“Confusion of the Senses” Kenneth Rexroth

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An Abundance of Moments, an Embarrassment of Neglect

Pinch yourself. You’re alive. But how do you know, and what is it you’re hardly noticing as days roll in and out with numbing regularity?

Answer: a lot. Reason: the five senses. Even more so the four neglected senses. You know how partial we are to our eyes. To sight. The favored child among our brood.

But what if the idea is to conjure a moment — pick a moment, any moment — using the senses, not just sight but touch, smell, sound, and taste? Imagery, we call it, is an essential poet’s tool. One willing to share the poetic limelight with figurative language.

Given the heady mix of imagery, figurative language, and the moment, you’d see a direct link between Buddhism and poetry. What’s present around us at any given moment, with focus, with meditation, can become something more than it seems. The insignificance of a world that can become mundane lies in our own prejudices. Moments are always there but, through bad habit, we are usually not.

Sure, picking a small moment and magnifying it sounds simple, but simplicity is a lovely sound, as proven here by Kenneth Rexroth, who leads us to enlightenment at the end of his humble paean to life as simple moment:


Confusion of the Senses
by Kenneth Rexroth

Moonlight fills the laurels
Like music. The moonlit
Air does not move. Your white
Face moves towards my face.
Voluptuous sorrow
Holds us like a cobweb
Like a song, a perfume, the moonlight.
Your hair falls and holds our faces.
Your lips curl into mine.
Your tongue enters my mouth.
A bat flies through the moonlight.
The moonlight fills your eyes
They have neither iris nor pupil
They are only globes of cold fire
Like the deer’s eyes that go by us
Through the empty forest.
Your slender body quivers
And smells of seaweed.
We lie together listening
To each other breathing in the moonlight.
Do you hear? We are breathing. We are alive.


For your own “We are alive” or “I am alive” moment, you can slow down and invite one into your own life. Then honor it by writing a poem rich in the senses leavened with the meaning you give it (or, better yet, it gives you).

It’s how we experience the world, after all — if only we would more often!