Reflections in Water

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REFLECTIONS IN WATER: 32 Bruges Meditations

Epiphany and narrative are not often thought of as likely companions; they seem a contradiction; two forms at odds with each other; perceptions with opposing intentions. And yet in these ‘Meditations’ Marcus Cumberlege has been able to successfully unite the two with brevity and charm –a not un-admirable achievement in its own right, but one which is the natural development of a poet who asks, as Rene Char asked: how can we live without the unknown before us? -then answers this question with epiphany and narrative Known into unknown is the bridge which every (human) meditation must make. It is one which the poet has made within himself. It is one which he has made in these poems -The Editors


CONTENTS The Dark Mind Average Day The Day After Letting Go Golden Daffodils Russian Mixture Personal Belief Vimalakirti Says Friday the Thirteenth Christmas in Spring Talking to Myself Feeling Optimal Thirteen August Afternoon Back from Peru Your Name Day A Fling in Town Remarkable Blessings The Inward Smile Approaching Happiness The Precious Time Catching Fire Faits Divers Dagdagelijkse Dingen Reflected Lights Twenty-four Thoughts Conversation with Lieve Curing Loneliness Dear Gary Alive and Well End of the Year The Aquarium Footnotes

THE DARK MIND To feel good, even when you feel fucking awful, that is the secret. To lie there alone in bed, burning holes in the blank sheet of darkness. To dig the feelings of hope and willingness out of your deep despair. All of us know those grey dawns when words can do nothing to console us. They have no relevance to anything our dark minds can imagine. There's no spark of ignition. The lifeless lines lie scattered on the page. We are disconnected from our heavenly source and blind to beauty. Amida and Kuan Yin are there to help us, but we do not know it. We see the statuettes in front of us, we see our own reflection. Where is the magic? Where is the poetry? We're more dead than alive. This is the crucial moment when it is necessary to feel good. Unless we find the energy in us now, we're doomed to go under. A voice softer than the sound of reason seems to whisper in our ear “Be still, and touch the presence deep inside. It is a trustworthy guide.” What it all comes down to is feeling good – and that is in our power. So peace comes at last on the wings of the morning and the heart is healed.

AVERAGE DAY in the life of the slightly depressive person

Spare us, Lord, from the deliberate manufacture of misery.

You are here for a purpose – unknown to you in this world of shadows. If you feel well, do good. So much the better. But if you don’t, stay calm. To do what you want is one thing, but to know what you want another. When nothing sensible comes into your head, switch off and take a rest. When things get on top of you, pause and simply do what the day requires. One cannot please everybody, make an omelette without breaking eggs. No day goes by without a few good things happening – focus on them. In the bread of our life love is the yeast – an all-powerful agent. Even a little bit of gratitude can give one extra mileage. There’s a rightness in things which absolutely nothing can contradict. We are in the effort department, said Charles, The results are up to Him. It’s by letting things look after themselves that they get done properly. The alcoholic mind has a vast capacity for distortion. Stay close to the programme – go back to it frequently during the day. Don’t hesitate to use the phone – it’s a therapy that always works. Although not feeling great, you might be of support to somebody else. Nothing can go seriously wrong while rhododendrons are in bloom. Focus your attention on the tiny pinpoint of light which is now. Move out of the driving seat and let Amida take over the wheel. Eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive.

Life is worthwhile. All that remains for me is to get into action. Stop worrying about what you might be feeling like in five minutes’ time. One’s attitude towards the past and future can easily be changed. Try to accept the fact that the latter will always be uncertain. This too shall pass – it is enough to say these words over and over. You will pick up says your wife, and strangely enough she is always right. God as you understand her is truly concerned about your welfare. Hold fast to your faith, whatever it is. It gives meaning to your life. Enlightenment is near. It is as close as the prayer upon your lips. There is absolutely no cause for worry: nobody will eat you. Surrender to the inevitable enjoyment this day will bring. Remember: you are here for a purpose. Good things are bound to follow. *



Grant me the physical and mental energy to survive this day. Cut down my self-centredness, I pray, to an absolute minimum. My incapacity to see your love at work is sometimes frightening. Acceptance, willingness and gratitude – the three ready-made answers. Gladness is all that really matters – feeling it’s good to be alive. Nothing can get on top of you, nobody hurt you, this day is yours. There are times, when thunder threatens, that I can say at least I’m sober.

THE DAY AFTER (emerging from depression) Get up with a feeling of gladness that you are alive and sober. Entertain the certain knowledge that you are not alone in the world. Galaxies are being born. Bakers and bus-drivers are at their work. Face the challenge of this newborn day with hope and determination. Remember that, astrologically speaking, everything is good. The sun, moon, planets and stars are dancing a spectacular ballet. Feeling good is a way of sending love out into the universe. Light a candle to somebody who is less fortunate than you are. Make tea or coffee and lift the succulent beverage to your lips. I am grateful for the hours ahead and for water from the tap. It feels good to stand here alone before dawn in a pool of lamplight. I would be amazed if I knew how this day was going to turn out. Shine your light on the path ahead of me, Michael, one step at a time. Feelings of fear and loneliness do not belong in my world today. I love my life and it is unimaginably good to be me. I am a ball of magnetic energy in a friendly cosmos. I know where I'm going and have all the time in the world to get there. Friends are like stars: you hardly ever see them, but you know they are there. Someone said: if one hour of twenty-four is good, our day is well spent. For the next two or three minutes I will think only positive thoughts. Words are all very well but it's feelings of love that make things happen. Rhonda sends her love to the world for fifteen minutes every morning.

I can feel the warm love you send me, Rhonda, and return it to you. After my shampoo and shave a wonderful day can be expected.


