ALOFT

He had always imagined covering
his body in feathers.
He knew it wouldn’t make him able
to take flight, but it would, he was certain
grant him a certain lightness
that gravity and daily life denied him.
And he knew that once covered
in his dreams he could soar
free of the restrictions that
his conscious mind imposed on him,
restrictions, he knew, that were
the only reason he wasn’t
even at that moment
peering down at the world
while moving across
the sunlit sky of an autumn afternoon.

IDEOGRAPHING MIND 鐵笛倒吹 四十六

If you will mark your gate
what word will you use,
what for the door, what
for the window?
The gate knows quite well
what it is, as to door and window
and need no marking.

Even the fool knows
through each you
may enter the house,
but even the wise man
cannot tell you
how the house may enter you.

A reflection on case 46 of the Iron Flute Koans

THE FUTURE HOLDS

It should be more of a surprise,
on this day that you turn ninety
but the mirror, as you see it,
has you looking as you did twenty
two years earlier, and twenty
before that, unchanging in any
meaningful way, yet those
around you laugh when you
tell them what you believe.

Not a day over sixty-eight
you say, and time to go off
and write for an hour, then
the three mile walk, a shower,
some physical therapy for . . .
well one of the joints which
has osteoarthritis, and a salad,
heavy on the greens for lunch.

Nothing much has changed
in your mind, and when
you awaken from the dream,
see your sixty-eight year old
face in the mirror, you only
wish you could see the younger
face that only dreams allow,
but time outside of dreams is
always, unfortunately, unforgiving.

A SONG FOR A LOVER

It is hard, looking back, to recall
just how many hours I spent searching
with a fair amount of diligence for just
the right song to express my love.
Most often I would find it,
but only after that love had been
replaced by another, demanding
a new song — you cannot use
the same song for two different loves,
that crosses well over into tacky.
I have to admit I’ve given up
totally on that quest, even as
the number of available songs
has grown exponentially, or so
the various streaming services suggest.
I have only a single lover now,
have for twenty years, and
as her hearing has slipped away
it is her lips that read mine,
and that is all the song we need.

LEAVING STILL

He never wants to leave this place.
He never wants to leave
wherever he is at that moment.
Moving is the hardest thing
for him, arriving is easy.
She points out that you
cannot arrive here
without leaving there.
He reminds her that
something being easy
is not the same thing
as something being desired.
He can and does arrive, but it
is easy only by comparison
to the greater pain of leaving.
She says, I am leaving now,
but you can join me.
He says I cannot even bear
the pain of that thought.

HOFUKU’S TEMPLE 鐵笛倒吹 語十一

Standing outside the Temple
there is much to see.
Enter the Temple zendo
prostrate three times before
the golden Buddha
what do you see?
Can you see nothing?
Outside the Temple, Buddha
inside the Temple, Buddha
but only when you see nothing.
Outside the mind, nothing,
inside the mind, nothing.
All Buddha.


A reflection on case 51 of the Iron Flute Koans.

BROKEN DAY

Morning slowly encroaches
on your dreams, eroding
images despite your tightening grasp.
Clear lines blur, become hazy
and dissipate bleached
by the first light creeping
around the shades.
The dreams do not care
for they will arise again
when they choose
and this is for them
a mere inconvenience.
You are the loser here
for the linear mindstring
once cut never reties
with simplicity and something
is always lost in the tying.

A MOVING MIND 無門關 二十九

Do not be a foolish monk
stare up at the sky
is that could moving?

The leaves dance
on the morning breeze,
is the wind moving?

take a picture of the tree
a moment of time frozen

There is no motion
of the tree, none
of the wind

only the mind moves.


A reflection on Case 29 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate Koans)

DRY CREEK 鐵笛倒吹 四十

When you are parched
and come upon a dry creek bed
will you assume there is water
flowing freely beneath
the soil and rocks, and how
will you drink it?

If you give up your thirst
your attachment to life
may wash downstream
and the bitter waters
may run both sweet and deep.
You may bathe in them
alongside old Joshu
without need for drinking.


A reflection on Case 40 of the Iron Flute Koans.