HILLEL AT THE GOLDEN DRAGON

I am honored that this poem was just published in the Fall/Winter Issue of the  Atlanta Review,

I had dinner the other night
with Rav Hillel
in a small Chinese place
just off Mott Street.
I asked him what it was like
in the afterlife, after all the years.
It gets a bit boring, he said,
now that old Shammai
has lost his edge,
just last month
for each Chanukah night
he lit four candles
from the center out
in each direction.
I told him
the steamed pork buns
were beyond belief,
he said try the shrimp dumplings
even better if you eat them
standing on one foot.
I asked him how he spent his days
and he only smiled,
most days I search
for Van Gogh’s ear
though that alte cocker Shammai
says it was Theo’s ear
that Vincent lopped off,
although Vincent wore
a bandage around his head.
It’s really not so bad
he said, there’s even
a lovely sculpture
just inside the garden gate
that bears a striking resemblance
to old Lot’s wife, not that she
was ever capable
of sitting still all that long.
He bid me farewell
and though I looked
for a fiery chariot,
he climbed into
his ’91 Taurus
with the hanging bumper
and rust spots, and drove slowly off.
Thanks for dinner, he shouted,
as I footed the bill yet again.

DHARMA

Buddha was asked, once,
to describe all the dharmas
while standing on one foot.
“Hillel could do it,”
the crowd said, “so you
too should be so able.”
Buddha smiled and said,
“Hillel was a good friend,
as was Jesus and Ishmael.”
Buddha then gently sat
beneath the Bodhi tree
and was completely silent.

THE WORLD HONORED ONE ASCENDS

The student may comment,
“Hillel was asked to sum up all
of the teaching while standing
on one foot and did so.”
If this student asks
the teacher to provide
the essential nature of Dharma
in one sitting, what
choice does the teacher have
but to rise and leave the room.
The teacher may comment,
“Can you see the treasure
I have left for you,
and what will you do with it?”
Hillel, hearing this,
bows to the teacher
and both smile over a cup of tea.

MORE MUSIC OF THE FLUTE

UMMON’S FEAST         鐵笛倒吹

Sitting in the deep well of silence
feel the old patriarchs
dancing on top of your head,
look down under the weight
of their wisdom., to the earth
and stare deeply into their eyes.

But how will you go make a feast
for the never sated gods?
Lie on the earth, breathe
deeply of the incense
and care less than nothing.

 

UNKO’S INSTRUCTION         鐵笛倒吹

 Look deeply through
the back of your eyes,
it is there to be found.
If you find it, do not
ask your teacher to name it.

The journey home is lifelong
taking only a moment
but in entering your house
do you usually ask
who lives here?


JIMYO’S SUMMARY         鐵笛倒吹

 Rabbi Hillel
summarized all of Judaism
standing on one leg – how
will you do the same
for zen?

We are all made
of the stuff of stars
but can you
see the sun shining
in a clouded over sky?

BUDDHA AND HILLEL DINE TOGETHER

The meeting occurred by chance,

two old men sitting in the same park

staring at the same empty chess board

as the waves of the Stygian Sea

lapped against the break wall,

the ferryman now at the helm

of the great cargo ship.

“So,” said Hillel, “you come here often?”

Old, bent Buddha paused

“as far as I know, I have

always been here, or perhaps

I am not here now, never have been.”

“I know the feeling” the ancient Rabbi said

“I’ve been here so long, I too

have begun to doubt my very existence.”

Buddha rubbed his great girth

and smiled placidly as a black bird

alighted on his shoulder.

The Rabbi stroked his beard

the stood on one foot,

only to have two bluejays

land, one on each arm.

“Would you care to join me,”

he asked, “for a meal at Ming’s

or if you prefer, we can do take out

from the Dragon Palace,

whatever suits your mood,

in any event, my treat this time.”

The saffron robed old man

unfolded himself, and erect

and bowing, said

“It would honor me to dine with you

but if you wouldn’t mind

I’d much prefer a bowl

of chicken soup with kreplach

and a pastrami on rye.”