CRADLING NIGHT

Last night the moon hid
daring the stars
to give chase
across the void
but they preferred
their slow procession.
I looked long,
hard for her
but she was master
of this game.
I looked for her
behind the neon signs
blazing from
countless buildings
electric grave stones
marking the resting place
of peace on a Seoul night.
I chased her shadow
behind the giant
bowling pin atop
the bus terminal
but she was fast
this moon, gone
before I could get her.
I asked Orion
if he had seen her
but he responded in Hangul
“I would not know
I seek my mother, the dawn
under the watchful eye
of my seven daughters.
Cassiopeia turned away
cradling Andromeda,
a mother she whispered
has no time for games.
I searched on
seeking from her
only a spell
to cast out my beloved
even now looking
at the cresting sun
half a world away.
Last night the moon hid
daring the stars
to give chase
while Seoul
and slowly I
slip into sleep.

TENT CITY

From my window
on the twenty-sixth floor
they appear as so many
blue roofs, arranged
in small villages in
Shinjuku-Chuo Park below.

At 6:30 in the morning
many older Japanese gather
in sweater vests and hats
despite the humidity to
perform the tai chi ritual.

Nearby hands and feet
emerge from blue tarp
tents crammed with all
manner of belongings.
From a nearby tree a young
man reaches for a shirt left to
dry overnight, a young women
crouches by the fountain
brushing her teeth, another
older man carefully shaving
to bare the last vestige of pride.
They go about lives, one
cutting hair, an old office chair
his salon, another stands over
a pot on a steel drum stove
scooping tea for those who want.
He pauses, as I bow slightly
and he returns the gesture
with a smile.

MORNING

Morning would find him sitting
calmly, cross-legged, under the apple tree
that sat on the edge of the park.
He would stare up at a small branch
and carefully watch the bud
begin to open, ignoring all who passed.
Morning would find him sitting
calmly, cross-legged, under the apple tree
watching the fragile blossom open,
staring at its translucent pinkness,
ignoring all who passed.
Morning would find him sitting
calmly, cross-legged, under the apple tree,
watching the apply blossom dance
onto his folded hands,
ignoring all who passed.
Morning would find him sitting,
calmly, cross-legged under the apple tree
watching the leaves, slide free
and rest on the ground beside him.
He turned to all who passed
and said “Come, watch Buddha with me.”

TRANSFORMATION

There was a time, once, when
the most everything was metaphorical.
That was before the great metamorphosis
when everything was suddenly malleable.
No one was quite certain just what happened.
Most thought it was in the dead of night
when they, and most everyone else was
firmly in the grip of Morpheus, who was,
all knew, a shape shifter given easily
to change, a chameleon who relished
the amazement of people who
never could hope to see change coming.
When the clouds that foretold the future
were finally carried off, replaced
by the harsh light of the sun.
Then it all became clear,
the River flowed again, and
you stepped in knowing
it was a step you could never take again,
and at that moment the Buddha smiled.

DROP IT

It is a burden he does
not want to bear any longer,
one he would shed in a moment,
but there is no place to put it
and you cannot just leave it anywhere.
And so he continues to bear it
dragging it here, carrying it there,
always attached to it, and it to him.
He knows there are others
who bear far heavier burdens,
some with a smile, others begrudgingly.
He would gladly take up
their burdens, if he could only
be relieved of his, but he
cannot find anyone to take his,
and so he smiles and goes on,
for everyone wants something
and he has only nothing to offer
although that is the greatest gift,
for it is the gift of Buddha.


A reflection on Shūmon kattōshū Case 6 – Zhaozhou’s “Drop It”