MOST WONDERFUL THING 鐵笛倒吹 六十語

Which is more beautiful,
the fragile flower
or the stone set in the road?
And which is the uglier?
The stone, washed in a stream
may shine like a diamond,
the flower picked
soon withers to dust.

Each contains beauty
each contains ugliness.
When you see this
you may smile
until you feel
the blow of the stick
and your eyes are forced shut
blind for that moment.


A reflection on Case 65 of the Iron Flute Koans

A MEETING OF THIEVES

The squirrel on the lawn stood,
his little eyes boring into me
as I stepped out of the front door.

He threw out his chest, and I
half expected him to beat on it
with his forepaws, a rodent Tarzan.

I, of course, had no choice but
to stare back at him defiantly,
making clear I wasn’t easily cowed.

Finally, I broke the silence, and said
“Let’s be honest for once, we both
know what we are, and we are

very much the same, for you steal
the nuts from my trees as I
steal the beauty of the early dawn.”

“Agreed,” he replied, “and there’s
a very good chance neither of us
will remember where we hid our prize.”

AMONG THE MISSING

We can sit for a time, and speak
of our pains, how they cause us
to stop and look inward while the world
proceeds on it’s axis, in a slow march
through time and space, and we
share the anger and anguish
of our too fallible bodies which
time reclaims in slow progression.

We do not pause and cast eyes
on the egrets, heron and ibis returning
for the night as the retreating sun
paints the clouds in colors known
best to flames consuming all,
to wings flapping as perches are
taken adjusted, as conversations
are continued while night settles
slowly over the preserve, the birds
marvel at how we allow ourselves
to be absent from the simple
beauty of the world that surrounds us.

LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER, NOT

My mother used to say, about
most anything, “Stop, you’ve had your fill.”
It was something she did by rote,
dictated I was certain then, by
some timer buried deep within her
that brought forth the phrase
like the beep of an oven timer
to indicate whenever she was baking
was certain to be just slightly underdone.
I didn’t listen to her, of course,
just paid the lip service of which
children are the acknowledge masters.
I still hear her voice echoing the phase
as i walk through the park each morning
stopping to gaze at whatever new
has come into bloom, the patterns
of the clouds over the hills to the south,
the conversation of the birds
who only think i don’t understand, but i
never get my fill of the beauty before me.

FLAME

He watched as the flame
licked at the lip
of the candle, the wax
slowly conceding and falling
in, forming the cradle
on which the flame danced.
He wondered how something
as simple as a wax cylinder
could have an inherent knowledge
of beauty and simplicity
and yet he stared at it
certain the knowledge was there.
He dared not put out the flame
for he could not deprive
the night of this momentary beauty
when it’s love, the moon
had chosen to retreat leaving the stars
to mock their small, immature brother.

MINDFUL

​I saw the sun
rise this morning
over Mt. Hood, the
glow that announced
to the horizon its approach.
There should be
in the life of every man,
every woman, that moment
when seeing dawn
lift, peel back the shroud
from Mt. Hood causes the sudden
intake of just that much extra breath
that like the sky’s morning flame
we are consumed by the moment.


First Published at Recenter Press Poetry Journal Vol. 2, Fall 2019
http://www.recenterpress.com/issue-two-fall-2019.html

A MORNING PRAYER

My words are carried
on the winter morning wind

echoing off the obsidian mound
and shattering in silver crystals

reflecting the frigid sun.
The barren moon recedes

as my son, the wolf, ravens
devouring knowledge of the world,

listening to the song of the dolphin.
She is a rose, soft petals fluttering

thorns poised to punish a misstep,
dangerous beauty.

He wears the feathers of the owl
staring into the night

fixing stars in their courses
holding gaseous orbs.

He sings to the bear
carrying the world
into its glacial den.


First appeared in Active Muse, Varsha 2019 issue.