PLAYLIST

I realize now just
how old I have gotten,
no laughing any longer

at the old men always
tucking pills into a sorter
neatly marked by day and time,

for I now do my own
weekly, the number of pills
seeming to propogate by month.

I suppose it is time
to begin working in earnest
on the playlist for my funeral.

I’ll be damned if I
will have an organist
and somber melodies

although I may be
damned regardless, but
that is something beyond me.

It will be a long list,
but you can suffer for a bit,
and you know that I will conclude

with my favorite songs
in their full jam band version
by the Grateful Dead.

REDUCTIO AD ABSURDUM

Gertrude Stein said
poetry is vocabulary,
or so Simic reported it,
but in that case
what do we make
of Haiku, where
a poem at maximum
can use only
seventeen words.

Perhaps, if we
follow Levi-Strauss
haiku is not poetry
but art, for all art
is reduction
and there is little
you can do
to reduce
a haiku further.

THE LANGUAGE OF ZEN

The greatest problem
with our language
in the practice of zazen
can seem insurmountable.

We are lovers of tenses,
a dozen to choose from,
one spawning offspring,
time ever important to us.

In zen, on the cushion
there is no past, no future,
perfect or otherwise, nor
our friend the conditional.

We strive to always be
in the moment, there is now
and nothing else, and we
ought to strive to never be tense.

TOSU’S HARMONIZING TEN BODIES 正法眼蔵 三十語

Standing in the ordinary
stare out across
the great gulf searching
for that which is sacred.
It seems to dance
just beyond the edge of vision.
Close your eyes and lift
your right foot,
place it down.
How does it feel
to stand amid
all that is sacred.

A reflection on Case 39 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)

ISAN’S DO NOT BETRAY OTHERS 正法眼蔵 四十七

If you fall, 20,000 arms
will lift you up,
when you sit
10,000 join the Sangha.
If you walk barefoot
in the snow
I will put socks
on my feet for you.
If you hunger, I
will give you an empty bowl
and this will be
our shared dharma.

A reflection on Case 47 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)

ON BEAUTY

As you look at him or her
do you see someone with
a beauty you only wish you had,
or someone you pity
for lacking your beauty?

As they look at you
do they see someone with
a beauty they only wish they had
or someone they pity
for lacking their beauty?

When I look at either of you
I see a person like myself, feel
neither jealousy or pity
for in those emotions
the moment is truly wasted.

CAREER CHOICES

We were certain then that we’d be
a success in life, that we’d drive
the kind of cars our fathers
only dreamed of as our mothers
chuckled about mid-life crises.

They spoke about sons and daughters
of friends who were doctors,
or at least lawyers, bemoaned
those who taught or held jobs
they called manual labor.

But we were going in a whole different
direction, we would eschew medicine,
reject law, for we would be titans
of retail, and one day we would have
too many lemonade stands to count.

An Invitation for the Patriarch

You may wrap yourself
with all of the sutras,
drink dharma with a straw,
look carefully for teachers.

You will drown in the conditions
your breath swallowed
but unending thoughts.

The answers are always within
teacher is student
student is teacher
this moment
only moment.

A reflection on Case 3 of the Book of Equanimity

THE WRITER STUMBLES

Each year
in Pamplona
the bulls begin
their slow descent
down the narrow streets
gaining speed
nostrils flaring
muscle and sinews taut
they forge ahead
a white wave
preceding them
in their mad dash
and each year
there is one,
some years two
who, by slip of foot
or lapse of judgment
meet the horns
of the lead bull
who in disgust
snorts
“this one
is no
Hemingway.”

First published in Defenestration ,Vol XVI Issue 2 August 2019