RINZAI’S BLIND DONKEY

When your teacher
hands you the dharma
what do you find in your hands?

What will you do
with the dharma you are given,
where will you keep it,
or will you give it away
in silence, and in such
giving have it with you
at all times and places.

A reflection on Case 13 of the Book of Equanimity (従容錄, Shōyōroku)

ROAMING

It is a sign of advancing age
or increasing love and passion
that I no longer imagine
chucking it all and wandering
off of some unplanned journey.

Next flight out please, I
don’t care where it is going,
so long as I have money left
for food and some basic lodging,
no baggage besides my carry on.

Of course today that would
land me in the interrogation
room or whatever TSA
calls it these days, for I must
be a terrorist or crazy person.

So I’ll stay here, visit friends
between visits to doctors,
salve my arthritis, degenerating
spine, failing eyes, and imagine
the places I might have gone.

ORIGIN

I am told that I should write
about my origins, that is the stuff
that long poems are made of, or
rather the soil from which they bloom.

I have written about my birth mother
and visited her grave in West Virginia
seen those of my grandparents, met
a cousin, I’ve written all of that.

So its time to write about
my birth father, about the places
he was as a child, a young man,
where he is buried, dead long before

I discovered his existence, our link,
but I know nothing of Burlington,
or Camden and my passing knowledge
of New Jersey is limited
to Newark and its airport.

That is hardly the stuff of great poetry
or even mediocre memoir, so he
will be nothing more than a picture
of a gravestone in a national cemetery.

PERSPECTIVE

It will soon enough be time again,
I am an old clockface on a tower
at which no one but the truly bored
bother to look, tucked in a corner
of a village half empty, its life
moved away to places cooler,
less stormy. So I sit and watch
what life remains around me,
the few children wishing they
could be elsewhere, some parents
wishing they had used birth control.
No one looks, no one really cares
but I have little choice, it is my fate
to mark passages, entrances,
but my hands are growing tired
and at some not far off point
they will stop moving, and I
wonder if anyone will care.

A TWISTED ROAD

Walking down the helical
road, untwisting as you go
you discover places
you never imaginged
visiting, nothing
like the path you
thought you knew well.

Stop and claim
your new heritage,
find yourself
on an alien map,
bury yourself in books
of new and ancient history.

Pause here and consider
a King of Scotland,
knights and lords,
in the far distance
know that you claim
a link to a man
so honored that he
died by hanging, but
was then beheaded
and drawn and quartered.

Too late to unswab
your cheek, so simply
enjoy your ride.

THE MIND’S BLIND EYE

He imagined the end was coming,
but that was his problem, imagining
for it was about all he was capable of doing.

He started small, near visualization
more than imaginings, but he grew more
proficient with practice, his ideas

his conceptions of an increasingly
grander scale, until from a single thread
he could weave a tapestry that

boggled even his mind, and lent
a reality to his fantasies that he could
never hope to deny, they were palpable.

As his interior world grew larger
infinitely more complex, the exterior
world shrank away until it was little

more than a sensual black hole
swallowing people and places with
an abandon he would have found

fascinating were he not so taken up
with his latest idea, universal in scope
until it subsumed, digested all, including him.