SCHMUTZ

Looking out the window
I quickly realize that the window
needs cleaning, and then
that the red-shouldered hawk
in the nearby tree is carefully
staring back at me.

I want to know what
the hawk is thinking, perhaps
that I am possible prey, or
more likely wondering why
I am so foolish as to live
in a strangely large box.

The hawk, of course, is
wondering what I am thinking,
how beautiful he is, what
strange flightless beasts
we humans are, or just
perhaps that my window
very badly needs cleaning

APPROACHING NIGHT

Arising into night
the departing sun
tangos away with its cloud,
memories soon forgotten.

Other dancers take the stage,
now a romance, now
a war dance, feathers raised
in prayer to unseen gods.

Night will soon bring
its curtain across this stage,
the avian casts’ final bows taken
the theater will darken, awaiting
another performance,
a new script tomorrow,
but for this solitary moment
of frozen grace, it is we
who write the conversation,
our lines sung by actors who
know only nature’s
unrelenting song.

First Published in Half Hour to Kill, August 2022
https://halfhourtokill.com/home/approaching-night-by-louis-faber

WEBBING

The giant spider in its black shroud
sits irritated in the center of its web
wishing it ever larger, demanding
that others enter, become enthralled
until it defines the parameters
of the universe the spider imagines.

The giant spider silently seethes
at the once gardener who, having
tasted the forbidden fruit,
has closed the screened door
as he reluctantly departed the garden
diminishing the web’s attraction.

The spider dreams of his new world,
knows his old one, the simple web
may be replaced, so he presses on
spinning all his resources in the hope
that others will come to accept
his crafted reality as their own.

FIVE HAIKU

The dawn cedes slowly
to the impinging sunlight
birds greet the new day

The great egret lifts
her wings embracing the cloud
the winter sun smiles

on the barren branch
the red-shouldered hawk awaits
her mate and the sun

sandhill cranes wander
along the shore of the lake
looking for nothing

the moon is a cup
waiting for night to fill it
venus sits empty

JOSHU’S DOG

My teacher once asked me
“what do you have
to say for yourself,” and I
answered “absolutely nothing,”
or did I smile and remain silent?

You assume the teacher would
be upset with the silent student
and in most cases you would
be perfectly correct.

But if this occurred
in a zendo, having nothing
to say is a step toward no-self
and you can be
in that moment,
Joshu’s dog.

A reflection on Case 18 of the Book of Equanimity (従容錄, Shōyōroku)

GET A ROOM

You feel like a voyeur, staring
as the red-shouldered hawks
mate in a tree mere yards
from where you are standing.

Still, you cannot take your eyes
away from them, your camera
tightly focussed, an avian
pornographer perhaps, or maybe

just a lucky soul given the chance
to witness a ritual denied to most,
and you know with luck their offspring
will repeat the show for you next year.

DUSK

There is nothing like, no
words to adequately describe,
that moment when a cloud-
hazed sun lingers wishfully
just above the horizon, grasping
the sky with brilliant talons
of light, fearing becoming
lost in a darkness that will,
on this night of the new moon,
engulf us all in its inky shroud.

We know, or pray, the sun
will return in hours, just
as the sun knows its work
is never done so long as it
has light to give, hoping
that final collapse is eons away.

As it finally settles beyond
sight, we smile, retreat
to the table and consume
our dinner and wine, our
daily companion forgotten
until its dawning return.

TIME WHEN

There waa a time when
news wasn’t news, carried
by mouth, one person
to another a game of telephone
before that concept existed.

Newspapers promised us
the news, but in the time
it took to write and print it,
it was nearly news,
or at worst slightly olds.

Now the world is always
available instantly, but we
know or should, that half
of the time we see only bits
woven into a narrative
that bears no relation
to what actually happened.

THE ANCIENTS

Night and the ancients retreat
to a dark corner of their celestial prison
from the promised arrival
of the yellow dwarf from which
they know we demand a presence.

We ignore the ancients now,
ignore those who cast them
into their prison, ignore
the acts for which they were
banished, care only to name them,
and they know that our recognition
is their only grasp on existence.

Each day their tiny cousin
demands our full attention,
defies us to look deeply at him,
pleased that he is, for us,
the center of our universe.

UMMON’S MOUNT SUMERU

When you ask your teacher
what happens when you
stop thinking, allow
no new thoughts
what you expect him
to tell you?

The dead have no thoughts
but that is not the door
to Nirvana.

But if thoughts abandon you
without your effort, without
being asked to do so,
then the door you seek
will open before you.

A reflection on Case 19 of the Book of Equanimity (従容錄, Shōyōroku)