From this place
traverse a thousand paths
visit the ten directions
with unmoving feet
and recount your tale
with frozen tongue
to we deaf
A reflection on case 20 of the Mumonkan (The Gateless Gate)
He’s heard the expression
“the silence is deafening”
and he could never understand it.
Today they studied his eyes,
he staring into the the equipment,
lights changing and flashing,
they sitting, repeating “Blink.”
Soon he understood what it was.
to be “blinded by the light”, and while
he waited for his eyes to undilate,
he imagined blindness, and
understood for the first time
in is life how a deaf person
might crave noise of any sort.
Before life there is death,
before death there is life.
In life there is death,
in death there is life,
a worm cut in two,
each half moves,
in each a new worm
or is there one worm.
This I ask you, but
answer or no answer
both are full
of Buddha nature.
A reflection on Case 20 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)
She looks carefully, not
wanting the others to know what
she sees, for she needs her secrets.
She wanders over, the others follow
totally unaware she has a goal,
that she will not be satisfied
until she attains it, and that she has
a determination that would give them pause
and no small measure of wonder.
As they stop to talk, she
slides away, still in sight, and they
ignore her, as she assumed they would.
They are predictable, and she uses this
to her advantage, day in and out.
She laughs loudly, insuring their attention
as she plops down in a large puddle
on the driveway, her onesie and diaper
soaking up water, as they feign horror
and then, laughing themselves, concede
she has, as two-year-olds
always will, bested them all yet again.
Reality is clearly something to be avoided
to be dressed up in tattery, tied in ribbons,
perfumed, yet its fetid stench
is always lurking in the background
waiting to pierce your nostrils
in an incautious moment until you retch
and bring up the bile that marks
the darker moments of your life,
the kind that lingers in the throat
which no chocolate can erase.
Reality is often ugly, so we ignore it
or hide it behind masks, or offer it
willingly to others, a gift in surfeit.
It sneaks up on you, and sets its hook
periodically, and thrash as you will
the barb only tears through new flesh,
setting itself deeper, intractable.
You and I are dying, as I write,
as you read, an ugly thought
particularly lying in bed
staring into darkness,
no motion or sound from your spouse,
mate, paramour, friend, significant other
or teddy bear, where God
is too busy to respond at the moment
and sleep is perched in the bleachers,
held back by the usher for want
of a ticket stub, content to watch
the game from afar.
I cast ink to paper, an offer of reality
as though the divorce from the words will erase
the little pains and anguishes of our
ever distancing marriage, while
holding vainly onto the warm and sweet,
the far side of the Mobius of reality
(the skunk is at once ugly and soft and caring).
We write of pain, of ugliness, of anger
at terrible lengths, or weave tapestries
of words to cover the flawed, stained walls
of our minds, like so many happy endings,
requisite in the script. Basho
knew only too well that truth of beauty
should be captured in few syllables.
First appeared in Chaminade Literary Review Vols. 16-17 (1995)
When you see a painting
of a beautiful rose,
how can you describe it.
You must breathe deeply
of its sweet fragrance
Be careful, do not
pierce your finger
on its waiting thorns.
The rose has withered
into dust before
your mouth is opened.
A reflection on Case 76 of the Iron Flute Koans
“Every book is a picture book,”
she says, with that certain wisdom
the that comes from being seven,
even though eight is far off on the horizon.
“The difference with some,” she claims,
“is that someone already drew all the lines
and colored in the pictures.”
She likes the books, she concludes,
where she gets to draw the pictures
in her mind, change them freely
and choose whatever colors she likes
at any given moment, and the next time
she reads the book, they can all be different.