SIEGAN’S COST OF RICE

How long have you wandered
always searching for the one
answer, the hidden truth
that, when revealed to you,
will show you enlightenment?

Where have you searched
for this one truth, one
that will collapse the past,
present and future into
a single moment of pure
presence which you can grasp
and carry with you through life?

Stop and ask the infant
strapped to his mother’s chest,
for he has the answer
and his silence will speak
of it if only you will listen.

A reflection on case 5 of the Book of Equanimity Koans

FORWARD

As a child I was quite fond
of staring into the future
for hours on end, when
my parents told me
to get my head out of books
and go outside to play.

I never could see much
in my staring, thought
I was probably myopic
but my parents said I
couldn’t need glasses, they
cost far too much
for someone my age.

I realize now, now that
that future is mostly
my past, that I wouldn’t
have understood anything
I might have seen, had
I ever seen anything at all.

THE GRADUATE

You really ought to pause
and wonder just how different
the world might be today
if in that crucial moment
things had gone in
a wholly different direction.

A single moment can
set the course for all
of the moments that follow,
a definite future plucked
from an infinite array
of possibilities.

I mean, of course,
that moment when
Mr. McGuire, in the guise
of Walter Brooke turns
to Benjamin Braddock,
for what if he had said
“I want to say just one
word to you: Ecology”
and when asked what
he meant, he would add
“There’s a great future
in ecology. Think about it.”

THE LANGUAGE OF ZEN

The greatest problem
with our language
in the practice of zazen
can seem insurmountable.

We are lovers of tenses,
a dozen to choose from,
one spawning offspring,
time ever important to us.

In zen, on the cushion
there is no past, no future,
perfect or otherwise, nor
our friend the conditional.

We strive to always be
in the moment, there is now
and nothing else, and we
ought to strive to never be tense.

HISTORY

We only see the present as history,
by day history is a matter of minutes,
by night of seconds, years or centuries.

There is no future to be seen, only
imagined, the mind writing a story
that can never be read, never told.

It is only when we close the eyes
that the present truly exists,
independent of the past, free

and the past is merely waves
washing over and around us,
and the mind can find freedom.

THE FIRE THIS TIME

He said he did not want a funeral, certainly did not want to be buried. It would be a waste of wood and metal, and its only purpose would be to enrich the mortician and it is not like he will run out of customers any time in the near future. Not, at least, until he becomes a customer and he doesn’t want to consider that. No, he said, “cremate me and put my ashes in an oversized box for I want a copy of Dante’s Inferno cremated with me. I won’t make Moses’ mistake with the desert. I’ll take a roadmap on my journey.”

DIFFERENT TODAY

The air we breathe is different today,
and we inhale more deeply
with the energy of our youth.

The tears we cry today are not
solely tears of loss and sorrow,
but also of promise and hope.

The wine that we drink today
will be the same as before, but
now sweeter on the tongue.

The sleep that we sleep tonight
will be deep, nightmares banished,
dreaming of a brighter future.

The songs that we sing today
we have sung a thousand times
but on this day the words have meaning.

UMMON’S THREE DAYS 鐵笛倒吹 六十八

What were you doing
three days ago
and what will you do
three days from now.
Are you the same person now
as you were, will be?

While your face in the mirrorKoan
seems much the same
each day you die a bit
each day you are reborn.
A thousand days
a thousand years
a passing moment,
how do they differ?

A reflection on Case 68 of the Iron Flute Koans

FINITE LOOP

As it turns out, life
is an ongoing process of accretion
and deconstruction, of growth
and eventual shrinkage.

I started with 20 teeth
I am told, and got to 32,
only to fall back to 23
thanks to orthodontia and wear.

We start with 270 or more
bones, but we knit that number
down to 206, or in my case under
200, the orthopaedist’s handiwork.

And with time we progress
from diapers and being pushed
around to walking, running,
driving ourselves in many ways,

but in the end, for many of us,
we revert to childhood, but one
where the future is behind us,
and the past is that to which we cling.