SOZAN’S FALLING AND RISING 正法眼蔵 三十三

When you fall
earth on one side
sky the other.
When you rise,
earth on one side
sky the other.
When there is no falling,
no sky, no earth,
when there is no rising
no earth, no sky.
Sky and earth
do not stand still.

A reflection on Case 33 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye) Koans

CHŌSHA’S RETURNING TO MOUNTAINS

When you see a mountain
why must you climb it
with your eyes.
When you hear
a mighty river why
must you ford it
with your ears,
when you feel the earth
why must you touch
it with your feet?
Are you
not the mountain
does the river run
through you, as you
run through it, are
you not the earth?

A reflection on Case 16 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye) koans.

PRISONER

This morning, I am certain
the earth pulled me down more strongly,
as though gravity needed to reassert itself,
having lost someone in its grip
to the virus, a common complaint
as we stumble through still another year.

I fought it off course, the birds
in the wetland at once admiring
my effort and laughing at what they knew
would ultimately be a futile gesture.

You belong to the earth, they said,
you arose from it, are bound to it
and it is a matter of time before
it reclaims you as it does with all.

It was easier, they added, in ancient days,
when the gods truly cared, for then
you need only sufficiently irritate them
before they would sever your earthy bonds
to serve eternity in a celestial prison.

NANSEN’S NOTHING SPECIAL

Her greeting
is met with silence.
His greeting
is met with silence.
Your touch
is met with greeting.
You want to fly,
curse the Earth
for holding you,
while it is your mind
that is your
only anchor.

A reflection on case 87 of the Shobogenzo, Dogen’s True Dharma Eye Koans

WAITING FOR HEAVEN TO CALL

He says he is waiting patiently
for the arrival of heaven on earth.

He is not sure what that will be like
and the descriptions he has seen
are too fantastical to be believed,
all clouds and angels and music

He is hoping the things he loves
most will be available in heaven,
a good Alfredo sauce and German
chocolate cake, for two, but
heaven should be Starbucks-free,
since he will be able to drink
espresso at any hour, for you have
no need of sleep in heaven.

Until that moment comes, he will
sit for hours in the neighborhood
Starbucks because of its free wifi
and search for the best top ten
lists of ways to avoid hell and where
you can get wifi and
a good decaf espresso.

HEAVEN, ONLY SLIGHTLY OUT OF REACH

God is fixed in the firmament
seen as puppet master by some
patrician uncle, small child
endlessly shifting blocks
in new, transitory universes.
All things recede from a point,
have since the creation
and that point, dimensionless
is God, vast and infinite.
It swings lazily, back, forth
a needle in its cusp tracing
lines in the bed of sand
in constant motion as we
and earth, and all of our
universe spin slowly
around its focus, it swings
lazily back, forth, tracing
an ever-shifting path
marked in displaced sand
ponderous from its fine
steel tendril which rises
to a point without size,
shape, or time, frozen
a singularity from which
all else emanates. God lives, bat-like
on the ceiling of
the San Francisco Science Museum
and the Hayden Planetarium
and countless other buildings
given to science,
omnipresent yet fixed
dimensionless and infinite
always a ladder’s climb
just out of reach.

Published in The Raven’s Perch (August 3, 2020)
https://theravensperch.com/heaven-only-slightly-out-of-reach-by-louis-faber/

IN SEARCH

He’d been searching for ever,
or so often seemed, for no-self,
and he couldn’t fathom why it was so difficult
to attain simple absence, nothing
must be less than something, after all.
He knew, like Sisyphus, he would continue
to search until he succeeded, the gods
of his soul decreed it and you don’t fuck with them.
It was difficult recalling how much time
had been wasted in the search for mirrors
and when he found one, looked, there he was
selfsame, self-filled, and he imagined, selfish.
He took to always carrying a hand mirror
and when he thought he might have found it
he glanced at the polished surface in his hand
and there he’d still be, his endless self
older now, but there, very much still there.
One day, frustration getting the better of him
he wandered deep into a massive forest, hours later
sitting on a fallen trunk, he reached for his mirror, gone.
There was tree and sky and earth, that was all,
as night enveloped everything, even his no-self.

SETTLING

Settling into perfect
stillness, each of us
in our brown robes
on brown chairs, benches
cushions, note his entry
is somewhere between
the thundering of a forgotten
storm or the garbage trucks
crawling slowly down the street.
His gray-blue shirt and jeans
flash by. He is large
in every dimension,
even his breathing
nice and even
is large, but regular.
No breeze, only a large moth
comes through the open windows
and dances around
the rice paper light shades.
The incense hangs
over the burner on the altar
waiting to be carried into the room.
You return to thoughts
of thoughtlessness
invite ideas to come
and quickly leave.
You grow heavy
sinking into the earth
your weight and his
equally heavy.
The moth grows bored
and slips out the window.


First Published in Recenter Press Poetry Journal Vol. 2, Fall 2019
http://www.recenterpress.com/issue-two-fall-2019.html

ROSHI

To arise from the earth
is simple, too fall back
the more difficult, for
that is a journey we all
seem to fear, though
with no arising, there
can be no falling back.
When I finally admitted
that I feared dying and
didn’t want to be drafted
to fight in that war
Roshi asked me if I
feared being born.
“Fear,” he said, “takes
up all of your energy
and there is never
time enough for that.”

CHANGE

They lie in the field uprooted
slowly desicating in the harsh sun,
the fruit they might have borne
trapped in the dying flower, the seed
of another generation denied.
It was not supposed to be like this,
the sun should have fed them,
the soil nourished their souls,
their stalks growing thicker, drawing
ever more life from the earth..
But here they now lie, torn away
left to wither, and we mourn them,
and the loss of what might have been.
The question how we or those like us
could so callously disregard life,
and know that this part of our nature
will never be easily overcome.