GOZO AND THE FOURTH ANCESTOR 正法眼蔵 語十一

If you sit
I will bring you a flower
but it will fall.
If you walk
weeds will grow up
between your toes.
Flower, weed and you
are born and die
each feeding
all of the others.

A reflection on case 51 of the Shobogenzo Koans (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)

LUNA’S SONG

Tonight, when the sun
has finally conceded the day
to its distant but ever larger kin,
the moon will again sing
her ever waning song
hoping we will join
in a chorus we have
so long forgotten,
bound to the earth
in body and in waxing thought.

We will stop and listen
perhaps, over the din
of the city, the traffic,
the animals conversing
with the sky, our thoughts,
but the words will now
be an alien language
for which we have
no dictionary, only
the faint memory
of the place from which
both we and the moon
share cosmic ancestry.

INTO THE BRUSH

I have carefully peeled
back the skin of a hundred snakes
and left their twisted forms
curled around mesquite
as so many skirts. Canadia geese
follow carefully worn paths
across an October sky
undeterred by storm clouds
giving chase from the west.
A wolf wanders down
from the tree line to the edge
of the highway. She can taste
the approach of winter,
bitter on her tongue, her coat
grown thick, watching
for a buck to be thrown
to the gravel shoulder
by a passing truck.
In my closet I have
a pair of boots, nothing more
than simple cowhide.

First Appeared in Amethyst Review (Canada), Vol. 8, No. 2, Winter 2000

SITTING WATCHING

Of course when we lived
up north we wouldn’t
have imagined this, sitting
on our lanai watching the sun
set the patchy sky ablaze
sipping small glasses of port
and wondering if a light
jacket might be in order,
as the beaver moon
of November waxes slowly.

The cat, curled at our feet
cannot imagine the icy wind
howling down the street,
the foreboding clouds offering
their first flakes, knowing
this is a small taste of what
nature will bring forth
before we could again sit
in shirtsleeves on our porch.

ADMISSION

We do not like to admit
that nature laughs at us
as we pretend to bend her
to our will and desires.

We dam and reroute rivers,
but the river knows well
that it will return, flow
where it wishes, for it
will be here long after
we have returned to the soil.

Still, now and again nature
grows weary with our meddling
and unleashes her fury
in ways we are incapable
of stopping, and laughs
when we seek divine
intervention from the utter
depths of our powerlessness.

ANCESTRY

Children have an innate sense
of their ancestry.
I was a child of the city
it’s streets my paths, always
under the watchful eye
of my warden – mother.

Dirt was to be avoided
at all possible cost,
so I never dug my hands
into the fertile soil of my
village in the heart of Lithuania,
or tasted the readying harvest
that dirt would remember.

I never stole a nip of poitin
only the Manischewitz which,
in our home, masqueraded
as wine fit for drinking. It is only
now in my second childhood
that the ancestry very deep
in my DNA has finally found
purchase in my mind and soul.

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.