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)

OLD MONK

The old monk stooped carefully,
gingerly picking each browning leaf
from the dry garden and gently
placing it in the sack he carried.
With each leaf he would increase
his count, always certain that it
fully fell into the sack.
When the last leaf was picked
and even the autumn tree
dared not drop another this day,
the monk dumped the leaves
onto the stone of the garden
and stooped carefully,
gingerly picking each browning leaf.
A watching visitor asked the abbot
if the monk had dementia,
but the abbot smiled and said,
“He is the sanest one among us,
watch how he wholly engages his practice.”