You have every reason to be happy. Name one, others will follow. Contentment comes, once the mind has been emptied of negative thinking. It's when we let go that positive power starts flowing into us. Your chief reason for being here is to enjoy your day to the full. Let go. When that feeling of discomfort vanishes, joy must appear. Gratitude begins with little things – a glass of tea raised to the lips. The absence of dissatisfaction is the prelude to happiness. Put a positive thought into your mind... you are alive and sober. It is a kind of excitement we are after – boundless well-being. You may not feel grateful now, but you are sure to feel grateful later. I am grateful for the sunshine when it flashes out between the clouds. Aversion is a turning away from, love is a turning towards. Let go let God – the ultimate mantra with which to start the morning. Letting go is an attitude that works under all circumstances. Try to sustain the good mood that follows letting go and letting God. Letting go of it all results in a pain-free type of consciousness. After letting go, I gaze out of the window, filled with emptiness. Your lack of lustre may be due to the fact that you have slept too long. Boredom is a virus which poisons your thinking. Send it on its way. Think of the Mamoré at dawn with jungle birds skimming the water. Your first haiku of the day is ready to show to Piti and Grace. Think of the way Maria takes even you with cheerful acceptance. Change is the only constant element in my life, says Mario.

Expose your heart and soul to the healing touch of your guardian angels. You live in a friendly universe which is conspiring for your good.

GOLDEN DAFFODILS Happiness is an inside job that creates peace in our surroundings. The sun, moon and planets in our horoscopes are guides to greater joy. My mood is gradually changing for the better. I let it happen. Spring sunshine illuminates the garden. I turn my face towards it. I stroll around the living area, thinking how lucky I am. I have a roof over my head and a perfectly loveable wife. One of my chief aims in life is to know God and to understand Him. All spiritual practice comes down to one thing – the present moment. It's only human to make mistakes – let's not beat ourselves up for ours. Amida himself wants me to focus on the feel-good frequency. The state of mind to aim for is one of lightness and freedom from self. Remember that you are a magnet, attracting everything to you. This moment can change the course of your whole day. Reflect and be happy. Cheerful, lively, bubbly and optimistic – that's how I long to be. Contentment, well-being and peace of mind are the rewards of practice. I write myself out of a grumpy mood into a much better one. I'd like to attain the wellness reflected in last summer's diaries. A good washing-up session straightens one out, gets the juices flowing. Hearing La Perla sing cantiñas makes me tremble with excitement. Happiness may be little more than the absence of negative thoughts. “I write when I am happy, and I'm happy when I write”, he once wrote. The sun disappears behind the roof but the children go on playing. Golden daffodils – I wander around the house, just feeling happy. Are the flowers looking at us – or are we looking at the flowers?

RUSSIAN MIXTURE Do what you enjoy most, however fucking miserable you feel. It's late at night. I'll make an effort to feel good and spread fun around. I'm fit and healthy after all, with a body and a mind that work. I have happy memories of Bolivia, to which I can turn. I recall the American station wagon known as Piti's cow. I see the river at dawn and the birds skimming out of the jungle. A small push in the right direction and untold miracles happen. The thermostat clicks. My glass is empty. Dawn is still a mile away. I prostrate myself in complete abandon on the cold kitchen floor. I ask only for guidance and strength to make sensible decisions. At this moment in time I have everything I could possibly need. Tomorrow dances to the sound of accordions and tambourines. I entrust myself with body and soul to Amida's primal vow. I swim through the rest of the night on breaststrokes of self-encouragement. The sadness of human existence has an overwhelming music. The skinny soprano dies of tuberculosis in the last act. She has thrilled our pants off all evening with her heavenly arias. I'll buy fresh daffodils for Maria. How romantic can one get? Tea has been drunk for tens of thousands of years. I take a sip of mine. A Russian mixture, with a hint of bergamot – gift of my students. Up in the early morning, thanking Amida for the day ahead. Realizing a sense of gratitude can completely transform my life. I start to feel good. By repeating the words I help it to happen

PERSONAL BELIEF “Be like a child, and make-believe” - Rhonda Byrne I believe I am getting younger and more attractive all the time. I believe the universe will supply me with everything I need. The secret is to see the day ahead the way you want it to go. I sail down Wollestraat on my bicycle with a song in my heart. A silly little accident in the kitchen fails to upset me. After Zina's coffee there is a lightness in everything I do. Life is a dewdrop tumbling from the petal of a flower at dawn. Even poetry becomes a pastime, now I've given up teaching. The sun is reflected in the birdbath and, briefly, the bird itself. Your kind letter thanking me for twelve years' work hangs on my study wall. Halleluya! she cries as I enter the lunch-room a week later. Although we are dust specks in the cosmos our thoughts reach infinity. Let your mind stop working for a moment and feel the bliss of Being. Hazel, mother of four lovely children, teaches English to adults. The trash, the pulp, the rubbish that most people read – can we do better? Dusk. The disappearing snowdrops have done their work – charmed me for ever. A telephone conversation with Viktor helps to straighten me out. With Tixie's voice ringing in my ears it's hard to imagine a “down”. There is a no-man's-land somewhere between solitude and loneliness. We have the power to attract the people we need into our lives. Thinking less of me and more of others – antidote to depression. The twig dances in the darkness long after the bird has flown away.

Young women with breasts bigger than watermelons surely must exist. This day goes down in history. Even better ones are on the way.

VIMALAKIRTI SAYS … I am up at two in the morning, feeling fresh after a good rest. My thoughts fly to Zimbabwe where Verna Mae sleeps between laundered sheets. I am warm and cosy inside. I smile at the man in the window. I feel the benefits of yesterday's healing session in Holland. It does me good to visualize myself being pampered in the bath. My future is full of rich experiences: South America! I am excited to think that one day she will visit me in Bruges. My way of worshipping Amida is full of positivity. “Namu Amida Butsu” is another way of saying “Thank you”. Let Go Let God: a slogan that still contributes to my sanity. All heavenly palaces are in this room, says Vimalakirti. Over and over again I try to make the ultimate statement. Letting go and letting God means just to drop everything and entrust. As soon as I switch to positive thinking, all becomes possible. Quite unexpectedly, a feeling of well-being overtakes me. Saturday night. Mad motor-cars race hell-for-leather past our front door. The man who drove with us to Holland considers me calm and balanced. Stretched flat on the carpet, I breathe slowly and deeply from the stomach. Can planets Jupiter and Neptune be heard as they journey through space? Has our belovèd Jan come to rest amid the heavenly mansions? There is no space for pessimism in my mind. I am filled with love. A sensation of well-being is produced by the third pot of tea. It's amazing to think that Maria must feel like this most of the time. Summer – I used to sit in the garden dreaming of Bolivia.

