Tonight, if all goes well, I will be a monk in a good-sized Buddhist temple. I am hoping it will be in Nara, at Todai-ji perhaps, or Asakusa at Senso-ji, or better still somewhere in Kyoto, although it might well be in the Myanmar jungle or somewhere deep within the Laotian highlands.
One problem with that world is that I have no control over it, which, come to think of it, leaves it like the waking world which has never hewn to my direction.
I’ve had this desire for weeks on end, and I suspect tonight will be no different, and I will spend eight hours sorting files, writing cease and desist letters and trying to convince myself that even that is a form of mindful meditation and abiding kensho will arrive in the next rapid eye movement.
The clouds well up over the foothills casting a gray pall, bearing the angry spirits of the chindi who dance amid the scrub juniper. Brother Serra, was this what you found, wandering along the coast, tending the odd sheep, Indian and whatever else crossed your path?
The blue bird hopping across the dried grasses puffing its grey breastplate and cape sitting back, its long tail feathers a perfect counterbalance. It stares at the oppressing clouds and senses the impending rain. The horses wandering the hill pausing to graze on the sparse green grasses. The roan mare stares at the colt dashing among the trees then returns to her meal, awaiting the onset of evening.
The chindi await the fall of night when they are free to roam and steal other souls. Was your water rite more powerful than the blessing chants? Did you ward off their evil and purify the breeze of the mountains?
When you ask me of the sea, living, as I do, fifteen miles from the nearest ocean, it is not the sandy beaches of Hutchinson Island I recall, nor the crowded sandbox that is Fort Lauderdale’s beach.
If you ask me of the sea, it is perched on the horizon, far in the distance, looking out of the kitchen window, or perhaps that of the library, over the yard, with its deflated soccer ball, the fence, and finally to the Irish Sea, cloud shrouded at the horizon.
This is what Lloyd George saw each day, so it is little wonder eschewed burial in London or even England for this hidden estate in his beloved Ty Newydd in Wales.
First published in Dreich, Issue 10, Autumn 2020 (Scotland)
Of course, she’s sitting there, calmly, staring off onto space. She has to know something is amiss, no one has come to visit her in days, but she knows that whenever, if ever, whatever it is that is happening is finally over, that they will once again return, stare at her, wonder aloud and silently why she is smiling, and she will as always say nothing, for she was once told that it is better always to leave them wanting more.
Tomorrow Paris will count its newest dead, and the hospitals will pray the tide of bodies has been stemmed, or diminished and none of those in the battle will pause and consider DaVinci’s lady imprisoned forever in her sterile room, an eternal prisoner.
First published in Dreich, Issue 20, Autumn 2020 (Scotland)
The Buddha said that any task you do if done mindfully is a sort of meditation. We assume he said it, we’ve been told he did, but no one I know was anywhere near that bodhi tree, so we take it on faith. When it comes to things like chopping large quantities of onions, or roasting coffee beans I totally get it, it does seem like meditation, and deep at that. Walking the dog makes the list, and perhaps convincing the cat to do anything she didn’t think of by out waiting her. I can even accept washing the car or the dishes, but washing the dog is only so on rare occasions and only if I medicate her first, and the cat, forget it. But even Buddha would have to concede that no matter how totally mindful you are, driving anywhere in either Broward or Miami-Dade counties is as far from meditative as opting to commit sepuku with a butter knife.
We were walking around Vienna, Wien, the river cruise boat arriving early, dropped off into the city center, told we had precisely two hours to wander, or we’d make our own way back, and risk missing lunch and the formal tour.
We wandered, following instructions, looking in vain for a café where we could get an Austrian cappuccino, and perhaps a pastry for which the city was famous, even though we swore off deserts, but before noon it could be still breakfast and well within our supposed rules.
After several wrong turns we ended up the Schauflergasse, still searching when we heard the rhythmic clopping of hooves and stepped quickly from the path of the regal white stallions, as they proudly pranced by back to their stables.
We asked the rider in the last rank where we might find a café and pastry, and he shouted back at us, “After seeing us, Vienna has nothing more to offer.
We did find a café shortly after and sharing an order of powidltascherl and sipping our melange, we begged to differ with the Lipizzaner rider.
What I most want to do now, locked in by something unseen, is to wander the streets of cities here, Europe, it hardly matters, and find statues whose plaques are worn away or gone missing, now nameless souls of once lesser fame meriting a bronze or of such ego as donating their own image to the town.
They are forgotten souls, often rightfully so no doubt, but even the forgotten deserve a name merit a history and higher purpose, and I would offer those, with Banksy-like labels, this old bearded man, now Ignatius Fatuus, best remembered for inventing the pyramidal bread pan, where each loaf is uniformly burned on top, and there Shoshanna Chesed, who pointed out that if we were created in God’s image, it is likely God is a woman given the planet’s gender distribution, before the zealots stone her for blasphemy, insuring their own ultimate, eventual ticket to hell.
But perhaps the virus will grow tired of us, mutate, and go after one of the myriads more intelligent species we have not yet foolishly or greedily rendered extinct.
First appeared in The Poet: A New World, Autumn 2020
There was a time, still within memory’s ever more tenuous grasp that I imagined myself, at this age, as a monk in a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, that I had assumed a silence imposed by lack of language, not faith.
I am certain that the Japanese are pleased that I let that dream pass unfulfilled, that I confine my practice to that American form of Zen, softened and gently bleached from its shogun watered roots.
I recall my visits to Senso-ji, Todaii-ji and countless other small temples where I would often find a zafu and sit, but only the youngest monks I met could understand that it was there, among them, that I felt spiritually at home.
The Japanese invented haiku certain that a painting of great beauty could be completed with only a few strokes of the brush.
The Japanese have no word for what we claim is higher order poetry, academic and pedantic are two other English words which easily apply. And the Japanese are hard put to comprehend so much of what we deem experimental, the result, a friend named Yoshi said, of what seems the odd scraps of a dictionary torn apart by an unexpected tornado.
In Tokyo every tree knows that at least four poems lie within it, each awaiting the appropriate season.