KEMBO’S TRANSMIGRATION 鐵笛倒吹 六十七

Awakening in the morning
when you first see the sun
and the dew resting on the leaf
which eye are you using.
When you stare into the mirror
through what eye do you see,
and what eyes stare back at you.

When you see the deer
lying in the road
which eye do you use.
In a nightmare, when you slip
into the deeper, darker world,
what eye is used then.
When you fade into death
what eye sees your departure.
Think carefully on this
for only one eye can see
the answer lying within.


A reflection on case 67 of the Iron Flute Koans

DEAD OR JUST RESTING?

Some people say religion
is dead, or at least mortally wounded.
In my generation, closer
to death than puberty,
there is some truth to that thought
because God seems a whole lot less
responsive these days, our peers beginning
to fall like lemmings from the cliff.
But the young clearly have found
what has gotten so far away from us,
and they have gone so far
as to personalize God, something
we never dared do for fear of hell
for the wrath of our parents and
loss of use of the car.
Today, even in school and at the mall
their faith is on display
on their smart phone screens,
secretly genuflecting each time
they mention OMG.

HOFUKU’S TEMPLE 鐵笛倒吹 語十一

Standing outside the Temple
there is much to see.
Enter the Temple zendo
prostrate three times before
the golden Buddha
what do you see?
Can you see nothing?
Outside the Temple, Buddha
inside the Temple, Buddha
but only when you see nothing.
Outside the mind, nothing,
inside the mind, nothing.
All Buddha.


A reflection on case 51 of the Iron Flute Koans.

TOZAN’S THREE BASKETS 鐵笛倒吹 四十一

Tozan said
the whole of knowledge
can be expressed
in a single letter.
Hakuun, the great Master
set to writing verse.

You, who hold the brush
with shaking hand,
what will you write
in answer to Tozan.
Think carefully
of each stroke
and imagine
Joshu’s endless smile.


A reflection on case 41 of the Iron Flute Koans

ISAN’S I HAVE EXHAUSTED MYSELF 正法眼蔵 四十四

Approach the master
sitting on his seat.
The fool will seek answers
having slept through the lesson
but the wise student will bow
silently and retreat
having learned all there is
and knowing absolutely nothing.


A reflection on Case 44 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (The True Dharma Mind)

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)

HILLEL AT THE GOLDEN DRAGON

I am honored that this poem was just published in the Fall/Winter Issue of the  Atlanta Review,

I had dinner the other night
with Rav Hillel
in a small Chinese place
just off Mott Street.
I asked him what it was like
in the afterlife, after all the years.
It gets a bit boring, he said,
now that old Shammai
has lost his edge,
just last month
for each Chanukah night
he lit four candles
from the center out
in each direction.
I told him
the steamed pork buns
were beyond belief,
he said try the shrimp dumplings
even better if you eat them
standing on one foot.
I asked him how he spent his days
and he only smiled,
most days I search
for Van Gogh’s ear
though that alte cocker Shammai
says it was Theo’s ear
that Vincent lopped off,
although Vincent wore
a bandage around his head.
It’s really not so bad
he said, there’s even
a lovely sculpture
just inside the garden gate
that bears a striking resemblance
to old Lot’s wife, not that she
was ever capable
of sitting still all that long.
He bid me farewell
and though I looked
for a fiery chariot,
he climbed into
his ’91 Taurus
with the hanging bumper
and rust spots, and drove slowly off.
Thanks for dinner, he shouted,
as I footed the bill yet again.