HOFUKU’s BLOCKING OF THE EYES

Do not pity the blind man
for he can see much,
and do not be sad for the deaf
for they can hear you.
Your eyes see nothing
your ears do not
discern the quietest sound.
Rest your mind and taste
the peace of blindness
and silence.

A reflection on Case 113 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye) Koans

SENSO-JI

They crowd the stalls, searching
amid what the Japanese would have to call
tchotchkes if they were Jewish.

Few bother to see the great Buddha
peereing out of the Buddha hall
questioning their judgment.

They could buy their fortunes
for a mere hundred yen coin, but they
believe it better spent here,

This the marketplace forms
a phalanx that makes a visit
to Senso-ji a forced march

through waves of humanity who
have no need of jizo, those are for
the cats and children who parade

through the gate, hand in hand,
and stare up at the statues of Kannon
still teaching and offering compassion.

MUSING TOKYO

1

In Asakusa
amid the stalls
of trinkets and swords
why do the gaijin
all speak German,
Italian, Spanish and Swedish
and English is reserved
to a couple if Nisei.

2

In a small laundromat
in Akasaka
an old woman
clucks and shuffles
on wooden sandals
pulling kimonos
from the dryer.
My t-shirts
are still damp.

3

In Shibuya
there is a small
storefront pet shop,
its windows full
of cat ryokan
some with beds
others replete
with toys, balls.
In the largest
a tiger striped Persian
sleeps, her back
to the passing crowds.

4

At Meiji Jingu
I toss my coin
and bow in prayer
hopeful that the gods
speak English.

5

On the Ginza line
a young woman
all in black
carries a carefully
wrapped poster
of John Lennon.
In thirty years
she will look
like Yoko Ono.

First published in Around the World: Landscapes & Cityscapes, Sweetycat Press, 2021

Nansen’s Reason Is Not the Way 無門關 三十四 

If you see the Buddha
you have certainly gone blind,
if you hear his words
you demonstrate your deafness.

Nansen will grow old,
hearing and vision will fade
and he will sit and shout
in a sun warmed rain.

A reflection on Case 34 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate) Koans

Tozan’s Sixty Blows 無門關 十語

When you arrive
only questions, each
a finely honed blade.

Will you parry and dance
avoiding the wounding tip
and perhaps taste the sword

or risk all and counter-
thrust, attack from
ten directions
and willingly receive
sixty blows from the stick
standing in one place.

A reflection on Case 15 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate) Koans

DŌGO WON’T SAY 正法眼蔵 二十九

I am the life
of a hundred million others,
you are the life
of a hundred million others,
a hundred million others
are my life, a hundred million
others arise from my death.
How many hundred million
are the same?
None of them will say.

A reflection on Case 29 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye) Koans

Chu Gives Three Calls 無門關 十七

Three times the master’s question

three times the student’s response

each time, the same answer

each time the master shrinks

as answer surpasses question.

There is no master

there is no student

there is only the lamp

in two sets of hands.

A reflection on case 11 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate) koans.