EVERYTHING IN ITS PLACE

He captured the stray beams of light
in a small amber bottle
and tucked it into a dark corner
of a shelf in his basement.
He canned a small bit of the sky,
sealed it carefully, placing it
in his pantry, for posterity.
He stored his collection of dawns
in and old cedar chest in the attic
amid moth-eaten blankets.
He had a bookshelf
of genomes, arranged alphabetically
next to Mason jars filled
with the ashes of victims
of each of the genocides
of the last five centuries.
It was the Greek amphora
perched on the mantle
that he most prized,
waiting for the day
when he could look
within it
and bid good morning
to his soul.

A 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)

THE COLOR OF BEAUTY

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.”

IN ABSENCE

The dawn failed to appear this morning.
There was a slight lightening of the sky,
more a change of grayscale shade
that a shift in time-honored by the sun.
The crows seemed to notice, why else
would they stay silent, so unlike
most days when the first rays of sun
were the call to take up the cacophony chorus.
Even the squirrels noticed, and hid in the trees,
knowing this was not a normal day,
but soon emerged when the siren’s call
of nuts outweighed their fear.
We trod on into the park, picking
our way through the piled snow,
cursing winters cruel approach, our path
lit by our fading memory of summer.