Tomorrow I shall climb in our tree-of-heaven and prune her branches.

FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH Thinking of Amida is the only thing that helps me to feel good. That's a great start to a day in which I had wanted to be happy! Six o'clock in the morning and not yet daylight – the end of summer? We shall return to Nara, take Aya to see Amida's statue. And after lunch I'll go to Inzicht and share this poem with Lieve. Whether the mood will be as mystical as yesterday's is doubtful. Any other women to chase? Anette! The proofs must be corrected. Mercury in Virgo, trine Uranus, working wonders for my health. Help me to deal with resentments, the real curse of the alcoholic. … that I cannot control my mood swings, or always feel calm and balanced. The moon - unveiled madonna of the morn. I need to talk to Victor. … to post a dozen letters and learn which airport Daina's flying to. … drink mint tea with my Moroccans, celebrating Ramadan this month. … get installed at the garden table, Maria busy with her plants. The radio is on. A pop star bleats her heart out in the background. The satisfying clink of china, as I put the plates away. Your letter, Kris, its spoken words a bubbling jacuzzi in my head. But even more than that, the way it all works out when left to itself. The pills you'd forgotten to take are suddenly there in front of you. The painter's on his squeaky ladder and doesn't look like falling off. But I am off, leaving my lady to hang up pictures in the hall. A tiny step can sometimes lead to unbelievable adventures. We admitted we could not handle alcohol in the normal way. Katrien giggles and winks at me as she hands over the zinc tablets.

CHRISTMAS IN SPRING The afternoon sun dances on the pale green leaves of the wintersweet. A blackbird dips his beak in the bath and glances over his shoulder. There is a blue plastic tub in the shed at the end of the garden. It has been left there for a purpose, possibly to store winter logs. A furled white flaglet. My favourite shrub is coming into flower. Nothing can go seriously wrong while rhododendrons are in bloom. Christmas in spring. The branches are hung with glittering decorations. Maria sweeps the terrace. Sunlight fills the cup of a white tulip. Auricula – dozens of smiling orange and magenta faces. You can almost hear the quietness of a world without aeroplanes. The gorgeous kerria surveys the garden with her yellow blossoms. The sun of Aries writes a fiery poem on my upturned face. Details wiped out in last night's darkness now spring vigorously to life. Some would find such magical peacefulness a perfectly normal thing. It's known as porch-sitting. Something men do while their wives cook dinner. I hear mine at her work. What bliss! Distant bells call Catholics to prayer. Spring tries out the clothes she will wear for summer – we for Machu Picchu. I'm grateful. All the tiredness and tension has gone out of my body. The sun will finally sink into the arms of our tree-of-heaven. Ivy and roses – our four-walled garden is protected from the wind. Shadows lengthen. We sit down to an evening meal in the veranda.

TALKING TO MYSELF Apathy and aversion: does one fight them or simply let them go? Saying these words I feel the power of love surging up within me. Don't add to the store of misery in the world, be kind to yourself. The universe is a compassionate friend who has your good at heart. Empty your mind of unnecessary clutter, and simply exist. Empty mindedness of the “normal” person – difficult to achieve! Empty mindedness, and the warm glimmer of contentment in the heart. No thought, no action – the happy state so highly praised by the ancients. Life is good. There lies a whole philosophy in these three simple words. To think positively all the time is one of my great aims in life. Negativity is the normal thinking of the alcoholic. Do that which you enjoy most in the way you most enjoy doing it. If writing “seventeeners” makes you feel good, go ahead and do it. Awareness is all. Greater awareness leads to greater happiness. A few moments of wellness outweigh many a nondescript morning. I feel great, I feel wonderful, I am functioning optimally. My friend, I sometimes write as if you were looking over my shoulder. I drop the burden of conceptual thought and take effortless action. Humming happily I plunge my wrists into the washing-up water. Totally relaxed I amble from the kitchen to the veranda. Dusk is approaching and the leaves grow quieter. The world is at peace. This rainy afternoon has been one of the best I can remember. I put my pen down. The evening ahead is waiting to be enjoyed.

FEELING OPTIMAL It's only one step from feeling rotten to feeling good in one's skin. My “discomfort” is an illusion that has nothing to do with me. As soon as the morning mist has risen I will be unstoppable. How often in the past have I written myself into a good mood! Positive thinking has greatly improved the quality of my life. Behold! My spirit is liberated from the weary grind of thought. As my attention focuses on my breathing, I start to feel well. I make the click. Negative switches to positive. Fresh energy. I abandon care and face the coming hour with equanimity. Feeling optimal is what matters most – that and living in the now. There are moments when, at peace with myself, I look life straight in the eye. I stop taxing my brains and surrender to the bliss of existence. Green leaves rustle in the wind. Woolly white clouds race across the blue sky. The blackbird hops from the garden wall to a nearby branch – effortless. In sunny moods like this one I could write my autobiography. Must I be somehow productive, or may I sit here being myself? If I was a cat my wife would stroke me and murmur endearing words. I'll make a meal for us both, that will keep me happily occupied. Messing about in the kitchen is a pleasant way to pass the time. Some talk of “happy moments”, but I think in terms of “a happy life”, I wonder if any twenty-four hours has been better than this one. Empty mindedness: the constant patter of rain dripping from the trees. Watch out – the universe gives you whatever you are thinking about. Marvellous, magical, mysterious Maria, my lovely wife.

FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH Thinking of Amida is the only thing that helps me to feel good. That's a great start to a day in which I had wanted to be happy! Six o'clock in the morning and not yet daylight – the end of summer? We shall return to Nara, take Aya to see Amida's statue. And after lunch I'll go to Inzicht and share this poem with Lieve. Whether the mood will be as mystical as yesterday's is doubtful. Any other women to chase? Anette! The proofs must be corrected. Mercury in Virgo, trine Uranus, working wonders for my health. Help me to deal with resentments, the real curse of the alcoholic. … that I cannot control my mood swings, or always feel calm and balanced. The moon - unveiled madonna of the morn. I need to talk to Victor. … to post a dozen letters and learn which airport Daina's flying to. … drink mint tea with my Moroccans, celebrating Ramadan this month. … get installed at the garden table, Maria busy with her plants. The radio is on. A pop star bleats her heart out in the background. The satisfying clink of china, as I put the plates away. Your letter, Kris, its spoken words a bubbling jacuzzi in my head. But even more than that, the way it all works out when left to itself. The pills you'd forgotten to take are suddenly there in front of you. The painter's on his squeaky ladder and doesn't look like falling off. But I am off, leaving my lady to hang up pictures in the hall. A tiny step can sometimes lead to unbelievable adventures. We admitted we could not handle alcohol in the normal way. Katrien giggles and winks at me as she hands over the zinc tablets.

THIRTEEN AUGUST AFTERNOON I'm in the Astridpark, heading towards the health food shop for sliced spelt. A flower carpet on the Brussels Market, the radio reports. The nature lady cuts the brown loaf into manageable slices. Ten o'clock. “Life in the brewery” at last. News swapped with framer Dirk. I hit the city with its crowds and noise. Blankenberg-on-Sea. A happy heavy drinker on his bike pretends he hasn't seen me. Old world décor and music in the Verdi, with Pieter's quiet charm. Homewards with a light step, a ticket for Aïda in November. Maria and Salvatore have hung Kate's portraits in the hallway. Do you get that strange feeling of knowing nothing about anything? Places are laid for lunch. The painter paints. Maria is in her room. Doubt must be sent upon its way, says Rhonda. What am I to do now? After showing some recent work to Lieve, the tension disappears. We had exchanged ideas and looks. We had shared a moment together. So the pilgrimage to Mecca is a journey to the heart of love. Across the street the grey door opens. Two of my favourite people there. Kisses all round. Me decompressing. They heading for the SMAK in Ghent. The Chaudefontaine and music carry me away. I'm doing nothing. And so begins another lovely lazy weekend with Maria. Happiness without humour bears no fruit, says a Tibetan proverb. A short step to Saint Gillis. A hospital filled with pain and sorrow. Plodding along a sunlit cobbled street. Would you call this satori? I trip. A seagull hovers. Joris stands with a broad smile at the door.

BACK FROM PERU to Gonzalo and Palomita It's all about feeling well, transmitting a program of joyous love. We are excellent. We know that we shall succeed. Things are working out. It is a friendly universe and it is conspiring for your good. Let's make an end to obsessive thought and write what comes into our heads. We are happy. Suddenly we have begun to feel good in our skins. It really does work. I'm able to write myself into a good mood. A restless rest. Raindrops trickle down the window. Comforting coffee. Huang Po's “conceptual thought”: Shinran wisely calls it “calculation”. The thought of “reality” passes over me like a breath of wind. Amida chooses the books I will read and the people I will meet. How fortunate we are to be alive and well. Such a great feeling. The finished work is what counts. In this case, the finished work is myself. From now on I will do everything in function of being happy. Unforgettable. That's what the evening in the City Hall will be. Morning. The challenge of a brand new day. Better than expected. Thank you, Amida, for another sober day that has come my way. A pretty woman's smile can change a tired old fart to a cheeky boy. The “other” people we once feared have become the treasures of our life. Expectation! Night rain has scattered drops of water on the fig leaves. The sun is busy making up her mind – how hard shall I shine today? Feeling good is easy when you have a garden like ours to sit in. All the goodness in the universe added up comes to Amida.

YOUR NAME DAY Look! I live in a house, not a cardboard box. I have legs to stand on. Remind me, please (I sometimes need reminding!): I am alive and well. I had a wonderful sleep of five hours. I'll do it again tonight. I ask for guidance, help, courage, strength and wisdom. And I ask for love. How lucky I am to have this house – not to be sleeping on the streets. Thinking how lucky I am lifts me out of a temporary dip. Five glasses of cactus tea with sugar, and I slept like a baby. Myself dancing in the window to son, Kuan Yin demurely smiling. Wild wintersweet in my long white hair. Sandunga mamá ay Dios! Madonna and child seen through a flimsy curtain. Thank you, Maria. Greater freedoms, greater responsibilities – story of my life. Live this day as though it were your first and last, making the most of it. The tinkle of a teaspoon in a mug of tea. The temple bell rings. I wish to be at peace with myself and to be at peace with the world. Just for today I will do something for Marcus. I shall surprise him. Amida knows me like the back of his hand and wants me in his Land. Alleen vandaag zal ik proberen juist deze dag door te brengen. A man nearly falls off his bike as he watches me hugging this tree. I am a walking tree. This is a fact that anybody can see. Marc heeft het goed gesteld verleden week en is een tevreden mens. Home for pampering by Maria in the bath. Back scrub and hairwash. Came to realize the power of love had restored us to sanity. Give me those rare moments when I feel like a normal human being.

I remembered it was your name day as I wrote these words on the bridge.

A FLING IN TOWN I only have to think of the temple, and I am in the temple. Why don't Indians clean their teeth? Because they can't afford a toothbrush. I must be doing something right: I am feeling better every day. I bumble along the rain-swept street focusing on happy people. For the rest of this day I'll take everything exactly as it comes. Little Asmahan has a magical way of making paninis. If I were ten times more handsome I might be Asmahan's grandfather. Wonderful blustery weather. Umbrellas blown all over the square. Just for today I'll do something for someone else, without being noticed. Indien iemand anders het te weten komt zal het niet meer gelden. Feeling good is equivalent to being grateful and giving love. Go into the world and get the love of publicans and shopkeepers. Will I be around to see what Zina looks like twenty years from now? Armistice Day. I hardly remember the man who laid down his life. Life in the trenches on a day like this – I shiver to think of it. What you give you get back, and there is only one thing you can give – love. The secret of good washing-up is gratitude for the food you had. Think what you want to think, even though it may be hard to understand. Maria's muesli tastes better than ever after a fling in town with Zina and Rida. The sky turns grey. Nothing at all is threatened. The Mexicans happily sing their son. The kettle comes to the boil. It is the force of Attraction that holds us together in one piece.

