STORY

You are still there. You have a patience that I will not know in this lifetime. I know I can always find you, even though you never reach out to me except in my dreams. There I tell you my life story and you listen intently. You have no need to ask questions, knowing I will tell the whole story in due time, And time is one thing you have that I, increasingly, lack. So I’ll be back for another visit soon and you will be waiting for me, mother.

AFOOT, A CITY

As you walk the streets
of a city like New York,
you hear a polyglot of languages,
and closing your eyes you
might have no idea where you were.

Listen carefully, eavesdrop
on conversations, imagine the stories
they are telling, the joys
and heartbreak laid bare before you,
half heard, half filled in
to make the story palatable to you.

Life in the city is life in a wholly
parallel universe, one in which
the characters speak only sound bites
and all meaning is transient
in the ear of the beholder.

LOOKING FOR WORDS

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Perhaps so, but many pictures don’t travel in verbose company, and there are pictures worth far, far less, although some will search until the magic thousand are found. In Japan a story can be told in seventeen syllables, a picture painted with a single brushstroke. In the zendo the whole of dharma can be heard in the silence if you stop and listen.

ROBBIE

He left and we never saw the departure coming. We knew he would leave sooner or later, but not now. We had planned on his visit. We knew he meant he was coming. We knew he might just show up. He traveled on snap decisions. It might be here, it might be Paris or Italy. But there was always the long slow coffee hour with tales of his life as we listened intently. Now he is gone, and as we drink our coffee we tell tales of him and mourn his death.

LUNA’S SONG

Tonight, when the sun
has finally conceded the day
to its distant but ever larger kin,
the moon will again sing
her ever waning song
hoping we will join
in a chorus we have
so long forgotten,
bound to the earth
in body and in waxing thought.

We will stop and listen
perhaps, over the din
of the city, the traffic,
the animals conversing
with the sky, our thoughts,
but the words will now
be an alien language
for which we have
no dictionary, only
the faint memory
of the place from which
both we and the moon
share cosmic ancestry.

BASO’S WHITE AND BLACK

I know you have
a single question for which
an answer will enlighten you.
Neither Baso, Chizo nor Kai
are here so you are asking me.

The answer is simple:
cover your ears tightly
and listen while I speak
with closed mouth,
watch my feet dance
in joy as they do not move.
If the answer is not apparent,
ask Chizo, Baso and Kai
to speak from beyond the grave.

A reflection on case 6 of the Book of Equanimity Koans

IF ONLY

If there were truly justice
at least of the poetic sort
perhaps Van Gogh could
have been born 75 years
earlier, and in Vienna
not Holland, so that when
he decided to be rid
of an ear he could have
offered it to Beethoven
neither of his working
in his later years. And
if a poet could arrange
time travel using his license
then he could just as easily
have made the ear work
for Beethoven. But
on second thought,
heaven knows what
the mighty Ninth Symphony
might have sounded like
if Beethoven had to listen
constantly to the critics.

SIEGAN’S COST OF RICE

How long have you wandered
always searching for the one
answer, the hidden truth
that, when revealed to you,
will show you enlightenment?

Where have you searched
for this one truth, one
that will collapse the past,
present and future into
a single moment of pure
presence which you can grasp
and carry with you through life?

Stop and ask the infant
strapped to his mother’s chest,
for he has the answer
and his silence will speak
of it if only you will listen.

A reflection on case 5 of the Book of Equanimity Koans

THE WORLD-HONORED ONE POINTS TO THE EARTH

As you wander around
looking for a place
to build a temple,
looking for eden,
looking for nirvana,
stop and simply sit,
listen to the breeze
teaching you the Dharma,
the clouds chanting
the sutras in a harmony
beyond your hearing.
Look down for you
are in your temple,
sitting in eden
nirvana at your feet.

A reflection on case 4 of the Book of Equanimity Koans

The World-Honored One’s Intimate Speech 正法眼蔵 三十四

The wise one delivers
most knowledge
without opening his mouth.
The sagacious student
does not hide the wisdom
he inherits but offers it
in utter silence.
What is it
you wished to say
for I am ready
not to listen.

A reflection on Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans Case 34 (True Dharma Eye)