MASTER CRAFTSMAN

He waited patiently in the queue
until, after two and one half hours
he approached the battered metal counter.
The young, bored woman, chewing at her gum
asked the usual question, have you
looked hard for work this last week?
I stood in many lines, for hours on end
in my battered old shoes, that is
more work than you can imagine.
Each night I would soak my feet
for hours in the small sink
hoping the swelling would go down.
Each morning I would find another line
or two, if they moved quickly, but
at the end of each they would ask
the same question, what skills do you have
and I would tell them there are
few better than I at standing in lines,
and they would sheepishly smile
and thank me for my patience
and that is why, again this week,
I ask that you stamp my book
so I can stand in the other line
and wait patiently for my check
which I can take to the small bodega
waiting calmly in line to cash it
to buy what canned goods are on sale.
Then I will take my cans
and carefully line them up
on the kitchen counter, and marvel
at how patiently they stand in the queue.


First published in Pearl, Vol. 31, 2002

YAKUSAN’S THIS BUDDHA, THAT BUDDHA

I think
therefore I am.
I think
therefore you are.
You think
therefore I am.
If either of us
stops thinking, does
the other cease to be?
If I see you as Buddha
you are Buddha.
If you see me as Buddha
I can be Buddha,
but if I see myself as Buddha
Buddha and I are
mountains and rivers apart.


A reflection on Case 86 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)

ANSWERS EVERYWHERE

You assume you know the answer,
and wait patiently for the question
which is not forthcoming.
This becomes your dilemma.
You have acquired a catalog
of answers, all awaiting questions
that never come forth.
Of course it isn’t fair, you
know that full well,
but that, too, is an answer that must
await a question for which
there is no questioner, so you must
ask yourself why
you accumulate answers,
and that is one question
for which you have found
absolutely no answers.

ACT IV

He knew he should not have brought the gun. He hated guns,
they served no purpose in his world of words. He wanted to
look at it, to stare at it, really. He thought that if he did so
he might be better able to write about the senselessness
of the world in which he lived, a world he so very much wanted to
change. He had the gun. He knew what he had to do. He
shot a hole in the forehead of the picture of Anton Chekhov
that hung on the wall over his desk.

THERE

She walks with a deliberateness
that bespeaks years
of always knowing what the destination is.
Getting to the destination, she knows
is far less important than having one.
On occasion she would arrive
at her destination and would then
have no option but to immediately select
her next destination, for being
on one place too long was, to her,
a form of living death.
Many thought her a wanderer,
and she was fine with that.
She knew the shortest distance
between two points was a straight line
it was also just the most boring,
and for her it was really all about the trip.