GENSHA’S BLANK LETTER 正法眼蔵 四十八

If you wish to find the Way
follow the signs that read
“This Is Not the Path” or
at least some of them.
If you ask me directions
I will hand you a blank sheet
and ask you what
does it contain.
You may say it is void
and you would be correct,
or you may say it
is a thousand dharma texts
and you would be correct.

A reflection on Case 48 of The True Dharma Eye (Shobogenzo)

ANCIENT AMONG ANCIENTS

As we walked slowly through the Forum
the Coliseum receding into the late
afternoon, the Virgins stood patiently
as befits a priestess trained to avoid
the stares of passing men, even tourists
such as we were, the columns staring
down reminding us of our youth

despite the birthdays that we celebrated
with the joy of togetherness, and
the nagging knowledge that we were
another year closer to that moment
we refuse to acknowledge, aware
always of its growing proximity.

We stare back at the Coliseum,
as the sun slides behind its walls,
and as the vendors selling all manner
of items the buyer will regret
in mid-flight home pack up for the day,
I imagine Caesar pausing in thought
then, sneering, turning his thumb down.

CENTER SEAT

My friends have often wondered aloud
why I claim to be most creative when
I am stuck on an airplane for hours.

I have told them that the solitude,
the lack of It is an interesting quirk
of the internet, that birth
and death are disconnected.

Seeking out those born today
I found a long list, the dinosaur
among which is Judy Collins.

That I still remember seeing her
reminds me at once a sense of my youth
and my ever progressing age.

But seek out those who died
on this day, and you hear the strains
of the Slavonic Dance in E minor

or the Sabre Dance from Gayane
but Popes Pius V and Marcellus II
suggest neither of them matter,

Heathens both, they claim, which
brings a deep laugh from Cleaver
and Livingstone, both of who

deny the other, and each says
that only he truly found the black
panther, and I’m thankful to be alive.to distract me,
which includes any airline approved movie,

that allows my creative self to emerge, to
express itself fully without reservation,
a status that being earthbound denies.

Many laugh, uncertain of how creativity
expresses itself, but certain, they
assure me, that my efforts have not

gone unnoticed, that my time spent,
but most importantly my results so well
reflect the surroundings of their creation.

CITIZEN OF . . .

There was a time that now
seems so very long ago, when I
would freely admit, sometimes claim
to be American, if not acknowledging
my time in the Air Force as well.

Those days are gone, as is the place
I knew, now morphed into somewhere
much the same, and entirely unrecognizable,
and I am American by proximity, knowing
my welcome has been worn out for me elsewhere.

It need not, ought not, have been this way,
political seas have long ebbed and flowed,
but I, we, knew we could remain afloat
on our constitutional raft, built to ride out
whatever storms might blow our way.

We know, or have an abiding hope that this,
that he and his band of marauders, will pass
into history, a dark cloud finally pushed aside,
but despite the shortness of his tenure,
I can only nervously wonder what will remain.

BLOSSOM

I remember the cherry trees
along the reflecting pool, though
except in April they mostly reflected
a partially clouded sky promising rain.

Their pinkness was a tone I have
searched for since, and came
closest in Tokyo, jealous of the emperor
and his gardens so carefully tended.

It is that time again, and this year
as in so many past, I will not see
my reflection in the city of my birth,
nor the pink rain that falls slowly

in April’s first strong breeze, I
will not scoop up a handful of pink
and cast it into the sky, only to fall
yet again, to the joy of a nearby child.

I will dream of Tokyo, of the two trees
In a corner of Senso-ji, alight in pink
under the always watchful eye
of Buddha and the smiling jizos.

SWAN DIVE

Its plump, dusty-white feathered body
sits atop the pond like an inverted
iceberg, as the lindens fringing the field
shed their seeds onto the hardened soil.
The swan lumbers across the surface
with no particular urgency or direction
slowed by the entropy of a late August afternoon,
the laughed shouts of children
plunging headlong to dinner,
diverted to bathrooms
for the cursory sprinkling
of unholy water,
the beast drags its haunches
upward
straining against the gravity
of too many
moments pecking the grains
cast at it by the children.
Its head breaks the surface of the pond
and inches downward in through the green
glaze until snatching its target
at the end of the allotted moment,
like the child’s toy with its colored fluid,
it swings back up on its axis,
and inches away, its dive complete.

The young boy climbs gingerly aboard
the rusty metal seat, a lattice of
peeling enamels, telling the years
as rings of trees, and drops the bar
across his lap, a wave to cousins
denying the tingle in his bowels
as the wheel begins its rhythmic
interrupted rotation, and the sky
summer gray, approaches.
The wheel turns slowly,
the cacophony of little girls
rings false against the fading note
of a carousel.
He rocks gently, mindful not to lean
into the baleful eye of the operator,
and glances down counting those
awaiting their moments until
he hears the grating of metal
and he slides to the side,
as his cage
begins to dangle, the bar greased
by the sweated palms of a rider,
and then the shriek of agony
torn loose from somewhere beneath
his riveted eyes
fixed on the asphalt
rushing to break him.
He lifts his arms out
vainly searching
for the genetic memory of flight.
He strikes with the sound of the plastic
barrel striking a pier, his dive complete.

First Appeared in Twilight Ending, May 1999.

ALOFT

He had always imagined covering
his body in feathers.
He knew it wouldn’t make him able
to take flight, but it would, he was certain
grant him a certain lightness
that gravity and daily life denied him.
And he knew that once covered
in his dreams he could soar
free of the restrictions that
his conscious mind imposed on him,
restrictions, he knew, that were
the only reason he wasn’t
even at that moment
peering down at the world
while moving across
the sunlit sky of an autumn afternoon.

WANDER WHY

The path meandered more than he remembered
but he was the first to admit
his memory was never his strongest suit.
It didn’t help that he had consumed
two margaritas at lunch, and even he
didn’t believe the excuse that this was
a slow day for him, still sober at two in the afternoon.
But he wandered the path, for that
is what paths were there for he was certain.
He had no idea where he was going, and realized
that he would have no idea when he got there.
Still he had great faith in mathematics, that
was his training, his brilliance,such as it was,
and he knew that if he merely wandered aimlessly
without thinking, he would eventually cross
his own path, bump into his former self
and they, together, could devise a plan
to find their way precisely they were intended to be.

DIG IT

He started digging early in the morning,
and hoped that by lunch, he’d be well
on his way there, though he wasn’t certain
how he’d get up out of the hole
when lunch rolled around, but need
is a good instructor, so he was sure
he could figure it out easily enough.
It was slower going than he imagined,
slower by several magnitudes.
He knew that would play havoc
with his plans, but he was capable
of adjusting to circumstances, that
was one of his strengths, he knew.
When the day receded, he set the shovel
aside and retreated home, knowing that
he wouldn’t complete the task
for at least another week, and the idea
of having real Chinese food in China
would have to wait, since he had
to be in school every day or miss out
on the First Grade perfect attendance award.