BOKUSHU’S BLOCKHEAD 鐵笛倒吹 語十語

Seeing your teacher on the road
if he says to you
Honorable Sir, what do you do?
You may turn, bow, and act the fool
or pass, eyes averted
without acknowledgement, silent
equally the fool.

Speak in silence,
face, bow without moving
greet him as you do yourself
in the morning mirror
and once past, offer gassho
and the fool is left on the path
dragging your shadow.

A reflection on Case 55 of the Iron Flute Koans

IT’S ABOUT TIME

My first inclination, in fact
my strong desire, when he asks me
what time it is, is not to consult
my watch, but to say that we live
in an age of unprecedented uncertainty,
an era of division and incivility,
and days fraught with risk that
each might be the last.

I know he wants to know the hour
and the minute, but if he is late,
the moment wasted in knowing
just how much so merely adds
marginally to the problem.

And if the question lacks
that import to him, then time
is no more than a human construct,
malleable despite our demand
of rigidity, and subject to
the whims of Popes and politicians,
and all the rest of nature
can only marvel at our absurdity.

STARING

He liked nothing better
then to sit outside
his small cottage
and stare into the pond
once the blaze on the water
set by the sun was consumed
as fire must always be by water.
As night deepened, he stared
into the sky, seeing the moon
slowly rise, chasing along
the sun’s now deserted path.
He knew the myriad of stars
shared his interest, staring
but he abandoned the sky
as the sun had yet again,
and watched as the voracious pond
slowly consumed the ever
fewer stars, and saw the pond’s
moon take up its liquid
dance to the tune of the night breeze

TIMELESS

The wonder of clocks in old towns and cities
is that few actually care if the time
they portend is accurate or an approximation.

The importance often seems inversely
proportional to the size of the place in which
it is called upon to render a temporal verdict.

Best of all are the clocks whose hands
have ground to a halt, or gone missing,
for they are the philosophical seers,

sent to remind us that time is our construct
and in the grand scheme of things
exists only because we demand it to do so,

and long before the clock we got along
sufficiently well by being always
and forever in the present moment.

TOZAN’S GOING BEYOND BUDDHA

The greatest speech
is given only
when the mouth
falls shut.
To talk of peace
is to be
at war with peace,
to speak of war
is to be at war.
When listening disappears
peace reemerges,
when peace emerges
the listener appears.

A reflection on Case 12 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (The True Dharma Eye)

BLUES

He is for it or he is
against it, and if you could
predict the vacillations you
could develop the means
of measuring the flux of sanity.

You could as easily grasp
the water flowing downriver
and by asking select questions
determine the next heavy rain,

but the odds are good
you will be outside when
the deluge begins, and
only its ultimate weight
and duration remain to be felt.

It all comes down to the same
thing, if you could paint the sky
blue, precisely which shade
of blue would you use and why
that one for heaven’s sake

MEOW

Again today I am inside this so called
box, unchanged perhaps, but who
is to say, not you, still Schrodinger’s cat.

Don’t bother to ask if I am dead
or alive, for like the Master Daowu, you
can bet that I won’t say, so there.

And do not assume I know what I am,
for if I were dead, I’d hardly know it
and what guarantee is there that

I’m actually alive merely because
I think I am, or is it that I think
I think that I am, it’s all so Descartean

that I’m never quite certain, so let’s just
assume that old Schrodinger was right,
I’m alive and dead, and leave it at that.

SPACED OUT

The question you must answer,
and the one question I am certain
you cannot answer correctly is this:

Does space define us
or do we define space?

Hints, of course, abound but we,
myself included, fail or choose
not to see them or outright deny them.

We are all comfortable at home,
the adventurous among us declare
that wherever they are is home.

The sane ones among is say this is
nothing more than self-sophistry
or bullshit dressed in elegant cliche,

We want not only to limit space,
for then the cliche might have
more than a small kernel of truth,

but we need to declare it mine
so that it cannot be yours as well,
get your own damn space if you want.

Do you see the answer now, is it
clear to you once and for all, are
you willing to admit to the world

that space defines you
just as you define space

for it is on this evanescent foundation
on which your whole sense of self
resides and your ego dwells.

HEAVEN, ONLY SLIGHTLY OUT OF REACH

God is fixed in the firmament
seen as puppet master by some
patrician uncle, small child
endlessly shifting blocks
in new, transitory universes.
All things recede from a point,
have since the creation
and that point, dimensionless
is God, vast and infinite.
It swings lazily, back, forth
a needle in its cusp tracing
lines in the bed of sand
in constant motion as we
and earth, and all of our
universe spin slowly
around its focus, it swings
lazily back, forth, tracing
an ever-shifting path
marked in displaced sand
ponderous from its fine
steel tendril which rises
to a point without size,
shape, or time, frozen
a singularity from which
all else emanates. God lives, bat-like
on the ceiling of
the San Francisco Science Museum
and the Hayden Planetarium
and countless other buildings
given to science,
omnipresent yet fixed
dimensionless and infinite
always a ladder’s climb
just out of reach.

Published in The Raven’s Perch (August 3, 2020)
https://theravensperch.com/heaven-only-slightly-out-of-reach-by-louis-faber/