ETHEREAL

She appeared without notice,
not there, then there, she
half angel, half siren, half mad.

She appeared like Casseopaiea’s
faint shadow taking form,
stepping out of the sudden fog.

She was nymphlike, sylphan,
demanding attention, craving
the eyes of all who passed.

No one spoke to her, whether
out of fear or disinterest and she
grew angry, larger still, until

the full moon was clouded over,
Casseopeia returned to her throne,
and the ethereal one was gone.

AFOOT, A CITY

As you walk the streets
of a city like New York,
you hear a polyglot of languages,
and closing your eyes you
might have no idea where you were.

Listen carefully, eavesdrop
on conversations, imagine the stories
they are telling, the joys
and heartbreak laid bare before you,
half heard, half filled in
to make the story palatable to you.

Life in the city is life in a wholly
parallel universe, one in which
the characters speak only sound bites
and all meaning is transient
in the ear of the beholder.

GET A ROOM

You feel like a voyeur, staring
as the red-shouldered hawks
mate in a tree mere yards
from where you are standing.

Still, you cannot take your eyes
away from them, your camera
tightly focussed, an avian
pornographer perhaps, or maybe

just a lucky soul given the chance
to witness a ritual denied to most,
and you know with luck their offspring
will repeat the show for you next year.

ROAMING

It is a sign of advancing age
or increasing love and passion
that I no longer imagine
chucking it all and wandering
off of some unplanned journey.

Next flight out please, I
don’t care where it is going,
so long as I have money left
for food and some basic lodging,
no baggage besides my carry on.

Of course today that would
land me in the interrogation
room or whatever TSA
calls it these days, for I must
be a terrorist or crazy person.

So I’ll stay here, visit friends
between visits to doctors,
salve my arthritis, degenerating
spine, failing eyes, and imagine
the places I might have gone.

TOZAN’S TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN 正法眼蔵 四十九

When you are asked
to climb to the top
of the mountain and look
in all directions
and report who you see,
if you see no one, how
will you respond?
Close your eyes
and tell me,
am I still here?

A reflection on case 49 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)

GENSHA’S THREE VEHICLES 正法眼蔵 四十語

Describe this moment
without use of word or sound –
see where you are
with eyes pressed tightly closed,
hear a song with utter silence,
taste the pure mountain air
reach out and touch
that which has no shape
or form, no essence
and you sit
in the middle
of reality.

A reflection on case 45 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)

STARING

She sits demurely on the step
staring off at something.
You want to know what but
her face isn’t saying, her eyes
soft, revealing nothing, her smile
enticing, teasing, and out of grasp.

You want to sit with her, see
what she looks at, what has captured
her thoughts, and there is room
on the step for you to join her,
but you have never met, you
cannot sit next to her, she
there half a century ago, and
you know she will only be
the stuff of dreams one night.

HELLO GOODBYE

When I saw you this morning
I knew instantly that I hadn’t seen you
in more than twenty years,
although it is quite possible we
have never met and today
was the first time my eyes
ever gazed at your face .

I suppose it is lucky that
you did not recognize me
although I don’t think I’ve changed
all that much in twenty years.

I was going to call out your name,
but decided against it in case
you have changed it or, possibly
because you wouldn’t answer
to the name I choose to give you.

It was good seeing you today,
let’s do again in a decade or so.

HOFUKU’s BLOCKING OF THE EYES

Do not pity the blind man
for he can see much,
and do not be sad for the deaf
for they can hear you.
Your eyes see nothing
your ears do not
discern the quietest sound.
Rest your mind and taste
the peace of blindness
and silence.

A reflection on Case 113 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye) Koans

THE WALL

The wall is black granite,

highly polished be an unseen hand

and the fingers of countless thousands

present but each unseen by the others.

At first glance you want to count

the names, but you lack fingers

enough for the task and others

are quickly withdrawn as are their eyes.

You know where the names are,

Willy, who they now call William,

Little Joey, who was so large in your

memory, climbing into the cockpit.

You wonder if things had been different,

if you hadn’t enlisted, chosen

the Air Force, if the Draft Board

anointed you cannon fodder, who

would trace their fingers along

the cold unfeeling stone that has

been washed by untold tears bidding

you farewell or thanks, rarely both.

We have grown so good at wars

we no longer need etched walls,

bronze statues, for before a design

is complete, the next must be begun.

First published in The Parliament Literary Magazine – Issue 5- Masks and Manes