ISAN’S DO NOT BETRAY OTHERS 正法眼蔵 四十七

If you fall, 20,000 arms
will lift you up,
when you sit
10,000 join the Sangha.
If you walk barefoot
in the snow
I will put socks
on my feet for you.
If you hunger, I
will give you an empty bowl
and this will be
our shared dharma.

A reflection on Case 47 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)

GIMME A HUG

It seems odd, as I am not
a hugger by nature,
I love trees and hug
familially but aside
from family, hugging
just is not something
I ever did.

Now, when hugging
is a potential death
sentence if finished
I see many around me
all at a safe distance
and feel a strong desire
to embrace some,
knowing they would
welcome my arms.

When this is over,
when distance is
something we keep
by choice, and hugging
is no longer risky
I will, I am sure,
be a non-hugger again.

PAYMENT IN FULL

On this day I will give the cat a bath.
this involves an elaborate ceremony,
as befits an almost unique occasion.

I awaken at the usual hour, perform
my usual bathroom ritual, to the mirth
of the cat who curls up on the dirty
laundry in the basket in the closet.

I dice the pear, slice the banana,
pluck and carefully rinse the grapes,
then slather on the plain Greek yogurt,
and a large tablespoon of granola.

I carefully peanut butter one and a half
slices of multigrain toast, each with a dollop
of No Sugar Added strawberry jam
and make my cortado, on the foamy side.

It is time, now, for the main event,
and I fill the tub with warm water, pick up
the cat, and soon bandage my bloody arms.

DESHAN’S THIRTY BLOWS正法眼蔵 三十一

If I come before the teacher
he will give me thirty blows.
If I do not come before the teacher
he will give me thirty blows.
It is the same for everyone,
his arms never grow tired
but if I never see my teacher,
I give him thirty blows
and my arms are suddenly heavy.


A reflection on case 31 of The True Dharma Eye (Shobogenzo)

LEGACY

We often believe that the best way
to honor the dead is to praise them.
When my time is gone, do not praise me
for your praise will fall on deadened ears.
If you believe in the power of the word
speak aloud in my name,
if you dare, commit the deed
as you believe I might have done,
if you can, lift up someone else
even though my arms may have been
too weak for the task in my own day.
As I am leaving you a world,
you will soon enough leave one as well,
and if that world is better than mine
for the sake of your efforts
that is all the honor I could hope to imagine.

WORD

If I asked you for one word
how would you answer?
In your dreams, do you have
both arms, can you write
your thoughts on a scrap
of paper and tuck it away?
You had a lover, once,
and he would trace
his finger along your thigh.
Do you miss that touch
as you rub the jagged scar?
Can you taste the lamb
simmered slowly, fragrant,
the sauce dredged
by the crusty bread,
or do you only taste
the hard tack tossed
from the truck?
If they gave you
back your tongue
and I asked you for one word
how would you answer?


First published in “Eureka Literary Magazine, Vol. 5, No. 2,(c) 1997, Eureka College