NOTHING, AND LESS

The hardest thing, he said
to his teacher, both sitting
on their mats, is not
not thinking, but what to do
when the thoughts come anyway.
I can’t seem to get rid of them
no matter how hard I try.”
“Do not try to do anything,”
the Sensei said, “for anything
you do introduces another thought,
and soon enough you have an onion
of thoughts to peel, layer by layer.
When a thought comes, look at it
with the mind’s eye, say, with
the mind’s voice, look a thought,
and do nothing more, and before
you know it the thought
will be gone and the next
in line will enter your mind.”

BEGGAR’S TALE

I speak clearly, concisely
in an ancient, long forgotten
tongue that none understand.

I tell my tale, leaving out
nothing, a summoner
in a deaf world, whispering

of coins, pulled from
an empty pocket and cast
at your feet, soundless.

I point to signs, lettered
in my careful hand, without
meaning, cryptic to you

You urge me to trust
in your god even as
you deny me my own

who sits by the gate
wrapped in rags, waiting
to for rain to melt the pillar.

SOZAN’S FOUR DON’TS 鐵笛倒吹 九十二

You may seek to follow
the path of the dove,
for a fool knows many roads.
You may wrap yourself
in fine linen, an infant
wears only his skin
and knows this moment
is already gone.

Think long before you speak
of how to walk
along the path, of where it leads.
The baby says nothing,
will not speak of where
he has been,
where he is going, for to him
there is only here,
and silence
is descriptive enough.


A reflection on Case 92 of The Iron Flute koans.

ARRIGATO, GAZAIMUS

The old man walks slowly
through the opulent lobby
the light of the triple chandeliers
refracted into a thousand spectra
that dance on mirrored walls.
The guard gently touches his elbow
steering him as though he is blind
drunk, while the bellman walks
a step behind, like Charlton Heston
through an invisible sea.
The man wears a shabby sport coat
that was a ghastly green
on the day it was sold
years ago, his sneakers
are from different pairs, linked
only by their once whiteness.
The bellman dashes in front
of the pair, raising his arm
to part the sea of glass encasing
the lobby in a constant chill
from the July furnace of Tokyo.
They exit, pause, a hundred
feet from the doors, and bow gently
one to each other, so many chickens
pecking over seeds of civility.
The guard stands by the door
watching intently as the man
retreats to the welcoming  streets.