MAL ANNEE

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
imagining that
in her world
all of the people
are merely fish.

DROPPING IN

He drops suddenly
from a branch of a tree
which you don’t see
for all of the others.
He lands a foot from you,
you pause suddenly
and he looks up at you,
trying to determine if you
are friend, foe, or lunch.
He concludes you are
not lunch and scurries off
under a nearby bush
on the edge of the pond
where the rocks will
provide the sun
for an afternoon nap.
You gather your wits
and thoughts, knowing
you will retell this story,
but for him, it is just
another day it the life
of your average iguana.

A MISTAKE IN SPEAKING 無門關 三十九

When you speak the words
of the Buddha you are lost.
Light is everywhere in silence
but the tongue must hide
in the dark of the mouth.

Buddha’s words are flowers
unfolding in the dawn
by the side of the still pond,
the eyes hear the song
and respond in silent chorus.


A reflection on case 39 of the Mumonkan (The Gateless Gate)

REVERY

Seen from a great distance
the rowboat is a speck
on a lake which appears far more
like an oversized pond.
You are so far off you cannot
see if there is a person in the boat
or it is merely floating about
free of its mooring,
imagining itself a water-lily
basking in the midday sun.
Your reverie is broken by the coo
of the dove flying over the fountain
in the garden, ever so careful
to have the water just caress her breast
before landing on the edge.
Seeing you, she preens,
dips her head in thanks
or simple acknowledgement of your presence
and lifts gracefully into the walnut
to join her impatient mate.

ALONG THE MIDDLE WAY

Each day he stops briefly
in the small park along the path,
and picks up a pebble which he tucks
in the coin pocket of his jeans.
There it rests until he comes
the pond where he sits on the shore
staring out into the heart of the water.
He pulls the pebble and tosses it
in a high arc, always trying to land it
in the center of the pond, where he
can watch the ripples slowly proceed
toward him, and hitting the edge,
echo back toward the center, diminished.
This morning he followed his pattern,
sat on the edge and let fly the pebble
which landed squarely, but this day
there were no ripples, just the mirror
still surface of the pond, and he
began the slow walk home, knowing
he would never visit this pond again,
for he was now on a very different path.