FAMILIES USE IT DAILY

If I ask you a
where you are standing
what will you answer?
If I ask you
where I am standing
what will you answer?
If I ask you a
if we are standing
in the same place
and you answer yes
a blow from the stick,
if you answer no
a blow from the stick,
if you answer nothing
a blow from the stick.

A reflection on Case 69 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Charma Eye)

HIMAGAN’S PITCHFORK

If you go in search
of the way, you
may come across a sage.
He will ask you
why you seek it.
If you answer,
he will strike
a deadly blow,
if you do not answer
he will strike
a deadly blow.
Grasp his arms
and carry him
with you.

A reflection on Case 73 of the Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye) Koans

HAVOC

They took up shovels,
pickaxes, bare fingers
to pry up the seedlings,
the saplings just taking
root and the seeds
just planted still watered
by the sweat and tears
of those who lovingly
tilled the brittle soil.

They offered nothing
in return, barren ground
where only anger grew,
fertilized by fear, by
by greed, by blindness.

Will we sit by and watch
as promises wither under
an ever stronger, more
glaring sun, as hopes are
blown away by arid winds,
or will we again return
to the soil, start over,
our faith now perennial.

MARS

Mars has risen in the western sky.

Perhaps it is waiting for the moon
to draw our attention,
but the moon is periodically
irascible, as tonight, and has
chosen to abandon Mars
to the stellar firmament.

Mars has risen in the western sky.

I wander into the dark in search
of the peace that only
night affords, but the horizon
is war and disquiet
and I stumble and repeatedly
fall, and the ground holds me
denying me the sky.

Mars has risen in the western sky.

The plants that have reached
for the sun, and borne
fruit for months
now shrink and wither
under his unrepentant eye,
and I know a cold
foreboding wind will
still blow and I will mourn
the passing of summer,
the season on peace.

Mars has risen in the western sky
and Jupiter watches jealously.

First Published in Cerasus Magazine (UK), Issue 3, 2021

TOKUSAN’S LION 鐵笛倒吹 九十三

 

As you approach
the teacher, close the gate
ahead of you,
for an open one
is no gate at all.

If you ask,
he will open it,
but when he asks
who wishes entry
what do you say,
you are a mere cub.
If you bow to him
expect a gentle blow
from his stick.
Welcome to
your first lesson.


A reflection on Case 93 of the Iron Flute.

MEETING BUDDHA ON THE ROAD

In my dreams last night,
I thought I came across the Buddha
while off wandering somewhere
I could not recognize.
I thought long and hard
about following Linji’s prescription
and killing this Buddha,
but while lost in my contemplation
the Buddha took up his keisaku,
said, “if you cannot follow
the simplest of directions,
if you are that lost in thought
you can never attain buddhahood,”
and with one significant blow
instantly killed my dream
and allowed me to finally see.