REMARKABLE BLESSINGS There is no greater blessing on this earth than to love and to be loved. I love it when there's nothing on my mind. Empty-mindedness is bliss. What a great relief it is when my words flow smoothly onto the page. Night is falling, and Maria is making dinner in the kitchen. I love her voice. The softness of her speech is balm to my troubled soul. I love having time on my hands, time for a phone-call or an e-mail. I love it when the weight and worry of the world slip from my shoulders. I love to look out of the window at moments like this – our patient tree! I love it when the black cloud is replaced by a feeling of wellness. Rhonda's power has catapulted me into a fulfilling life. Two girls from Zaragoza and one from Burgos – met in the diner. I want to travel the world until I'm eighty and then settle down. “There is no bad weather, there are only bad clothes,” say the Eskimos. The Tao warns me to avoid extremes, keep my head on my shoulders. I am the master of my thoughts, but don't have any at the moment. To love whatever you are doing is a remarkable blessing. Meeting enlightened bodhisattvas on life's path is yet another. Never write more in the morning than you can type in the afternoon. I say “yes” to everything. Everything says “yes” to me. That makes three. For better or for worse, I'm the epicentre of my universe. At Hotel ter Brughe, Oost Gistelhof, his blue eyes gaze into mine. Bumping along on my bike, I went over the bridge without stopping. At Inzicht a handsome young artist buys me a bottle of water. The poet and the painter admire the mystery of Lieve's back.

THE INWARD SMILE Cycling down a quiet back street with mild August sunshine in my eyes. Bamboo windpipes rattle in my right ear. The tea is coming. At my feet the song of water on stone. Up in the sky, racing clouds. I'd like to take a haikugraph of you perched on that bench in the sun. One day I'll climb Mount Warning with my kid sister in Australia. Between showers Japanese street artists paint pictures of the Belfry. I haven't had to pick up a drink today, that too makes me feel good. Finally I exchanged my love of alcohol for the love of life. I'm so grateful now that Selected Poems has been published at last. Maria, to you above all, my heart's deep gratitude for all this. Your pen in hand, I write a poem on the bridge of the Blind Donkey. “I'm a woman, my destiny is to create,” sings Annette Peacock. Satisfaction is the inward smile produced by positive thinking. Namo Amida Butsu. The more I know, the less I understand. Meyfroodt coming out of the FNAC gladly shows me a gift he has bought. I stop and look at the trees, settling down quietly for their night's sleep. Marc makes the coffee. There is a silent understanding between us. After sitting next to Fanny all evening, I don't mind catching her cold. The good guys go to heaven, and help us. But where do the bad guys go? Decisions are easy, once you've settled the main issue in your life. We pray for those who will never come, who will not know this happiness. Thank you for the words “thank you” that express everything I want to say. Sutra chanting must reflect the music we will hear in the Pure Land. Finally one becomes Namo Amida Butsu, and starts again.

I look round at the kitchen and the veranda: what a paradise!

APPROACHING HAPPINESS I am the poet Marcus Cumberlege. The words echo in my skull. I shall sit on the garden bench and feel good for a moment or two. When negative thinking vanishes, contentment takes over the mind. There's nothing for it – I feel best of all when putting pen to paper. Total surrender, complete release – beyond the sexual climax. How much pleasure can be got relaxing on a bench in the sunshine? I am glad you are not here to disturb my thoughts. I need to be alone. Leaning back against the wall I let the distant sun caress my face. Let me tell you about it – the loveliest day of the whole summer. School is out. Teachers, men and women, quickly catch up with their shopping. Kids of fifteen strip down and plunge merrily into blue swimming-pools. I meditate on my mother and father, gone to the Land of Bliss. The sun continues to burn my brow. The tea gets stronger pot by pot. I remember telling somebody I'd spend the afternoon like this. All we know about the future is that it is contained in the past. To write – or to have written – the perfect line. Every poet's dream. I stop thinking. I stop writing. I merely exist in the present. I choose to be happy because happiness is my natural state. Nothing can harm the person whose soul is always united with god. It might be better to lie beside you in bed, reading a good book.

THE PRECIOUS TIME (looking on the bright side) All you have to do is feel good. Nothing else matters at the moment. Any worries about the day ahead are only sick fantasy. Cultivate the feeling that your head is a space of freedom and light. You were not born to spend the precious time in idle speculation. Do exactly what you feel like, for this day was meant to be enjoyed. Passionately imagine you are fine. Now feel it and receive it. Later in the day you will reap the benefits of this exercise. Everything in the universe is conspiring to help you feel good. Happiness is a marvellous blue bird that comes to sit on your branch. The art of life consists of transforming unhappiness into joy. One method at our disposal is Rimbaud's “Alchemy of the Word”. Remember you are the author of Marcus Cumberlege's poems. You possess a large number of incomparable personal gifts. When enjoyment brightens the horizon, go for it with all you've got. Become aware of your body and make it a partner of your dreams. Time is on your side – and so are the protective and healing angels. I am young at heart, I am in good health, I am strong, I am sober. The universe wants me to achieve my lifelong ambitions and goals. Watch the blue tits darting hither and thither in the autumn garden. Look at the yellow leaves on that tree-of heaven dancing in the wind. You are one of God's favourite children, you have a right to be here. It always comes back to this – stop calculating and get on with life. Feeling good continues to be the standard by which all is measured.

CATCHING FIRE (a mood-swing upwards) So much for my woozy head. It means I must have had a good night's sleep. There is nothing that cannot be bettered by a few hot cups of tea. Stop worrying, and think of something for which you are truly grateful. I am grateful for my hands. How beautiful they look in the lamplight. Remember the good vibes you got from wrapping up Selected Poems. Putting little things off creates big worry. Get them out of the way. Look forward with love. It is in your power to make great things happen. Inner satisfaction, inner light, inner peace – gifts of solitude. Do not underestimate the rewards of bending over the sink. It feels good to sit here at my desk surrounded by my favourite things. Get up and walk around. It will help to dislodge obstinate worries. I pray that my Selected Poems will bring happiness to many. In Mietje's sparkling world of truth I shall be a frequent visitor. I believe that all sentient beings without exception are saved. Amida's love and compassion are impossible to imagine. Some days I have more energy than others and some days I have less. The children are enjoying themselves in the school yard and so am I. I hope that when reading these journals later my spirit will catch fire. Wedding anniversary. Feeling “well” after three weeks' depression. Can I keep this “wellness” under control, without becoming manic? “Not getting euphoric” involves breathing peacefully and standing still. As soon as I began to get “better” I felt the urge to give love. Predictably, I light a candle for someone who has “stopped coming”.

