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

FLIGHT

He began his trek up the mountain early in the morning to allow time for the ascent and return. He’d planned this carefully, and proceeded slowly so as not to be put off his goal. He smiled as he passed through a low hanging cloud layer, erasing the ground from which he set off on his journey. He plodded on, seeing the summit growing ever, if slowly, closer. He finally reached his goal at the summit, sat and smiled broadly. He had made it. He gazed down, feeling as though he had at last achieved flight. He was one with the sky. A sudden shadow passed over him. He looked up at the eagle circling, mocking him, as if saying this is flight, you poor earthbound creature.

IN MOURNING

I will soon enough be
in mourning for literature
and philosophy for the moment
is approaching when they
will be lost, or I suppose
simply subsumed, swallowed
up in a cloud appearing
momentarily then gone.

The day is rapidly approaching
and if you doubt it
for even a moment, go
to your local library, if
it has not closed, and note
the diminishing number
of books, replaced
by computers, where
everything can be found
while the power is on,
but just try and read there
when a candle is the only light.

“Geography”

People of the mountain
are quiet, some say taciturn
preferring to listen for the cry
of the eagle, wind whistling
its familiar tune through a pass
snow rent from the face
tearing down in a crystalline cloud.

People of the shore
merge with the song
of the waves, feel its tempo
punctuated by the bark
of the whale, the horn
anchored in the harbor,
the tavern disgorging
its nightly catch into the streets.

People of the city
stare at the bleakness
of the stone monolith
torn from the earth
white tipped peaks barren,
and the endless wash
of the sea, licking
at land and retreating
an ill-trained pup
but mostly at the ground
lest it slide from beneath them.

First publshed in Lighthouse Weekly, January 17, 2022
https://www.lighthouseweekly.com/post/geography-and-santa-cruz-wharf-september

FOR RAIN

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?”

WETLAND HAIKU

Beside the still pond
dragonflies hover lightly
senbazuru dawn

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

CONVERSATION

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
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.

SEIJO’S SOUL 無門關 三十語

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)

BLUE ON BLUE

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.