If my mother was here
she would ask me what
I have to say for myself.
Just this once, I
would remain silent,
for there is nothing
that needs saying
and she would be certain
that if there were
she should be the one
to say it, but silence
would drive her mad.
So perhaps it is good
that she is not here,
that she did not ask,
though if there is a heaven
and hell, God or the devil
will need to tell her what
they have to say for themselves,
or they will never, ever
hope to hear the end of it.
You must be home now,
or somewhere you can answer
my call, and the busy signal
or disembodied voice, purporting
to be you can only mean that this
very moment if you are calling me
the busy signal or disembodied voice
purporting to be me is giving you
a momentary frustration rivaling my own.
This must be the state of the world
for otherwise you failure to answer
could mean but one thing, and I
can no more accept the preposterous idea
that you might actually be speaking
to someone else rather than awaiting
my call with bated breath, and
certainly not that you are sleeping,
your phone switched off, never mind
that where you are, it is well past midnight.
When you visit the Southern Mountain
what will you say
of its Northern brother?
Returning northward what words
will best describe the Southern peak?
Answer carefully after much thought
or remain silent, both choices
are yours to select, as both
mountains caress the passing clouds
and reach out for the sun
which neither may grasp.
A reflection on case 42 of the Iron Flute Koans
There is a reason for all things
and therefore there is a reason for this
although we cannot begin to fathom
what that reason could possibly be,
which may be reason enough,
for reason has a twisted soul —
now playful, now angry, now vengeful
in irregular turns without warnings.
The problem with seeking the reason
for things is deeply hidden, and not
as some imagine, that it is difficult; no,
the problem is that the search for the reason
has its own reason needing to be discovered
and so recursively back to the Big Bang
which still, to this day, has
the ultimate undiscovered reason.
Before life there is death,
before death there is life.
In life there is death,
in death there is life,
a worm cut in two,
each half moves,
in each a new worm
or is there one worm.
This I ask you, but
answer or no answer
both are full
of Buddha nature.
A reflection on Case 20 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)
When you are puzzled by
the words of old masters
you may seek answers
from your teachers.
Will this one or that one know?
The answer cannot come
from the tongue of your teacher,
a shelved book cannot speak
words have no magic.
But all is not lost
for the question
always contains its answer
when the searching stops.
A reflection on Case 22 of the Iron Flute Koans
You assume you know the answer,
and wait patiently for the question
which is not forthcoming.
This becomes your dilemma.
You have acquired a catalog
of answers, all awaiting questions
that never come forth.
Of course it isn’t fair, you
know that full well,
but that, too, is an answer that must
await a question for which
there is no questioner, so you must
ask yourself why
you accumulate answers,
and that is one question
for which you have found
absolutely no answers.