Easy Does It. There is nothing to get het up or alarmed about.

FAITS DIVERS to Roel Nuijt, spiritual counsellor All we have is today and the opportunity of feeling good. Digest the implication of this line before proceeding further. The queasiness of the morning is anything but the real story. I make a big effort to think positively, and out comes the sun. Feelings of gratitude quickly overcome all negativity. One day soon I shall write a long poem of thanks to the universe. I ask to come in contact with good spiritual non-addicted souls. Currents of uncontrollable feeling course through me, but I'm all right. We do not grow old. We only grow tired and lazy, bored and grumpy. Enlightened, he sat for two years on park benches, living in the now. Even the finest experiences come and go, he concluded. Other Power simply means to act spontaneously at all times. I realize, Roel, I am just a fool in the Japanese Pure Land school. There are some days when everything I do is real and true – others not. Fear is the great disease of our time, stated Ranganathananda. Fear is the only thing to fear, says Catherine of the Copy Shop. Why do I sometimes get this fear of death, forgetting the afterlife? Just as the harvest moon was going down I glimpsed her white fingernail. My idea of heaven is your idea of hell. We should get on well. Came to realize the power of love had restored me to sanity. Gratitude as a daily practice makes us aware of life's magic. Naming the things for which I am grateful I start with Maria's love. When I look around at the rooms I live in I see her reflected.

A man who can call his wife his best friend is a happy man indeed.

DAGDAGELIJKSE DINGEN for Bart, Paul & Betsy Another glorious day is announced on the radio of my heart. If you love your life and everybody in it, you will be happy. I cannot imagine anything better than to be here right now. In a room full of people quietly talking – mystified Marcus. Love is the positive force of life, and returns to you what you give. Man's search for harmony and peace within the universe begins here. It felt good sitting in the garden listening to Blanca Lahuerta. Thank you for the good times, they always come back. Thank you for Maria. Why is it called 'the human race'? Because it's always in a hurry. Mietje's tranquil race on earth is run. She hurries to the Land of Bliss. How lucky I am to have a desk overlooking my private paradise. I gaze upwards in awe at the mighty tree about to shed her leaves. Freedom from guilt is a must in the recovery from depression. Empty your mind completely and do whatever is in front of you. My bedroom window bangs but the old woman in the street ambles on. A pool of lamplight on the page. A pen in my hand. Spanish music. Not feeling the need to do this or that – one key to tranquillity. Like John Keats I often stand at the garden door staring at the moon. How horrible to be a little woodlouse – people stamping on you! Humility begins with the admission that we are powerless. Somewhere, sometime, someone is thinking of you, my alcoholic friend. I stand and fall by Amida's vow to save all sentient beings. Banishing care I stare at myself in the mirror with a huge smile.

Milk the good times, the merciful moments when nothing is going wrong.

REFLECTED LIGHTS To Pacho Martinot, returning to Peru The mind is water – one of the few basic truths I can really grasp. The power of now, the power of water, the power of love. Pouring water into a glass at dawn – one of those supreme moments. Slurping. Looking at the moon through windows. Seeing one's own reflection. Piti silhouetted against the bright surface of the Mamoré. Gratitude for the sound of sones in my ears – Mexican magic. I do not have to carry the weight of yesterday and tomorrow. My day seems so important, yet it is only the size of a dot. The rain on the veranda roof is pure Isbin, pure Hannelore. It stops raining for a moment. I look out of the bedroom window. Reflected lights, a stationary car. Gas lamps burning in the dawn. Sooner or later Sophie comes, to give us a sparkling habitat. Cousin Pacho from Peru excited by his first contact with snow. Sunlight on saturated streets, more rain on the way, turning to hail. Pure gold of Provencal tea in a glass, flavoured with German honey. Flavoured with love, says Lieve-the-blonde, turning away with a smile. Homewards under the sky of a blue umbrella battered by the wind. Pacho in front of the box, eye to glistening eye with Federer. Long silver lamplit raindrops speeding down the veranda windowpane. A kettleful of pure transparent liquid for our last cup of tea. Yerba Mate floating in the green pot. Hailstones melting outside. Peace. The hour of his departure comes. Released into the outgoing tide. Seventy percent water, my wife in the kitchen, cooking spinach.

I lie down at last on my bed and the tiredness flows out of my head

TWENTY-FOUR THOUGHTS in memory of a stolen guitar Although we have nothing and are nothing, there's reason to be happy. The warm feeling inside me this morning is the fruit of many years. Music and water, lamplight and hot tea, joys of a dark winter night. Focusing on the here and now, listening to Patrick De Blauwe. Yesterday's conversation, Lieve, was the best we have ever had. We inspire one another. To ever greater heights and deeper depths. My footnotes to the mystery of life, your soulful meditations. I gaze at the beautiful photo of my daughter and son-in-law. Nothing else distracts me from the happiness slumbering in my heart. We talked and talked, alone in your shop with a crowd of listening angels. I keep on saying it: we are the reflection of our surroundings. A strange and most unusual peace fills my body with light. Kitchen step. As you say in your e-mail: just being, and giving all you have got. Emoto reminds me that air and water are the two essentials. Plus a warm coat for winter – we have to think of girls like María! One should never compare, but I am that woodlouse on our kitchen floor. And what of Belgian politics, and what of Obama's Alcatraz? (My Canadian cousins have been smiling at me for the last six years). How long can my self be supported without Peruvian music? I'm coming out of my trance into the real world of the charango a small guitar from towns like Cuzco: I bought one in Puno for Mick. Our conversation yesterday anchors me in spiritual bliss. My chapare is nearly cold but nonetheless tastes of bergamot.

Patrick and Lieve, I put my arms round your shoulders in caring love.

