THEM, AGAIN

They say that you should
never approach or touch
a small bird, lest it he shunned,
perhaps to death, by your scent.

I’ve never been one to listen
to any “them” with whom I
cannot argue face to face,
and so seeing the small

bird on the ground curled
in its nest, staring up
at the branch from which
she parachuted groundward

I scoop her up in cupped
palms, a nested nest, and place
her gently back at her point
of departure, under the eye

of her mother higher up
in the tree, then walk back
as the mother returns
to the nest and child, and

with a sidelong glance
at me, appears to nod,
saying “this is why we dare
not listen to an unseen them.”

ISAN’S I HAVE EXHAUSTED MYSELF 正法眼蔵 四十四

Approach the master
sitting on his seat.
The fool will seek answers
having slept through the lesson
but the wise student will bow
silently and retreat
having learned all there is
and knowing absolutely nothing.


A reflection on Case 44 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (The True Dharma Mind)

AT THE MARGINS

Horizons are the thing
we have they greatest trouble with.
They are omnipresent, immutable
and yet move at our approach.
They are at once inviting
and fear inducing, though now
we are largely convinced they
do not mark the edge of a precipice
over which we would catapult
into some endless abyss
crossing their margin.
As we age we are allowed nearer
and they see less foreboding
though we struggle to keep eyes open
knowing that too soon enough
we will close them finally
and step across into the abyss.