Wednesday, October 17, 2007

If a Tree Falls On a Poem

Richard Brautigan wrote a humorous little poem called "Haiku Ambulance," which pokes genial fun at haiku-conventions--and himself. I won't spoil it for you.

From his poem, I borrowed the title of the following poem, "Zen Ambulance," which plays with the venerable philosophical question, "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?" David Romm, on a site called, adds an interesting variable: What if you leave a tape recorder (on) in the forest and the tree falls? No one is there, but the sound is recorded. But then I guess you'd have to prove the sound on the recorder represents the sound of the tree falling, so then you'd have to call witnesses with expertise in sound-recording, air-displacement, and so on.

In any event, the zen-tree fell on the following poem:

Zen Ambulance

If a tree fell in the forest,
and you were in the way,
you might be killed. If you
fell in the forest, and
the tree were in the way,
the tree would probably be
fine. If no one is in the forest
to see a tree fall, termites,
fungi, and bacteria
still devour the fallen
wood. If no one
is in the forest to see you fall,
let’s hope you can get up.
If a Zen monk stops you
in the forest, say hello,
and if you have some trail-mix
and water, offer to share them
with him. If he falls, don’t just
stand there, and under no
circumstances clap. Help him up.

Copyright 2007 Hans Ostrom
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