TOZAN’S TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN 正法眼蔵 四十九

When you are asked
to climb to the top
of the mountain and look
in all directions
and report who you see,
if you see no one, how
will you respond?
Close your eyes
and tell me,
am I still here?

A reflection on case 49 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)

GENSHA’S THREE VEHICLES 正法眼蔵 四十語

Describe this moment
without use of word or sound –
see where you are
with eyes pressed tightly closed,
hear a song with utter silence,
taste the pure mountain air
reach out and touch
that which has no shape
or form, no essence
and you sit
in the middle
of reality.

A reflection on case 45 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)

RENTAL

The mountain reaches
up grasping clouds.
The river no longer runs
red down its flanks
now traversed
by a black ribbon
twisting upward.
The Hertz rental
has a warning
taped on the glove box
driving above 5,000 feet
is prohibited, and
at the driver’s risk.
The Minolta sits
in the trunk
as I deny
the siren’s call.

FirstAppeared in Raconteur, Issue 3, January 1996.

FLIGHT

He began his trek up the mountain early in the morning to allow time for the ascent and return. He’d planned this carefully, and proceeded slowly so as not to be put off his goal. He smiled as he passed through a low hanging cloud layer, erasing the ground from which he set off on his journey. He plodded on, seeing the summit growing ever, if slowly, closer. He finally reached his goal at the summit, sat and smiled broadly. He had made it. He gazed down, feeling as though he had at last achieved flight. He was one with the sky. A sudden shadow passed over him. He looked up at the eagle circling, mocking him, as if saying this is flight, you poor earthbound creature.

REFLECTIONS

An elk stands at the edge
of a placid mountain lake
and sees only the clouds
of an approaching winter.
A black bear leans over
the mirrored surface of the lake
and sees only the fish
that will soon be his repast.
The young man draped
in saffron robes looks
calmly into the water and sees
a pebble, the spirit of his ancestors.
I look carefully into the water
looking for an answer to a question
always lurking out of reach
and see only my ever thinning hair.

FirstAppeared in Green’s Magazine (Canada), Vol. 29, No.1, Autumn
2000.

NANSEN AND THE LAND DEITY 鐵笛倒吹 十八

When you come
into this town
we know you are coming,
when you enter
this room we
know you will arrive.
It is only when
we cannot discern
your presence
that your spirit
has truly arrived.
Contemplate this
over a bowl of rice
shared with mountain
and wind.

A reflection on Case 18 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)

“Geography”

People of the mountain
are quiet, some say taciturn
preferring to listen for the cry
of the eagle, wind whistling
its familiar tune through a pass
snow rent from the face
tearing down in a crystalline cloud.

People of the shore
merge with the song
of the waves, feel its tempo
punctuated by the bark
of the whale, the horn
anchored in the harbor,
the tavern disgorging
its nightly catch into the streets.

People of the city
stare at the bleakness
of the stone monolith
torn from the earth
white tipped peaks barren,
and the endless wash
of the sea, licking
at land and retreating
an ill-trained pup
but mostly at the ground
lest it slide from beneath them.

First publshed in Lighthouse Weekly, January 17, 2022
https://www.lighthouseweekly.com/post/geography-and-santa-cruz-wharf-september

THE CLIMB

Life should be a like a mountain
although truth be told, we
prefer it more like a prairie
or at best a gentle, rolling hill.

There is a challenge to climbing,
hell maintaining a grip halfway
up most mountains, and
there are no maps, no
well worn paths, you just
go up until you cannot
go up higher then you
figure out how to come down.

Down is the hard part,
and you don’t want it to go
quickly for that is a prescription
for the undertaker, and when
you do finally get down, you
want to say I did it all,
there is nothig left
that I still need to do.

THREE WORDS ARE MIND

If you stare
at a large stone
and call it a mountain
the ant will agree with you.
If you gaze on a mountain
and call it a stone
there can be no argument.
If I call that tree
a toothpick
clean your teeth carefully.

A reflection on Case 112 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye) Koans

CHŌSHA’S RETURNING TO MOUNTAINS

When you see a mountain
why must you climb it
with your eyes.
When you hear
a mighty river why
must you ford it
with your ears,
when you feel the earth
why must you touch
it with your feet?
Are you
not the mountain
does the river run
through you, as you
run through it, are
you not the earth?

A reflection on Case 16 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye) koans.