Atop the hill
the trees are filigree
against the fading light.
The tents are fireflies
twinkling as night
reclaims the earth.
I am caught up
in the chill
watching my breath
kiss the stars.
First Appeared in Blueline, Vol. 22, 2001. Reprinted in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 29, No. 1, 2005
Origami cranes lumber into flight
and lift into the sky
over the small, back street Temple
somewhere on the periphery of Shinjuku.
They know their flight will be
only temporary, that their wings
will grow quickly tired, that
the rustling sound
of two thousand wings
will soon fall silent
as the breeze bids them
a peaceful night,
and the Temple bell
announces the evening zazen.
I will be going soon
and this is what I would leave you:
I would leave you my dreams
of a world at peace, where compassion
comes as an expectation not a surprise,
a place where the arrival
of the sun is a source of joy
for with it and the rains,
you, no one, will ever want for food,
centers where all can learn
and knowledge, like the universe
which we inhabit will
continue to expand,
but my dreams may
not be gift enough unless we
turn from those who care
to leave no dreams, taking
only for themselves in this moment,
for who tomorrow will always be
someone else’s problem.
When you assume the mat
and gaze at the wall,
what is it you see?
If you see nothing,
what do you think?
If you are certain
that you see nothing,
that is what you think.
Do not see, do not think,
and let the cushion
fall away until the moment
you no longer exist,
but let the moment
fall away as well
and there is only
the emptiness of peace.
A reflection on case 17 of the Entangling Vines Koans
On the anniversary
of the start of a war
one feels almost compelled
to speak to its horrors,
its cause, its effect.
But we live in an age
where wars are plentiful,
when peace is the exception
and war seems to loom
around every corner.
So on this anniversary
I watch the snowy egret
stare into the pond
outside my window,
the great bird calmly
in her world
all of the people
are merely fish.
I sat with the ghost again
this morning, the one who inhabits
the body that was once my father.
Ghosts find it difficult to speak
from within living bodies, so mostly
it squeezed my hand and offered
an occasional weak smile or nod,
said I looked good, but ghosts do have
trouble seeing out of human eyes.
He slept quite a bit, curled up
the better to contain himself
against the lights and prodding,
for ghosts want only silence and peace.
For on this day there is no peace,
for on this day some are laid to rest,
for on this day others shed endless tears,
for on this day many are wringing hands,
for on this day many offer hollow words,
for on this day they know they should act
for on this day they know they will not,
for on this day we think about tomorrow,
for on this day we think of those without tomorrows,
for on this day the sun did rise,
for on this day the earth did rotate,
for on this day God was elsewhere,
for on this day we were all too human.
In memory of the lives lost and changed forever at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.