RUYGE’S ULTIMATE STAGE 鐵笛倒吹 二十八

If you answer the question
I will ask you another
each more difficult.

If you enter a room
and catalog its contents
there will always be a door
leading to yet another room,
another inventory to be taken
to determine what is there
and what is missing.

It is only when you enter
an empty room,
that you will find all things.

A reflection on Case 28 of the Iron Flute Koans

THE POEM

The poem, all too often,
suffers from a solitariness that
borders on despair, alone
in a world that otherwise offers
no peace or quiet contemplaton.

The poem does not wish this,
it prefers to be the center
of attention in the midst
of all that is happening
at any given moment.

The poem never expected
to have to struggle so much
for even the smallest audience,
and knows it will be a battle
holding attention if it finds one.

The poem knows it has much
to say, that it has seen more
than most eyes could appreciate,
but has no voice, and thus
dies its slow death in silence.

WINTER

As I stare out the window and watch
the snow slowly build on the limbs
of the now barren crab apple, painting
it with a whiteness that bears heavily,
giving the smaller branches a better
view of the ground in which their
fruit of the summer lies buried.

I am forced to wonder if the tree
continues to watch me, if its vision
is clouded by the snowy blanket
in which it wraps itself this day,
and if it does, what must it think
of someone so sedentary when it,
bearing its winter burden can still
dance gently in the morning wind.

ANGELS

He says he cannot believe in angels
because he has never seen one.
I do not believe in his sort of angels, but not
for lack of visual confirmation, rather
that I live in a world that now
is so deeply in need, that an angel
might be our last, best hope, but
the scope of angelic miracles is
not likely wide enough to encompass
the utter disaster which we have created.

I tell him that I do believe in angels,
that I have met several in my life,
and scowl when he laughs so that
he must consider that I am serious,
and then he asks what an angel
looks like, so he will recognize one
when and if he ever sees one.

I advise him that you don’t have
to search all that hard, that you merely
need to be aware, and watch the face
of the baby when you stop and coo
at him or her as they lie in their stroller,
staring up at the always welcoming sky.

ON THIS NIGHT

On this night
he walks silently
into her dream uninvited,
but she is used
to the incursions.
On other nights it
is she who sidles
up to him in the depths
of dreaming, each
slipping away
ahead of dawn.
On rare nights each
enters the dreams
of the other, paths
crossing at
the synaptic border.
On those nights
she looks for him,
he for her, each
grows fearful
the he or she
will be trapped,
alone, when dawn
arrives and the body
gently wakes, she
or he wandering lost
in a familiar
alien reality.

First published in The DIllydoun Review, Issue 1, December 2020 (Current Online Issue – the dillydoun review)

NIGHTLY PRAYERS

My mother always told me to say
my prayers before bed, which was odd
given that she never prayed, and didn’t
as far as we could tell, believe in a deity.

I knew, as my Rabbi taught, that you do not
seek something for yourself in prayer,
and world peace and harmony did not
seem on the horizon despite my entreaties.

Now I kneel, and face the wall before bed,
and listen to the prayers of the birds
in the wetlands, although it is not clear
if it is a deity or the moon to which they pray.

My mother is long buried now, I will join
her eventually, and there is still no peace
in the world, merely violence and poverty,
but the birds have greater faith than I ever did.

WE WERE SPECIAL

We were a special generation,
that’s what they told us, and although
we had no real idea who they were,
we drank the Kool-Aid and believed them.

We got liberal educations, were
smarter than our parents,
and went off to the wars that they
started for us, did enough drugs
to numb the pain of our existence,
and became first class working drones.

Our children are grown now, and they
have been told that they
are a special generation and although
they were skeptical, we convinced them.

Some got liberal educations, most
couldn’t afford that thought,
so we found wars for them to fight,
and drugs to kill the pain of lives
that were and would be nothing special,

and we wondered what they
would someday tell their children.

HEART OF DHARMA

A single snowy egret sits
on the lowest branch of a long
barren tree, where hours from now
a thousand birds will arrive
for still another evening and night.

He stares at me as I am mindfully
vacuuming, watching carefully.

I pause and ask if by chance he
is a Buddha and he lifts his long neck
and peers around in all directions.

I repeat my question, and he
lifts one wing, which I know
to be his way of saying, “I,
like you, am imbued with Buddha
nature, and I with mother
nature as well, and if you doubt me
ask one of the countless
Bodhisattvas who will arrive
in hours to study the Dharma
well into what will be a wet night.

ON LOSSES

By the way, the headstone is lovely,
designed by your niece, it pays tribute
to you as aunt, as sister, as friend.

I do wish it had said mother as well
but I know I’m the one secret you thought
would fit into a corner of the pine box,
buried with you, to be, like you, reclaimed
by the rocky soil of West Virginia.

Little could you have imagined that
a few cc’s of saliva could expose
what you so carefully hid, and you
were helpless to avoid it regardless.

My adoptive father, the second one,
slipped away slowly, dying before death,
under the living eyes of aides and nurses.

You just lived your life your way,
answered to yourself and perhaps God,
and decided it was time to go, needed
no permission, made no farewells,
and in that regard, I am one of the family.