FOREVER, ALMOST

It is a large boulder in the middle of a rutted path. That path leads nowhere in particular. It comes to an end at the edge of what appears to be a dense forest. Several trees are posted with “Do Not Trespass” signs, long faded until you must stare to make out the words. The forest is foreboding, so it is not clear if anyone would willingly enter. Few ever come down the path. Fewer still make it to its end. The large boulder has been here for centuries. It stares up at the sky, in amazement.

SOZAN’S FOUR DON’TS 鐵笛倒吹 九十二

You may seek to follow
the path of the dove
a fool know many roads.
You may wrap yourself
in fine linen, an infant
wears only his skin
and knows this moment
is already gone.

Think long before you speak
of how to walk
along the path, of where it leads.
The baby says nothing,
will not speak of where
he has been,
where he is going, for to him
there is only here,
and silence
is descriptive enough.


A reflection on case 92 of the Iron Flute Koans

TEN FOLD PATH (PT. 1)

1.

He takes a first step
eyes scanning
the path, the field
the forest
for the ox.
There is
no ox.

男は最初の一歩を踏み出し
道に、野原に、その先の森に目をやる
男の目は牛を探し求める
だがどこにも牛の姿はない

2.

Much time passes
another step
and there
in the soft mud
of spring a print
of hoof, deep
isolated
unpaired.

長い時間が過ぎ
男はさらに歩を進める
そして春のぬかるみの中にひとつ
人知れず埋もれた
蹄(ひずめ)の跡を見つける

3.

A step
in the distance
faint in morning fog
at the very edge
of vision
the ox stands
for a moment
he freezes for
an eternity.

また一歩進むと
朝もやに霞む視界の隅に
男の目は牛の姿をとらえる
そして永遠の一瞬に
男は立ちすくむ

4.

Reaching forward
with his foot
he gently places
a loop of rope
around the neck
of the waiting ox.
The ox stands
staring past the horizon
unmoving.

男はさらに踏み出して
じっと待っている牛の首に
そっと縄をかける
牛は身じろぎもせず
ただ地平線の彼方を見つめている

5.

He whispers
to the beast
and it steps
seeking his next
request, kneeling
to ease his dismount.

男が牛に囁きかけると
牛は歩みを止め
男の次の言葉を待つ
男が降りやすいように跪きながら

WALKING

He has been walking
for hours, or, perhaps
for days, it doesn’t matter
since he is precisely
where he should be
at this moment.
He is tired, so he
sits in seiza and watches
a colony of ants
working away in a crack
in the path, each
doing his assigned task.
He knows ants have
Buddha nature for when
they walk, they just walk,
like he does, and when
they eat they just eat
and he has never seen
a solitary ant wobble.