The Beardless Barbarian       無門關 四     

A young child

has no beard.


In one dream

you are bearded

and awake clean shaven.


In one dream

you are clean shaven

and awake rubbing your long beard.


When you meet your dreams

and when your dreams meet you,

which is real, Wakuan asks.


Man Up a Tree          無門關 語     

One armed monk

clings precariously

to the sagging limb

over the abyss.


Kyogen smiles, “Old man

you are starving

and soon

will be too weak

to grasp that branch.”


He places an apple

on the branch

for the old man.


“Your suffering

is completed.”


Buddha Holds Out a Flower     無門關 六     


holds up a fading

lotus flower

and we sit silently


awaiting, not knowing

patient, afraid to smile

to move, to shift posture



one smiles,

dharma is transmitted,

the kensho

of yellowed teeth.

Wash Your Bowl               無門關 七     

There is no stick, no shout

we go uninstructed

on a full stomach.


We do not see water

in the midst of an ocean.


We are given a sink

full of breakfast bowls, plates,

cups and spoons.


Handlessly we perform

our task and sit

to lunch with Joshu.