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 (Gateless Gate)

STARING

A crane stands placidly
staring through the window
as we earnestly attempt
to imitate him, hoping
he will honor the effort
if not the result.
The master is graceful
and we are far less so, and
out of the corner of my eye
I see on the crane what could be
a smile, or as easily derision,
and take comfort in the thought
that the root of the word
is shared with laughter,
and we can accept that
not as a mark of failure but effort.
The crane returns to the pond
the master to his neigong
and we imagine we are
all noble birds awaiting flight.

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 Koans)

GYOZAN SITS

To a parched man
sitting along the roadside
a picture of the ocean
will provide him nothing
to quench his thirst
and even if he jumps in
the salt will lead
to his imminent death.

But give him
the idea of a pond
fed by a pure stream
and he will be
a content salmon
swimming upstream.


A reflection on Case 86 of the Iron Flute Koans.

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)

THIN ICE

When we were much younger
we would meet by the edge
of the pond each day
after winter’s first taste
and pry rocks from the bank
with frozen fingers, one the size
of a fist, others even larger.
We would carefully aim
and in a crystal parabola
watch as they hit the frozen
surface, one upon another
in hopes they would not
break through to drown
in a strangled silence.

When the largest stones
we could heave would clatter
across the ice, great uneven
ruts in the covering snow,
we would reach for the shovels
we had sneaked from the garage
and slowly roll the blanket of snow
into a pillow on the banks.
Lacing on our skates, some
a size too large, stuffed with paper
others too small, toes crushed,
we would step gingerly out
like sailors too long ashore
and lean on our hockey sticks
like three-legged stools
tottering across a shined floor.
We would take off a hat
or a glove and mark the corners
of the rink and the edges
of the goal mouth, two sticks wide.
We would take the almost
round wooden disk of
layers of plywood
crudely nailed together
and begin a game
whose periods were marked
by the cry of our mothers.

Today the pond is gone
replaced by homes
and our shouts barely echo
off the brick facades.