The clouds build slowly, turning the sky from blue to ever darkening shades of gray. He hopes it will rain, rain heavily, as the ground is parched, the wetland a bog, and the birds have moved on in search of water. He watches the build up, the clouds accreting, and he waits for the first drop of water. The clouds begin to dissipate, the sun peeks through widening gaps, and the sky is soon blue again. And in the distance he thinks he hears a voice whispering “you know mother nature is a cranky old broad, right?”
Beside the still pond
dragonflies hover lightly
The Great Egret stares
the still pond returns his stare
dawning sun laughing
Clouds swallow the moon
moorhens chanting their vespers
sleep overtakes us
A dragonfly sits
waiting for us to take wing
gravity says no
Arising into night
the departing sun
tangoes away with its cloud,
memories soon forgotten.
Other dancers take the stage,
now a romance, now
a war dance, feathers raised
in prayer to unseen gods.
Night will soon bring
its curtain across this stage,
the avian cast’s final bows taken
the theatre will darken, awaiting
a new script tomorrow,
but for this solitary moment
of frozen grace, it is we
who write the conversation,
our lines sung by actors who
know only nature’s
Open your mouth
and let your soul flee
on the dance of your departing breath.
Inhale slowly, let
a different soul
find purchase in your lungs.
Both souls are your soul,
neither soul is yours,
but is it the moon
or an obscuring cloud?
A reflection on case 35 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate Koans)
The sun is shining brightly today,
and the sky, with only the odd
passing cloud, is that certain blue.
Do not ask me to describe that certain
blue, but be assured it is not exactly
the blue that you are imagining right now.
Even if I would describe it, in some
infinite detail, your vision of it
would at best be a near approximation.
The gull that swooped in and stole
the crust of bread I overtoasted
this morning knew exactly what the blue was.
Birds generally, and gulls in particular
have deep understanding of blue
that you, my friends, cannot even imagine.
Sit in utter stillness,
turn away from words,
let non-words wash over you,
and give them no hold.
The shadow of the whip
will dance toward you
like a cloudless sky
blue and not blue –
take to hoof and gallop.
A reflection on case 32 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate)
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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)
The moon hid from me last night
in a cloudless sky, and only a week from full,
so we both knew it was there, peeking
for a brief moment from behind
the old oak in the neighbors yard.
It wasn’t the first time the moon
had done this, it will not be the last
either, I am certain, but I do remember
the time in 1970, the heat of San Antonio
in mid-summer more oppressive than usual
and only the old barracks
for the moon to use as hiding place.
Yet it hid, and that night I didn’t mind
Lying in the base hospital, where the nurses
ignored me for the seriously wounded, as they should
reading the orders issued that day transferring me
to the Reserves as my fellow air policemen
in my training squadron were calling home,
most in shock, to announce that their plan
to avoid Vietnam by enlisting would soon
be scattered on the tarmac of Da Nang Air Base.
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
If a thousand objects
are arrayed before you
what will you do,
what do you call them?
A sphere has no edges,
I can reach through a cloud.
Why would I try
to cut a moment in two,
or stuff a cloud in my pocket.