I HAVE NEVER BEEN

six foot four with a full head
of longish brown hair neatly cut

five foot ten as the Air Force
claimed although I never
conformed to their assumption

sitting on the deck of a yacht
trying to decide if it was
sufficiently large enough
to meet my desires

sitting on a beach in Hawaii
my oceanside villa
mere steps away,
the housekeeper beckoning
with a freshly made drink

lying in Arlington Cemetery
my life marked by a simple
white stone marker, name,
religion, and branch of service

But I am here, writing this,
and have no real complaints.

IF ONLY

As I have aged, I hope
I have gotten smarter
or at least more able
to adapt to life’s issues.

But there are still areas
where knowledge fails,
where you cannot hope
to attain what you want.

World peace is one such,
honest politicians another,
and the list could go on
but you get the picture.

The ultimate failure however
is imagining that you can get
Adobe or Microsoft programs
to do what you want and need.

CONVERSATION

If you want a good conversation
birds should be your first choice,
wading birds at the top of the list,
although you still have to be quick
for if you meander they will lose interest.

Animals are to who you should turn
if you need advice on getting through
the omnipresent obstacles life raises
to impede your smooth passage through it,
but note cats tend to be pithy and easily bored.

Cows and horses in the fields
have almost infinite patience, and listen
when others would turn away, but note
that they are easily distracted so it is best
to keep a handful of hay at the ready always.

And, remember to bring your dictionaries
for birds and animals will speak to you
only in their own languages despite the fact
that they fully understand yours, but do not
deign or desire to be thought of as human.

GIMME A HUG

It seems odd, as I am not
a hugger by nature,
I love trees and hug
familially but aside
from family, hugging
just is not something
I ever did.

Now, when hugging
is a potential death
sentence if finished
I see many around me
all at a safe distance
and feel a strong desire
to embrace some,
knowing they would
welcome my arms.

When this is over,
when distance is
something we keep
by choice, and hugging
is no longer risky
I will, I am sure,
be a non-hugger again.

KENSHO

Tonight, if all goes well, I will be
a monk in a good-sized Buddhist temple.
I am hoping it will be in Nara,
at Todai-ji perhaps, or Asakusa
at Senso-ji, or better still somewhere
in Kyoto, although it might well be
in the Myanmar jungle or somewhere
deep within the Laotian highlands.

One problem with that world is
that I have no control over it, which,
come to think of it, leaves it
like the waking world which
has never hewn to my direction.

I’ve had this desire for weeks
on end, and I suspect tonight
will be no different, and I will spend
eight hours sorting files, writing
cease and desist letters and trying
to convince myself that even that
is a form of mindful meditation
and abiding kensho will arrive
in the next rapid eye movement.

IT’S ABOUT TIME

My first inclination, in fact
my strong desire, when he asks me
what time it is, is not to consult
my watch, but to say that we live
in an age of unprecedented uncertainty,
an era of division and incivility,
and days fraught with risk that
each might be the last.

I know he wants to know the hour
and the minute, but if he is late,
the moment wasted in knowing
just how much so merely adds
marginally to the problem.

And if the question lacks
that import to him, then time
is no more than a human construct,
malleable despite our demand
of rigidity, and subject to
the whims of Popes and politicians,
and all the rest of nature
can only marvel at our absurdity.

THE SON

He hangs on the guest room wall,
simply framed in black, adjoining
his more ornate, Cheshire-
cat smiling sister. He isn’t brooding
really, there is just a certain needful
sadness, as he stares out, imagining
how he pictured things would be,
how they were supposed to be,
realizing here, they never were,
never will be, and although there is
no failure, no blame, he wears it
as his personal armor, still
so easily pierced by dreams.

BALANCE

The young man says, “I cannot comprehend
how karma can be balanced.”
The woman laughs, says, “you remember
but I was once a stripper, that I
took off my clothes, and being naked
in the presence of men was nothing,
since to them I wasn’t a person, just
an object of momentary desire, but
that life is behind me, as you know.
But as a healer, my therapies take
me to the strangest places,
like the swingers’ club which
hired me to do massages, and there I
was the only one dressed, they were naked
and I am certain at that moment
karma found almost perfect balance.”
“Now,” he laughed, “I have two
images I will carry in my head forever.”

SLOW STREAM

The river that I imagined,
a torrent of words and images
is little more than a dry trickle,
construction cranes along one shore
hauling away half- and ill-formed thoughts,
leaving only desire and frustration
as a marker of what might have been.
I looked at each bend, hidden from sight
as harboring that epiphany
that I promised myself, and not
further evidence of my own delusion.
We will make port this afternoon
Where I can, at last, offload
my frustration and these shards
of a fantasy now gone to dust.

RHINOCEROS

If I ask you to bring me
an atom of oxygen, where
will you search for it, how
will you isolate it, so that
you have captured
a single atom
that you can bring
in response to my request?
It may take some time
and great effort
to satisfy my desire.
Or you may simply
smile and tell me
to breathe and choose
the atom I wish
from the multitude
you have provided.


A reflection on case 3 of Bring Me the Rhinoceros (koans).