VISIONS

The small child peers through
the bamboo poles of the bridge
as he stares down at a turtle
who stares up at him with equal fascination.
His mother excitedly says, “see the turtle?”
Of course he can see the turtle
but he also sees an Ichthyosaurus
and giant whales and frightening fish.
Later, as she points out an iguana,
he will see the small lizard and all
manner of dinosaurs roaming,
a pterodactyl swooping overhead
mimicking a crow, for pterodactyl
have the same magical power as coyotes.
Tonight he will dream of all these beasts
the amazing lands he visited
while in the living room his mother
will tell his father, “Jonathan saw turtle today,”
for parents can only see with two eyes.

MOTHER

 

I called my mother the other day
and she did not answer, which
she would always do when I called.
The dead, I concluded, no longer
play by the rules they did
when they were still alive.
Of course she will call me soon,
disrupting my sleep, and chastise
me for not trying again.
But she will quickly slip into
reading the list of what
she expects from me, for
either living or dead,
mother’s expectations must
always be met, no matter what.

TIME’S ARROW CURSED

 

He will be 90 in a few weeks.
He doesn’t think this is possible.
He says he wasn’t supposed
to live this long.
He asks again how old he is.
You’re still 89, I tell him.
He has a relieved look on his face.
Then he smiles at me, says,
that means you are pretty old yourself.
I begrudgingly agree, though only out of necessity.
Two weeks ago he was certain
he was on the verge of death.
Today he says he is fine, says
he heard someone claim to be dying
but can’t imagine who it was.
Perhaps it was in his dreams, he says.
He goes back to watching television intently.
Tomorrow he won’t recall what he watched,
or perhaps that he watched.
But he knows he will be 90 soon,
or something like it.

ONCE

It was easier being Buddhist
when I was young, despite
the fact I had no good idea
what Buddhism truly was.
for a child the moment is all
there is, the past so short that
it means nothing, the future something
that will arrive as and when it wishes.
For a child, things will go wrong,
and do so with fair regularity,
but children are also physicists,
and the Lorenz effect guarantees
that it was never really their fault,
and when all else fails, they
simply blame karma.

THE GIRL COMES OUT 無門關 四十二

She sits undisturbed
Shakyamuni by her side.
You can wave at her, she
will pay you no mind.

You cannot grasp her mind
and maintain a hold
on your own, you will grow
deaf from the chatter
but a child can curl
at her feet and she
will stroke his forehead
in perfect Samadhi.


A reflection on Case 42 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate)