I have given up on winter,
which is to say that I have
fled its iron grip, but
the memories I have
linger painfully in the rods
the surgeon carefully
screwed onto my spine.
It wasn’t the cold, though it
was far from pleasant,
but the snow that demanded
but also defied being shoveled.
I grudgingly face the job,
moving the snow from walk
and driveway to lawn and street,
and on occasion I’d heed
Buddha’s advice and treat
the exercise as a meditation.
But even then I’d recall
the tale of the monk told
to clear the garden of leaves
before a great master’s visit,
who completed the job
and proudly showed the abbot,
who agreed, but said
there was more thing
needed, and dumped all
of the collected leaves
back on the garden, then
said it perfect, and I knew
the wind and weather
would soon play the abbot’s role.
“There is an art,” the old monk said, his samu-e belted tightly, “to spreading peanut butter. Consider this carefully for it is a matter of gravest importance. Spreading peanut butter requires care just as meditation does. You wouldn’t think so, but try it in your robes and see how unruly your sleeve can be. It is like raking the sand in a dry garden. It seems easy enough to do, but you know how hard it is to ensure that your presence is unseen and unfelt when the job is done.”
We have mastered the art
of making promises,
we can do so without reflection.
We are not certain why God
seems so reticent to join us,
we were created in His image,
we are constantly told, yet
even when we ask, no promises
seem to be forthcoming from heaven.
Some say God is far too busy
to make even simple promises,
for God would have to deliver on them,
without fail, something we
have never quite managed.
Others say promises were what had us
evicted from the Garden and we
still have not learned our lesson,
or so promise the priests and ministers
who assure us our place in heaven
can always be secured for eternity
by a sufficiently large donation.
I just want you to know
that the Old Man set me up,
and I’ll admit that, cagey as I am,
I never saw it coming.
I mean I knew he was capable
of anything, but he always adopted
this holier than thou persona so why
would I imagine He’d do this?
And it wasn’t like He clued
me in on it, how was I to know
that one was somehow different,
and weren’t they the smart ones?
So I take the fall, and you can bet it
will be an eternity of distrust, if not fear
or hatred, and I have to say, the damned
apple wasn’t all that tasty anyway.
tIn the Buddha Hall
autumn daylight filters through
the half closed windows.
In the garden, Kannon stoops
to pick up a fallen leaf.
The first time I heard Mozart,
I swore I was in a biblical garden
and I was content to sit and listen for eternity.
The serpent came along, as they do in such gardens,
as I recall, with the face of Beethoven, though now
I am convinced it was just Mahler trying to pass.
I still stop and eat from the fruit of Mozart on occasion,
but once the food was there for the taking, but
now it has to be purchased, and even here
you pay and never know until you bite into it
just how fresh and juicy it might be.
And lately, so much has been overpowering
that I cannot digest it,
and my growing deafness makes
each purchase agonizing, even though
I know if I went without, I
wouldn’t starve, save for my soul.
She wants to know if I
want to her gloves while planting
so I don’t get dirt deep in my skin
and under my nails.
There is no way I can explain to her
there is a certain joy
in placing my fingers into
the just wet soil, in moving it
with my hands, squeezing
small clods of earth, watching
bits of soil fall away.
It is certainly dirty work
but I know that this
is as close as I can get
to the earth from which I came
without engaging in that
final, eternal intimacy.