SCHMUTZ

Looking out the window
I quickly realize that the window
needs cleaning, and then
that the red-shouldered hawk
in the nearby tree is carefully
staring back at me.

I want to know what
the hawk is thinking, perhaps
that I am possible prey, or
more likely wondering why
I am so foolish as to live
in a strangely large box.

The hawk, of course, is
wondering what I am thinking,
how beautiful he is, what
strange flightless beasts
we humans are, or just
perhaps that my window
very badly needs cleaning

WEBBING

The giant spider in its black shroud
sits irritated in the center of its web
wishing it ever larger, demanding
that others enter, become enthralled
until it defines the parameters
of the universe the spider imagines.

The giant spider silently seethes
at the once gardener who, having
tasted the forbidden fruit,
has closed the screened door
as he reluctantly departed the garden
diminishing the web’s attraction.

The spider dreams of his new world,
knows his old one, the simple web
may be replaced, so he presses on
spinning all his resources in the hope
that others will come to accept
his crafted reality as their own.

JOSHU’S DOG

My teacher once asked me
“what do you have
to say for yourself,” and I
answered “absolutely nothing,”
or did I smile and remain silent?

You assume the teacher would
be upset with the silent student
and in most cases you would
be perfectly correct.

But if this occurred
in a zendo, having nothing
to say is a step toward no-self
and you can be
in that moment,
Joshu’s dog.

A reflection on Case 18 of the Book of Equanimity (従容錄, Shōyōroku)

GET A ROOM

You feel like a voyeur, staring
as the red-shouldered hawks
mate in a tree mere yards
from where you are standing.

Still, you cannot take your eyes
away from them, your camera
tightly focussed, an avian
pornographer perhaps, or maybe

just a lucky soul given the chance
to witness a ritual denied to most,
and you know with luck their offspring
will repeat the show for you next year.

DEGENERATION

I feel like I ought to be
living in Texas again
for everything, they say,
is bigger in Texas, and you
don’t argue with a Texan.

So much in my life is bigger now,
a computer monitor that would
pass for a moderate sized TV,
with font so large a single page
fills the screen, and the tablet
the size of, but thank God
not the weight of, a phone book,
(if you are under 30, look it up),
to read books and news since
libraries don’t carry large print books
(look that up too, probably)
at least not books of poetry.

But thanks to modern materials science
the lenses in my glasses don’t
yet look like Mr. Magoo’s (yup,
one more thing to look up,)
at least not yet.

First Published in Half Hour to Kill, August 2022
https://halfhourtokill.com/home/degeneration-by-louis-faber

TIME WHEN

There waa a time when
news wasn’t news, carried
by mouth, one person
to another a game of telephone
before that concept existed.

Newspapers promised us
the news, but in the time
it took to write and print it,
it was nearly news,
or at worst slightly olds.

Now the world is always
available instantly, but we
know or should, that half
of the time we see only bits
woven into a narrative
that bears no relation
to what actually happened.

UMMON’S MOUNT SUMERU

When you ask your teacher
what happens when you
stop thinking, allow
no new thoughts
what you expect him
to tell you?

The dead have no thoughts
but that is not the door
to Nirvana.

But if thoughts abandon you
without your effort, without
being asked to do so,
then the door you seek
will open before you.

A reflection on Case 19 of the Book of Equanimity (従容錄, Shōyōroku)

TRY LOOKING

He loved walking around the small lake. He could make a circuit in just under 40 minutes. If. If he didn’t stop to marvel at or photograph some bird along the shore. The runners flashing by him gave him strange looks, likely because they didn’t see the beauty in this bird’s feathers, how the light played off that bird’s beak. He was a runner once, until his knees gave out. But he can’t remember much of the paths he ran, just moment after moment of what was on the ground in front of him.

ABYSMAL

At the edge of the abyss,
teetering on the precipice
you need not tell us not
to jump, need not tell us
the horrid details that
would befall us if we did,
blood and gore in
infinitesimal detail.

It is more than enough
that you point out to us
the sheer height at which
we stand, the cragged
floor of the canyon
awaiting those who
imagine they can fly.

We will walk away calmly,
never considering flight
into the too well known,
and leave you to ponder
why you are again alone.

WRONG AGAIN

As a teenager, like so
many others of our narrow
minded, obsessed gender,
I imagined myself a great lothario,
girls on the edge of womanhood
lining up for my attention.

The absurdity of that dream
was lost on me and my peers,
testosterone drowning it in a sea
of hormones, and we were oblivious
to the real obstacle always
right in front of us, that we
imagined love and sex
in the first person only.

Now that youth and even
middle age are behind me
I still try to recall when I realized
that love requires the second person
singular, and my pleasure is
complete only when
my partner’s is as well.