ODE TO THE HOUSE CAT

I have concluded that God created the cat
in a moment of exhaustion or of extreme pique.
How else to explain such a soft fur covered creature
capable at once of a gentle caress and a claw
lunging out at a hand or face deemed too close.
Why else this projectile constantly launched
only at those places it was not to be,
fine wood tables etched with reminders
of its sudden presence and rapid departure.
What else to explain this shedding ball
of multihued fur that always curls in sleep
in the one place you wish to sit
and even when it cedes a seat to you, smirks
in the realization you will soon
an unexpectedly be half covered in fur.
Why this package of fluff and terror crawls
beneath your blanket as you verge on sleep
curls tightly against you and begins its gentle
rhythmic purring that draws you deeply
into a world of fur filled dreams.

First Published in ZOOANTHOLOGY, Sweetycat Press, August 2022

JOSHU’S BUDDHA

If you go in search of Buddha
should you see him, do
not stop or speak but run away.
If you do not see the Buddha
run away from that place.
If you stop, to take water
from the edge of a still pond
look carefully, for
the Buddha is there
just above the water’s surface.

A reflection on case 80 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)

AT FIRST

The first time
I heard it
I knew
that voice
came from a place
I had never visited,
would never
be able to go.

It penetrated me
reverberated
within me
a harmonic
that shook
me to my core.

She reached
and grasped
what I thought
I had kept hidden,
and as I danced
with my
new bride,
I knew Etta
had led me
to love
At Last.

HERE-ISH, NOW-ISH

In this moment we, the two of us,
are here in this precise place
and there are an infinite number
of places we might be.
But we want to be here,
just here, nowhere else.
We are aging, but in this moment
we are exactly the right age
and to be younger or older
would do nothing for us.
When I curl against you
as the morning light struggles
to pierce the pulled blinds
and stroke your arm
my fingers are in the only
place my fingers want to be.
Here, now, together.

LUNA’S SONG

Tonight, when the sun
has finally conceded the day
to its distant but ever larger kin,
the moon will again sing
her ever waning song
hoping we will join
in a chorus we have
so long forgotten,
bound to the earth
in body and in waxing thought.

We will stop and listen
perhaps, over the din
of the city, the traffic,
the animals conversing
with the sky, our thoughts,
but the words will now
be an alien language
for which we have
no dictionary, only
the faint memory
of the place from which
both we and the moon
share cosmic ancestry.

ON THE PRECIPICE

He never imagined for a moment
that he would be here, here
of all places, on the precipice
of an abyss the likes of which
he only visited in nightmares.

And he knew, when he looked
back he knew he would see
the pack of Abyssinians heading
for him, and that was another
nightmare given his cat allergy
and his intense Ailurophobia.

So there it was, on one hand
the abyss, on the the other
the Abyssinians, simply
an abysmal Morton’s fork
and he felt he had to face
death, and in that moment
the alarm went off and he was
awake in a pool of sweat.

THE WORLD-HONORED ONE POINTS TO THE EARTH

As you wander around
looking for a place
to build a temple,
looking for eden,
looking for nirvana,
stop and simply sit,
listen to the breeze
teaching you the Dharma,
the clouds chanting
the sutras in a harmony
beyond your hearing.
Look down for you
are in your temple,
sitting in eden
nirvana at your feet.

A reflection on case 4 of the Book of Equanimity Koans

MADE IN

You learn to shop carefully,
always searching for where
an item is made, avoiding places
you know are not socially responsible.

The search is complicated
by the lack of nearby stores,
by the ubiquity of Amazon,
by the certainty that the product
won’t arrive for some time,
and when you find one
you like, you scroll down
and see the magic buzzword
“Imported” and you know
from experience that
is another way of saying China,
and the search goes on.

WHEREVER I LAY MY HEAD

You say that you are uncertain
if this place yet feels like home,
and look at me silently
questioning how I feel.

I answer as silently that
you are here, I am here
so it does feel like home
just as everywhere would
when we are together there.

Without speaking you remind
me that even I would admit
a hotel room is not home despite
our presence, and I agree that
places with suitcases are excepted.

TALKING ART

The good and the bad of acquiring a new work of art is that you have to listen carefully when it tells you just where in your home it has to be. You may have other ideas, but it is best to set them aside, for ultimately the art knows far better than you. All you must do is listen carefully, and mindfully but devoid of preconceptions. And new works of art come with a knowledge of how those domino mazes are constructed, for once they find where they need and must be, the art that occupied that place is duty bound to tell you where it wants next to be, and so on. So gather up your tools, ladder, picture hooks and nails for this is going to be a much longer day than you envisioned.