TOOTHLESS BODHISATTVA

He will tell you
that the distance
between a tear
and a laugh
is the span
of a mother’s arm.
He knows the duration
of sadness is identical
to a shnork*.
He cannot understand
how you could
have forgotten all this.
He doesn’t know
why you cannot recall
that enlightenment is
no more than a giggle.

*shnork (n.): the sound a grandfather makes as his nose approaches,  then just touches that of his infant grandson.

ON THE MESA

I sit outside, on the mesa,
having watched the mauve, fuchsia
and coral sky finally concede to night.
The two orange orbs sit
twenty yards away, staring back
and in this moment coyote and I
have known each other for moments,
for generations, and we are content.
Coyote tells me he was once
an elder living in the old adobe
buildings, how he was a shaman,
still is, with his magic, and I
tell him of how I walked for years
in the desert, food appearing
from heaven, of how we crossed the sea
and some thought it parted for us.
Coyote and I are both old
and we know we each have stories
that no one would believe, and
so we are left to believe each other
and tell our stories to the sky gods.

SENSING NIGHT

“Turn on the light
so I can hear you,”
she says, and I reach
for the switch across the room.
“Please whisper,” I respond
“and I may be able to see
my way to the window.”
I draw up the shade
and in the dim glow
of the night’s light
I feel the braying
of a coyote in the Sandia hills,
hear the conversation

of leaves descending,
and taste the chill
of autumn, that wraps
the house in its soft
blue-black velvet grip.

EMPTY SACKS WILL NEVER STAND UPRIGHT

There are nights
when the song
of a single cricket
can pull you away from sleep.
She says that she has heard
that not all Angels have wings
and neither of them
is sure how you would know
if you met a bodhisattva.
He searches the mail
every day, for a letter
from an unknown birth father,
but none of the credit cards
he ought to carry
offers to rebate his dreams.
Each night they lie
back pressed to back
and slip into dreams.
She records hers
in the journal she keeps
with the pen, by the bed.
He struggles to recall his
and places what shards he can
in the burlap sack
of his memory.

UNKNOWING

I don’t know what
                        I am, the Buddha said.

I don’t know why
                        my mother gave me up at birth
                        or how many cousins walk
                                    the streets of Glasgow
                        or where I lost my first tooth

I don’t know what
                        became of the nickel
                        or why the tooth fairy was so tight
                        or who will wash the blood
                                    from the streets of Fallujah

I don’t know how
                        my iPhone drains batteries
                                    like a thirsty drunk
                        or why fungus grows underground
                        or why the Sudanese child stares through
                                    starving eyes

I don’t know why
                        my dough rises, only to fall mockingly,
                        or why forced to eat manna, the Jews
                                    didn’t go back to Egypt
                        or why I poke my sore knee to insure it hurts

I don’t know
                        my birthright name

ANOTHER VISIT TO SHOBOGENZO

YANGSHAN’S NO ENLIGHTENMENT

Within nothing
there are all things,
within all things
there is nothing.

The Buddha asks
in your binary
electronic world
how can I count
on you to survive
if zero is
taken from you.

 

NANYUE POLISHES A BRICK

There is no reason
to sit zazen,
it is worthless
yet it cannot be purchased
for any price.
Better to take up
a stone and polish it
without end until
it reflects your practice
and you are one
with the stone.

 

MINISTER PEIXIU SEES A PORTRAIT

Nothing can be seen
in a polished mirror
except the surface
of the glass.
True vision comes
only with blindness,
the words of Dharma
can only be heard
by the deaf.