Friday, June 22, 2012

Owning Nothing


Without a hermitage in the mountains,
or a monastery to be welcomed,
I want nothing to carry on
except this bag of skin and bones.

In the middle of city I'm alone,
isolated as the unborn.
Living in the world
I learn to let go and not have.

As I watch the cars passing by
I understand that there is nothing to take away.
This skin and bones will remain here,
and my flutes and guitars too.

When I see I can not own anything,
I understand that no one has ever owned anything.
When I breath, all such constructs cease,
And when everything stops, I'm still breathing.

Hernán Massau,  
Buenos Aires, Argentina


  1. Thank you for the poem!

    In Sonnet XVIII Shakespeare also wrote about impermanence. What I like about it, in addition to his heart-to-heart use of imagery, is the demonstration that impermanence need not lead to nihilism.

    My apologies for providing only the seventeenth century English version: I could nbot find a satisfactory Spanish version on-line.

    "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
    Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
    Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
    And summer's lease hath all too short a date.
    Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
    And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
    And every fair from fair sometime declines,
    By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
    But thy eternal summer shall not fade
    Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
    Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
    When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st:
    So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
    So long lives this, and this gives life to thee."

  2. the human body is a little universe
    its chill tears, so much wind blown sleet
    beneath our skins, mountains bulge, brooks flow
    within our chests lurk lost cities, hidden tribes

    wisdom quarters itself in our tiny hearts
    liver and gall peer out, scrutinize a thousand miles
    follow the path back to its source,
    else be a house vacant save swallows in the eaves

    shih-shu, chan monk 17th century