IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES

It is all well and good to believe
that you will know it when you find it,
that it will be so obvious you could not miss it.

You’ve been down that road before,
and on several occasions were certain
that you’d found it in her face, or hers,
in her smile, or her laugh, or one
of their soft touches and caresses.

You were wrong each time, a facsimile
at best, an avatar if you wish, so you
are determined to be prepared this time,
for there must be a this time you are certain.

You have read all the best books, consulted
on the internet, careful to sort the wheat
from the chaff, skimmed the cream of the offerings,
and have practiced reading the tea leaves.

You dare not miss it so you maintain a high
level of vigilance and a focus that is not
easily interrupted, ready to spring,
but know that it defies logic, that the mind
is useless in its presence, and that it is
the heart not the head that feels true love.

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.

WHO?

I was looking for you, he said,
and I was looking for myself
she replied, and here we are
and neither of us has succeeded
in our quest, for I have not
found myself, so you cannot find me.
I shall stop looking for you, he said
and perhaps you will appear.
for I am ready if you choose to.
I have found myself, finally,
she replied, but how long
have you been standing there
and what were you doing
since I last saw you?

SEKITO’S ASK THE PILLAR 正法眼蔵 四十一

If you want an answer
do not ask a question –
your answer cannot be mine
nor can mine be yours.
Instead, ask the stone wall,
it has nothing to say
and in its perfect silence
all questions are asked
and all answers are found.


A reflection on Case 41 of the Shobogenzo, Dogen’s True Dharma Eye

FINDING

He was no longer sure
quite where he found it,
or whether it was talisman
or just an amulet, but
he didn’t believe the distinction
really mattered at all.
He carried it with him
everywhere he went,
was sure to put it
ins his pocket each day.
Many said it did nothing
for him, brought him
no better luck, no change
in his circumstances,
but he was quick
to point out how much
worse things might have been
had he never found it.

HUI CH’AO ASKS ABOUT BUDDHA

When you look in the mirror
do you hope to see yourself,
and who is that face that stares back?
If you turn out the light, are you
still there in the mirror, or has
the illusion of you disappeared?
If you crack the mirror, do you
feel the pain of the scar across your face?
You cannot hope to see yourself,
for if you did see you,
you would then cease to be,
and the mirror would stare and see nothing.
You cannot search for the Buddha,
for in looking you make finding impossible.
All this looking and so
very little being: so just be.



A reflection on Case 7 of the Hekiganroku