HOJU TURNS HIS BACK 鐵笛倒吹 七十二

If a beggar approaches
do you turn away from him.
If a rich man calls to you,
do you receive him openly.
How do you tell them apart?

If a poor thief in fine, stolen silks
stands before you
what do you offer in welcome,
and what for his battered victim
now wearing the thief’s discards.
The fool finds an easy answer,
the wise man awaits the stick.


A reflection on case 72 of the Iron Flute Koans

WHO WILL BE KING?

Tell me what you see, he says,
and be as precise as possible.
I suppose I see exactly what you see,
we are looking at the same thing,
at the same time, so how can it be
any different for me then you?
Are you seeing through my eyes?
He smiles, for if so, I’d like you
to get out of my head immediately,
it is already too crowded in here.
You have a pondering look, you probably
want to know why I would like
you tell me what you see.
See, I have only one working eye
and in the kingdom in which we find ourselves,
that hardly makes me King.

MIND THE GAP

The difference between love
and lust is as thin as the blade
of a fine razor, as broad as
the Rio Grande Canyon outside Taos,
so how can you tell one from the other?
Some will say it is an impossible task
others will take the “I know it when
I see it” route leading nowhere.
There is no easy answer, certainly,
but those who have tasted love
will tell you the difference is
monumental and elemental.
I have wanted a woman deeply,
cared for her, missed her in her absence
but when my love, my lover, is
not here I am incomplete, and
that is an abyss into which I dread falling.

WALKING

Walking on ice is easy, although
you must be careful not to slip
for the fall can be damaging, but
walking on water is impossible
unless you are not you, and he
has returned in your body
which we all find highly unlikely,
although the difference between
you is a simple state of matter.
The question, then, is do you
see any real difference
between the two of you
and if not, he may well smile
as you together disappear
into a thick cloud of steam.

ACROSS

Across the river
running limpid as mercury
the sky is gun-metal gray
and many stand
in the windows
of their small apartments
and stare at buildings
sitting like mausolea.
On this side of the river
running limpid as mercury
the sky is gun-metal gray
and many stand
in the windows
of their small apartments
and stare at buildings
sitting like mausolea.
Tomorrow across the river
the sky will be blue
and a cold sun will shine
and the river
will swallow its reflection.
Tomorrow on this side of the river
the sky will be blue
and a cold sun will shine
and the river
will swallow its reflection.