ACROSS

Across the river
running limpid as mercury
the sky is gun-metal gray
and many stand
in the windows
of their small apartments
and stare at buildings
sitting like mausolea.
On this side of the river
running limpid as mercury
the sky is gun-metal gray
and many stand
in the windows
of their small apartments
and stare at buildings
sitting like mausolea.
Tomorrow across the river
the sky will be blue
and a cold sun will shine
and the river
will swallow its reflection.
Tomorrow on this side of the river
the sky will be blue
and a cold sun will shine
and the river
will swallow its reflection.

AFTER

He sits still
demanding your attention.
He stares at you with green eyes
and a defiant look, saying
you are a visitor here,
this is our world
so do not abuse your privilege
of sharing this space with us.
We were here long
before you arrived
and our kind will
be here long after
you depart, although
we do not comprehend
why you always seem
to want to rush
yourself headlong
into extinction.

MU

If you ask me whether
a dog has buddha nature
I will stare back at you
in total silence.
If you ask again,
or implore an answer
I will smile at you,
offer gassho and a bow.
If you ask yet again,
I will turn away
and you will be left
with a box into which
you dare not look
lest you find
Schroedinger’s cat.


Musing on Case 1 of the Mumonkan

THE VIEW FROM ABOVE

The hawk sits in one of the highest
branches of the tree, his red shoulders
blazing in the morning sun, both
staring down on those of us trapped
by gravity, by the weight of our thoughts,
as we pass by slowly below.
From time to time the hawk
will offer a short commentary, never
ceasing her stare, an amiable Goddess
who finds mere mortals pleasant
entertainment, but soon she
is more interested in a meal,
and as we depart, the squirrel
watching from the foot
of a nearby palm realizes
it is time to quickly practice
frolicking among the fronds.

GONE

The salmon people
don’t live here anymore
you have moved them
up the river, then inland
so they no longer need to wander.

The salmon
do not swim here anymore
you have dammed the rivers
to draw out their power
and penned the mighty fish
where the river first licks the sea.

The eagle doesn’t
fly here anymore
the great pines
that sat for generations
below his aerie are now
cut into neat supports
on which we hang our walls.

Our children
do not run here anymore
they have moved
to the cities, have gone off
to wars for fighting
is the only job
which they are given.

We have no rivers
we have no salmon
we have no sons, save those
who sleep under neat white stones.
We look for the eagle
a mighty spirit
but he, too, has been claimed
by the others
to decorate their buildings.
We have only our spirit
to guide us and we know
that soon you will claim them too
and leave us as you arrived
to repeat the sad story.