When the master
calls for a novice
do you answer?
When the inkin
bell is struck
do you begin
or end zazen?
As you follow your breath
when do you leave
your body, and who
returns when you next inhale?
for an answer
that has no question.
Who is the novice now?
A reflection on case 31 of the Iron Flute Koans
I sat with the ghost again
this morning, the one who inhabits
the body that was once my father.
Ghosts find it difficult to speak
from within living bodies, so mostly
it squeezed my hand and offered
an occasional weak smile or nod,
said I looked good, but ghosts do have
trouble seeing out of human eyes.
He slept quite a bit, curled up
the better to contain himself
against the lights and prodding,
for ghosts want only silence and peace.
You sit on your self-hewn throne
and stare fixedly at the night sky
as the clouds gather
and dissipate beneath you.
Do you even recall
why you were cast out
condemned to your cell so vast
and yet infinitely confining?
Does your body remember
the touch of his hand
the crude hunter
who set you aflame
with a white heat
that paled the oven of summer?
What do you imagine
as the tongues of the Persiads
lick across the sky
and disappear into the
ebony holes that lurk
in the corners and behind your eyes.
You move slowly across my world
and only the dawn brings you peace.