CONVERSATION WITH LIEVE Gratitude is love in action. Love without gratitude is love lost. Namu Amida Butsu. May we all one day be liberated. “Fill yourself up with love until you become a magnet” - Charles Haanel. Seagulls hovering and drifting over the house. A three-quarter moon. Two minutes' sunshine on the high road to San Gil. Morning vitamins. Thank you for the hot water with which I bathed and washed my tousled hair. There's nothing more depressing than not getting up after too much sleep. There's nothing more madly irritating than not getting enough sleep. At our advanced age six hours is the perfect goal to be striven for. I nearly walk past the fountain without stopping to admire its jet. The park is a green and white patchwork, the trees are naked but sober. Hoe dichter bij het NU ik kom, hoe meer energie stroomt door mijn hart. From now on I will ignore consequences and do the next best thing. All the time in the world to write this poem. All the time in the world. November! The snow is still lying on the hedges and on the lawns. This is the best time of year. Lacework of bare branches stretched to the sky. Independently of all external factors I am feeling good. I will be simple, I will be non-judgmental, I will drink my tea. To say what you really feel, that is one of the hardest things of all. You have chosen for inwardness, and I am influenced by your choice. The zen doctrine of total emptiness – no mind, no food, no nothing. You facing me, with lovelight in your eyes. I am filled with gratitude. Winter outside, and the dirty streets. We go on talking for ever. Love is the question, love is the answer. There is no other power.

Art begins where feelings end. The musical mind is made of water.

CURING LONELINESS Rida's friendship works wonders and Zina gives me a warm smile inside. With love and gratitude I open and drink a bottle of water. Rida is talking loudly to his brother Nils behind the counter. The lunchtime crowd has left and there's hardly anybody in the place. Talking to Pieter with his heart of gold in the Verdi cheered me up. I'm on top of things. I've recovered something like a fragile balance. I force myself to think of this morning's telephone conversation. She too knows the whiplash of enforced solitude. She too is lonely. It began in early childhood when the bombs were falling on London. Mum left me alone in the flat and went for a drink with the neighbours. After a couple of hours I poured her French perfume down the basin. I had not discovered poetry yet or the company of friends. Maria will get back at half past four, go to cookery at six. Nils brings me a hot coffee. I open my third bottle of water. It was after lunch that the appalling wave nearly knocked me over. I'd finished the housework. I'd done the shopping. Boredom was setting in. I could distinguish the black flag of self-pity on the horizon. In the old days I would have been down at the pub, ordering whisky. Marianne was at work, so I spouted some nonsense into her phone. Wrapped up in warm clothes (including pyjamas) I hit the freezing streets. However terrible, however difficult, one must be happy. One must cease to focus on oneself – find pleasure in other people. Whether we know it or not, we are not alone, God is with us. Remember this: the world is full of people like Rida and Pieter.

With pen in hand and a notebook in front of you, cities are captured.

DEAR GARY As far as I'm concerned your letter comes directly from the Pure Land. With deep love and understanding it opens the gates of happiness. Your responsible caring and sharing dispel the clouds of morning. There must have been something rotten in the state of Denmark. Too much sleep. Namu Amida Butsu gushes forth from an angry heart in pain. I need to be reminded that nothing needs doing, that all is well. Bills, e-mails, dentists, housework and weddings can wait. The poem comes first. It brings you gratitude in the first place. After that, it brings you love. Your five-page letter fills me with Other Power. Nothing can go wrong. Skipping lunch for once, I bat off on my bike to the Spanish lesson. Children shout in the yard. The snow has disappeared – as though by magic. A warm glow steals over me. I want to share this happiness with you. (Magical too, the way my legs pump me forwards through the crowded streets). Scientists say we are bundles of energy, balls of cosmic fire. Back from Spanish, a wet rag squeezed out by ten adorable ladies. A slice of bread and honey for lunch at twenty past four. We chattered. Back to you dear Gary, there in Southampton, back to the written page. Dusk. I pull into Amida's gas station and let him fill me up. Maria will be home in a minute. Manna to my hungry soul. A woman who understands me better than I understand myself! Let's look at the facts: trust in Tathagata means all things will go well. If you were here this winter evening we would speak of courage and joy. We who have felt the whiplash of alcohol turn to one another. Darkness. Our warmly clothed bodies. Two minds meeting in namandabu.

ALIVE AND WELL Love is the master key which opens the gates of happiness. − Oliver Wendell Holmes This morning early I remember the love which has been given me. Not only by Amida and Kuan Yin, but by a thousand angels such as you, María, Nils and Ana, Tixie, Dan, Sabine and Mick. The list of those who've given love to me is nearly endless. Thank you one and all. Priscila there in vandalized Brazil, you know full well pure love is really just pure gratitude. Everything falls into place. The lamplight on my desk, the photograph of children in Bolivia, the t-light burning at Amida's feet, the books I have been given but had no time to read, addresses of people I long to write to Marie de Heist, Miguel van Kopje Troost and a hundred others (Christmas a month away, invited to a wedding, and Finola flying from Australia. Yes, love and gratitude for everything …). Rhonda Byrne finds two Cumberlege poems in her fan mail, gently smiles. Lieve reads this, written off the cuff, for her and everyone I know on Pacho's birthday which he celebrates in Sussex with my brother John while life goes on and I am loaded to the brim with Haanel's magic. The night is silent, but if we really listen we can hear the stars. Dawn, Saturday 27 November 10.

ARMISTICE DAY Gracias a la Vida. Life is a dream, but it's a bloody good one. What I want next from life: the responsibility of being rich. Just For Today I'll put other people's well-being before my own. Half a million dollars: the prize awarded for Selected Poems. I'm grateful to the Health Service for my wonderful psychiatrist. Feeling good is equivalent to being grateful and giving love. To love whatever you are doing is a remarkable blessing. Meeting enlightened bodhisattvas on life's path is yet another. Great fun editing the launch video with Didier and Gilbert. “What can I do for you, Mietje?” - “Never mind me, do it for yourself!” Writing to Verna-Mae. What shall I say? I hope to meet you one day. Waking up at 5. Thank you for the great day ahead. Guilty feelings. Prostration. Agenda. Gary. Hisao. Mietje. Love into the world. Thank you Maria for the anniversary pen with which I write. (Some of these seventeeners are for my eyes alone – journal de bord.) Go into the world and get the love of publicans and shopkeepers. After birth, the main event of our life is the trip to the Pure Land. Namo Amida Butsu. The more you know, the less you understand. The Tao tells me to avoid extremes, keep my head on my shoulders. Will I be around to see what Zina looks like twenty years from now? Armistice Day. I vaguely remember the man who laid down his life … Life in the trenches on a day like this – I shiver to think of it. Imagine being seventy and having nothing at all to say! “And take it easy,” she says as I stagger into the wind and rain.

