SOUL MUSIC

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.

INTO THE SOIL

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.

IN THE GARDEN

He imagined what it must have been like
in the garden, before the snake, before
the damned apple, though certainly not
before the missing rib, that was a complete
and utter bore, and yes beauty can be
infinitely boring given half a chance.
But to be blissfully ignorant, without
the burden of knowledge, the taste
of the apple on the tongue, to just
be in the middle of perfection, and be
perfection itself, that had to be something.
But no, there would have been no mirrors,
and who knows if it would have seemed
the least bit beautiful, since there
would have been nothing to compare it to.
Maybe we should honor the snake.

SETTLING

The old, weathered maple
leans into the sun, its trunk
stroking the cobbled cottage
which sits against the foothill.
The square window peers out
over a wildflower garden
as the roof’s peakline
settles comfortably
into old age.
Walking around it I see
the back roof has collapsed
the back wall ever threatening
to return to the earth
of its mountain home.

THIRD EYE

He’s all of three
but stare into his eyes and they say
I’m so much more, if
you dare go there.
Of course I do.
As we enter the path
to the rock garden
his small hand in mine
I point to the sign, say
do you know what grows
in a rock garden?
He looks, I can see
the faint hint of the knowing smile
He holds his finger to his forehead,
looks up questioningly,
and states clearly and precisely
“weeds” with a following giggle.

ISAN’S QUESTION 鐵笛倒吹 二十九

Gather each single leaf
from the stones of the garden
and place it neatly in a bushel.
It will take weeks or months
to gather them all
even if you have windless days,
but this is important work.
When the last leaf is gathered
take up the bushel
and throw the leaves
into the garden,
this is important work.

If you tie a gold ribbon
carefully around your neck
it is nonetheless a leash.


A reflection on case 29 of the Iron Flute (Tetteki Tōsui)