“Trying to explain photography and its art may be more difficult than explaining particle physics.” That was his opinion, and one he deeply held and shared freely to all who would listen or could not escape him. “After all,” he said, “you can draw pictures to illustrate particle physics, and far too many have done so, but the art of photography involves a mental process and only psychiatrists believe they can draw pictures to probe that. And,” he concluded, “one thing is certain, there is no art in the least in any Rorschach Blots I have ever been shown, and I have been shown many.”
I would like to go back
to the days when,
after a fire reduced
a commericial building
to charred rubble,
the onlookers and
the gawkers wondered
if it was an angry
customer or employee,
or sloppiness or
Now, we watch
as the fire marshals
comb through the ashes
and the rubble, looking
not only for the source
of the flames but also
the accelerant, always
wondering as we do
just how the business
was doing and if
not well, did the owner
at least pay up
on his fire insurance.
The greatest problem
with our language
in the practice of zazen
can seem insurmountable.
We are lovers of tenses,
a dozen to choose from,
one spawning offspring,
time ever important to us.
In zen, on the cushion
there is no past, no future,
perfect or otherwise, nor
our friend the conditional.
We strive to always be
in the moment, there is now
and nothing else, and we
ought to strive to never be tense.
He had long since decided that language was impossible, the English language in particular. He had acquired all manner of dictionaries, and had searched the web, using it as a reverse dictionary. But all too often the language came up short. Words at best approximated what he meant, what he saw, but to get even close, he needed to string adverbs and adjectives to his nouns and verbs until he had an ungodly mess. He knew the solution and set out to implement it. As time went on, he filled notebook after notebook, flash drive after flashdrive (redudency was a virtue in this case, he knew) with the new words. And he was finally satisfied, like Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty. For now when he used a word, it meant exactly what he wished it to because he created the word.
If you want a good conversation
birds should be your first choice,
wading birds at the top of the list,
although you still have to be quick
for if you meander they will lose interest.
Animals are to who you should turn
if you need advice on getting through
the omnipresent obstacles life raises
to impede your smooth passage through it,
but note cats tend to be pithy and easily bored.
Cows and horses in the fields
have almost infinite patience, and listen
when others would turn away, but note
that they are easily distracted so it is best
to keep a handful of hay at the ready always.
And, remember to bring your dictionaries
for birds and animals will speak to you
only in their own languages despite the fact
that they fully understand yours, but do not
deign or desire to be thought of as human.
I set out this morning
with my large dictionary
to find the perfect word
to describe the sky, the sun
just peering over the roof
of a distant house, the few
clouds aflame in a silent fire.
I knew there was a word
for what I saw in the dictionary,
for there is a word
for everything if you search
long and hard enough, but
after a while I gave up when
I realized I could no longer
recall what I had seen
that set me off on this search.
In the middle of a rouund of zazen
I hear the bells of a nearby church,
although I am nearby no church.
Zen teaches you to be present
in each moment, to be immersed
in and not witnessing life around you.
The bells break my struggle
to not think, they introduce time
again where there should be none.
Just as soon, the bells are silent,
and the silence of 1300 miles away
pervades our small zendo,
so just perhaps Zoom, or the ability
to control its transmission, is
after all, a mindful Buddhist tool.
In a world beset
by poverty and pandemic,
global warming and hunger,
there are a myriad
of questons urgently
is not the question
of the proper way
to eat with a fork,
or more precisely
how to hold it
when bringing food
to the mouth
from the plate.
I was taught to hold
it like a pen, but
tilted so I looked
down on the tines
bent in concavity.
But in watching
too many European
films and TV shows,
it seems I should
look down on
the tines’ convexity.
is easily solved
by using only
Another day, another needle,
it is the cost of growing older,
I suppose, and does beat
the alternatives, but still,
I am growing tired of feeling
like an underappreciated pin cushion.
And please, it is not necessary
for you to smile while pushing
the needle into whatever
body part wins the prize
as that day’s recipient, leave
me to decide whether to smile.
And I’m not a child, so feel
free to dispense with the
“this is for your own good,”
if I didn’t know that do you
think I’d be sitting in this chair
having the imagined conversation?
As a young child, I always imagined
myself a bird, poised to take wing
the next time my parents told me
I couldn’t do what I wanted,
to swoop around, out of their grasp,
until it was time for lunch or dinner.
Years later my dream was to be
a pilot, Air Force not Navy, I might
get seasick and that isn’t a sight
even I would want to see, until
I read Jarrell’s “The Death
of the Ball Turret Gunner,” and
the ground seemed a safer place.
Once in the business world, I
thought about some day retiring
young and seeing the world
on the cheap, Asia, Africa, Oceana,
and that lasted until the second
time I had to fly to Japan with
fourteen hours in a coach class
middle seat on a Boeing 747
when my backyard suddenly
became the future of my dreams.