MY RABBI (PART 2)

I tell him I am thinking of becoming
a rabbi, someone just like him,
a man who saw so many through
all manner of crises, joyous events.

He sits back in his unsteady chair,
one he refuses to replace, this one
finally broken in, he says with that
gentle smile that melts anger, anxiety.

You would do well at it, I know, he says,
and I will gladly write you a recommendation
but think about this carefully, it is
not the life you might imagine it to be.

But before you decide, he adds,
reaching among a stack of books,
read these, handing me two volumes
that I did not imagine would change my life.

And somewhere, I have my own copies
of Alan Watt’s “Beat Zen, Square Zen and Zen”
and “The Book:On the Taboo Against
Knowing Who You Are?”, and I then knew.

ARRHYTHMIA

Life ought be little more than
arrhythmic motion, a path
we only want to straighten,
to smooth, its natural, necessary
twists and bumps somehow,
for we always see them as
impediments not moments
of joyous indecision where
there are no wrong choices
for each choice unfolds
a new path never trodden,
never imagined or foreseen.

A bird flies to where it needs
to be, but for most that are
not migrating, that place
isn’t known until arrival and
even then, save for nesting,
it is the right place only for
a day, a week, a month
or perhaps only a moment,
for a bird knows only this
moment and this until
there are no more moments.

HIMAGAN’S PITCHFORK

If you go in search
of the way, you
may come across a sage.
He will ask you
why you seek it.
If you answer,
he will strike
a deadly blow,
if you do not answer
he will strike
a deadly blow.
Grasp his arms
and carry him
with you.

A reflection on Case 73 of the Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye) Koans

RETURN

He arrived today
although none saw him coming.
He had been here before,
been quickly ignored,
despite his pleas and prayers,
they twisted his words
to suit their venal desires,
his message forever lost in translation.
They were not ready,
and in their hate fueled world,
they might never be.

BUT

On more than one occasion
someone has come up to me
after an open mic reading
to tell me that they love my work.

I am honored and tell them so
but curious as well, since I
only read two poems, which
hardly counts as my work.

I offer to sell them my book
at a substantial discount,
but they inevitably tell me
“Thanks, but I don’t read poetry.”

GANTO’S SIT STILL

How can I bring
three worlds together?
Sitting still,
deep in silence,
I can carry the mountain
to the shore,
where the sea,
land and sky
merge in perfect
harmony.

A reflection on case 75 of the Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye) Koans

A SIMPLE TASK

You misunderstand me, he said,
I did not ask you to write a poem
about a flower, anyone can do that,
I asked you to write a poem with a flower.

Do not ask me what the poem
will be about, ask the flower, but
first you must learn to speak
the language of the flowers.

If you find this difficult, consult
the sky, it is fluent in almost all
species of plant life, mother to
them at one time or another.

When you have finished, cast it
to the morning breeze, that
it might find purchase somewhere
and sing its song to a new audience.

LUNCH

The pelican has remarkable patience. It doesn’t hurt that he knows how this will play out. It’s pretty much the same, day after day. That’s life on the jetty. Once the crusty old man is done fishing, once he packs up his cart to leave, he will dump his remaining bait fish on the jetty. Or, as the pelican prefers to think of it, the buffet table.