SHELVED

They speak of me, never to me,
with terms like breakage, as though
life, mine at least, is a glass bottle
on a shelf with so many others,
and a certain percentage are pre-
assumed to break and be discarded
and no one will bat an eyelash.

To them I am nameless, one of many,
stock in trade, with no provenance,
or at least none they would grant me,
and they question my origins, as though
I may not be worthy enough to even
be considered as future breakage.

I want to remind them that they
invited me here, invited so many others,
that we are here because it was one
place we were going to be allowed,
but they have grown deaf, and blind,
and I must wait until they, too, soon,
are swept from the shelf and
placed in clearance, then discarded.

SEPPO SEES HIS NATURE 鐵笛倒吹 三十四

Do not imagine yourself
Shravaka or Boddhisatva
nor ask the Master
if his reflection is
the fullest moon or bright sun.

Both stick and slap
awaken you
and clear your sight.

The Master’s eyes
are blind to you
and your reflection
can only be seen
by looking within.

A reflection on case 34 of the Iron Flute Koans.

TUESDAY TRUTH: THREE MICE

Good lord, people would you get your facts straight. Yes, there were three of us, but one is now gone. He disappeared one night, though I think the cat got him. But that is as close to accurate as you got. Okay, we were all severely myopic, or I was, and they said they were too. But that is where you went off the rails. We weren’t running after anyone. When you are nearly blind you don’t chase things or people. They are large and don’t watch where they step. And their screams can be deafening. We smelled some fresh bread and went, by nose, to check it out. Didn’t get all that far before we each felt a sudden pain. It was like someone took an axe to our back side. It was all we could do to get away. But the bleeding stopped quickly enough, though the pain lasted for days. And we must take your word it was a carving knife, though it felt serrated to me. And no one was there after she ran from the room, screaming. Thank god home was along the baseboard so we could find our way, since they don’t make miniature white canes for the likes of us. But let’s be clear, no one saw us coming or going, no sightings at all, and that’s the whole story as we lived it.

RADIO DAZE

There was a great deal
I wanted to say, after all
when you end the broadcast career
that spanned forty-three years
you want to be entitled
to a farewell address.
She said, “you’ve been on the air
here for two years, and
reading the news to the blind
once a week for half an hour
hardly constitutes a career.
And as for the three years
you did on the college station,
forty years before this,
I’m surprised even you
can remember anything you said.”
Somewhere in the herbal fog
of memory I knew she was right.

UMMON’S FAMILY TRADITION 鐵笛倒吹 七十一

The greatest teacher
is one who offers nothing
and shouts it silently
once the student has departed.

You cannot know
what the blind man sees
for you cannot see
through his eyes
and the deaf woman
may hear a symphony
in a flower.

When asked what is
your practice
do you answer: life?


A reflection on case 71 of the Iron Flute Koans