THE NATURAL KEY TO HEAVEN

The hawk sits on a branch
looking up at the sky, knowing
this is perfection, lifting up
chasing a cloud, floating lazily.

The butterfly flits from plant
to plant, tasting the fruits
that nature has given her,
perfection in a single moment.

The cat sleeps on a rocker
the breeze rustling her coat,
until waking for dinner
which appears at her request.

We spend hours searching
for the keys to heaven, hoping
to insure what comes after this
life, but so often not living it.

ETHEREAL

She appeared without notice,
not there, then there, she
half angel, half siren, half mad.

She appeared like Casseopaiea’s
faint shadow taking form,
stepping out of the sudden fog.

She was nymphlike, sylphan,
demanding attention, craving
the eyes of all who passed.

No one spoke to her, whether
out of fear or disinterest and she
grew angry, larger still, until

the full moon was clouded over,
Casseopeia returned to her throne,
and the ethereal one was gone.

UNANSWERED

There are so many questions for which I have never gotten an answer. What, for instance, does one who is lactose intolerant cry over? If the rest is history, can’t we just stop now and read it later? And if every cloud has that silver lining, it has been well seeded, so why isn’t it raining? If you sleep on the left side of the bed, do you always get up on the wrong side? And when I answer your next question, I will start by saying “to be dishonest with you.” What will you do with that, Epimenides?

BANISHED

Yet again this morning
there was a shadow
closely following me.

When I turned, it stood
in front of me, daring me
to do something I guess.

When I asked it who
it was, it said I am you
you dottering old man.

I told it that such a lie
defied belief, for it was
far taller than me.

It was about to speak
when I banished it
and it disapeard.

I smiled up
at the large cloud
blocking the sun.

APPROACHING NIGHT

Arising into night
the departing sun
tangos 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 casts’ final bows taken
the theater will darken, awaiting
another performance,
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
unrelenting song.

First Published in Half Hour to Kill, August 2022
https://halfhourtokill.com/home/approaching-night-by-louis-faber

FIVE HAIKU

The dawn cedes slowly
to the impinging sunlight
birds greet the new day

The great egret lifts
her wings embracing the cloud
the winter sun smiles

on the barren branch
the red-shouldered hawk awaits
her mate and the sun

sandhill cranes wander
along the shore of the lake
looking for nothing

the moon is a cup
waiting for night to fill it
venus sits empty

DUSK

There is nothing like, no
words to adequately describe,
that moment when a cloud-
hazed sun lingers wishfully
just above the horizon, grasping
the sky with brilliant talons
of light, fearing becoming
lost in a darkness that will,
on this night of the new moon,
engulf us all in its inky shroud.

We know, or pray, the sun
will return in hours, just
as the sun knows its work
is never done so long as it
has light to give, hoping
that final collapse is eons away.

As it finally settles beyond
sight, we smile, retreat
to the table and consume
our dinner and wine, our
daily companion forgotten
until its dawning return.

STARS

Once the winter stars
wrapped in their cloudy shroud
shed frozen tears, unwilling
to come out of hiding.
We searched for them in vain,
knowing our failure,
retreating to the warmth
of home, only to repeat
the failed effort on so
many other nights.

Now, here, the winter stars
are usually fearless,
some drowned by the moon,
but she waxes and wanes
and they reappear, the brightest
never fearing the chilled sky.
We stare at them in wonder
having forgotten for so many
years just how beautiful
they can be in their glory.

CATHARTIDAE

They circle slowly
each in its own tier
of a near cloudless sky,
their wings still
as if frozen, riding
the breeze, dipping
and rising, going nowhere,
needing nowhere,
riding, riding, looking
down at the wetland,
and circling, until
with a shift in the breeze
the vulture vortex
shifts east, and you
watch them shrink,
thankful that they
are simply out
for a flight, and not
finding a meal
in the reeds
and trees
where all
the other
birds live.

THE WORLD-HONORED ONE POINTS TO THE EARTH

As you wander around
looking for a place
to build a temple,
looking for eden,
looking for nirvana,
stop and simply sit,
listen to the breeze
teaching you the Dharma,
the clouds chanting
the sutras in a harmony
beyond your hearing.
Look down for you
are in your temple,
sitting in eden
nirvana at your feet.

A reflection on case 4 of the Book of Equanimity Koans