BASHO DOES NOT TEACH 鐵笛倒吹 八十

There is a woman
who asks no questions,
who fears neither birth nor death.
What can you teach her?
The wise man offers no lesson
but observes closely
and gains great wisdom.

What can you teach
one who already knows.
What can you learn
with a fully open mind.
In a clockless world
there is no time.


A reflection on case 80 of the Iron Flute Koans

REFLECTION

He’s mostly bald
and generally something of a grouch.
When he enters a room, the key
is to nod in recognition
but not in invitation.
You know, regardless
of the topic at hand,
he will have something
to say and it, no matter how
you perfume it, will nevertheless
have that air of negativity
he has so ably mastered.
So many others, and especially you,
have perfected the art
of deflected avoidance,
at least until that moment
you come face-to-face with him
in your morning mirror.

TEN FOLD PATH (PT. 1)

1.

He takes a first step
eyes scanning
the path, the field
the forest
for the ox.
There is
no ox.

男は最初の一歩を踏み出し
道に、野原に、その先の森に目をやる
男の目は牛を探し求める
だがどこにも牛の姿はない

2.

Much time passes
another step
and there
in the soft mud
of spring a print
of hoof, deep
isolated
unpaired.

長い時間が過ぎ
男はさらに歩を進める
そして春のぬかるみの中にひとつ
人知れず埋もれた
蹄(ひずめ)の跡を見つける

3.

A step
in the distance
faint in morning fog
at the very edge
of vision
the ox stands
for a moment
he freezes for
an eternity.

また一歩進むと
朝もやに霞む視界の隅に
男の目は牛の姿をとらえる
そして永遠の一瞬に
男は立ちすくむ

4.

Reaching forward
with his foot
he gently places
a loop of rope
around the neck
of the waiting ox.
The ox stands
staring past the horizon
unmoving.

男はさらに踏み出して
じっと待っている牛の首に
そっと縄をかける
牛は身じろぎもせず
ただ地平線の彼方を見つめている

5.

He whispers
to the beast
and it steps
seeking his next
request, kneeling
to ease his dismount.

男が牛に囁きかけると
牛は歩みを止め
男の次の言葉を待つ
男が降りやすいように跪きながら

HIGHER ORDER

Among certain species of spider
at the moment of arachnidal orgasm
the female devours her mate
for the protection of the young.

The lion stalks his prey, then leaps
tearing flesh to sate a hunger
born of the endless sun
beating down on the grassy plain.

It is left to man to hunt
for trophy, for proof of dominion
over all else, as promised
by a self-created God.


First published in Albatross, Vol. 13, 2001

ALTERNATE HISTORY

My mother wanted to tell me
of my great-grandmother,
a woman she barely knew,
but who she imagined more fully
that life itself
would ever have allowed.
History, in her hands
was malleable, you could
shape it in ways never happened.
She wanted to tell me
but she knew that
her grandmother wouldn’t approve
of adopting when your womb
was perfectly serviceable,
certainly not for a man
more than a decade older
who could not uphold
his most sacred obligation.
She wanted to tell me,
but I am adopted
and this woman can be
no more than a story
of passing relevance to me.

IS THERE AN ECHO IN HERE?

He said to her, “you know
it really irritates me how you
always seem to repeat yourself.
Say it once and that’s enough.”
She paused, thought about his comment,
then said, “You know, despite
what you say, I don’t, I
don’t really, but nuance
is something that always seems
just beyond your comprehension.”
He bristled, “You could be more
subtle, you know, perhaps
it is always on the thin edge
of my comprehension, but gets
pushed way by the repetitive
battering you feel the need
to impart, over and over.”
She smiled, “I doubt it,
I truly and sincerely doubt it.”