WOODEN PILLOW 鐵笛倒吹 六十

If, sitting at your meal
you hear the song of a bird,
what do you do?
You may tap your chopstick rest,
and perhaps he will answer
and repeat his sweet song.
If you tap a second time
and there is only silence
is the bird rejecting you
or offering his song to another,
flown from your window.

Perhaps you should tap again
and hear the sweeter song
of silence that echoes
over the garden and zendo.
On a distant limb
the small songbird smiles.

A reflection on Case 60 of the Iron Flute Koans.

GRAMMATICALLY APART

What sets us apart
from other species
has little or nothing
to do with self-awareness
and everything to do
with parts of speech.

The birds outside
my window shun labels,
think only of eating,
mating, flight, of going
and arriving, of being.

They know nothing of birth,
do not fear death, for it
is merely a label they cannot
accept or understand.

It is left to our kind
to need to label, to define
every small and large thing
for we sense our existence
and must rely on two things,
for we knew that we live
a world of pronoun and noun.

INVASION

The light has faded
and the wetland lies under
its mantle of faint starlight.

The birds are there, we
can hear them, but our eyes
do not allow us to see them,
despite our desire to have
more time with them.

They can see us, in our 
well lit homes, staring out,
but they do not want 
particularly to see us.

To us they are a fascination,
to them we are an invader
and the victim does not care
to see his conqueror, but
the invader always wants
to see his victims yet again.

IN CHORUS

Deep in a small forest,
a murmuring brook reflects
the shards of sun sliding
through the crown of pines,
its whispered wisdom
infinitely more clear
than the babbling of men
holding the reins firmly
in distant cities of power.

The birds know this well,
sing of it in chorus, nature’s
music, jazz scatting that
the graying clouds absorb,
an always willing audience,
and the wind rushing by
cries through the trees
in the voice of long dead 
poets whose words offer
a truth to which cloistered
talking heads have grown deaf.

First published in Pages Penned in Pandemic , 2021

SHE

She surely should have known better. Selling sea shells by the sea shore is a short sighted career path. Anyone can pick up the shells on the seashore, selling shells is simply silly, and she should see that. But each day she sets up her stand, sets out the shells, and sits waiting to see who will shop for her sea shells. No one does, of course, but she is certain she will sell some soon if only to sailors shortly setting sail. So sad, really, but she certainly does not seem to mind.

A STONES TOSS

If you toss a stone
into a placid pond
the ripples will wash
away from the landing spot
as so many small waves,
and unseen, the area
of the pond’s surface
will grow imperceptibly.

If you toss a stone
into an vast ocean,
the ripples will wash
away from the landing spot
small unnoticed waves
and unseen, the area
of the ocean’s surface
will grow imperceptibly.

Ask  yourself now,
whether you would want
to enter the pond or ocean
for you are a stone 
arcing through life.

CHANGES

The finches are struggling
this morning, searching the lawn
for the odd clover seed that’s yet 
to be reduced to dust by a summer
where the rain has painted
our world with a palette 
of parchment, ochre, leaving us
wandering an increasingly sepia world. 

We know that the rains will come 
again, that nature’s green will 
return, however briefly, before
winter encases us all in its white
mantle that we pierce at our risk.

The finches and wrens know,
or simply care nothing of this
and go on with their search, until
the approach of the cat brings
their effort to a sudden end.The finches and wrens know,
or simply care nothing of this
and go on with their search, until
the approach of the cat brings
their effort to a sudden end.