THE NATURAL KEY TO HEAVEN

The hawk sits on a branch
looking up at the sky, knowing
this is perfection, lifting up
chasing a cloud, floating lazily.

The butterfly flits from plant
to plant, tasting the fruits
that nature has given her,
perfection in a single moment.

The cat sleeps on a rocker
the breeze rustling her coat,
until waking for dinner
which appears at her request.

We spend hours searching
for the keys to heaven, hoping
to insure what comes after this
life, but so often not living it.

UNKNOWING

Twenty years ago today
and there was no band playing,
at least not for me, for I knew
nothing of you yet, and you
knew nothing of me either.

I have met you since
in a moment of silence,
looking at a yearbook picture
knowing what was not, what
never was or could be.

I recite the Kaddish
even though my Judaism
has been laid to rest,
knowing what is, and
imagining what might have been.

MINDFUL

I saw the sun
rise this morning
over Mt. Hood, the
glow that announced
to the horizon its approach.
There should be
in the life of every man,
every woman, that moment
when seeing dawn
lift, peel back the shroud
from Mt. Hood causes the sudden
intake of just that much extra breath.

Publshed in As Above, So Below, Issue 9, August 2022
https://issuu.com/bethanyrivers77/docs/as_above_so_below_issue_9

SLEEVE

I wear my heart
on my sleeve, he said,
so you know what I’m
feeling at any given moment
and I am an open book
so you can read my thoughts
whenever you wish to do so.

His smile said he was
proud of this state,
and he did say it set
him apart from most people.

She laughed and said
to him, “But you know
by being so transparent
no one needs to spend
any time with you, they
know your story. And, he
added, “If I ever have
a heart attack, they won’t
ruin a good shirt when
they apply the defibrilator.”

NONATTACHMENT

There was the collectivist period,
those years when I wanted
a copy of every book on Buddhism
I could locate, a full and nearly
complete library, sutras and
philosophical discourses included.

There was the moment when I
realized the absurdity of all that,
the attachment to texts
to enable me to find the ability
to practice non-attachment,
and I gave the books away,
and finally set off on the path
the books only poorly described.

TWILIGHT

In the twilight of the dove,
that moment when the sun’s
retreat has only just begun
my shadow stretches
ever so slowly into oblivion.

I hear it whisper to me
a promise to return and I
want nothing more than
to believe it, for the grant
of another day is a small
wish granted, one I make
with the knowledge that
the genie of age is growing
ever more tired of responding
to my unchanging request.

Appearing night makes
no promises and the stars
consider me and us all
inconsequential in the
celestial scheme of things

APPROACHING NIGHT

Arising into night
the departing sun
tangos away with its cloud,
memories soon forgotten.

Other dancers take the stage,
now a romance, now
a war dance, feathers raised
in prayer to unseen gods.

Night will soon bring
its curtain across this stage,
the avian casts’ final bows taken
the theater will darken, awaiting
another performance,
a new script tomorrow,
but for this solitary moment
of frozen grace, it is we
who write the conversation,
our lines sung by actors who
know only nature’s
unrelenting song.

First Published in Half Hour to Kill, August 2022
https://halfhourtokill.com/home/approaching-night-by-louis-faber

JOSHU’S DOG

My teacher once asked me
“what do you have
to say for yourself,” and I
answered “absolutely nothing,”
or did I smile and remain silent?

You assume the teacher would
be upset with the silent student
and in most cases you would
be perfectly correct.

But if this occurred
in a zendo, having nothing
to say is a step toward no-self
and you can be
in that moment,
Joshu’s dog.

A reflection on Case 18 of the Book of Equanimity (従容錄, Shōyōroku)

DUSK

There is nothing like, no
words to adequately describe,
that moment when a cloud-
hazed sun lingers wishfully
just above the horizon, grasping
the sky with brilliant talons
of light, fearing becoming
lost in a darkness that will,
on this night of the new moon,
engulf us all in its inky shroud.

We know, or pray, the sun
will return in hours, just
as the sun knows its work
is never done so long as it
has light to give, hoping
that final collapse is eons away.

As it finally settles beyond
sight, we smile, retreat
to the table and consume
our dinner and wine, our
daily companion forgotten
until its dawning return.