NANSEN’S REJECTIONS 鐵笛倒吹 四十四

 

If you come before Master Nansen,
will you come holding the posture
of a monk or a lay person,
and when Nansen turns you away,
how will you exit the room?

Nested hands
and gassho hands –
both are so easily manacled –
why leave the room at all?


A reflection on case 44 of the Iron Flute (Tetteki tōsui 鐵笛倒吹)

THE WATCHER

He stands transfixed
on the bridge,
arms outstretched,
staring at the river
always flowing slowly by below.
He wears a garland of gold,
an inscription in Hebrew,
the holiest of holies,
mocking those
who hold him a man.
Did he peer out
of the corner of his eyes
as they marched them
across the bridge
to the trains
to the camps
from which they
would never return,
never have headstones
in small, ghetto cemeteries,
would be merely names
on a wall of remembrance?
What did he want to say,
what would they not hear,
for surely
he must have known,
in the way a son
knows so much more
than a father imagines.
They are gone,
he remains, forced
to be ever silent,
and the river flows
under the bridge
beneath his ever constant,
mournful gaze.

SEKITO’S GREAT AND SMALL CANON 正法眼蔵 語十三

This wave touches the shore
just as it should,
that wave touches the shore
just as it should.
You may wait
an eternity
for a wave that touches
but not as it should
or you can sit
and let the waves
wash over you.


A reflection on Case 53 of the Shobogenzo (Master Dogen”s True Dharma Eye)

 

 

THIS IS HOW WE MOURN

This is how we mourn:
we don’t berate the clouds for gathering,
nor begrudge the rain’s ultimate descent.
Our tears fall to the earth as well,
and there are moments when we need the gray,
moments when the sun would
be an unwelcomed interloper.
This is how we mourn:
we wipe the walls clean of history,
we whitewash them for they, too,
must be a tachrichim* and when done
we add the names, each lettered carefully,
this a plaster scroll
of those we dare not forget
requiring the perfection
they were denied.
This is how we mourn:
by walking out into the sunfilled sky,
having given them the grave
once denied them
freshly dug into
our souls and memory.


*tachrichim is the traditional white linen Jewish burial shroud.

Written following a visit to the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague, where  the 80,000 names of Czech and Moravian Jews who perished under the Nazis were hand-written on the walls of the synagogue.