JOSHU’S BUDDHA

If you go in search of Buddha
should you see him, do
not stop or speak but run away.
If you do not see the Buddha
run away from that place.
If you stop, to take water
from the edge of a still pond
look carefully, for
the Buddha is there
just above the water’s surface.

A reflection on case 80 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)

THE ANCIENTS

Night and the ancients retreat
to a dark corner of their celestial prison
from the promised arrival
of the yellow dwarf from which
they know we demand a presence.

We ignore the ancients now,
ignore those who cast them
into their prison, ignore
the acts for which they were
banished, care only to name them,
and they know that our recognition
is their only grasp on existence.

Each day their tiny cousin
demands our full attention,
defies us to look deeply at him,
pleased that he is, for us,
the center of our universe.

SCIENTIFIC INQUIRY

1.

And it
should come as
no great surprise
Isaac Newton said,
“I find I now
prefer to sit beneath
pear trees.”

2.

In his small
Leningrad apartment
Ivan Petrovich Pavlov
cursed ,”damn dogs,
you bite me
every time
someone rings
the doorbell.”

3.

Schrodinger shouted
at the PETA protesters
“I’ve told you
again and again
the cat
is also alive,
just don’t look.”

First published in Defenestration, Volumee XVIII, Issue III, December 2021

SEIGAN’S COST OF RICE

You may wander

endlessly in search

of the true dharma.

It is not under that rock,

not in those bushes,

not around the next bend.

Look down and ask

yourself where

are you standing

in this moment,

then gently lift 

your feet off

of the heart

of the dharma

A reflection on case 5 of the Book of Equanimity koans. 

Bodhidharma’s Vast Emptiness

When teacher and student
sit face to face,
mat to mat, looking deeply
one at the other,
which is the teacher
and which is the student?

You are wrong.
There is no teacher,
there is no student,
there is only the silence
of the moment
in which all dharma
is made obvious.

A reflection on Case 2 of the Book of Equanimity

COUPLING

Walking through the art gallery,
she frequently pauses to look
at paintings of couples in a bar
or a cafe, engaged in conversation.

I tell her they seem sad, as though
whatever romance they had
has waned, they having grown
apart, this a parting of sorts.

She laughs and says that I mistake
wistfulness for sadness, men
so often do, and adds they are
lovers falling ever deeper in.

She takes my hand gently, with
a look I might have deemed sad,
but knowing better. I realize
that I, too, am continuing my fall.

LOOKING

As you look at him or her
do you see someone with
a beauty you only wish you had,
or someone you pity
for lacking your beauty?

As they look at you
do they see someone with
a beauty they only wish they had
or someone they pity
for lacking their beauty?

When I look at either of you
I see a person like myself, feel
neither jealousy or pity
for in those emotions
the moment is truly wasted.

IN SEARCH OF

The cat stares down from her new perch atop the living room bookcase. She watches us move about, wondering where she might be. She can tell we are getting increasingly frantic in our search as she is new here, and we are adapting to each other still. We look behind everywhere she might hide, but she is gone. She can tell we are getting ever more nervous. She lets out a whistle, drawing our attention, and seeing us see her, she nods, saying Here I am, foolish ones.

PHOTOGRAPH

I saw a picture of you today, although
I can’t be certain when it was taken,
and while I can easily say that you
look exactly as I remember you,
that is saying nothing really,
for moments after I took the picture
we said goodbye to each other,
intending to meet again, knowing
the chances of that were minuscule.

I have returned your picture
to a place of safekeeping where,
some months or years from now,
I will pull it out and remark that
you look exactly as I remember you,
but more importantly, perhaps,
I will be keeping you alive, and
in this fraught world, that is something
to be appreciated, even if you
haven’t the vaguest idea it is happening

Be well dear friend, and if not,
be eternal for a bit longer,
be you dead or much alive.