GENDER?

So why, pray tell, does my gender
even matter, it isn’t like we will ever.
meet, and let’s face it, there is
a fluidity now which calls binary
thinking absurd, so we’ll go with
whatever you choose, so long
as you realize I am all about
compassion and relieving
the world’s suffering – thought
that might color your opinion
a bit, good you got the yin of it

And let’s talk about the whole
name thing, I mean, sure, it changes
when you change languages, I’m
okay with that, I guess but if
you are going to use me in Japan
why not use my Japanese name,
I am particularly fond of Kannon,
I’m down with Guanyin, used
that one all over Asia, but seriously
do you really think I want to go
around these days as Avalokiteśvara,
I’m centuries old, so show me
A bit more compassion than that.


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KEYS

He sits, suited in black, with 88
keys at his command,
and we fall silent.
He opens the lock of joy,
the lock of sadness,
the lock of elation,
the lock of tears,
the lock of laughter,
the lock of darkness,
the lock of light,
the lock of surprise,
the lock of compassion,
the lock of love,
and we peer through each door,
unable to enter fully
unable to turn away.
As we walk out, we know
we have tasted Buddha’s promise truth
and we go off in search
of the 63,999 remaining Dharma doors.

The spider wandered around
the corner of the ceiling and wall
of the bathroom, one she called
a daddy longlegs, although most
spiders of my acquaintance have
rather long legs using my proportions
as a basis for comparison, and it was
my task to deal with it.

It was harmless, as are most
of his species, and I searched
for a way to give him and give us
our freedom, here perhaps,
a reality, since it is no colder
without than within, although the birds
in our wetlands might have other
ideas about the spider’s impermanence.

I paused, considered the options,
and knew this koan would not
be answered this day, and I bid
my octoped friend farewell, but
suggested he consider not
trying to bring me into his web.

MOURNING

You never know how the news will arrive
you are just certain of its arrival.
You know it on some level, even as the event
is happening, but that doesn’t blunt
the piercing tip of the blade
that finds the soft spot in you and cuts deeply.
You hoped for a miracle for her, for her son,
her husband, for those who knew her
gentle smile, warm compassion, cutting wit,
when the situation demanded.
She was a friend who would appear
when needed most and slip away
when the need began to dissipate.
The news came today, the hole is fresh
and you can only attempt to fill it with memories,
knowing even as it seems again full
as do so many others as you age,
when you step into it you will plunge
back into the well of loss
and again struggled to find the sun
hiding in a too often darkening sky.

DHARMA GATE

He sits, suited in black, with 88
keys at his command, and we fall silent.
He opens the lock of joy,
the lock of sadness,
the lock of elation,
the lock of tears,
the lock of laughter,
the lock of darkness,
the lock of light,
the lock of surprise,
the lock of compassion,
the lock of love,
and we peer through each door,
unable to enter fairly
unable to turn away.
As we walk out, we know
we have tasted Buddha’s promised truth
and we go off in search
63,999 remaining Dharma doors.

IMPENDING DEPARTURE

I will be going soon
and this is what I would leave you:
I would leave you my dreams
of a world at peace, where compassion
comes as an expectation not a surprise,
a place where the arrival
of the sun is a source of joy
for with it and the rains,
you, no one, will ever want for food,
centers where all can learn
and knowledge, like the universe
which we inhabit will
continue to expand,
but my dreams may
not be gift enough unless we
turn from those who care
to leave no dreams, taking
only for themselves in this moment,
for who tomorrow will always be
someone else’s problem.

HARMONY

Lao Tse, venerable one
you would be pleased
as I sit here
drawing closer
to the center
quested for my Buddhahood
be not seeking it
amid the rain of fire
from the hills
above the blood
congealing in the streets.
I know not to ask
and am unseen
by the child and mother
running through the street
and untouched by
the hail of ammunition
biting at their heels.
I smell the lotus
mixed with the cordite
giving scent to the morning
and in the clouds
see the approach
of understanding.

SATORI

The empty wine bottle
nestling the foot
of the postal box
wants nothing more
that to speak its mind
but it is forsworn
to silence, and stares
into the old Maytag box
tucked in the alley
next to the dumpster.
The bedraggled man
sits against the wall
and debates the meaning
of knowledge with
the Buddha lying
in a fetal ball
on the soggy asphalt.

LETTING GO

Roshi left last week
sitting in the garden
of the Zen Center, there
then not there, as though
he let go his 91 year grasp
knowing somehow, it was
the right moment.
He left so quietly
those around him
did not hear him depart.
Half a lifetime ago I sat
at his feet, unable to frame
the simplest of questions.
Watching my struggle, he smiled,
gently touched my shoulder,
whispered “the only guarantee
we get with life is death –
did you fear your birth?”
Standing under the gray sky
letting go of the flower
it falls on your coffin, Roshi,
you are sensei yet again.

KANNON WAITING

The hermit lives
in the shadow
of the great mountain
listening to the symphony
of the bluebird
and the wild Rose
engulfed by the sky,
the meandering stream
his constant companion.

I live in a city
in a sea of city dwellers
each of us prisoners
marching from cell
to cell, with passing nods
we hear only solitude
and are blind
to the ever shifting clouds.

Kuan Yin sits
in her temple
and whispers to all
who will stop and listen
that you cannot offer
compassion for others
until you granted it
to yourself.