LEAD ME NOT

Strange as it may seem,
I was tempted to consider
Catholicism, not the Roman kind
but that of the breakawy churches
who accept all, gay or straight,
married or divorced, the whole
lot of mankind just because.

They do believe in heaven
which is a good alternative
to the Bardo, and having choices
is a good thing even in death.

I was truly tempted to give
it my all when I realized that
it was problematic, for it had
led me into temptation and that
is something you pray doesn’t happen,
and if I want a conundrum
Buddhism offers me plenty.

HOFUKU’s BLOCKING OF THE EYES

Do not pity the blind man
for he can see much,
and do not be sad for the deaf
for they can hear you.
Your eyes see nothing
your ears do not
discern the quietest sound.
Rest your mind and taste
the peace of blindness
and silence.

A reflection on Case 113 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye) Koans

THREE WORDS ARE MIND

If you stare
at a large stone
and call it a mountain
the ant will agree with you.
If you gaze on a mountain
and call it a stone
there can be no argument.
If I call that tree
a toothpick
clean your teeth carefully.

A reflection on Case 112 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye) Koans

MUSING TOKYO

1

In Asakusa
amid the stalls
of trinkets and swords
why do the gaijin
all speak German,
Italian, Spanish and Swedish
and English is reserved
to a couple if Nisei.

2

In a small laundromat
in Akasaka
an old woman
clucks and shuffles
on wooden sandals
pulling kimonos
from the dryer.
My t-shirts
are still damp.

3

In Shibuya
there is a small
storefront pet shop,
its windows full
of cat ryokan
some with beds
others replete
with toys, balls.
In the largest
a tiger striped Persian
sleeps, her back
to the passing crowds.

4

At Meiji Jingu
I toss my coin
and bow in prayer
hopeful that the gods
speak English.

5

On the Ginza line
a young woman
all in black
carries a carefully
wrapped poster
of John Lennon.
In thirty years
she will look
like Yoko Ono.

First published in Around the World: Landscapes & Cityscapes, Sweetycat Press, 2021

IMMEASUREABLE

The distance between truth
and belief is as small as the width
of a hydrogen atom, yet
as wide as the diameter
of a galaxy of your choice.

You say truth is relative, I
know that it can morph
in the face of circumstance
but that hardly makes
relativity a factor in truth.

You say you believe in truth,
at least as you see it,
and question those who deign
to disagree, at times ignoring
evidence they might offer.

You say none of that matters,
for when the son of God
returns, all will be revealed
and truth will be declared
evidence to the contrary
be damned

ILL SUITED

My father wanted to take
me to buy my first suit, said
he knew a tailor who could
fashion one perfect for
my pending Bar Mitzvah,
a nice wool blend, he said.

Mother about threw a fit.
“Take him to the department
store or even Goodwill,
for God’s sake, he’s only
going to wear it once.”

My father had learned
that some battles are best
left unfought, so he
compromised and we went
to the men’s shop and I wore
that sport coat three times
before outgrowing it, and
donating it to Goodwill.

Nansen’s Reason Is Not the Way 無門關 三十四 

If you see the Buddha
you have certainly gone blind,
if you hear his words
you demonstrate your deafness.

Nansen will grow old,
hearing and vision will fade
and he will sit and shout
in a sun warmed rain.

A reflection on Case 34 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate) Koans

CHRISTMAS

It isn’t my first Christmas
although almost so, that
part of me hidden for half
a century, its twisted discovery
filling a hole that I never
knew existed, yet always knew.

This is the strangest Christmas,
a time of gathering, now
in isolation, only pixels
and prayers on a too flat screen,
and it is hard, in times
of want and suffering, to recall
why we celebrate this day.

A child was born, and now
countless others will be,
and it is only the children
that recall his message, and
truly understand peace.

THE TIE’S LAMENT

I still have the tie
I wore to m grandmother’s
funeral, one I conducted,
but the suit from that day
is long gone, and just as well,
for it would be several sizes
too large for the present me.

I’ve only worn the tie once
since that rainy day in Maryland
and then to a wedding
to balance out the sadness
with a bit of joy, the tie
deserved at least that
for standing with me
in the downpour, urging me
to recite the ancient prayers
as quickly as possible.