Which is more beautiful,
the fragile flower
or the stone set in the road?
And which is the uglier?
The stone, washed in a stream
may shine like a diamond,
the flower picked
soon withers to dust.
Each contains beauty
each contains ugliness.
When you see this
you may smile
until you feel
the blow of the stick
and your eyes are forced shut
blind for that moment.
A reflection on Case 65 of the Iron Flute Koans
The trees, bearing up strongly
against the still falling snow
remember leaves, though the memory
has run deep into the sap and slowed.
Beneath the frosted bed
the bulbs imagine summer,
try to picture their blooms,
but quickly returned to frozen stasis.
The cat thinks of venturing
into our yard, sinks its paws
into the growing snowbank, decides
the rug by the fireplace is adventure enough.
We turn up our collars, stand
firm against the wind driven snow,
remember summer, and curse the gods
of weather for taking it from us.
He walks with what he considers a swagger. He will gladly stare you in the eye, and you will look away. He prides himself on constancy, knowing you will arrive each day, knowing you will bring nothing in response to his request. He’ll turn his back on you and ignore you once again. Then he will waddle back to the pond, quacking his farewell.
Time has no role to play in any of this.
Time isn’t pleased by the prospect,
it prefers to be ever present, ever
escaping, even as it is arriving.
It is quirky that way.
It is constant yet it loves
to give the impression of being variable.
Einstein noted this, and anyone
returning from a long drive is
aware the return is always the shorter trip.
Unless, of course, you suffer
from a bad back, then time
really has the last laugh.
The squirrel on the lawn stood,
his little eyes boring into me
as I stepped out of the front door.
He threw out his chest, and I
half expected him to beat on it
with his forepaws, a rodent Tarzan.
I, of course, had no choice but
to stare back at him defiantly,
making clear I wasn’t easily cowed.
Finally, I broke the silence, and said
“Let’s be honest for once, we both
know what we are, and we are
very much the same, for you steal
the nuts from my trees as I
steal the beauty of the early dawn.”
“Agreed,” he replied, “and there’s
a very good chance neither of us
will remember where we hid our prize.”
We can sit for a time, and speak
of our pains, how they cause us
to stop and look inward while the world
proceeds on it’s axis, in a slow march
through time and space, and we
share the anger and anguish
of our too fallible bodies which
time reclaims in slow progression.
We do not pause and cast eyes
on the egrets, heron and ibis returning
for the night as the retreating sun
paints the clouds in colors known
best to flames consuming all,
to wings flapping as perches are
taken adjusted, as conversations
are continued while night settles
slowly over the preserve, the birds
marvel at how we allow ourselves
to be absent from the simple
beauty of the world that surrounds us.
It is a precarious balance, really,
more and exercise in tottering and hearing
than in standing still.
Some prefer stasis, others,
I included, find it leads inevitably
to a loss of energy, to an entropy
from which it is difficult to escape.
I don’t walk along the edge
of the precipice, but I do peer over
amazed at what lies below
that I hope to never see up close.
Is a precarious balance,
but one that can be maintained
if you just close your eyes
and sense what actually lies
around and beneath you.