END OF THE YEAR When did you last walk down your street thinking: can this possibly be true? The years pass and one will come when I say goodbye to this old body. Each day is a fresh start – it's like an invitation to a party. This lively black music from the coast truly beautifies the silence. In a warm pool of light I sit at my desk writing letters till dawn. Conscious of the people who purified this water, I drink my tea. What I need today: guidance, strength, peace, willingness, gratitude and love. “Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do your will.” As long as the spirits are fairly high boredom can be avoided. How often I need to be reminded that everything is all right. Just for today I'll think positive thoughts about everyone. Every cell in your body is affected by the feelings you have. I will refuse to get angry with anyone, including myself. I'm in the front line of attack. Shoot me with a cannonball of love. Letting go completely I gaze up at the bare-branched tree-of-heaven. To be nowhere in particular and to feel at home in one's skin. Waterstones: a card to Rida and Zina and a pot of green tea. Sitting in Westbourne watching the buses go by – Christmas lights flicker. Sparkling water of the Verdi, I bless you with love and gratitude. Verdi is another aquarium with bubbly music and lights. Thank you, water, for patiently waiting on the table since Christmas. For just half an hour I will do nothing, without wasting my time. (Doing only what's needed, with the impression of doing nothing). Time is meant to be tasted like honey with a teaspoon from a jar.

Having said this, I prostrate to the buddhas in the ten directions.

THE AQUARIUM Namo Amida Butsu. Love and gratitude for bringing me here. After reading 5 pages of Emoto and a prostration on the kitchen floor. Last traces of snow on the garden table – bowl of grain for the birds. The blackbird is still the master. Visitors include a fat pigeon. There is no harm in water. The only harm we bring upon ourselves. I write “love and gratitude” on slips of paper and place them strategically. Memories of a cold Christmas – all that remains after the snow has gone. Recovering at last from a bronchitis caught in Bournemouth. To enjoy music we must surrender to it, with body and soul. Listening to my friend Patrick de Blauwe play Soleá por bulería. The love of water eliminates anger, fear and small accidents. I am beginning to see life through rose-tinted spectacles. Shin Buddhism does not subject its followers to a moral code. The kind of statement you make while your wife is away at work. Amida doesn't do the washing-up but the water does, thank God. Based on an argument with the founder of Shin Buddhism in Belgium. My house is an aquarium inhabited by a thousand souls. And when María gets back from work there will be a thousand and one.

FOOTNOTES Following the success of the formula used in The Aquarium, I decided to keep today's work short and to lard it with autobiographical explanations. Unbelievable! This is my life and it is happening to me now! Coming out of the Deli after a lunch of salmon and cucumber panini, a treat for my belated birthday (the sensational card arrived from France) I was hit by exactly the same delirious feeling of joy as yesterday. The Moon transiting my natal Mars? I love you. I love you. I love you. The water bubbles in the glass. I have brought a copy of Selected Poems to Horst's place and his wife Chris offers me a drink. I write a beautiful dedication & bless the contents of the glass. Receiving the imprint of my love, they are transformed into a refreshing elixir. “Water has a Secret” - Lieve shows me Emoto's book for children. I can ill afford the 12 euros to buy it, even as a birthday present for our charlady's son Kenzo. So I stand in the middle of her poetry bookshop café and read it from cover to cover. He aims to sensitise one tenth of all the children in the world. Easily I slip into the minds of straggling girls with long blonde hair. On my way home I cross the Jan van Eyckplein and catch sight out of my left eye of an attractive young woman, apparently alone, approaching from beside the canal. A touch of sunlight makes it a pretty picture and I decide to give it 10 seconds of my attention. She turns round and looks back at a group of friends behind her. Nine times out of ten the real experience surpasses the imagined. In the spacious light of Kopje Troost, where I have darted in on impulse to write down my last line. Matthias appears, I share all the above with him, and he finds it an excellent way to proceed. Second last day of December – wisps of white cloud crossing a blue sky. View from the vast window above the brick labyrinth based on the one in Chartres. I have sunbathed for three minutes in the streets: vitamins! Annabelle, the new waitress, won't let me pay: “Agua no tiene precio.” Today I celebrate my birthday. Seventy-two years in the merde. An expression taken from a best-seller Maria has been reading. I chose to be happy, and I was – for several hours at a time. I often stop to read my words carved in stone beside the Vlamingstraat bridge. I sometimes hug the trees as well. From the Southampton sangha – namandabu on the didgeridoo. Now I am safely home again from my adventures on the wild side of Bruges. I have fed the birds and started the washing-up. Two valerian pills should keep my emerging mania under control.

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE Marcus Cumberlege was born in Antibes (France) shortly before the war and migrated to Chelsea in the blitz, then to County Cork, Madrid, Peru, back to London, Paris and Connemara, before settling with his Flemish wife Maria in Bruges, Belgium in 1972. He won a scholarship in English to Oxford, where he boxed and shot for the University, and later an Eric Gregory Award for 1966 (leading British poets under 30), adjudicated by Ted Hughes. His first collection was published by Anvil Press Poetry of London in 1968. Twenty subsequent volumes have appeared in Belgium, including his SELECTED POEMS 19632009, published by Van de Wiele in 2010. Marcus Cumberlege has written much in lyrical stanzas, but he is no stranger to prose poetry, cut-up, automatic writing, haiku, concrete and the extended line. For nearly forty years he has been a familiar figure in Bruges, collaborating with poets, artists and musicians, organizing readings and encouraging the younger generation. He has a daughter, married and living in France. For more details about the poet please consult