MEMORIAL

This woman approaches
the stone, carefully places
sake and cherry blossoms
and leans a sotoba against it,
before bowing and walking away.
It is what you do for a son,
she says, looking at the bibbed Jizo
hoping she can protect
the child who lies beneath.

That woman approaches
the headstone,
gently places the flowers
and leans a prayer card
against its polished surface,
kneels briefly, looking up
at the statue of the Son
who also died for our sins,
begs him to protect.
the child who lies beneath.

COYOTE SONG

Down at the butt end
of the arroyo is a pond,
an aneurysm in the stream
that runs down from the mountains
for better than a month
each spring.
The twisted, gnarled mesquite
cluster around it,
like children gazing at a corpse
in utter fascination
who dare not approach
lest it become real and touch them.
The three scrawny goats
nibble at the mesquite
and stare at themselves
on the surface, occasionally
dragging their tongues
through the water.
Each night as the sun
is swallowed by the earth,
their songs begin
until the gods arise
from the water
and dance
across the parched ground.

NARA PARK

I

Ducks skitter
across Ara-ike pond
like a perfectly thrown
skipping stone.
Two sit and preen
on large rocks
left as pedestals.
A spider
dragging its prey
along the weathered
wood railing
of the bridge
pauses for a moment
to contemplate ducks,
then moves on
consumed by hunger.

II

Several deer
languish among the
wizened Japanese vendors
at the foot of the gate
to the Five Story Pagoda.
They stare at me
as I pass
and I wonder
if all Nippon
and Gaijin
look the same
to a buck or doe.

WALKING AMONG SAND AND PEBBLES: SHASEKI-SHU

CUP OF TEA             沙石集  一

 When the cup is half full
what more can be added?
In the garden, the moon
can exist in a full cup
or one only half full.

It is the empty cup
that can hold
entire universes,
infinite in capacity.

 

FINDING A DIAMOND                  沙石集  二

 There are endless paths
on which to walk
yet we find one
and remain on it
even when it
becomes rocky  and rutted.

We do not see the road
nor those who cross it
watching only our feet.
It is only when we step
off of the cliff
that our feet are free
to walk other paths,
perhaps in the footsteps
of old Gudo.

 

A DIFFERENT SKY

We lie on a hill
side by side, staring
up at the passing clouds,
discerning shapes, both
of us break into a smile,
each of us sees
a completely different sky.
After some time
I reach out and touch
her hand, our fingers
interlace, or perhaps
it is she who reached
out to me, fingers intertwined.
It doesn’t really matter
for once our hands
are joined we each smile
and stare upward and each
of us sees a different sky.