Dwain Wilder
Dwain Wilder
Under the Only Moon


An old saying in Zen goes, “When a finger is pointing to the moon, don't examine the finger! Look at the moon.” The moon has always been a symbol of the feminine, the hiddenness of the implicate order, to usurp David Bohm's phrase. As the sun sheds light on matters of fact, so the moon's light glows in wisdom, implicating the ineffable.

The high task of poetry is to say something, concretely and simply, about the ineffabilities of the great matter of life and death. To do so, attention to the breath is important, for our connection to the ineffable is in the breath, wherein is grounded aspiration, inspiration, spirit, psyche.

So, in my view, poetry is not so much a visual artifact on the written page; rather it is a record of the poet's lived connection with those he loves, fellow Earthlings, the Earth itself, and the heavens and hells extending eternally, all around us. Poetry's tropes, forms and meters should reflect and recall, in some manner, the breathing body of that experience.

Some of the poems found here are an attempt to attend to that calling. Regarding these, I don't write as a discipline, but rather when something bites, cuts or delights. Other poems here have seemed to come out of some light-hearted moment, with no special merit other than a joy in expression.

And, lastly, comes a selection of short dedication verses that I inscribe inside the musical instruments I build for a living. These verses are often inspired by some scene I come upon while walking our dogs during the afternoons and evenings. These fellow Earthlings have called me out of doors and given me a wonderful opportunity to see the world more intimately, more broadly. I thank my wife and dear companion, Katherine Denison, for bringing them home.  They're always an unexpected delight, even while rolling in fox pee.

From the book:


The skies are ringing with geese,
and in the park at the foot of our road for days now,
weeks early here
on frigid Lake Ontario.

The parklands spread thin
their wintered-over greens and frozen browns,
muddy, poised between warmth and frost.
Precarious as a lost glove spring seems
in this moment, as I doubt its power.

Looking from my shop window under the cedars' shadows
at the light-stencilled earth
and the bright fallow field beyond,
their seductions tease at my tidy comfort.

In the gray afternoon March rattles its reeds,
dabbles at budding.
Its chilly fingers blow my hair the wrong way,
flaunting ramshackle charms.


The frog croaks
out of nowhere
its green eye
a hole in the world.

Wolf's Moon

When the wolf sits
beneath the bitter moon
forgo your warmth.
taste for an hour her night.

Dwain Wilder, a native of a small town outside Dallas, moved to Rochester, NY, in 1970 to study Zen Buddhism. He has had a varied career as navy flightcrewmember, student of physics and American Studies, leadership roles in the Anti-Vietnam War and Civil Rights movements, itinerant builder and fruit picker, research lab technician, computer software engineer, and luthier (builder of stringed musical instruments). He holds three patents, in semi-conductor device design and musical instrument innovation.

He lives with his wife and their two dogs and a large noisy macaw, in a quaint, untidy farmhouse near a large park. He currently makes his livelihood in lutherie. Dwain's Appalachian dulcimers are held in high regard, both here and abroad. Dwain also teaches dulcimer-building classes at the Northeast Dulcimer Symposium, in Blue Mountain Lake in the Adirondacks, as well as in his studio.

Dwain also writes occasional essays on Zen practice. He has published poems in various periodicals and collections, and is editor emeritus of Zen Bow, the quarterly periodical of the Rochester Zen Center.

Under the Only Moon is a 72 page hand-stitched paper book with spine - $15.00.

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