GENSHA’S THREE VEHICLES 正法眼蔵 四十語

Describe this moment
without use of word or sound –
see where you are
with eyes pressed tightly closed,
hear a song with utter silence,
taste the pure mountain air
reach out and touch
that which has no shape
or form, no essence
and you sit
in the middle
of reality.

A reflection on case 45 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)

CHARMING

You said it was a lucky charm,
but I know my cereals and it
clearly wasn’t that, nor was it
a faked foot of some leporidae
sylvilagus, even you would never
be that cruel, you are a vegan
after all, even your shoes are
some unholy man-made material.

And I don’t believe in luck,
I’ve never had it, good or bad
although I do admit I look forward
to Friday the Thirteenths for
things always seem to go well
when they occur for some reason.

RENTAL

The mountain reaches
up grasping clouds.
The river no longer runs
red down its flanks
now traversed
by a black ribbon
twisting upward.
The Hertz rental
has a warning
taped on the glove box
driving above 5,000 feet
is prohibited, and
at the driver’s risk.
The Minolta sits
in the trunk
as I deny
the siren’s call.

FirstAppeared in Raconteur, Issue 3, January 1996.

FLIGHT

He began his trek up the mountain early in the morning to allow time for the ascent and return. He’d planned this carefully, and proceeded slowly so as not to be put off his goal. He smiled as he passed through a low hanging cloud layer, erasing the ground from which he set off on his journey. He plodded on, seeing the summit growing ever, if slowly, closer. He finally reached his goal at the summit, sat and smiled broadly. He had made it. He gazed down, feeling as though he had at last achieved flight. He was one with the sky. A sudden shadow passed over him. He looked up at the eagle circling, mocking him, as if saying this is flight, you poor earthbound creature.

CALLING

In the dark heart of night
time is suddenly frozen,
the clock’s hands stalactites
and stalagmites, unyielding
denying the approach of morning,
leaving the sun imprisoned
under the watchful gaze
of its celestial wardens.

It is then you appear,
call out to me, beg me
be silent, not asking
the lifetime of questions
I have accreted, providing
my own hopes and
imagination for answers,
but you have faces, not
those of that weekend
but of other days, she
younger, in college, he
in a college yearbook
at a school he never attended
save as part of the ROTC
contingent of the Air Force.

I bid you farewell, finally,
and time again takes motion
and morning welcomes the sun.

ACUITY

Acuity is such a strange word,
sharp on the tongue and
in meaning, but also a mark
of what once was, what will
never be again, replaced perhaps
by a visual vacuity, comfortable
word, no sharp edges, vague
images floating behind a gauze
seeping slowly into a scrim,
knowing the stage will soon
enough go dark, despite
the ever brighter lighting.
But replaced perhaps by
ever greater auditory acuity,
all edges, cutting sounds
unmuted, fine shades
of gradation, hearing clearly
what you will soon
stumble over yet again.

KYOSEI’S BUDDHADHARMA 正法眼蔵 三十九

If you ask when
is the best time
to seek wisdom I
will tell you
at the stroke of midnight
and I will walk
on a lighter left foot.
If you ask the next day
when is the best time
to seek wisdom
I will tell you
at highest noon
and I will walk
on a lighter right foot.

A reflection on Case 39 of Dogen’s Shoboganzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)

REAL TIME

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 thrashes you at will,
the barb 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, Fall 1995.

The World-Honored One’s Intimate Speech 正法眼蔵 三十四

The wise one delivers
most knowledge
without opening his mouth.
The sagacious student
does not hide the wisdom
he inherits but offers it
in utter silence.
What is it
you wished to say
for I am ready
not to listen.

A reflection on Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans Case 34 (True Dharma Eye)