ANCESTRY

Children have an innate sense
of their ancestry.
I was a child of the city
it’s streets my paths, always
under the watchful eye
of my warden – mother.

Dirt was to be avoided
at all possible cost,
so I never dug my hands
into the fertile soil of my
village in the heart of Lithuania,
or tasted the readying harvest
that dirt would remember.

I never stole a nip of poitin
only the Manischewitz which,
in our home, masqueraded
as wine fit for drinking. It is only
now in my second childhood
that the ancestry very deep
in my DNA has finally found
purchase in my mind and soul.

Bodhidharma’s Mind 無門關 四十一

Walk slowly up to Bodhidharma
but do not pull him away
from the wall before which he sits.
Keep your arms close about you
lest you cannot grasp
what he will ask.

Hold tight to your mnd
for it will grow still only
as it slips through your fingers
When you see it fade away
Samadhi bathes you.

A reflection on Case 41 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate) koans.

UNMOVED

In the community parking lot
in the center of Taos,
and old pickup sat complacent
more than parked, rusting
in spots, last painted
by someone in the late ‘70s
perhaps. It might have
been able to move, but it
showed no desire to do so,
tires not flat but wishing so.

That was thirteen years ago,
and it is likely no longer
there, or collapsed into rust,
but in the mind’s camera
it still sits there, beckoning,
unmoving, waiting for an owner
who has moved on, glad
to be rid of the hulk at last.

SONNET TO A PORTUGUESE

You came into my life last week, your name
forever locked away inside her mind.
My life, she felt, would never be the same
and therefore left all thought of you behind.
You loved her, I suppose, that summer night
then left her, bearing me, until she turned
me over for adoption, that she might
forget the love that you so quickly spurned.
A Jew, she said, but would say little more
a father, Portuguese, is all I know,
who cast his seed, then left and closed the door
and me, the son, he never would see grow.
You left her life long before I was born,
the father I won’t know but only mourn.

First published in Minison Project, Sonnet Collection Series, Vol. 2, Sept. 2021

NO BACKS

As you age, your vision changes,
and not merely that of your eyes,
for you necessarily become
near sighted about many things.

Of course you dread the fact that you
could be myopic if circumstances
conspire against you, barely able
to be IN and remember the moment.

Even those healthy take to mythology,
and astronomy, wishing they were
Titan, living life in retrograde, but no one
has yet managed to become Benjamin Button.

STATISTIC

Today, now many,
yesterday, tomorrow, how many?

We have grown tired of counting
the mind cannot deal with numbers
of that magnitude, Stalin was correct,
it is all statistics now, and bodies,
always more bodies, never enough,
always too many, by violence
in the street, in the economy,
in the courthouse, in the COVID ward,
there are too many places now,
where the dead gather, and we
cannot bid them farewell, for we
do not want to be counted
among them, to join them, to admit
that we in some way have led them
into disease, into poverty, into death.

LURKER

It is there waiting, no doubt
another trap, simple initially seeming pure
but harboring a malevolence that will
soon consume you, leave you broken,
so considering the pen as a weapon,
to lay waste to it, or for seppuku,
both thoughts will no doubt come to mind.

It has always been like this, always will,
different if you chose the digital path,
but only a difference in implement,
the struggle, the loss, the outcome
very much the same, so consistent.

Still you take up pen, stare deeply
at your adversary, swear it will not
defeat you this time, battle on valiantly,
but finally, and yet again, painfully concede
to the omnipotent abyss that today
as yesterday is the pure untouched page.

NANSEN’S NOTHING SPECIAL

Her greeting
is met with silence.
His greeting
is met with silence.
Your touch
is met with greeting.
You want to fly,
curse the Earth
for holding you,
while it is your mind
that is your
only anchor.

A reflection on case 87 of the Shobogenzo, Dogen’s True Dharma Eye Koans

WITHIN WITHOUT

Today I paused
and had a conversation
with my mind, and found it
remarkably enlightening.
It wasn’t a terribly long talk
for I quickly ran out of things to say
and I would have sworn
it had heard them all before
and anticipated me fully.
In the end though,
I did have one advantage
and simply got up
and walked away
and that caught it
wholly by surprise.

KANNON’S STATUE 鐵笛倒吹 語十八

If you meet the Bodhisattva
you don’t ask someone
to carve the image from your mind.
To the carver, she weighs but an ounce
and can be carried
on his fingertip
but try and lift her
and you will not be able
to move her from her place.

All Buddhas
are one Buddha
but his Buddha
will never be
your Buddha.

A reflection on Case 58 of the Iron Flute Koans.