AROUND IT

It is remarkably simple, really,
a single circular brush stroke
in a monochrome black on rice paper,
always nearly perfectly round,
never is the circle complete,
always some small thing left wanting.
You stare at it, more
at the small gap, imagining
it filled, hoping it cannot be
for it holds out the promise
that this moment is all
that matters, that you are,
at any moment, where you
ought to be on your path,
that thoughts of tomorrow
is no more than an illusion ,
nothing other than 
the enso’s blank space.

TIME OUT

She is fond of saying
that time is on our side
although we both know
that time does not take sides,
is incapable of action,
is passive in passage.
It is something of which
we may never have enough
but we are certain
no one has more than we
in this moment. She
cannot imagine running out
of time, I know that
I will, but won’t know
when it finally happens.

TIPPING POINT

 

The hardest thing is knowing that this
precise moment, this precise place
is the tipping point, and things could
go either way from here, although the Buddha
would suggest that there are ten directions
in which everything always can go.
You cannot pause and reflect on this,
for this precise moment, this precise place
is also a tipping point, as is this one
and this one, ad infinitum, ad nauseam.
But if you don’t know this, then just
perhaps, all ten directions are open to you.

OLD MEN

It is always odd
watching older men gather,
talk about their lives,
about how much they
no longer remember,
of last year, and
a decade ago, about
the infinite details
they can clearly recall about
the time they spent
in the Army, Navy, Air Force,
the smell of Slop-on-a-shingle,
of field stripped butts
in a small container
in their olive drabs,
of the base or post exchange
where you could buy
the mandatory Ray-Ban aviators,
the Sergeant’s grimace,
the body count in the war
they never wanted, only
wanted to end quickly,
how they were once brothers
in arms, now just old men
sharing painful memories.

TIPPING THE WATER BOTTLE 無門關 四十

 

These few words
gathered neatly on a scrap
of simple paper,
what do you call it?

Answer carefully for you response
may carry the keys
to the doors of Mount Tai-i.
Better still, upend
the water bottle, watch
the ink and water form
a gentle pool into which
no pebble drops.


A reflection on Case 40 of the Mumonkan (The Gateless Gate)

DOING THOUGHT TIME

 

 

The hardest prison to escape
is the one whose walls are built
by the mind in fear and trepidation.
It is like the open gate you dare
not enter fearing that you are leaving
and will not be allowed to return.
Atop a pole there are
an infinite number of directions
in which you can go and only one
is straight down, but you fear
selecting any, for gravity
is a fear as great as death,
yet you can feel neither.
The prison of the mind
is impregnable, for there
fear and pain live in conflict
and you are a small boat
on an angry sea staring
always at the roiling waves.