HAIKU

I picked up a book
off the shelf this morning
one hundred haiku

it was like sitting down
a word starved man, tired
of searching for an always
denied sustenance, and here
laid out before me, a repast
of the sweetest grapes,
bits of sugar caressing
a tongue grown used
to the often bitterness
of ill-considered prose.

As midday approached
I knew that this was a meal
to which I’d return.

HOGEN’S DRIP OF WATER 鐵笛倒吹 九十一

What are words
of wisdom
from the mouth
of the ancient ones.
I tell you
these are such words.
You may accept
or reject them
as you will.
Better still, tear
this page from its binding
crumple it
and cast it
to the four winds.
Let it be carried
off in ten directions.

A reflection on case 91 of the Iron Flute Koans

THE RABBI

The old man peers at the yellowing book
then places it on the arm of the chair.
He gives the walker a sad, angry look,
and still struggling, looks up in mocking prayer.
Clutching the book, he limps to the table
and sinks onto the chair, risking a fall
that could reshatter his hip. Unable
to hear, he shouts to his wife, down the hall,
who brings the hearing aid and his glasses.
His eyes glow as the ancient words bring fire
to his voice, arms dance as though his class is
full of young minds that are his to inspire.
He settles into the chair, bent by age
and curses his body, now more a cage.


First published in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008)

FOR THE BIRDS

It is incredibly frustrating that no matter how long I spend in discussion with the egret, he will tell me nothing of his life, of what it is like to be able to perch on long legs, and then take glorious flight. The limpkin will speak endlessly on this topic, but he really has nothing to say of any importance. Still, I’m not giving up hope, for a friend said that he had it on good authority from a passing wood stork that the egret is planning to write a tell all book, once he figures out how to use a computer.

HARYO’S SECRET TRANSMISSION


When you are puzzled by
the words of old masters
you may seek answers
from your teachers.
Will this one or that one know?

The answer cannot come
from the tongue of your teacher,
a shelved book cannot speak
words have no magic.
But all is not lost
for the question
always contains its answer
when the searching stops.


A reflection on Case 22 of the Iron Flute Koans

HISTORY

I took yesterday and pressed it between the pages of my unabridged dictionary. The day began at sunrise and ended just before it became a supplicant, though to what, was not at all apparent. Days can be frustrating when they refuse to allow sufficient margins. I always thought Thursday’s among the best behaved, or at least the most compliant but that’s no longer so. The promise they used to hold out is evanescent now. It doesn’t really matter anyway for when I went to get it today to place it in my book of days, of course it was gone. I won’t look for it, yet one day it will, like so many others turn up amid the page barely preceding histrionics.

HAVING WRIT, MOVED ON

She says she sees
the whole book
in her head
before she kills it
putting pen to paper.
It is there, she says
where it dies
immovable on the page.
I invite the words
onto the page as well
and hope they take a life
of their own
expressing my intentions
if not my thoughts
which evanesce before
they quickly evaporate.