UMMON’S THREE DAYS 鐵笛倒吹 六十八

What were you doing
three days ago
and what will you do
three days from now.
Are you the same person now
as you were, will be?

While your face in the mirrorKoan
seems much the same
each day you die a bit
each day you are reborn.
A thousand days
a thousand years
a passing moment,
how do they differ?

A reflection on Case 68 of the Iron Flute Koans

BOKUSHU’S BLOCKHEAD 鐵笛倒吹 語十語

Seeing your teacher on the road
if he says to you
Honorable Sir, what do you do?
You may turn, bow, and act the fool
or pass, eyes averted
without acknowledgement, silent
equally the fool.

Speak in silence,
face, bow without moving
greet him as you do yourself
in the morning mirror
and once past, offer gassho
and the fool is left on the path
dragging your shadow.

A reflection on Case 55 of the Iron Flute Koans

ON THE WALL

Each morning, once I have completed
the often unpleasant task of dragging
myself from the womb of blankets, I make
my appearance in front of the mirror.

I stare closely into it, and am unsurprised
to find it returning my stare,
and on every occasion, I notice
that the mirror has once again
chosen to wear the same clothes as I,
albeit not as well or stylishly, no doubt
the result of its limited sense of dimensions.

It is odd that I know so well what
the mirror looks like, how it masquerades
as this or that until it can no longer
hope to avoid me, and yet despite
its familiarity, I have no idea at all
what I really look like anymore.

MIRROR IMAGE

Each morning when I look
into the mirror I imagine
I see me, but of course that
is impossible, for in that moment
only the mirror sees me
and I see the mirror.

How deluded I must be
to assume that I look at all
like the mirror, but it is,
I know, just such delusions
that enable my sense of self,
and that is the grandest illusion.

A morning will come when I
look into the glass and nothing
is there or a face I have never
before seen and the mirror
will laugh, as will I, at this
game we have played for years.

PARENTHOOD

Two headstones
Name, rank, branch
of service, dates.

One New Jersey, one
Virginia, both Bittle
neither certain.

An email from
another Bittle, never
knew my father

but his was
William, and in
that moment,

James Owen became
a father yet again
and I complete.

And later still
a single picture
he in the back

row and the mirror
agrees that we
are truly family.

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.

MIRRORS

Each morning I drag myself
from bed, slowly engage my legs,
and amble into the bathroom
where I peer into the mirror.
Each morning I am surprised
that I am the same as I was
they day before, and yet the mirror
by all appearances,
has grown another day older.
It is, I suppose, the nature
of mirrors to age, sadly for them,
and as I turn away each morning
I wish the mirror a good day,
certain that it cannot help
but mourn its ever increasing age.

AN OLD FRIEND

More than a bit ratty, would be
mildly putting it, near bald
almost everywhere, fully so
in far too many spots to count.

Eyelashes are minimal, hard
to see for their fineness, one
eye a bit out of focus, a faint
cloud covering its internal horizon.

You might say it is sad looking,
and no one, not even I would
argue with you, but what did
you expect really, time is cruel,

so in the morning mirror, my
childhood stuffed cat in hand,
we agree we wear our 67 years
on our sleeves and faces.


For Something Different, a new bird photo each day, visit my other blog:
Bird-of-the-day.com 

KEMBO’S TRANSMIGRATION 鐵笛倒吹 六十七

Awakening in the morning
when you first see the sun
and the dew resting on the leaf
which eye are you using.
When you stare into the mirror
through what eye do you see,
and what eyes stare back at you.

When you see the deer
lying in the road
which eye do you use.
In a nightmare, when you slip
into the deeper, darker world,
what eye is used then.
When you fade into death
what eye sees your departure.
Think carefully on this
for only one eye can see
the answer lying within.


A reflection on case 67 of the Iron Flute Koans