JOSHU’S CYPRUS TREE

A young child
does not ask for meaning,
all things are
as they are
until they are not.
The foolishness of age
causes men to stare
in search of meaning
they will never find.
It is the blind man
who will find the diamond.

A reflection on case 119 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye) Koans

OF DREAMS

I am now of an age
where I can no longer remember
what terrors gripped my sons
in their dreams, causing them
to appear beneath our blankets,
I relegated to the bed’s edge.

Perhaps there were none
and I was destined to be
an edge sleeper, the boys
taking advantage as a joke
played out night after night.

I know what dreams now
can rip me from sleep, a
chill beyond that of the A/C
running down my spine like
nightmare sciatica, until I banish
the dream and wait to see
what its replacement offers.

GREATLY EXAGERATED

Many now say the age of great literature
has died, the mortal woiund inflicted
by the advent of the self-correcting
IBM Selecric typewriter, when words
bcame evanescent, as suddenly gone
as when they spilled onto the page.

Others, I count myself among them,
believe the wound was not fatal,
deep certainly, but yet there remains
a faint pulse, ressuscitation possible
with the application of utmost care.
For there forbears florid phrasing
in the forethoughtful flow of the fountain
pen, precious and pure prose and poetry
in the precise point of the Pilot pen.

Perhaps, if you happen upon this
small scrap of scrip, you will
see the possibility in this proposition.

BEARDED

It is growing more common for men
of a certain age, one I have attained,
to grow beards, and that was before
the pandemic made them ubiquitous
among those of the male gender.

I noted this aloud and a young child
smiled at me and said, “of course,
you have to have a beard because
the hair inside your head has to go
somewhere other than your bald head.”

ADAM SMITH BE DAMNED

It is odd to discover
that time obeys the economic
laws of supply and demand
but as I have aged, that
has become ever more clear
as my supply has dwindled,
my demand remains constant
and the value increases accordingly.

That may explain why, now,
I am content to check the scores
and read the stats of my favorite
football or baseball team, getting every bit
as frustrated with their performance
without investing three plus
hours for an hour of action.

This has worked out
quite well, but I am concerned
that they may start winning,
and that I will become another
recidivist looking everywhere
for a Sports Fan Anonymous meeting.

AGING

We live in the cell phone age
and there are hidden advantages
that the young, exchanging
last year’s model for this,
will never fully understand
until they, too, are much older.

With the push of a button,
held in for five seconds,
the phone will go off at night,
and since no one any longer
has a landline, you are assured
that no one will drag you
from sleep to announce
they are able to extend
the warranty on a car you
sold two years ago,
or to say that a friend
or relative has died,
and denying death night hours
is the closest thing
you can do to feel that you
are in control of anything.

TOKUSAN’S ULTIMATE TEACHING 鐵笛倒吹 七十九

If the student asks the teacher
for greater knowledge
he will be met
with a blow from the stick.
If he asks again
the teacher will respond
I have nothing to give you.

Will you recognize
the greatest gift
when it is offered to you
or will you continue
to pursue its shadow.

A reflection on Case 79 of the Iron Flute koans.

GOING HOME

They say you cannot go home
again, although I have never
had occasion to meet them.

I’ve never been one to follow
the dictates of them, unless they
were my parents or spouse, and
in the case of my parents, often
not even when they demanded it,
so I went back to the home
of my childhood, a shockingly
new place as I remembered it,
setting the neighbors astir
as they saw it go up and out.

It, like I, am older now, but
seemed to have borne time
far more harshly than I.

I do sometimes have a gait
to accommodates arthritic knees,
move a bit slower than I
imagine, but the house seemed
to be looking for its cane
knowing it would soon enough
require a walker, and I knew
that while I could go home
I’d be happier if I didn’t.

GRANDCHILD

You more easily remember
the birth of a grandchild
than his or her parent

whether from a memory
sharpened by age
or regular sleep

or by a vision
more acute for knowing
what to look for,

or simply a clinging
tightly to any symbol
of youth denied you.

It may be as well
that grandchildren see
you differently than parents

a hope for a long life
and the possibility of
one day being old

or someone whose mind
more closely resembles
in innocence and simplicity

or simply as adults
whose rules can be ignored
with no real consequence.

FELIS CATUS

She says just think of it,
when the cat is twenty
you’ll be 87 and I’ll be 92.

I never thought of it
quite that way, of the cat
being twenty, I mean.

My cats all died
in their teens, and though
I missed them terribly,

I assumed it was
just their time, just how
long they should live.

I’ve now thought of myself
being 87, and the cat
sitting on my lap

staring into my half
lidded eyes, reminding me
to take my afternoon pills.