DESHAN’S THIRTY BLOWS正法眼蔵 三十一

If I come before the teacher
he will give me thirty blows.
If I do not come before the teacher
he will give me thirty blows.
It is the same for everyone,
his arms never grow tired
but if I never see my teacher,
I give him thirty blows
and my arms are suddenly heavy.


A reflection on case 31 of The True Dharma Eye (Shobogenzo)

VERITAS

Denial grows easier with practice
until you get to the point
were even the existence
absolute proof is little more
than an obstacle to be skirted.
They know it is easy, a facile task
to an audience that wants to believe.
That is the key, for wanting
to believe is enough to make
the false true, and even beginning
to step deeper into the swamp
will not stop them, for even
as the water rises about them
they see what might be
and ignore what is, and
what will be, for a promise believe
is always enough, until it isn’t.

SAY WHAT?

The introductions were relaxed
but complete as befits three people
in a small room, she the linchpin
knowing each of the others, utter strangers
to each other, save in her stories.
The men stared at each other gently
ensuring the other saw only a smile
for the better part of two minutes, basking
in the silence that introductions demand.
“I am really surprised,” the older man said,
“it is truly odd, but you look at absolutely, exactly
like what I imagined the adopted son
of Isadore Myers would look like
not more than 30 seconds ago.”
“It is truly odd,” the younger man replied,
“you look nothing at all like
the man I met in this room
not a second more than a minute ago,
and why, pray tell,
is that woman over there smiling?

BELLY OF THE BEAST

From within the belly of the beast
Sheol is a placid place, removed
from the waves rattling the timbers,

silent of the cries of the men
berating their fate, uncertain
as to the cause of their discomfort.

Let Nineveh burn, lets its people
scatter to the streets, let the King
stare out at the destruction and wonder.

He should need no prophet, no seer,
no interpreter of dreams to know
why all about him lies in ruin.

Inside the belly of the beast
it is warm, and comforting,
a womb from which one

should have no desire to be
cast out upon the land, or to drown
in the swirling waters of the angry sea.

There is only the hunger in the bowels,
and the blackness of a thousand nights,
a blackness darker than the shade

of the tree, which withers in the heat,
of the waters which disappear
before quenching the endless thirst.

Within the belly of the beast
there is no sound, no voice
to draw forth thoughts, no dreams

to disrupt the sleep that will not come,
only the void and the silence
and the cries that echo off baleen walls.

Nineveh lies in ruin, Sodom a pillar
of salt, the walls of Jerusalem lie
a jumble of stones, the oil of the lamp

seeps into the arid ground, and only
the weed springs forth to mark
the graves of the forgetting people.


First Appeared in A Writer’s Choice, Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring 1999

BALANCE

The young man says, “I cannot comprehend
how karma can be balanced.”
The woman laughs, says, “you remember
but I was once a stripper, that I
took off my clothes, and being naked
in the presence of men was nothing,
since to them I wasn’t a person, just
an object of momentary desire, but
that life is behind me, as you know.
But as a healer, my therapies take
me to the strangest places,
like the swingers’ club which
hired me to do massages, and there I
was the only one dressed, they were naked
and I am certain at that moment
karma found almost perfect balance.”
“Now,” he laughed, “I have two
images I will carry in my head forever.”

TOMORROW

Tomorrow I will lie to him
will tell him when he asks,
at least the first ten times he
he does, that she is doing fine,
that she is a tough old bird,
that she’ll outlive us all,
that she’s a Taurus, the bull
and he will remember the end
of their marriage, the Battle
Royal that was the war of divorce,
and he will smile a bit,
and say, “I miss her,” and I
will agree with him.
I do miss her a bit, but even two
and a half years of death have not grown
the size of my missing appreciably.
We will move on to other topics,
will circle back and rerun the tape
for with him every day is a series
of scenes from Groundhog Day, but
in his world, it never snows.