If you ask how
can one find the way
I will take you
into the garden
to look at the roses.
Each rose is
of a different size
and color, but which
is of the right size
and which the right shade?
A reflection on Case 71 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)
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.
We hunted him as a trophy
stag across his fields.
We called him red man,
color of Ares, gods
sacrificed on our altar.
His rivers run with his spirit.
I am white
bereft of color,
barren, a glare,
a dessert stripped of life.
It is I who wears
Cain’s mark, plucked
from the garden
the sweet taste fades.
My lips are dry.
You are black
an amalgam, green
of the grasses in summer field,
orange of sun
singing an ocean,
surf ablaze, blue
of a crystal sky,
purple of robes
of Nubian kings,
brown of the soil
fertile and yielding.
Your eyes see all.
First published in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press, 2008
It is an admittedly odd sign
of my age that I recall clearly
when bathrooms were tiled mostly
in monochrome, black and white,
and it was a mark of quality when
each tile was hexagonal, a hive
of ceramic cells, impenetrable.
Now tiles are square or rectangular,
come in a rainbow of colors, often
intermixed to achieve looks
unimaginable back in my youth,
and walls a painted with any color
you can imagine, not the eighteen shades
of white from which my parents had
the choice for our new house.
But change can be for the better,
and in proof of that you need only
look around and see that bathroom
fixtures are mostly white, occasionally
black, not sickly green or peach,
and, thank the gods, no one has
avocado appliance these days.
He is for it or he is
against it, and if you could
predict the vacillations you
could develop the means
of measuring the flux of sanity.
You could as easily grasp
the water flowing downriver
and by asking select questions
determine the next heavy rain,
but the odds are good
you will be outside when
the deluge begins, and
only its ultimate weight
and duration remain to be felt.
It all comes down to the same
thing, if you could paint the sky
blue, precisely which shade
of blue would you use and why
that one for heaven’s sake?
They sat on the bench in the park
looking out on the small lake,
two ducks swimming slowly in circles.
“Dawn is the most beautiful moment
of the day, the sun chasing the moon
and setting the sky ablaze,
orange, crimson, flame, there
is simply nothing,” he said,
“in the world quite like it.”
“It is that, but it pales compared
to the beauty of dusk
and the setting sun retreating,
the clouds painted by the master
in orchid, fuchsia, and a depth
of pink only the sun and clouds know,”
she replied, “and each day is different.
An old monk walking by bowed,
nodded and softly said, “but look
to the sky on a cloudless night,
see the moon reflect all the sun
has to offer, all the colors
in the spectrum are there if you
only close your eyes and see them.”
Tonight the Higgs boson
and utterly massless
and didn’t decay,
so only the cookies
acted on our teeth
and that decay
will fall within
the Schwarzchild radius
of the sink
with all six flavors
and all their colors.
The light always enters
unseen, knowing without it
nothing can be seen. Light
sees the infinite green pallet
arrayed on a single leaf,
the complex hues of a rainbow
painting the white
wisps of morning clouds,
the blaze red
forehead of the moorhen
patrolling the pond. Light
will always willingly
share its vision
if we are not
too blind to see.