AS I RECALL

Like most you believe that
if it is worth remembering you will,
that memory is keyed to some measure
of value and if you forget that value
had diminished without your noticing.
You accept this as a sort of gospel truth
for you cannot recall that you once
rejected this argument out of hand,
for that has slipped way from memory
and lies valueless and withering
on the synaptic scrap heap.
You are certain you had a childhood
but just as certain you were thoughtless
until age three when life came rushing
in remarkable fits and starts
bridged by chasms of nothing
though you fear that some memories
may be slipping into the abyss even
as you deny that possibility.

MINNESOTA

The night fully settles
over northern Minnesota
in the sky grows dark
as the stars make
their reluctant appearance.
Peering through the tall grasses
of the wetlands abutting the road
1000 stars are born
and die in an instant
only to be reborn again
repeatedly, until
they are replaced by
the beetles that accompany
the slowly rising sun.

JOSHU ANSWERS

Yesterday a small dog, walking its master down the block stopped and stared
at you, as you stood on your porch. You stared back at the dog, eyes locked
on each other, while the master fidgeted on the sidewalk, afraid or too bored
to look at either of you. You realized this was just the dog’s way of teaching
his master patience, or perhaps of simply delaying you from what it was
that brought you to your porch that you forgot in engaging the dog. Eventually
the dog dragged its master on, and you returned to the house, having done
nothing but stare at a dog. It was clear in that moment that a dog must
have Buddha nature but yours was deeply in question.

BASHO, REDUX

This poem was recently published in the first issue of a new journal, Punt Volat.  You can find it here:

https://puntvolatlit.com/issues/winter-2019


If Basho were here today,
in this America, at this time,

stop briefly and consider what
he might write, how he would

describe the faces of parents
mourning children gunned down

in random urban violence,
the asylum seeker, praying

at the border for entry, for hope,
the homeless woman curled

in a ball in her cardboard home
in an alley no one visits, no one

sees even in the full light of day,
the school children practicing

active shooter drills, while
learning to recite the alphabet.

sitting zazen, I
see one thousand cranes crying.
Their river bathes me.

YEATS IF ONLY

Cheever was having a bad day,
that much was immediately obvious.
Perhaps it was the two martini’s in town
before lunch, but he says it only made him giddy.
We all know better and by late afternoon
his mood has soured completely, his emotions
have slipped back into turmoil.
He says a few cocktails will cure him,
or at least make him bearable.
He will soon consider AA again,
drinking dry the liquor cabinet in the consideration.
Elsewhere and in another time, Borges reminds us,
an Irish poet, held prisoner in the last days
of the Irish civil war, knows he will be executed
in the morning, and so slips out of the house
that serves as his prison, and into the water
icy, frigid, now hating the Barrow river.
He swims as best he can, promising
that if the river god allows him to live
he will present her with two swans.
He does live, he does place two swans
onto the river the following spring,
and he dreams one day of visiting Coole.

A MOVING MIND 無門關 二十九

Do not be a foolish monk
stare up at the sky
is that could moving?

The leaves dance
on the morning breeze,
is the wind moving?

take a picture of the tree
a moment of time frozen

There is no motion
of the tree, none
of the wind

only the mind moves.


A reflection on Case 29 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate Koans)