ISAN’S EXPLORING SPIRITUAL POWERS

If you must
follow the Way, you
may read the Dharma
for hours on end
or you may brew
a pot of tea
for your teacher, or
bring your student
a towel and basin.
Which two steps
along the way
will you take?

A reflection on Case 61 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)

DUSK

There is nothing like, no
words to adequately describe,
that moment when a cloud-
hazed sun lingers wishfully
just above the horizon, grasping
the sky with brilliant talons
of light, fearing becoming
lost in a darkness that will,
on this night of the new moon,
engulf us all in its inky shroud.

We know, or pray, the sun
will return in hours, just
as the sun knows its work
is never done so long as it
has light to give, hoping
that final collapse is eons away.

As it finally settles beyond
sight, we smile, retreat
to the table and consume
our dinner and wine, our
daily companion forgotten
until its dawning return.

A WELL REHEARSED SILENCE

Of course there is something I ought
to say, moments like this require it,
it goes without saying, painfully.

I practiced lines for hours, rehearsed
in my dreams for weeks, knew
for years I’d be rendered mute.

My tongue swells, threatening
to escape my mouth or take refuge
deep within my esophagus.

Your silence is only compounding
my anxiety, how can I, a man
of words, be rendered silent

by the thought of speaking to you,
of telling you that I finally now
joyously have what I feared I wouldn’t ever.

A wife and lover deserves
better than this.

FORWARD

As a child I was quite fond
of staring into the future
for hours on end, when
my parents told me
to get my head out of books
and go outside to play.

I never could see much
in my staring, thought
I was probably myopic
but my parents said I
couldn’t need glasses, they
cost far too much
for someone my age.

I realize now, now that
that future is mostly
my past, that I wouldn’t
have understood anything
I might have seen, had
I ever seen anything at all.

SEARCHING

I never imagined that
the search would take so long
or be so difficult.

I never imagined
I had set off seeking
the Holy Grail.

It once was easy
I recalled, little searching
and plentiful enough.

Now, hours spent
actually wasted, I conceded
that it was futile

and went back deep
into time to bring forth
what I never imagined

would be so hard
to find, a good, intelligent
romantic comedy.

COSMOS

As a child he decided,
after watching Cosmos,
that he wanted to be an astronomer.

He was six, we bought
a large telescope and I was assigned
the job of aiming it
according to his directions.

After a while he did
have a mment of panic, wondering
what he would do
during the day.

That soon passed
when he discovered the radio telescope
and time became of
absolutely no importance.

He is an adult now,
a theoretical astrophysicist,
much easier on the eyes
he says, and your hours
are your own
and the universe’s.

FAMILY

You ask me to define what family is
and I tell you that I may be
the last person you want
answering that question, I
an adoptee who felt like
an orphan supplanted
by siblings who knew her womb.

But I do have an answer,
family is that insane person
who will drive six hours
to spend an hour with you,
family is the joy and aching
of your heart as they leave,
a bit of themselves remaining
deeply within your soul.

IT WILL BE EASY

It will be easy, he says, you just
fish a wire down inside the wall,
find the hole you cut, put in
the box and wire it up,
no big deal at all, easy really.

She grimaced immediately,
then turned away from him to sigh,
for she knew that any time a man
decided something was easy,
no big deal, a day or more was gone.

He was convinced he could
do the job simply, save money
with his efforts and at first
it seemed to go well enough,
but that was only at first of course.

Three hours later, little progress
made, but much mess created
she smiled, stroked his back,
handed him his cell phone
and the electricians business card.

REAL TIME

He can spend hours on the wooden bench in the small square in the center of the village. There he is but a statue, staring up at the giant clock face that looms over the square from the turret of the Village Hall. He likes to watch the long hand, arrowlike, make its slow, but inevitable movement, circling the blank outward gaze of the numerals. He does not care much for time, has too much of it some say, too little left, he knows. But here, as he stares fixedly, it stops. There is no motion in that instant, there is only the instant of time. It is no longer real, it is a thought lost or forgotten, and there is only the single moment in which he sits on the wooden bench in the center of the village.