-NESS

Last week it was hers
but we felt it ours, and wondered
why her furniture, her life
was impinging on this “our-ness.”
Today it is ours and empty,
and it has a deep sense
of “whose-ness,” where we can
see how easily “ours-ness” might return.
Next week it will be our home
and we will impose our us-ness on it
and it will bend to our will
as we will bend to its,
in the marriage will be complete.

RINZAI’S TITLELESS MAN 鐵笛倒吹 語十七

If you come upon
both beggar and nobleman
see neither wealth or poverty,
smell neither the fine rosewater
or the crying need of a bath,
hear neither the ravings of one
or the philosophy of the other,
taste neither the fine curry
of the moldy bread crust,
feel neither the tattered rag
or the purest silk.

In the mirror of Zen
both men have your face
and there is no one
standing in front of you.


A reflection on case 57 of the Iron Flute Koans.

NO MIND IS THE WAY

If you think about it,
it will suddenly disappear,
if you do not think about it,
it will reappear, but do not
try and understand
for understanding can
only come from
the final surrender
of understanding.
It is the back of your head
in a mirrorless world
which others see
but you can not.


A reflection on case 76 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)

WHERE, EXACTLY?

The one thing that will drive him crazy
is a sign with a star, or square,
or anything that says “You Are Here.”
The one place he has never been,
will never be, is standing on a map.
He admits he may be nearby,
but here is out of the question.
He’s never really sure where he is,
but he is always here, even
if no one else can be.
He would like to go there
sometime, but he knows that even
if he makes the journey when he arrives
he will be still be exactly here,
so why waste the effort.

UNTO TARSHISH

In this place
there is a fatted,
sacrificial silence.
It is the large
Jewish Cemetery
nestling the road
where Maryland
and the District are loosely
stitched together.
It is a small plot
goldenrod dirt
outskirting Lisbon.

This ground is sacred
not for the blessing
of one who
has taken the tallit
of holiness.
The sanctity of this
ground leaches
from the simple pine
boxes that return
with the body
to the soil.

The stones, mostly simple
with neatly incised
Hebrew inscriptions
are all blank
to me, worn
smooth by memory
denied.
I place my ear
carefully to each, wanting
to hear a voice,
a fractured whisper
that will resonate
in the hollow spaces.

I pass by those
with shared names
for if he or she is here
each must share
the isolation
they willed me.
I look
at the faces
of passing mourners —
none resemble
the morning mirror.

I grow tired
of the search, sit
in the paltry shade
of the ricinus plant
knowing we both will
be gone by sundown.


First Appeared in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 29, No. 1, 2005.