GULL TIME

Along the river this morning, the gulls
stood on fence stanchions watching
the parade of walkers, runners, bikers
like them ignoring the river, intent
on logging the daily miles, oblivious
to the panorama that lies just beyond
our closely focussed eyes.
The gulls offer a piercing commentary,
and that is something we notice,
and so unlike the Egyptian Geese
of our Florida home, who chatter
incessantly along our walks,
like so many old men sitting
much of the day in Riverside Park
staring out over the Hudson River
trying to clear phlegmy throats.

BORDER

He wants to know why
we draw a distinction
between dreams and what
we like to call reality,
as if the former is
somehow less than real.
We want to laugh at him,
but we listen anyway.
If all my senses end up
in my mind then all
that is real is real
only in my mind.
But my dreams exist
in my mind as well,
so they are just as real
as my daytime reality.
And, he added, with
a smirk, nothing is real
at all, but both dreams
and reality are equally real,
and with that, he
closed his eyes and we
all ceased to exist.

GHOST SITTING

I sat with the ghost again
this morning, the one who inhabits
the body that was once my father.
Ghosts find it difficult to speak
from within living bodies, so mostly
it squeezed my hand and offered
an occasional weak smile or nod,
said I looked good, but ghosts do have
trouble seeing out of human eyes.
He slept quite a bit, curled up
the better to contain himself
against the lights and prodding,
for ghosts want only silence and peace.

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)

THIRD EYE

He’s all of three
but stare into his eyes and they say
I’m so much more, if
you dare go there.
Of course I do.
As we enter the path
to the rock garden
his small hand in mine
I point to the sign, say
do you know what grows
in a rock garden?
He looks, I can see
the faint hint of the knowing smile
He holds his finger to his forehead,
looks up questioningly,
and states clearly and precisely
“weeds” with a following giggle.

CUSHION

He sits on the cushion
staring through hooded eyes
at the wall in front of him.
He expects exactly nothing to happen,
expects there to be no sound
within his mind, only what
happens without, expects that time
will cease for him, or
will at least cease to matter.
He is not disappointed.
The bell rings, he arises,
and walks back into the world
where everything happens,
there is only sound, and
he stares at his watch knowing
time has moved on in ways
he can never hope to fully grasp.