ON MORTALITY

Death was never something we considered,
until that certain, ill-defined moment when
our immortality suddenly disappeared, and
in its place was a reality to be avoided.

Even once death became a shadow, always
lurking around us, we kept our face
toward the sun, so that death might
not be seen in the bright light of day.

When a sibling dies, it is always before
their time, before we are ready and
the death is anomalous, and one we grieve,
but as a cruel twist of fate not to be repeated.

Later death becomes a companion,
infrequent we hope, but ever present, and
all that is left for us is to consider which
is the less painful, the sudden departure
without warning or farewell, just gone,

or the slow erosion, a death mourned
during its process, a death of a thousand
goodbyes, until the last, and in the end
it becomes a distinction with no difference.


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THE MIDDLE WAY

George Harrison said that if
you don’t know where you
are going, any road will
take you there, and on reflection
it was obvious he was correct..
Today, rising from the cushion,
the four vows recited, Buddha
put back on his small altar,
Harrison’s words echoed loudly
for he understood in a moment
what it has taken me years
to grasp, for all roads lead
to enlightenment if you
simply stop searching for it.
Somewhere the spirit
of our departed George
was laughing with me
in this moment.

MOST WONDERFUL THING 鐵笛倒吹 六十語

Which is more beautiful,
the fragile flower
or the stone set in the road?
And which is the uglier?
The stone, washed in a stream
may shine like a diamond,
the flower picked
soon withers to dust.

Each contains beauty
each contains ugliness.
When you see this
you may smile
until you feel
the blow of the stick
and your eyes are forced shut
blind for that moment.


A reflection on Case 65 of the Iron Flute Koans

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
that like the sky’s morning flame
we are consumed by the moment.


First Published at Recenter Press Poetry Journal Vol. 2, Fall 2019
http://www.recenterpress.com/issue-two-fall-2019.html

RINZAI’S TITLELESS MAN 鐵笛倒吹 語十七

If you come upon
both beggar and nobleman
see neither wealth or poverty,
smell neither the fine rosewater
or the crying need of a bath,
hear neither the ravings of one
or the philosophy of the other,
taste neither the fine curry
of the moldy bread crust,
feel neither the tattered rag
or the purest silk.

In the mirror of Zen
both men have your face
and there is no one
standing in front of you.


A reflection on case 57 of the Iron Flute Koans.

LUNA SEE

It is her time and she knows
she is ready for this moment, has been
for eons, knows it will come again
but none here will remember this day.
She stares at them, but they ignore her,
and she grows angry, her visage
reddens as she slowly retreats,
know the interloper will move along, hoping
that her return later will provoke
the sort of interest she deserves,
the sort she know she should command.
She teased them weeks ago, but this moment
must surpass that, and will, if only
the clouds play along with her.
She knows clouds are fickle, but
even mother nature usually concedes
if only begrudgingly, and tonight
should be one of those occasions.
She will not see them gather, but
her arrival will be heard in the
collective sigh and the memories she knows
they will carry into their eternity.

WHERE?

The moment you are certain
that you know where
you are going
is the precise moment
at which you become totally lost.

The moment you realize
that you have little idea
where you are and none
about where you will end up
is when you found yourself.

At this moment you are here
which was there a moment ago
and will be there a moment from now
even if you do not move, so it
is easier to say you are nowhere, always.