MESSAGE RECEIVED

There was nothing he liked more
than wandering along the shore
early in the morning, before the rakes
and people arrived, just to see
what the night had washed in
on the now departed high tide.
There would be shells of course,
but rarely one he didn’t have
already in profusion, and the occasional
jellyfish which he would flag
for the lifeguards to remove later.
He always hoped for a bottle
with a message in it, from some
far off place, or containing a cry
for help, but all he had found
were plastic soda bottles, a few
he was surprised to see, with labels
in Portuguese, from Brazil, he
imagined, until it became clear
from the other trash, that they
were from a ship jettisoning garbage
into the ocean he called mother.

HIGGS TO IT

He had always wanted to be a scientist. He wasn’t particularly good at math, biology or any of the other sciences, but dreaming didn’t require that sort of aptitude. He imagined he was part of a great scientific breakthrough, something that would change man’s understanding of the universe and life itself. He knew such discoveries were few and far between, but they did happen, so he had a shot. Then, reading some science magazine he discovered his quest. He would find the God particle. He wasn’t sure what that was, but he knew it shouldn’t take a great mind and a magnifying glass to find a particle that looked somewhat like him.

THE DAY AFTER*

Today we only speak silently
and know everyone hears.
Today we cry only dry tears,
and others gently wipe our eyes.
Today we mourn what we fear is lost
and together vow to retain it.
Today the sun shines less brightly
and we know the dark cloud
will eventually pass.
Today we hug, each
to all the others, though
we sit alone as a sangha.
This is but a single moment
and we sit with and within it,
breathing in and breathing out.


In this case, a Sangha meeting the day after the shootings at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, but as easily the day after any tragedy of which there are too many.

HOLY MOSES

Consider, for a moment                      
                                     he said
                                                           the absurdity of it all
a guy with brains enough
                                                                                           to shape universes
               who can flick on stars
                                                       with a thought
                                                                                         faster than you or I
                    can throw a switch who,
                                                                            worst case
                                                                                              gives a lizard a kick in the ass
and ends up with man
                                                           that a guy
with this kind of power

                             is going to write his story down
                                                                                             on a bunch
                                                          of tablets
                                                                                        or have an old coot
                            wander the desert endlessly
                                                                    pen and parchment in hand
                                                                                                                         taking dictation
           and then leave the scrolls
                                                               scattered in caves
                                  it makes no freakin’ sense.

If it was me
                                   he said
                                                        standing on a hill
                      watching some scrub pine
                                                                                            slowly burn onward
           no ashes, no embers
                                                               just keeps on burning
                             and if I heard a voice
                                                                              giving me orders
                when I couldn’t see anyone
                                                                             to go and slap

                                                                                                                        some soldier
                  upside the head
                                                               or march into a river hoping
                                                                                                          to find the stones
                            followed by miles
                                                                       of lemmings lined up
                                                                                                                        behind me
               not this kid
                                                me, I’d look for a screen
                                                                                                             and some short professor
                            from somewhere
                                                                               in Kansas.

Do you buy for a minute
                                                     he said
                                                                                that he would wander
                sucking sand from his navel
                                                                               and getting called
                                              to haul his ass up a mountain
                                                                                                                     for a crisis meeting
             and then have
                                                       to schlep tablets down the hill
                             eating hardtack
                                                                   and pretending to like it
            then telling his wife
                                                       he knew where he was
                         he wasn’t lost
                                                                   so what if it was forty years
            Miriam was
                                               really going to buy that
                                                                                                              and Aaron
          had to be
                                               thrilled
                                                                                   dragging the damn ark
                               like a bloody albatross
                                                                                       then looking down 
                   into the valley
                                                               he’s gonna say
        okay, that’s it
                                            go on without me
I just got word
                                           I gotta croak here
                   but keep a kind thought,     
                                                                                    fat chance of that ever happening.

ACROSS

Across the river
running limpid as mercury
the sky is gun-metal gray
and many stand
in the windows
of their small apartments
and stare at buildings
sitting like mausolea.
On this side of the river
running limpid as mercury
the sky is gun-metal gray
and many stand
in the windows
of their small apartments
and stare at buildings
sitting like mausolea.
Tomorrow across the river
the sky will be blue
and a cold sun will shine
and the river
will swallow its reflection.
Tomorrow on this side of the river
the sky will be blue
and a cold sun will shine
and the river
will swallow its reflection.

THIS TIME AROUND

He says that in his prior life,
this being second he knows of,
he was Japanese, although he did
have a cousin in China, but he
doesn’t know his name anymore.
He wasn’t there for the war
with Okinawa, but he knows
that karate was developed then,
and it’s why, in this life
he studies karate, because
it’s part of his heritage.
He says he has many more stories
to tell of his prior life, he
remembers it quite well,
but that’s all he will tell us
today, for a six-year-old
needs to dole out stories slowly.

DISCOVERING ME

They were always almost mythological,
heroes of a people I could only
imagine as my own, knowing I came
from a far different place, one
of shtetls and pogroms, of seaside
villages, the beaches of Cascais.
It was half a lie, but I couldn’t
know it then, couldn’t guess
my dream was reality, my reality
a dream torn away by DNA.
In a moment my unknown Portuguese
father was unborn, replaced
by a faceless man of Celtic
soil who marched to the piper
highland or uillean, the bodhran,
who stood alongside Pearse
and Connolly, Bonnie Charlie,
and a century on, I’ll lift
a pint of Guinness in their honor,
take a wee dram of Talisker
and whisper Slainte to
the unknown generations
that brought me here.

AFTER

He sits still
demanding your attention.
He stares at you with green eyes
and a defiant look, saying
you are a visitor here,
this is our world
so do not abuse your privilege
of sharing this space with us.
We were here long
before you arrived
and our kind will
be here long after
you depart, although
we do not comprehend
why you always seem
to want to rush
yourself headlong
into extinction.

NOT

Today I will hope to master,
if only for a brief moment, not

not being attached to thoughts,
but recognizing them and letting them pass,
since the thought of recognition must
replace the thought that was recognized,

not trying for anything on the cushion
including not trying to not try
for anything for that is the only way
that you can find nothing, which
is what you were trying for in the first place,

not putting into words concepts
which must by their nature defy language
but rather assuming the position
and just let things

MU

If you ask me whether
a dog has buddha nature
I will stare back at you
in total silence.
If you ask again,
or implore an answer
I will smile at you,
offer gassho and a bow.
If you ask yet again,
I will turn away
and you will be left
with a box into which
you dare not look
lest you find
Schroedinger’s cat.


Musing on Case 1 of the Mumonkan