They circle slowly
each in its own tier
of a near cloudless sky,
their wings still
as if frozen, riding
the breeze, dipping
and rising, going nowhere,
needing nowhere,
riding, riding, looking
down at the wetland,
and circling, until
with a shift in the breeze
the vulture vortex
shifts east, and you
watch them shrink,
thankful that they
are simply out
for a flight, and not
finding a meal
in the reeds
and trees
where all
the other
birds live.


If called before the Master
will you walk from east to west
to the Master’s Smile, or 
west to east, to a sudden frown.
Will you approach the Master
bowing with words of gratitude
only to receive a blow of the stick
or seeking instruction in your failure
to an equal blow of the stick.

Ponder this carefully:
what is the answer?
I leave you the stick
to reach a conclusion.

A reflection on Case 50 of the Iron Flute Koans