INCEPTION

Morning arrived as usual today
and we shook ourselves slowly
from sleep to greet it.
As we rose and drew open
the curtains and blinds
all that morning had to say,
and said rather imperiously
was “where is the coffee —
you can’t expect a damn thing
from me until I’ve had
at least two cups,
and brew them strong and black,
like the night I
chased off to get here.”

IMPENDING DEPARTURE

I will be going soon
and this is what I would leave you:
I would leave you my dreams
of a world at peace, where compassion
comes as an expectation not a surprise,
a place where the arrival
of the sun is a source of joy
for with it and the rains,
you, no one, will ever want for food,
centers where all can learn
and knowledge, like the universe
which we inhabit will
continue to expand,
but my dreams may
not be gift enough unless we
turn from those who care
to leave no dreams, taking
only for themselves in this moment,
for who tomorrow will always be
someone else’s problem.

ANGUO’S “THE MASTER’S FLESH IS STILL WARM”

If you are asked “who are you?”
how will you reply, and who
is the person asking the question?
If you answer, you are blind
if you say nothing you speak loudly.
The sage will tell you
that there is no you and if
you doubt him he will hold up
a mirror and ask what you see.
If you answer “I see myself”
he will laugh because no one
can see themselves unless
they see everyone, for you
are both the reader
and the writer
of these poor words.


A reflection on case 131 of the Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye)

WALKING

He has been walking
for hours, or, perhaps
for days, it doesn’t matter
since he is precisely
where he should be
at this moment.
He is tired, so he
sits in seiza and watches
a colony of ants
working away in a crack
in the path, each
doing his assigned task.
He knows ants have
Buddha nature for when
they walk, they just walk,
like he does, and when
they eat they just eat
and he has never seen
a solitary ant wobble.

MORNING

Each morning she looks at the small window in her bedroom, just after the sun has broken the horizon and the lake is set ablaze. Each morning she sees the small boat, its oars resting on the gunwale, dark against the orange water. She never asks how the boat got there, why it stays there, seemingly unmoving. Tomorrow she will awaken and the boat will be gone. She will mourn its absence. Or tomorrow she will not awaken and the boat will be there, and will mourn her absence.

QIANFENG’S “THREE TYPES OF SICKNESS”

 

When you assume the mat
and gaze at the wall,
what is it you see?
If you see nothing,
what do you think?
If you are certain
that you see nothing,
that is what you think.
Do not see, do not think,
and let the cushion
fall away until the moment
you no longer exist,
but let the moment
fall away as well
and there is only
the emptiness of peace.


A reflection on case 17 of the Entangling Vines Koans

FEATHERS

He crouched in the hollow
in the ancient cliff
careful not to disturb
the bones scattered
just in the shadows behind.
He waited patiently
until he heard the sweep
of the great wings
and the mighty bird
alighted on its nest.
He reached out quickly
and plucked two feathers
never more, and pulled back
into the shadows
of his ancestors.
He carried the feathers
bound with a leather strap
close to his heart
to ward off the evil
that swept down
off the Wyoming plains
licking at the Wind River.
He grew old, his once
black hair streaked in gray
and he knew his time
was coming, it would be
a good day to die,
the sun high over
the mountains, his feathers
ready to carry his spirit
to the sky people
to return to the mighty eagle
from whom he had
accepted life.

INTO THE DESERT

His is six and deeply confused,
and asks questions to end that state.
He wants to know if Adam and Eve
had two sons, and one killed the other,
where did all of the people come from?
Ask your father seems and easy answer,
but one he cannot accept, too easy
for a mind that needs timely response.
I stumble around, try to deflect,
and finally admit I don’t know but
that some stories cannot be taken literally.
He knows what that word means, and it
is a sufficient explanation for now.
In a week we’ll have the conversation
once again, this time not Adam, not Eve,
but Shem, Ham and Japheth, and how
the three sons of Noah repopulated
the entire planet, and I will once again
admit to my sad lack of knowledge,
and silently curse the Religious School
for creating the abyss into which
my grandson is all to pleased to lead me.

NIGHT ARRIVES

When we finally allow night
to settle in around us,
and we curl together in anticipation
of sleep, we fit comfortably,
but with no less passion than
when we first did this, but
a passion tempered by less need
for flame, more for warmth
and a gentle caress.
We could not have anticipated this,
and still it seems quite natural,
the fulfillment of the promises
we exchanged, these vows
held sacrosanct and beyond value.
In the morning, when we repeat this,
we know that from that moment
the day still holds infinite promise.

YUN MEN’S THE BODY EXPOSED, THE GOLDEN WIND

How long have you searched
for the ultimate truth, the key
that will unlock
the door to enlightenment?.
Would you know such a key
if it were handed to you?
You go about asking teachers
if they would give you the key,
but the wisest of the sages
would gladly tell you
that you need no key,
for the door you seek
so very hard to enter
does not keep you outside
of the place where your truth
can be found, for it is always
with you if you would just
give up searching and see it.


A reflection on Case 27 of the Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record)