MORTALITY

Before you wish for immortality
carefully consider all the consequences.
It’s true you will avoid the fires of hell
and the lawyers and politicians who
make up a surprising portion of the populace,
but you’ll also never pass through the pearly gates,
to languish in the esteemed company
of poets and musicians who will,
at the drop of a request, regale you.
And those wars you so often decried,
you’ll have those of generations without end,
for the one skill mankind has mastered is war.
But worst of all, you must realize
that you will be subjected to an infinite
number of wait staffs gathered around
your table doing off-key but well intended
renditions of Happy Birthday to You
as other diners wish you had never been born.

IMPENDING DEPARTURE

I will be going soon
and this is what I would leave you:
I would leave you my dreams
of a world at peace, where compassion
comes as an expectation not a surprise,
a place where the arrival
of the sun is a source of joy
for with it and the rains,
you, no one, will ever want for food,
centers where all can learn
and knowledge, like the universe
which we inhabit will
continue to expand,
but my dreams may
not be gift enough unless we
turn from those who care
to leave no dreams, taking
only for themselves in this moment,
for who tomorrow will always be
someone else’s problem.

QIANFENG’S “THREE TYPES OF SICKNESS”

 

When you assume the mat
and gaze at the wall,
what is it you see?
If you see nothing,
what do you think?
If you are certain
that you see nothing,
that is what you think.
Do not see, do not think,
and let the cushion
fall away until the moment
you no longer exist,
but let the moment
fall away as well
and there is only
the emptiness of peace.


A reflection on case 17 of the Entangling Vines Koans

NIGHT ARRIVES

When we finally allow night
to settle in around us,
and we curl together in anticipation
of sleep, we fit comfortably,
but with no less passion than
when we first did this, but
a passion tempered by less need
for flame, more for warmth
and a gentle caress.
We could not have anticipated this,
and still it seems quite natural,
the fulfillment of the promises
we exchanged, these vows
held sacrosanct and beyond value.
In the morning, when we repeat this,
we know that from that moment
the day still holds infinite promise.

THE DAY AFTER*

Today we only speak silently
and know everyone hears.
Today we cry only dry tears,
and others gently wipe our eyes.
Today we mourn what we fear is lost
and together vow to retain it.
Today the sun shines less brightly
and we know the dark cloud
will eventually pass.
Today we hug, each
to all the others, though
we sit alone as a sangha.
This is but a single moment
and we sit with and within it,
breathing in and breathing out.


In this case, a Sangha meeting the day after the shootings at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, but as easily the day after any tragedy of which there are too many.

MAL ANNEE

On the anniversary
of the start of a war
one feels almost compelled
to speak to its horrors,
its cause, its effect.
But we live in an age
where wars are plentiful,
when peace is the exception
and war seems to loom
around every corner.
So on this anniversary
I watch the snowy egret
stare into the pond
outside my window,
the great bird calmly
imagining that
in her world
all of the people
are merely fish.