THE GATHERING

They gather this time every week,
they would feel lost if they did otherwise.
The don’t do it out of any sense of duty
or higher calling, and they expect
nothing in return for having done so.
They aren’t even following directions
or obeying some unwritten rule.
They object to most rules,
demand logic before even pausing
to consider requests for action.
Holidays do throw off their schedule
but they work around them as best they can.
Theirs is a joyous group
and only the swings groan
under their laughter as their feet
reach up to kick the clouds,
before night falls on the playground.

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)

THIS IS HOW WE MOURN

This is how we mourn:
we don’t berate the clouds for gathering,
nor begrudge the rain’s ultimate descent.
Our tears fall to the earth as well,
and there are moments when we need the gray,
moments when the sun would
be an unwelcomed interloper.
This is how we mourn:
we wipe the walls clean of history,
we whitewash them for they, too,
must be a tachrichim* and when done
we add the names, each lettered carefully,
this a plaster scroll
of those we dare not forget
requiring the perfection
they were denied.
This is how we mourn:
by walking out into the sunfilled sky,
having given them the grave
once denied them
freshly dug into
our souls and memory.


*tachrichim is the traditional white linen Jewish burial shroud.

Written following a visit to the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague, where  the 80,000 names of Czech and Moravian Jews who perished under the Nazis were hand-written on the walls of the synagogue.