FOR NOW

Tomorrow this poem will
most assuredly no longer be here,
though when during the night
it will slip away, never again
to be seen, I don’t know or perhaps it
will return in a form I would not recognize,
recrafted by the hand of an unseen editor.

It may take on a meaning unfamiliar,
or translate itself into a tongue
that I can neither speak nor read,
or perhaps, most dreadedly, assume
the shape of prose, accreting words
until the embedded thought is bloated
and wholly unrecognizable.

Even if I tried to stop it, watched
carefully, it would no doubt
remind me that poems have a life
of their own once cast to paper
or pixels, and I am at best only
another editor or reader, and it
takes kindly on most days to neither.

I SPEND THE EMPTY HOURS

I spend considerable time thinking
about what it is that I am, what is I,
whether Descartes’ God or Spinoza’s
could possibly exist, or must if I can have
meaning beyond self-reflection, needing
a godly mirror, and image reflected.
Cogito, on what basis can I draw that conclusion
what logical proof, carefully constructed will
not fall under the weight of the axiom, cogito cogito
but of what? Keys that spit words that fade
under a misplaced finger, she caught in the web
twisting, unable to pull free, staring at
an approaching holiday of praying forgiveness
Vidui, as though to posit God is to validate
emotions, control impulses which leap synapses
and flit and fade, I have sinned and transgressed
I have violated laws and statutes and I beg
forgiveness that I might live, this I, this cogito
who has no external reference save God
which makes all things real, all illusion.
It is comforting knowing in death the soul is
carried on, thought lingers, or does it cease
such that I am not for I think not, yet why should
I fear, for when it is done, I will not have been
save as a reference point, a linchpin from which
may hang ornaments of a life, a tidy sum.

Publsihed in These Lines, Fall 2020
https://theselines.org/these-lines-1.1-fall-2020.pdf

RETURN OF SCIENCE

During the Presidential debate the other night the inevitable question was eventually asked. I have to say the answers were much as expected, exactly as scripted, and while “correct,” each candidate missed a golden opportunity. “On January 21, what will be the first thing you will do as President?” Most of the world’s problems made the list, immigration, climate change, wealth inequality, you get the picture. It was never mind that almost none of the things listed could be solved by an executive order, their hearts were in the right place. But no one hit the real mark. Ask me and the answer’s simple. My first act as President is to appoint the official White House herpetologist. It is a two for one appointment, after all. I get someone who can help me deal with Congress, members of both the Senate and House. But better still, when it hits the fan, and we all know it will, repeatedly, I have an expert who can explain that yet again, it is all the snake’s fault. That one has worked since Adam, and even the evangelicals and Catholics must agree on that one.

GENSHA’S BLANK LETTER 正法眼蔵 四十八

If you wish to find the Way
follow the signs that read
“This Is Not the Path” or
at least some of them.
If you ask me directions
I will hand you a blank sheet
and ask you what
does it contain.
You may say it is void
and you would be correct,
or you may say it
is a thousand dharma texts
and you would be correct.

A reflection on Case 48 of The True Dharma Eye (Shobogenzo)

FELIS CATUS

She says just think of it,
when the cat is twenty
you’ll be 87 and I’ll be 92.

I never thought of it
quite that way, of the cat
being twenty, I mean.

My cats all died
in their teens, and though
I missed them terribly,

I assumed it was
just their time, just how
long they should live.

I’ve now thought of myself
being 87, and the cat
sitting on my lap

staring into my half
lidded eyes, reminding me
to take my afternoon pills.

HAIKU

I picked up a book
off the shelf this morning
one hundred haiku

it was like sitting down
a word starved man, tired
of searching for an always
denied sustenance, and here
laid out before me, a repast
of the sweetest grapes,
bits of sugar caressing
a tongue grown used
to the often bitterness
of ill-considered prose.

As midday approached
I knew that this was a meal
to which I’d return.

MELODY

I sing a shattered song
of someone else’s youth
the melody forgotten
the words faded into odd
syllables heard in my dreams.
The coyote stands at the edge
of a gully staring at me
and wondering why I slip
from the hogan through
the hole punched
in the back wall
slinking away
in the encroaching dark.
The priest, his saffron robes
pulled tight around his legs
in the morning chill,
stares as I run my hands
across the giant brass bell
feeling its resonance.
I hear the dirge
as sleep nips at the edge
of my consciousness
grabbing the frayed
margins of life

Published in These Lines, Fall 2020
https://theselines.org/these-lines-1.1-fall-2020.pdf

THE GIRL COMES OUT 無門關 四十二

She sits undisturbed
Shakyamuni by her side.
You can wave at her, she
will pay you no mind.

You cannot grasp her mind
and maintain a hold
on your own, you will grow
deaf from the chatter
but a child can curl
at her feet and she
will stroke his forehead
in perfect Samadhi.

A reflection on case 42 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate) koans.

AN E-TALE

I have been repeatedly told
by many that in this hyper-
electronic age, the best way, if
nit the only way, for the little guy
to buy and sell is online.

I’m not one to argue so
I decided to try it, and quickly
learned that Amazon had
cornered the market on sales
so Craigslist was my best hope.

I also learned that those willing
to pay anything near what an item
was worth didn’t bother with
Craigslist, but I didn’t care so I
listed under curb alerts, free

to anyone who wanted it, and
I stood by the curb for hours,
watched cars pull up slowly,
then drive quickly away, and
my heart is still unclaimed, searching.