WIEN

We were walking around Vienna, Wien,
the river cruise boat arriving early,
dropped off into the city center, told
we had precisely two hours to wander,
or we’d make our own way back,
and risk missing lunch and the formal tour.

We wandered, following instructions,
looking in vain for a café where we
could get an Austrian cappuccino, and perhaps
a pastry for which the city was famous,
even though we swore off deserts, but
before noon it could be still breakfast
and well within our supposed rules.

After several wrong turns we ended up
the Schauflergasse, still searching when
we heard the rhythmic clopping of hooves
and stepped quickly from the path
of the regal white stallions, as they
proudly pranced by back to their stables.

We asked the rider in the last rank where
we might find a café and pastry,
and he shouted back at us, “After
seeing us, Vienna has nothing more to offer.

We did find a café shortly after
and sharing an order of powidltascherl
and sipping our melange, we begged
to differ with the Lipizzaner rider.

IN A ROOM OF HORSE MANURE

My sister only wanted a horse
an my parents thought they could solve
that dilemma with a pony at her fifth birthday party
where she would get all the extra rides,
her friends and playmates be damned.
Like most great parental plans,
this one was doomed to failure,
and failure marched front and center
as they learned from the pony was loaded
back into the trailer and my sister
tried to tie herself to the trailer
with ribbon from her gift wrap.
She was never good with knots,
even when she died at 52, the cancer
having ravaged her one organ at a time,
but even in her waning days, she
whine to our mother that all she ever wanted
was a horse, then winked at me, staring
around her hospital room, since we both knew
there was a pony in there somewhere.

WHO IS HE? 無門關 四十語

Sitting with Shakya and Maitreya
in the utter stillness of early morning
you each strain to hear
the master’s voice.

Do not take up Shakya’s bow
or attempt to mount Maitreya’s horse
Do not engage Hoen in discussion
but look inward, hand
your bow to Maitreya,
the reins to Shakya.

There is only one horse, one bow
so see yourself sitting
peaceful and silent,
utterly alone.


A reflection on Case 45 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate)