The Nothing That Is

Here is a poem written by Wallace Stevens which so beautifully says much of what I have been pointing to this past week during an online retreat. Thank you to Michael for sending me the poem, and thank you to all those who participated in the retreat. I may or may not share the audio of the Dharma talks given this past week.

THE SNOWMAN – Wallace Stevens
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Source: Poetry magazine (1921)

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6 thoughts on “The Nothing That Is”

  1. I always want to comment on your posts, Rev. Mugo but most often I cannot find the words. Not because your writing has not spoken to me, but precisely because it has, and has pierced me to the point that there is nothing else to add. This is such a time. _/|\_

    1. Know what you mean. When I read this poem I thought the same, it spoke to me as this did for you. Quite something really, this poem. Thanks though, for writing.

  2. Stevens was brilliant. I love the paradox in the last stanza. The listener is “nothing himself” because he is made of snow, and he is observing “nothing that is not there.” This double negative essentially means he is in reality beholding everything that is; “the fullest emptiness one will ever know” as we like to call it.

    Furthermore, his own awareness is actually something. He knows he is made of snow, and in the act of listening to the wind “that is blowing in the same bare place,” he knows he is made from the very same landscape. The existence of the winter’s nothing. It is such a clever description of awakening, and it shows that existence and non-existence are both the same thing.

    Just love it! Thanks for posting this Reverend Master!

    1. Oh, thanks so much Miles for bringing out the meaning. SO helpful for me anyway. I think I will pull this comment out of the comments and make it into a post.

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