Night alters sound in ways
we can never precisely determine.
It is possible our hearing changes
with the flight of the sun, but
the moon scoffs at this premise.
A train rattling across the landscape
in the heat of day becomes
a musical instrument in the relative
silence of night, playing a melody
that insuates itself into dreams.
Birds raucous by morning
are sirens in the night, drawing you
from sleep onto the rocky shores
of sudden wakefulness, the darkness
a strangely unwelcome companion.
But it is the breathing
of a lover sleeping next to you
that caresses you, and you slide
deeper into Morpheus’ grasp.
He stands still
the ever changing
surface of the pond,
which he knows
holds infinite possibility
that he does
not wish to disturb,
lest the moment
be forever lost.
matters to him
as he calmly,
and ever so slowly,
lifts his leg
in tree pose,
and reaches out
wings to grasp
the breeze of
If I ask you
“Does a circle
have both inside
and outside?” what do you say?
If you cut it into
which has inside,
which has outside
and what of the third?
A reflection on case 55 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)
This isn’t my usual post. It’s the second of the day, and it’s a gentle self-promotion. Three of my poems have just appeared in Peacock Journal. My work appears at this link:
I found Peacock Journal thanks to a dear friend (and marvelous writer) Anne Michael.
Her blog (https://annemichael.wordpress.com/) is a joy to read, and well worth the effort. We were fellow M.F.A. students over a decade ago and her work impressed me then and still does.
I have stayed away from seeking to publish my work for a few years, focussing on completing my novel (if you know a good, hungry agent or publisher, do let me know). But seeing this Journal in which Anne appeared recently, got be back in the game. The blog comes first, but when you have been around as long as I, you have some material with which to work.
There is never sufficient time
no matter how I adjust the clocks,
he said with a profound sadness.
What, she said, would happen
if you did not consult the clocks,
would there be time enough then?
But how would I know
if there were time enough
without clocks, he replied.
The cat watched this scene, perched
on the back of the chair, noting clocks
are how people punish themselves.
shout Yuki Onna
I have wandered from my course
snow piles at my feet
blooms bright in the summer sun
pure water of life
a pebble is plucked
from the lake, ripples move in,
You sit on your self-hewn throne
and stare fixedly at the night sky
as the clouds gather
and dissipate beneath you.
Do you even recall
why you were cast out
condemned to your cell so vast
and yet infinitely confining?
Does your body remember
the touch of his hand
the crude hunter
who set you aflame
with a white heat
that paled the oven of summer?
What do you imagine
as the tongues of the Persiads
lick across the sky
and disappear into the
ebony holes that lurk
in the corners and behind your eyes.
You move slowly across my world
and only the dawn brings you peace.
In the Buddha Hall
autumn daylight filters through
the half closed windows.
In the garden, Kannon stoops
to pick up a fallen leaf.
Roshi left last week
sitting in the garden
of the Zen Center, there
then not there, as though
he let go his 91 year grasp
knowing somehow, it was
the right moment.
He left so quietly
those around him
did not hear him depart.
Half a lifetime ago I sat
at his feet, unable to frame
the simplest of questions.
Watching my struggle, he smiled,
gently touched my shoulder,
whispered “the only guarantee
we get with life is death –
did you fear your birth?”
Standing under the gray sky
letting go of the flower
it falls on your coffin, Roshi,
you are sensei yet again.
Enter the room slowly and look carefully,
since you are here to find something.
There is much within this room, but you
can see nothing save the old man,
sitting calmly, staring at nothing, staring
through you at nothing in particular.
You know he is the teacher, the one
for whom you have been searching,
Still, he ignores you, staring at nothing.
You walk around the room, from end
to end to end to end and he does
not move or speak, and so you leave.
He has given a great lesson, do you
appreciate what he has taught you?
You walk away angrily, say that he
is no teacher at all, that you are no
closer to enlightenment leaving
than when you entered, for you
found nothing but yourself.
As you leave the old man bows
as teachers do to Buddhas.
A reflection on Case 4 of the Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record)