BUDDHIST RELATIVITY

Now then, he says,
and at once he is again
victim of the confusion
that he spreads in his wake.
She takes him to task again,
but he protests that what
was now is clearly then, now,
and this now, too, is now then,
for each now is gone in the time
it takes to recognize it as now.
Now is always then, he says,
as he quickly walks off
in each of the ten directions.

THE GIRL COMES OUT 無門關 四十二

She sits undisturbed
Shakyamuni by her side.
You can wave at her, she
will pay you no mind.

You cannot grasp her mind
and maintain a hold
on your own, you will grow
deaf from the chatter
but a child can curl
at her feet and she
will stroke his forehead
in perfect Samadhi.


A reflection on Case 42 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate)

TAI YRA MANO MOTINA (THIS IS MY MOTHER)

It’s odd how your stature
has grown as I dream of you
occasionally staring at
your yearbook picture.
It was only four years ago
that I knew you existed, but
hadn’t the faintest idea of who
you were, anything about your life,
why you gave me up, and, therefore
who it was I might have been.
Now you are a selfless icon, caring
more for siblings who needed education,
at the immediate cost of your own,
a child who needed two parents
in a world that frowned deeply
on anything less than a pair.
Someday soon, I will visit your grave,
place a small stone upon your stone,
and a kiss, the closest
I can ever hope, ever dream
to coming to the face of my mother.

LIVING

They sit in a small wine bar
on an out-of-the-way street
in an out-of-the-way city, she
sipping a Oregon Pinot Noir
while he is on his second
Alsatian Pinot Gris.
She asks him if he
ever thinks about death.
He peers into his wine glass,
than at her and smiles
a gentle smile, “I don’t,”
he says, “because I
have died too often already.”
She looks at him quizzically,
“What do you mean?”
“Simply that every moment
spent thinking about death
is a moment of death itself,
for I most certainly
stop living during that
contemplation, and I
prefer life in the moment
to death in the same moment,
because we both know
it will arrive sooner
than we desire or imagine.”

TURNING

He says, “I’ve run out of cheeks,
my own family has used up so many
and there are so few left,
I save them to have one to turn
when someone sincerely and truly atones.”

“I suppose,” she says, “there is
some logic to that.”

“Not at all,” he replies,
“for if someone truly atones,
if the apology is honest and heartfelt
there is no need for a cheek to turn,
the wrong is righted, the wound healed.”

She laughs in agreement, adding,
“You only turn a cheek when
you expect another wound,
and a wise man once said
if they keep hitting you,
get out of the ring.”