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.
It’s the little things,
she says, that bite you,
and while he truly
doesn’t want to believe this,
for it ought to be the big things
that cause the problems,
he knows she is right.
He recalls that a simple thing
like an address everyone
knows is 123 3 X Street is true
for all save the power company
which says it is still 98 Y Street,
although they cannot hope
to explain why this is so.
How many other addresses
for this place are there,
how many things go wrong
because someone wants it
to be this while everyone else assumes that.
So you sit and wait for the power company
to bring light into your world
and warmth into your life
with winter closing in rapidly.
Reality is clearly something to be avoided
to be dressed up in tattery, tied in ribbons,
perfumed, yet its fetid stench
is always lurking in the background
waiting to pierce your nostrils
in an incautious moment until you retch
and bring up the bile that marks
the darker moments of your life,
the kind that lingers in the throat
which no chocolate can erase.
Reality is often ugly, so we ignore it
or hide it behind masks, or offer it
willingly to others, a gift in surfeit.
It sneaks up on you, and sets its hook
periodically, and thrash as you will
the barb only tears through new flesh,
setting itself deeper, intractable.
You and I are dying, as I write,
as you read, an ugly thought
particularly lying in bed
staring into darkness,
no motion or sound from your spouse,
mate, paramour, friend, significant other
or teddy bear, where God
is too busy to respond at the moment
and sleep is perched in the bleachers,
held back by the usher for want
of a ticket stub, content to watch
the game from afar.
I cast ink to paper, an offer of reality
as though the divorce from the words will erase
the little pains and anguishes of our
ever distancing marriage, while
holding vainly onto the warm and sweet,
the far side of the Mobius of reality
(the skunk is at once ugly and soft and caring).
We write of pain, of ugliness, of anger
at terrible lengths, or weave tapestries
of words to cover the flawed, stained walls
of our minds, like so many happy endings,
requisite in the script. Basho
knew only too well that truth of beauty
should be captured in few syllables.
First appeared in Chaminade Literary Review Vols. 16-17 (1995)
Tomorrow will arrive
as each day before it:
it will snow
or not snow, rain
or not rain or be sunny
or perhaps some combination.
At this time tomorrow
darkness will settle in
and the clouds, if there are any
will shroud the moon
if there is any, and, if not
the street light outside
our window will
be lonely yet again.
In the middle of the day
you can not see because
the sun is too bright
and may blind you.
At midnight you stumble
searching for light
for you are blind
in the darkness.
What is it you struggle
so hard to see?
A reflection on case 66 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)