PENSEE

I do some
of my best thinking
he whispered,
when I think
of nothing at all.
Did you know
that if not
for the Babylonians
entire worlds
would be cubes.
In fact they were
for centuries.
It’s like sex
he continued,
it’s best when
you are celibate.
But then again
Bally shoes
are no longer
hand sewn,
and taro is best
served
room temperature.


First appeared in the May 2019 Issue of The Broadkill Review

EXPECTATIONS

Nothing unexpected happened today.
That, in itself, was entirely unexpected.
On this and certain other days,
you have to expect the unexpected.
When that doesn’t happen you are left
to ponder why what was logically expected
went so unexpectedly wrong.
Nothing unexpected should happen tomorrow.
At least anything unexpected happening
would be a truly unexpected event.
But as our parents always told us,
we should always expect the unexpected.
Or so was their perpetual expectation.

NIL, ZERO, NADA, NYET

This morning absolutely nothing happened. The newswires were silent, or repeated old stories. The sports wires had nothing of note to say, save repeating yesterday’s scores. Even the gossip news was absent, as though a Saturday night passed without embarrassment. I did not mind the quiet, the almost silence, able to listen to the Mockingbird’s song. But I did wonder how the wrecking ball in Washington so badly overslept.

STARING

She stares at you, unwavering.
You find this strange, wanting to see
something more in her looks,
but you get nothing from her,
as you have gotten nothing
from so many others before her.
You know men are as capable
of such stares as she, but you
don’t tend to see them, your own
gender blindness perhaps, or just
that men are less interesting
and more seldom seen
in these surroundings, usually
standing, posing, looking away.
You want to know what she
is thinking in this moment, what
she sees in your face, transfixed,
but the artist didn’t reveal that,
and so she will stare as well
at the next viewer throughout
the gallery’s open hours.

BODHIDHARMA’S VAST EMPTINESS

If you go walking one day
and meet a person you think
may be the Buddha, ask him
what is the heart of all of the sutras.
If he answers you with Dharma
will you be certain this person
is not the Buddha?
If, on the other hand,
he says nothing at all,
and merely holds up a mirror,
will you be certain you
are seeing the Buddha?
Decide before he crosses
the river and is gone from sight.


A reflection on Case 1 of Bring Me the Rhinoceros (Koans)

RE-ENTRY ALLOWED

He sits on the cushion
staring through hooded eyes
at the wall in front of him.
He expects exactly nothing to happen,
expects there to be no sound
within his mind, only what
happens without, expects that time
will cease for him, or
will at least cease to matter.
He is not disappointed.
The bell rings, he arises,
and walks back into the world
where everything happens,
there is only sound, and
he stares at his watch knowing
time has moved on in ways
he can never hope to fully grasp.

YAKUSAN’S LAKE 鐵笛倒吹 八十八

When you travel from home
and are asked if the lake
on the shore of which you live
is now full, what
can you say.
Will you speak of the rains
that soaked your fields
and what of the herd
of water buffalo
come to graze
since you have left.

The eye sees only now
the mind sees history
and the wise man
sees nothing.


A reflection on Case 88 of the Iron Flute koans.