I could never understand as a child
why the moon was female,
the sun always male, and most
stars but ours had Arabic names.
Now makes much more sense to me,
the moon is never one to hog the sky
and even when she commands more
than her usual space, you only want
to stare at her in rapture,
while the sun is so vain
you can stare only briefly
and must look away, and he
is as likely to hide or flee
when he is most wanted,
as a calming, steady presence.
As for the names of all the others,
they don’t sound like ours,
and so we cast them off
as aliens to our small, smug world
As the seasons change
I will stand
with one foot
on the highest peak
and the other
at the bottom
of the deepest sea.
But do not ask
that I stand
in a place where
there is no Buddha,
or my feet and legs
shall fall away
into the void.
A reflection on Case 68 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye) Koans
If a thousand objects
are arrayed before you
what will you do,
what do you call them?
A sphere has no edges,
I can reach through a cloud.
Why would I try
to cut a moment in two,
or stuff a cloud in my pocket.
A reflection on Case 27 of the Iron Flute Koans
Each morning I should take a moment
and seriously question whether I have
any history or should want any.
Each day I know in that moment that
I have the option of being reborn, of being
someone who never existed before,
and the price of this is shedding all
of my former selves, an erasure I fear
without reason, for reason says
that this moment demands my naked
presence bereft of the masks and
trapping I so easily choose to hide within.
This morning I did pause in front
of the mirror, and asked if it knew me,
and it laughed, said, “never seen you before.”
Tomorrow I will deny today and most
yesterdays, this I know is the right
course for what will be a ghost ship.
They are arrayed like so much stacked
cord wood, pressed against walls
indifferent to their presence.
They watch the double doors leading
to the examining rooms with trepidation,
wanting to be next, wanting more
not to be here at all, knowing the options are none.
He isn’t bothered by it all, this is
old hat to him, he knows them, several
of them know him by name.
He will no doubt be here again
and that doesn’t worry him, for here
he knows he will walk in and walk out,
the alternatives are far less pleasant, some
involved simple pine boxes or urns
suitable for a mantle, but none
of his family have fireplaces and he
would hate to be lost for eternity amid
the toys and tchotchkes that so
define their lives and homes.
While others stare nervously, he hears
his long dead grandmother whisper
“Remember, boychik, pain is God’s way
reminding you that you’re alive.”
If you are patient and do not
look for it, there is a still moment
in each day when nothing at all happens,
when the silence without
demands a silence within,
when thoughts evaporate
like the mist of an early morning dew,
when you have precisely enough
and cannot imagine needing more,
when where you are is where you must be,
when the past and future float off
and their gravitational pull on you breaks,
and you simply are in the only moment there is.
When you peer through the glass
are you looking out, or
are you looking in, and how
would you know which is true,
and does it matter.
When you walk through a gate
are you entering or leaving.
If you ask where the gate
is located, you cannot find
where you are going,
for all gates lead nowhere
except where you are,
and if you are not at the gate
you might as well
just look through a window
and ask yourself should you
look in or out of the window
to find the missing gate?