stuff to the top. Let it breathe the air and feel the sun. Contemplate what you've kept long buried. See the good and the bad together, how, over time, they become the same material. Turn it over again. What was once unpleasant has taken on the rich smell of soil. Turn it over, turn it inside out. Let the inner alchemy do its work.

Water it down. Let the emotions, clean and simple, trickle down through every layer, so no part of yourself, past or present, dries out.

Then grab great handfuls of the stuff and spread it out upon the earth. All you have to do then is wait and watch. New life will sprout.

A mind like compost.



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On Top