If you fall, 20,000 arms will lift you up, when you sit 10,000 join the Sangha. If you walk barefoot in the snow I will put socks on my feet for you. If you hunger, I will give you an empty bowl and this will be our shared dharma.
A reflection on Case 47 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)
This is what I would tell my sons: “You came from an ancient people, a heritage of poets and tailors, or thieves and blasphemers, of callous men and slaughtered children. I would give you these books, written by God, some have said, although I am doubtful but driven by Erato, without doubt.”
This is what I would tell my sons: “I didn’t go to war — there were so many options and I chose one where my feet would touch only Texas mud, where the only bullets were quickly fired on the rifle range. I wasn’t one of the 56,000. I didn’t come home in a body bag. But I do stop at the Wall each time I visit D.C. and say farewell to those who did.”
This is what I would tell my sons: “You have never known the hunger for a scrap of bread pulled from a dumpster, you have never spent a night on a steam grate hiding under yesterday’s newspapers from the rapidly falling snow. You never stood nervously at the waiting room of a dingy clinic waiting for a young, uncaring doctor to announce that antibiotics would likely clear up the infection but you should avoid any form of sex for a couple of weeks.”
This is what I would tell my sons: “You come from a heritage of poets.”
First published in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press 2008
Deep in the valley of memory on the altar of Ares we sacrifice them, always young each generation we are Abraham unrestrained, the pardon always moments late. We are Olmecs, relying not on the sun’s passage but on a mainspring tightly wound. Our gods hunger and must be sated lest we lose favor and their image change.
In our boneyard priests and victims slowly decompose fade into earth washed deep by tears of Gods powerless to intervene.
First published in The Peninsula Review, Vol. 5, (1998)
He could not hope to remember how he got there, he had wandered in search of nothing in particular, save dinner as his hunger grew, but in Shinjuku you needn’t read Japanese since the menus sat molded in plastic in the window of even the smallest restaurants. He began to look more intently when he saw the path off the street, a calico cat beckoning him, so he entered, knew instantly he was at a small Buddhist temple, and bowed to the statue of Kannon hidden amid the flock of cranes. He felt the touch of the young monk, followed him into the small zendo, sat seiza at the monk’s nodding, and as evening washed over them both, time and hunger ceased to matter. Interminably later, over a cup of tea, the monk said in broken English, “you carry me with you to home place,” pointing to his heart, “and I keep you in Japan,” repeating the gesture, and as he regained his bearings, saw the Metropolitan Center which was his pole star for the hotel he walked lightly back, forgetting he hadn’t eaten since breakfast.