There are things in life
that are quite clearly beyond
any rational explanation.
Take, as an example, the song
that crawls into your head
and absolutely refuses to leave.
If it were Mozart or Bach
it might be excusable, if Beethoven
at least reluctantly forgivable,
but it is never the great masters.
Tonight, it is the ancient song
“Lemon Tree,” and there is little worse
then Trini Lopez crawling around your head.
refusing adamantly to leave.
I could live with Peter,
Paul, would welcome Mary
But this is Trini’s night and I
must be thankful Tony Orlando
and Barry Manilow took the night off.
When you enter the hall
which seat will you take?
Your seat is determined
by how long you
have walked the Way,
how long has it been.
If you can measure the time
that marks your entry
sit at the far end
for the honored seat
is reserved for the ancients
who enter the Way again
at each passing moment.
A reflection on case 24 of the Iron Flute Koans
They hide in corners, and you think
you can see them, but you cannot be certain
for they are vague and could be no more
than wishes, but belief is sufficient.
As you grow older, the number of corners grow
and a universe of but eight corners
is now itself tucked in a corner of memory.
One corner hides the face of the man
who adopted me, watched for two years,
before departing suddenly, and the only item
I have is his diploma rolled up in a tube
where my own accomplishments are rolled.
In another corner the day I met the man
I now call father is so deeply buried
only his present, increasingly absent
aging face is all I can see.
Memories are elusive, appearing
and disappearing without warning
day by day the oldest evanesce
and that corner is filled
by another memory grown vague.
These few words
gathered neatly on a scrap
of simple paper,
what do you call it?
Answer carefully for you response
may carry the keys
to the doors of Mount Tai-i.
Better still, upend
the water bottle, watch
the ink and water form
a gentle pool into which
no pebble drops.
A reflelction on case 40 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate)
The river ignores us
for yet another day,
flowing despite our presence,
knowing the lake awaits.
As the rain lets up,
the sun appears
and sets the water ablaze
demanding our attention
and we gladly give it.
As our jacket shed
the last of the cloudy gifts,
the wind reminds us
that this moment
is one we will not
ever see again.
If you come before Master Nansen
will you come holding the posture
of a monk or a lay person
and when Nansen turns you away
how will you exit the room?
and gassho hands
both are so easily manacled,
why leave the room at all?
A Reflection on case 44 of the Iron Flute Koans
You so very want
there to be no ending
but there must be, just
as there had to be a beginning
and you had no say about that.
Endings are hard, they remind you
of small deaths, all but one,
but each is also a birth of sorts,
and like you know, they arise
and you have no say about them.
These few lines will
soon enough draw to an end
although that may be one
you don’t so much mind.
But as you put them away
they are the beginning of a thought
you never imagined would arise.