FOOTHILLS

The clouds well up
over the foothills
casting a gray pall,
bearing the angry spirits
of the chindi who dance
amid the scrub juniper.
Brother Serra, was this
what you found, wandering
along the coast, tending
the odd sheep, Indian
and whatever else
crossed your path?

The blue bird
hopping across the dried grasses
puffing its grey breastplate and cape
sitting back, its long tail feathers
a perfect counterbalance.
It stares at the oppressing clouds
and senses the impending rain.
The horses wandering the hill
pausing to graze
on the sparse green grasses.
The roan mare
stares at the colt
dashing among the trees
then returns to her meal,
awaiting the onset of evening.

The chindi await
the fall of night
when they are free to roam
and steal other souls.
Was your water rite
more powerful
than the blessing chants?
Did you ward off their evil
and purify the breeze
of the mountains?

First published in Progenitor, Vol. 55, 2020

HOME, NIGHT

Living in a bamboo grove, she said,
is very much like living in an old house.

Look up at noon, into the canopy
and imagine you see rays of light
piercing the ill-thatched roof.

Listen to the growling winds of autumn
and hear the ghosts of the old house
making their way up creaking stairs.

And when you truly find the silence
imagine the Buddha sitting nearby
the morning breeze his breath
slowly drawing you into the day.

STARING

He liked nothing better
then to sit outside
his small cottage
and stare into the pond
once the blaze on the water
set by the sun was consumed
as fire must always be by water.
As night deepened, he stared
into the sky, seeing the moon
slowly rise, chasing along
the sun’s now deserted path.
He knew the myriad of stars
shared his interest, staring
but he abandoned the sky
as the sun had yet again,
and watched as the voracious pond
slowly consumed the ever
fewer stars, and saw the pond’s
moon take up its liquid
dance to the tune of the night breeze

A MOVING MIND 無門關 二十九

Do not be a foolish monk
stare up at the sky
is that could moving?

The leaves dance
on the morning breeze,
is the wind moving?

take a picture of the tree
a moment of time frozen

There is no motion
of the tree, none
of the wind

only the mind moves.


A reflection on Case 29 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate Koans)

CLARITY

There are those occasional moments
of clarity that appear without warning
and are, as quickly, gone.
We expect them less as we age
and they oblige us by staying away.
Children assume them, and are
rarely surprised, as though
they see them coming, need no warning
and have no expectation
anything will come of them.
Expectations grow proportionally with age
and patience diminishes apace.
The child understands all of this
with the same fascination she has
for a soap bubble, as she watches
each float away on the breeze of time.

RISHO’S POEM 鐵笛倒吹 三十語

Have you been here –
who will know?
The sun and moon
record your journey.

What you release
gathers joyously around you,
what you cling to
flies off on the slightest breeze,
mountain and cloud
enfold each other.
Will you join them?


A reflection on case 35 of the Iron Flute Koans

SETTLING

Settling into perfect
stillness, each of us
in our brown robes
on brown chairs, benches
cushions, note his entry
is somewhere between
the thundering of a forgotten
storm or the garbage trucks
crawling slowly down the street.
His gray-blue shirt and jeans
flash by. He is large
in every dimension,
even his breathing
nice and even
is large, but regular.
No breeze, only a large moth
comes through the open windows
and dances around
the rice paper light shades.
The incense hangs
over the burner on the altar
waiting to be carried into the room.
You return to thoughts
of thoughtlessness
invite ideas to come
and quickly leave.
You grow heavy
sinking into the earth
your weight and his
equally heavy.
The moth grows bored
and slips out the window.


First Published in Recenter Press Poetry Journal Vol. 2, Fall 2019
http://www.recenterpress.com/issue-two-fall-2019.html

SOMETHING

There is something gentle about her,
a softness, as though she arrived
on a gentle breeze, was present before you
felt her on the back of your neck, a smile
that cast your shadow on the snowy walk.
She was often like this, as though knowing
she might be an antidote to the harshness
of winter, and the losses that piled up
as time eroded our lives.
We were never sure of what we should say,
and so often opted for silence, but she
seem to welcome that too, as though it
marked a change from something
we would never fully understand.
We never knew when we might see her,
auburn coat dappled by the sun
but we welcomed the doe, and she us,
and that was always sufficient.