THE RITE

It is coming, a little
over a week now and it
will arrive, always too soon,
never ready despite knowing
its precise arrival day and time.

We will be ready, but
only after a scramble, for that
is how it must be, how
it has always been.

And again this year we
will be thankful, as all claim
on this day, but why do so many
forget the giving part of things,
giving to those without,
to those within who lack,
to those who only want
to come within to escape
a without we dare not imagine
for the nightmares and terror
we would suddenly have to feel.

NANSEN AND THE LAND DEITY 鐵笛倒吹 十八

When you come
into this town
we know you are coming,
when you enter
this room we
know you will arrive.
It is only when
we cannot discern
your presence
that your spirit
has truly arrived.
Contemplate this
over a bowl of rice
shared with mountain
and wind.

A reflection on Case 18 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)

Tozan’s Sixty Blows 無門關 十語

When you arrive
only questions, each
a finely honed blade.

Will you parry and dance
avoiding the wounding tip
and perhaps taste the sword

or risk all and counter-
thrust, attack from
ten directions
and willingly receive
sixty blows from the stick
standing in one place.

A reflection on Case 15 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate) Koans

HEART OF DHARMA

A single snowy egret sits
on the lowest branch of a long
barren tree, where hours from now
a thousand birds will arrive
for still another evening and night.

He stares at me as I am mindfully
vacuuming, watching carefully.

I pause and ask if by chance he
is a Buddha and he lifts his long neck
and peers around in all directions.

I repeat my question, and he
lifts one wing, which I know
to be his way of saying, “I,
like you, am imbued with Buddha
nature, and I with mother
nature as well, and if you doubt me
ask one of the countless
Bodhisattvas who will arrive
in hours to study the Dharma
well into what will be a wet night.

ON BEING

They arrive unannounced
often not seen until
they have been among us
and won’t say how
or when they arrived.
Some claim to have seen
their arrival as they
have seen other visitors
visible only to them,
and predict their departure
with a certainty born
of a delusion or a sense
beyond the understanding.
Others say that the
are merely us in masquerade,
it is we who are deluded
for there is no arrival
by an ongoing presence.
I say nothing, for I
am one of them, just
as I am one of us, I am
recently arrived, while
I have long been here
and either you or I
may or may not be deluded.

ROADS

The problem with roads
is that they all must lead
somewhere, and if lucky, with
other theres along the way.

I prefer roads that have
no beginnings or ends,
that go where they will
and change direction on a whim.

On my roads you never
arrive late because there
is no point at which to arrive,
so you are always timely.

Friends laugh when I say this,
say such roads cannot exist
at least until I point out
that life is just such a road.

TEMPUS

He divided time into neat,
well organized segments, each
precisely the equivalent of each other,
some the perfect sum of lessers.
This is how it should be and must be
he thought, and it made things
so much easier for him.
He knew when to arrive, and
always knew precisely what
time it was and would be.
He couldn’t understand why
others couldn’t seem to arrive
on his schedule, never mind
that they had divided time
into neat segments, each
precisely the equivalent of each other
and none the equivalent of
his tidy temporal order.

LEAVING STILL

He never wants to leave this place.
He never wants to leave
wherever he is at that moment.
Moving is the hardest thing
for him, arriving is easy.
She points out that you
cannot arrive here
without leaving there.
He reminds her that
something being easy
is not the same thing
as something being desired.
He can and does arrive, but it
is easy only by comparison
to the greater pain of leaving.
She says, I am leaving now,
but you can join me.
He says I cannot even bear
the pain of that thought.

ONE EVE, NO ADAM

They arrive
ones and twos
accrete
dissolve
reform, swell
the cacophony grows
takes on a joyousness
as they ebb and flow;
the food disappears
the wine
the laughter
draws you in
and you want
only to circulate
but how
with shifting
nuclei
and then
the scheduled end
and hours later
the last slips away
and the space
falls silent
still echoing
what went before.

KENSHO

It will arrive before you know it,
will be gone again
before you realize it was even here.
This is how it is supposed to be,
Even if not how we want it.
We will know it had been there
and that needs to be enough
for we would try and grasp it,
try to contain it, hold it.
But we are a sieve to water,
an hourglass to sand,
and satori would have
no other way.