ONE FLAVOR ZEN

How far must you wander
to taste the pure essence,
hear the pure note,
see deeply into beauty,
smell the first flower of spring,
touch another heart.
Will you grow tired
from standing still
in total silence
contemplating this?

A reflection on Case 65 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (Trud Dharma Eye)

TOO SOON

The leaves will soon begin
their descent from the small tree,
already brown, their beauty
departing before they do so.

They are bilobular, an odd word,
but one that belongs in a poem,
even this one it seems, and it is
their shape that you first notice.

The tree will all to soon be naked,
branches sticking into the air
as if searching for a breath
that refuses to arrive.

But we know that soon after
the small buds will open
and orchid-like flowers will appear
to our all too temporary joy.

SURGERY

Preparing it to undergo
the knife, its core excised,
stem cast aside, sliced
then cut into pieces
I pause to consider that
this pear was once
a blossom, a delicate
white flower, its cranberry
red anthes soon to turn
black, picked carefully,
cradled into a bushel,
by a knowing hand,
washed, and gently
packed for shipment.
For me it was just
plucking it from the bin
at the market, holding
it in the harsh lighting
looking for blemishes,
and then placing it
in the cart, then the bag
hoping it would not
bruise before undergoing
its final surgery.

GOZO AND THE FOURTH ANCESTOR 正法眼蔵 語十一

If you sit
I will bring you a flower
but it will fall.
If you walk
weeds will grow up
between your toes.
Flower, weed and you
are born and die
each feeding
all of the others.

A reflection on case 51 of the Shobogenzo Koans (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)

LAMBERT FIELD

The gravestones, in random shapes line the hill
the morning chill
creeps between them and onto the runway
until washed away
by the spring sun slowly pushing upward
as the jet noise washes the hill unheard

He passed away quietly in his bed
ending his dread
of the cancer slowly engulfing him
his vision dimmed
by the morphine that pulsed through his veins.
He paused to remember the first spring rains.

She selected the plot on the hillside
she would confide
to friends, so that he might see the valley
at long last free,
to see the flowers bloom in early spring,
the land that was his home and he its king.

One summer the caskets were carried out
while the devout
cursed the sacrilege of the master plan
of the madman
who decided that the airport must sit
on the hill, his valley forever split.

The jets rush over the cemetery
February
snows blown across the gravestones in their wake
as one snowflake
melts slowly on the ground, a falling tear
which, unheard, marks another passing year.

First Appeared in Candelabrum Poetry Magazine (UK), April 2002.

ETERNAL SPRING

Spring has arrived, however begrudgingly,
and the young woman pushes
the older woman’s wheelchair
along the paths of the great park.
Neither speaks, but each knows
this could be the last time they do this.
That shared knowledge paints
each flower in a more vibrant hue,
each fallen petal is quickly
but individually mourned for,
its beauty draining back into the soil.
The older woman struggles hard
to fully capture each view for she
knows that it is possible
that it will have to last her an eternity.

First Published in Beautiful in the Eye of the Beholder, Sweetycat Press, 2022

TAIGEN FANS HIMSELF 正法眼蔵 三十二

When a leaf leaves the tree
it falls precisely where it should.
When a flower petal is carried
off on a strong wind it
comes to rest in the proper place.
When you smell the sweet aroma
of next summer’s roses
use the nose you had
before your parents were born.

A reflection on case 32 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (The True Dharma Eye) Koans

THE GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL 鐵笛倒吹 六十九

Standing at the window
looking down on the street
is the passing man enlightened?
Call out this question to him.
If he looks upward and says yes
what do you know of his enlightenment?

Looking at a flower
is it different than its seed.
If you hold a seed in your hand
what can you say of the flower
that may some day appear.


A reflection on Case 69 of the Iron Flute Koans.

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