THE LAKE

Sitting out in the middle
of the large lake
is a very small island.
It’s more of a large rock
just sticking out of the water,
but everyone calls it an island.
Moss grows all over the exposed part
so you don’t know it’s all stone
unless you row out to it,
which no one ever does.
No one goes out on the lake,
no one swims in it,
the lake is just there, growing
when it rains, shrinking
in the heat of summer.
And that is just fine
with the lake, although
it does like the occasional
pebble dropped into it
so it can ripple like a proper lake
even if no one sees.

TIPPING THE WATER BOTTLE 無門關 四十

These few words
gathered neatly on a scrap
of simple paper,
what do you call it?

Answer carefully for you response
may carry the keys
to the doors of Mount Tai-i.
Better still, upend
the water bottle, watch
the ink and water form
a gentle pool into which
no pebble drops.


A reflection on Case 40 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate)