Musicians have a clock
that runs on its own time
and all that is constant
is the beat, in four
They start, they say,
when the music
is ready, never before
and music is fickle:
tonight it wanted to sit
off stage and rest
an hour, another night
it begins precisely
and it ends, always
after the last note
He will be 90 in a few weeks.
He doesn’t think this is possible.
He says he wasn’t supposed
to live this long.
He asks again how old he is.
You’re still 89, I tell him.
He has a relieved look on his face.
Then he smiles at me, says,
that means you are pretty old yourself.
I begrudgingly agree, though only out of necessity.
Two weeks ago he was certain
he was on the verge of death.
Today he says he is fine, says
he heard someone claim to be dying
but can’t imagine who it was.
Perhaps it was in his dreams, he says.
He goes back to watching television intently.
Tomorrow he won’t recall what he watched,
or perhaps that he watched.
But he knows he will be 90 soon,
or something like it.
In my dream last night, I was lost
in a city of mostly dogs, but what was odd
is that they were all standard poodles
who only wanted to lick my hand and cheek.
I tell you this not because the dream
was unusual, it was in fact rather mundane.
I didn’t awaken with a damp face,
and there was no indication I
had been visited by a dog’s tongue.
I tell you this because you must
imagine how truly strange it was
for all of those dogs to meet
but a single human lost in a dream
that they couldn’t hope to comprehend.
We love the flower, more so
if it adopts the brighter shades
of nature’s palette, and even
tolerate the fern, but only if
it truly honors the greens
it is supposed to bear and unfurl.
We save our spite for the fungus
which reaches up to us
with surprising haste, nothing
this day, fully formed tomorrow
as if to suggest a resurrection
from something dark and dank
hidden below the surface.
Still, we turn our back on it,
wish it gone, find it ugly
and never pause to wonder how it
views us in the early light of morning.
If you’ve been paying attention,
you already know that I
have always hated Latin, and not
merely because I never took it, but
because I grew tired of being told
to seize the day. It wasn’t like I
could put a leash on it – time tends
not to remain static, and since it
has no legs, it certainly doesn’t march.
Mostly, it’s all I can do to get through
a day, chasing after it as best I can,
and though I’ll never catch it, I
can follow in its wake, never looking
back or too far forward but never,
ever making haste quickly or otherwise.
The hawks have been circling
more frequently of late,
but in the early autumn laziness
of merely riding the breezes
that seem to pick up in the mornings,
before the midday sun bids them
be calm so it can make its transit.
By afternoon, they tend to roost
high up in the giant pines, peering
down as the flow of people flows
along the paths seeking to grasp
the fading warmth and last blooms
for a few moments longer, and
as evening approaches the hawks
take flight again, knowing the moon
can move the tides, but is powerless
to change the winds which blow
when and where their sky mother chooses.
The search will be endless
the answer at once obvious
and incapable of being found.
You seek direction to it,
certain the right teacher
holds the key
to the critical gate,
inside which all of the Dharma
sits waiting for you.
If the teacher asks you
how many people live
in a distant city you
have never visited,
how will you respond.
The answer is the key and you
already hold it in hand.
A reflection on Case 5 of the Book of Equanimity