KOTEI STRIKES A MONK 鐵笛倒吹 八十一

Bow before a king
and you may be rewarded
but bow before a teacher
and expect to be shunned.
Which has something to offer?
Ask the teacher why he shuns you
and he will turn you away.

One offers a bit of gold,
one offers a priceless gem.
Gold can buy you many things
but the gem is worthless
to all but he to who it is given.
Pick carefully, for here
the fool and wise man
walk separate paths.

A reflection on Case 81 of the Iron Flute Koans

SANCTUARY

The motion begins deep within you,
bleeds quickly outward
until it blankets the web
between your fingers and toes, collects
behind the ears as you hurtle
on parallel steel threads
connecting Tokyo and Osaka.
You are down to the broad fields
of golden-yellow beckoning
the impending harvest, the rice
swaying in the unfelt breeze.
In the furrow, neatly excised,
the water burns with the gold
of the plants and the blaze orange
of the sun retreating
behind the mountain, tired
after a long day battling winter’s approach.
The stream is a deep, intense blue
out-of-place on this golden canvas,
a wound, flowing to the horizon.
The almost perpetual snow cap
of the great mountain casts
a winking glance at the rice,
a lookout for the moon.
In the fields are small huts,
some lit, in this one two men
kneeling before a small altar.
I want to rise from my seat,
step from the bullet train
and wade through the rice
to join them, share a cup
of carefully brewed tea
and settle in the silence
under the watchful eyes
of the guardian mountain