DARLING’S MANTRAS

You are two
and you laugh
for everything is funny
or can be, if you just tilt
your head a certain way
or wag a finger at it.
The cat watches
from behind the sofa
with a knowing gaze.
For you food is
as much a toy
as words are food
and you cannot imagine
why we old ones
are so blind to the obvious.
There are an infinite number
of sides to a ball
and you want to see all of them
or some, until they roll off
and you want to cry
at their loss, until
a leaf lands at  your feet
and you giggle at the tree
for being so clumsy,
it is a mommy like yours
with one sock falling
from her laundry basket
as she carries it downstairs.
You hand me a block
and expect me
to construct a dream.

GOING OVER THE BLUE CLIFF: HEKIGANROKU CASE 4

TE SHAN CARRIES HIS BUNDLE

Walking in the room you
cast your eyes about, looking
for something, although you
cannot say what it is
that you look for, and you
cannot believe you will
not find it, for you think
you will know what it is
only when you see it.
The person who sees
an empty room and knows
in that moment that it
is full, that person
has found his teacher
and has learned the lesson.
The empty cup is full
and the full cup empty,
so listen to the silence
and learn well what it says.

MEETING BUDDHA ON THE ROAD

In my dreams last night,
I thought I came across the Buddha
while off wandering somewhere
I could not recognize.
I thought long and hard
about following Linji’s prescription
and killing this Buddha,
but while lost in my contemplation
the Buddha took up his keisaku,
said, “if you cannot follow
the simplest of directions,
if you are that lost in thought
you can never attain buddhahood,”
and with one significant blow
instantly killed my dream
and allowed me to finally see.

AKEDA

My father
never walked me
up a hill,
never asked
two servants
to wait below,
never bid me
be strong,
never asked me
to have faith
in the Lord,
never raised
the blade
only to see a ram
in a thicket.
My father
never did
any of these things
and so I have
no special birthright
to pass to my sons
for God
has moved on
to more
important matters.

 



Akeda first appeared in European Judaism (U.K.), Vol. 33. (2000). Reprinted in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 29, No. 1 (2005)

FROM BEYOND

“Call your mother,” she says. She speaks in the voice of my mother. It grates on my nerves in just the same way it always did. I listen carefully. She repeats herself.  I reminded her that she died two years ago. I tell her I tried to call for months after her passing, but there was never an answer. I tell her it is clear that she no longer accepts calls. She asks, “why should that matter?  Call your mother,” she repeats, “it doesn’t matter if she answers, and anyway you never called when I was alive.” This I know to be unfair, untrue. I know she is pushing buttons, a skill she had long mastered. I speak in my defense, “I called at least once a week or more. Back then. Don’t argue with the dead,” she says, “and whatever else you do, don’t argue with your mother.”

TELLER

She claims to see the future
in a glass orb,
in the palm of a hand,
in the cards spread
out on a small table.

He knows all history
is written in books
is retold in stories
is buried in successive
layers of soil beneath the city.

Neither walks along the shore
see this wave
lapping the sand
and this, and this.
Neither stoops to pick
up the shell,
to watch the crab
scutter, to feel
the pull
of the ocean.

The wave has no future,
has no history,
and caresses the whelk,
crab and foot, uncaring.