NANSEN’S HUT

If you have fine china
you will be saddened when it breaks.
If your pantry is full
your anxiety grows
as the food diminishes.

But if you are alone
with nothing, the apple
that falls on the road
is a feast, and the stream
runs free with the finest wine.
The silence of sun and moon
is an orchestra.


A reflection on case 52 of the Iron Flute Koans

THOU SHALT NOT

“I don’t want to”
is hardly a sagacious
way to run a country
and “just because” probably
didn’t work when you
were a child, why
would you think adults
would accept it now?
And when we all
expressed our displeasure,
disdain and contempt,
which part of “no”
did you have trouble
grasping, Mr. President?
The apple may not
fall far from the tree,
but let it sit
on the ground long enough
and the worms will have it.
Ambrose Bierce said diplomacy
is lying for one’s country,
Mr. President,
not lying to it.


First appeared in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press, 2008.

LISTEN UP, ABRAHAM

A commentary on a holy book
suggested snakes
cannot hear one another.
Perhaps their deafness goes
beyond family and species.
It would do much
to explain God’s rejection
of Eve’s proffered excuse
that despite her protestations
and those of Adam
the snake would not
take no for an answer –
a deaf snake, after all
having spoken, has little
to do but move along
to the next monologue.

MORNING, ATTENDANT

Morning would find him sitting
calmly, cross-legged, under the apple tree
that sat on the edge of the park,
staring up at a small branch
and carefully watching the bud
begin to open, ignoring all who passed.

Morning would find him sitting
calmly, cross-legged, under the apple tree
watching the fragile blossom open,
staring at its translucent pinkness,
ignoring all who passed.

Morning would find him sitting
calmly, cross-legged, under the apple tree,
watching the apple blossom dance down
onto his folded hands,
ignoring all who passed.

Morning would find him sitting,
calmly, cross-legged under the apple tree
watching the leaf slide free, falling
to rest on the ground beside him.
He turned to all who passed
and said “Come, watch Buddha with me.”

MORNING

Morning would find him sitting
calmly, cross-legged, under the apple tree
that sat on the edge of the park.
He would stare up at a small branch
and carefully watch the bud
begin to open, ignoring all who passed.
Morning would find him sitting
calmly, cross-legged, under the apple tree
watching the fragile blossom open,
staring at its translucent pinkness,
ignoring all who passed.
Morning would find him sitting
calmly, cross-legged, under the apple tree,
watching the apply blossom dance
onto his folded hands,
ignoring all who passed.
Morning would find him sitting,
calmly, cross-legged under the apple tree
watching the leaves, slide free
and rest on the ground beside him.
He turned to all who passed
and said “Come, watch Buddha with me.”