WHAT’S IN A WORD

It is said that
a picture is worth a thousand words,
a pictograph usually
five or fewer, and
a word, but a single one
by definition, while
a word, with two exceptions,
has at least two letters,
and with the same
two exceptions, a letter
is always wordless
but can be symbolic.
The Hawaiian language
has only fourteen letters
which may explain why
native Hawaiians are
rarely wordy, but
fails utterly to account
for their deep love
of symbols.

-NESS

Last week it was hers
but we felt it ours, and wondered
why her furniture, her life
was impinging on this “our-ness.”
Today it is ours and empty,
and it has a deep sense
of “whose-ness,” where we can
see how easily “ours-ness” might return.
Next week it will be our home
and we will impose our us-ness on it
and it will bend to our will
as we will bend to its,
in the marriage will be complete.

NO REPLY

You must be home now,
or somewhere you can answer
my call, and the busy signal
or disembodied voice, purporting
to be you can only mean that this
very moment if you are calling me
the busy signal or disembodied voice
purporting to be me is giving you
a momentary frustration rivaling my own.
This must be the state of the world
for otherwise you failure to answer
could mean but one thing, and I
can no more accept the preposterous idea
that you might actually be speaking
to someone else rather than awaiting
my call with bated breath, and
certainly not that you are sleeping,
your phone switched off, never mind
that where you are, it is well past midnight.

RINZAI’S TITLELESS MAN 鐵笛倒吹 語十七

If you come upon
both beggar and nobleman
see neither wealth or poverty,
smell neither the fine rosewater
or the crying need of a bath,
hear neither the ravings of one
or the philosophy of the other,
taste neither the fine curry
of the moldy bread crust,
feel neither the tattered rag
or the purest silk.

In the mirror of Zen
both men have your face
and there is no one
standing in front of you.


A reflection on case 57 of the Iron Flute Koans.

PALETTE

He is for it or he is
against it, and if you could
predict the vacillations you
could develop the means
of measuring the flux of sanity.

You could as easily grasp
the water flowing downriver
and by asking select questions
determine the next heavy rain,

but the odds are good
you will be outside when
the deluge begins, and
only its ultimate weight
and duration remain to be felt.

It all comes down to the same
thing, if you could paint the sky
blue, precisely which shade
of blue would you use and why
that one for heaven’s sake?

ADDRESSING THE PROBLEM

It’s the little things,
she says, that bite you,
and while he truly
doesn’t want to believe this,
for it ought to be the big things
that cause the problems,
he knows she is right.
He recalls that a simple thing
like an address everyone
knows is 123 3 X Street is true
for all save the power company
which says it is still 98 Y Street,
although they cannot hope
to explain why this is so.
How many other addresses
for this place are there,
how many things go wrong
because someone wants it
to be this while everyone else assumes that.
So you sit and wait for the power company
to bring light into your world
and warmth into your life
with winter closing in rapidly.