A MONK IN MEDITATION 鐵笛倒吹 七十語

A man may own
may volumes of great knowledge
and never have time to read.
An illiterate may take such books
and fashion a stool
on which to sit in meditation.

Which of these is truly wise
which the greatest fool.
Wipe your mouth
with this page
at the conclusion
of the meal.


A reflection on Case 75 of the Iron Flute Koans.

GODS ONCE

The once gods have been reduced
again to mere mortals
and find the change disquieting.
Just the other day I saw Hermes
meandering along Fifth Avenue
pausing to look at scarves in a window
of a store he never imagined.
Even the once great queen
finds herself behaving like
a love-struck teenager.
One who bred desire now works
as a hack writer for a card company,
a blow to his psyche more
than anyone can imagine.
Even the nameless one
has been seen working behind
the register at Walmart
thankful for the extra hours
as the holiday season approaches.
We no longer aspire to be gods,
it is too much work and there is
simply no payoff.

A SHORT LONG LINE

There is a statue of William Penn
atop the city hall in Philadelphia
seeming to stare down over the city
with bronze eyes incapable of seeing.
Hagar wandered the wilderness
after she was evicted by Abraham
at Sarah’s urging, the price
of jealousy, with bread and water
and the promise of a great nation.
It is pure speculation whether
Hagar was enslaved and freed
or, as we would claim it today,
employed by the family. In the end
the distinction matters little.
Penn remains blind atop the building
Hagar and Ishmael are long dead,
and Jefferson likely had children
with one of his slaves, or so
the DNA evidence indicates.
I am of Norwegian and Scottish
patrilineal heritage it appears
though my great nation is
a six year old girl and
almost three year old boy.

APPROACHING WINTER

The temperature falls, slowly at first
but gaining speed, as though
in the grip of winter’s gravity.
Winter has the potential to be
a black hole season into which
we enter and imagine we
will never reemerge into spring.
The wind whispers stories to us
of a time when this was all ice
when no one complained of a chill
for there was no one.
We turn up our collars to remind
the wind that we will remain here,
for nature has given us
an equal dose of stubbornness.

ON 15 YEARS

Today is my 15th wedding anniversary, and that merits a special posting to the person who has completed me in ways I never imagined possible.


The sheer inadequacy of words
is made painfully manifest today.
I grasp at words: love, passion, joy
and each still falls short of its intended mark.
There is a moment each morning,
each night as the lights go out,
and every moment in between
when I am love, hope and joy,
but separate me from you
and I am none of those things fully.
Fifteen years ago I said to all gathered
that I do, and ever since I say
to myself, I am so lucky that I did.

WHAT DO YOU SAY

What do you say
to those who turn their backs
on those broken in battle,
or broken at the sight of battle,
who were left to clean up the collateral damage,
or who were collateral damage,
were pierced by IED’s,
or shaped charges,
who had inadequate armor,
or no armor at all,
who were left in moldy rooms,
were dropped on the street,
who don’t want to go back again, and still again,
who see clearly with their eyes closed,
who cannot find shelter in a maelstrom of thoughts,
who did what was asked
and wish they hadn’t,
who asked for leaders and found only followers,
who asked why and were told “just because,”
who never came back, or
who were left here.


Previously appeared in SNReview, Vol. 9, No. 2, 2007 and in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press (2008).

NOT HERE

Between now and eventually lies all of history. We are unable to see it
though it lies in our field of vision. That’s the problem, we only know
how to look backward. We are barely able to see where we are. It isn’t
that we don’t want to be here, merely that here is difficult to see, for
we have a tendency to block our vision. Imagine a map with an X or other
marker saying “You are Here.” Yet seeing that, we know we are not there, for
in that instant we will look down and see where we truly are. But the better
statement to the “you are here” sign is not to call it wrong, but rather
to simply ask it, how did you know. It will answer, your visit was history
lying between my now and my eventually.

WHERE?

Set aside for a moment
the sheer insanity of it all.
Pretend that this is not
your concern, it is merely
something that you inherited,
never wanted, would gladly
part with on the simplest
of requests you doubt
will ever be forthcoming.
Is this why you treasure it
and cling to it so tightly
or is there still the slightest
but of the magic that once
attracted you, that you thought
you had put aside, knowing
full well you never could.