SOUTHERN MOUNTAIN 鐵笛倒吹 四十二

When you visit the Southern Mountain
what will you say
of its Northern brother?
Returning northward what words
will best describe the Southern peak?

Answer carefully after much thought
or remain silent, both choices
are yours to select, as both
mountains caress the passing clouds
and reach out for the sun
which neither may grasp.


A reflection on case 42 of the Iron Flute Koans.

FUNYO PUNISHES THE SKY 鐵笛倒吹 三十二

If there are no clouds,
punish the sky
with your stick.
If there is no sun
punish the clouds
with your stick.

As you walk the Way
both road and sky
know your stick
with each step.
If you doze
will you strike
yourself with your stick
or grab it away?


A reflection on Case 32 of the Iron Flute Koans.

THE ONE-EYED MAN

He’s heard the expression
“the silence is deafening”
and he could never understand it.
Today they studied his eyes,
he staring into the the equipment,
lights changing and flashing,
they sitting, repeating “Blink.” 
Soon he understood what it was.
to be “blinded by the light”, and while
he waited for his eyes to undilate,
he imagined blindness, and
understood for the first time
in is life how a deaf person
might crave noise of any sort.

CHOSHA’S STOP ILLUSORY THINKING

Before life there is death,
before death there is life.
In life there is death,
in death there is life,
a worm cut in two,
each half moves,
in each a new worm
or is there one worm.
This I ask you, but
answer or no answer
both are full
of Buddha nature.


A reflection on Case 20 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)

REAL TIME

Reality is clearly something to be avoided
to be dressed up in tattery, tied in ribbons,
perfumed, yet its fetid stench
is always lurking in the background
waiting to pierce your nostrils
in an incautious moment until you retch
and bring up the bile that marks
the darker moments of your life,
the kind that lingers in the throat
which no chocolate can erase.
Reality is often ugly, so we ignore it
or hide it behind masks, or offer it
willingly to others, a gift in surfeit.
It sneaks up on you, and sets its hook
periodically, and thrash as you will
the barb only tears through new flesh,
setting itself deeper, intractable.
You and I are dying, as I write,
as you read, an ugly thought
particularly lying in bed
staring into darkness,
no motion or sound from your spouse,
mate, paramour, friend, significant other
or teddy bear, where God
is too busy to respond at the moment
and sleep is perched in the bleachers,
held back by the usher for want
of a ticket stub, content to watch
the game from afar.
I cast ink to paper, an offer of reality
as though the divorce from the words will erase
the little pains and anguishes of our
ever distancing marriage, while
holding vainly onto the warm and sweet,
the far side of the Mobius of reality
(the skunk is at once ugly and soft and caring).
We write of pain, of ugliness, of anger
at terrible lengths, or weave tapestries
of words to cover the flawed, stained walls
of our minds, like so many happy endings,
requisite in the script. Basho
knew only too well that truth of beauty
should be captured in few syllables.


First appeared in Chaminade Literary Review Vols. 16-17 (1995)