ACUITY

Acuity is such a strange word,
sharp on the tongue and
in meaning, but also a mark
of what once was, what will
never be again, replaced perhaps
by a visual vacuity, comfortable
word, no sharp edges, vague
images floating behind a gauze
seeping slowly into a scrim,
knowing the stage will soon
enough go dark, despite
the ever brighter lighting.
But replaced perhaps by
ever greater auditory acuity,
all edges, cutting sounds
unmuted, fine shades
of gradation, hearing clearly
what you will soon
stumble over yet again.

SEOUL

The Han river, gray to green
hinting at mud, but roiled
this day, is a keloid scar
across the torso of Seoul,
its suture bridges struggling
to hold the halves together.

Soon it will be dark, the Han
then a no-man’s land, separating
the two Seouls, each certain
it is its own whole, neither
looking north to an always
foreboding step-sibling.

FUKE’S BELL SONG 正法眼蔵 二十二

Follow the old fellow
walking over there, he
who cannot see
because it is too bright,
who cannot see
because it is too dark
who cannot see
above himself, below
behind or beside,
but traverses the path
with an unerring foot.

A reflection on Case 22 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)

MARS

Mars has risen in the western sky.

Perhaps it is waiting for the moon
to draw our attention,
but the moon is periodically
irascible, as tonight, and has
chosen to abandon Mars
to the stellar firmament.

Mars has risen in the western sky.

I wander into the dark in search
of the peace that only
night affords, but the horizon
is war and disquiet
and I stumble and repeatedly
fall, and the ground holds me
denying me the sky.

Mars has risen in the western sky.

The plants that have reached
for the sun, and borne
fruit for months
now shrink and wither
under his unrepentant eye,
and I know a cold
foreboding wind will
still blow and I will mourn
the passing of summer,
the season on peace.

Mars has risen in the western sky
and Jupiter watches jealously.

First Published in Cerasus Magazine (UK), Issue 3, 2021

MISSING SONGS

The problem, or one of them, is
the lack of music today. We have
all manner of what people call music,
but not the music of the sort
we need, needed once and found,
as we stormed the bastions
and bastards who mired us in war,
who shunned darker brothers
and sisters, who made alienable
basic rights to half of us without
rhyme or reason, save greed
and fear of loss of status, power.

Where are the songs now,
calling us, you, to regain
the victories, no matter how small
that we won with our sweat
and often our blood, eroded
or taken over time by those
who live in the shadows, who
crawl out in the dark, who
dread the light we would
so willingly shine on them again.

SKYWARD

It was a Thursday in August when he first noticed it. It was an unusually cool day, not the sort you’d expect in the middle of summer, but he knew the weather was ever more unpredictable. He was certain it hadn’t been there the day before, but he was surprised it was still there the day after, albeit ever so slightly larger. When he asked the elders about it, they merely laughed. “It is what you get for suddenly giving him a bedtime after dark,” his father said, “wait until he discovers the stars.”

BETWEEN

Between now and then,
between yesterday to and today,
between night and day,
between birth and death,
between good and evil,
between heaven and hell,
between light and dark,
between joy and sadness,
our lives occur
and we are so
seldom there
to see it happen,
lost in dreams
of what never will be,
never was.

MISTAKE IN SPEAKING 無門關 三十九

When you speak the words
of the Buddha you are lost.
Light is everywhere in silence
but the tongue must hide
in the dark of the mouth.

Buddha’s words are flowers
unfolding in the dawn
by the side of the still pond,
the eyes hear the song
and respond in silent chorus.


A reflection on case 39 of the Mumonkan (The Gateless Gate)

ERATO

Sit down and be silent,
you always want to speak
at the worst possible moment,
whispering incessantly in my ear
when I cannot answer you.
When I call on you, you prefer
to avoid me, playing off
in a corner somewhere
sampling the joys of the day
to be forgotten by nightfall
when I seek to converse.
You take great joy in teasing me
dangling pearls and withdrawing
them at my first grasp, playing
hide and go seek while knowing
all the nooks and crannies.
You prosper in the dark
flitting about, and I can only
feel the breeze as you dash by,
and occasionally touch your skirts
as they brush against by leg.
You are the spoiled child,
petulant, pouting for days
when I chastise you, mocking
when I have little to say to you,
frustrating to the point of distraction
and loved nonetheless.