OH MY GOD

On the subway there was a placard
telling me and all of the other riders
where we could find God, promising
salvation if we made the search.

Someone had scrawled beneath it
“God is ded.” I was left to wonder
if the writer also thought that God
was now somehow deceased,

and how you would know
if that were really the case, since
you’d be struck deaf, dumb
and blind if you were in His presence,

unless, of course, you were
an evangelical preacher, in which
case you talked to the man upstairs
with great regularity, making

certain you never, ever disclosed
how much you were taking in
in collections each Sunday, lest
God claim his portion of the take.

SEPPO’S TURNING THE WHEEL 正法眼蔵 三十八

The wisest of men,
when asked at what time
it is best to pursue the Way,
will answer when a thousand stars
have made their presence known.
The wisest student will say
when cleaning myself
by bathing in the mud.
This will become clear
when the frog
consumes the dragon.

A reflection on Case 35 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)

NANSEN AND THE LAND DEITY 鐵笛倒吹 十八

When you come
into this town
we know you are coming,
when you enter
this room we
know you will arrive.
It is only when
we cannot discern
your presence
that your spirit
has truly arrived.
Contemplate this
over a bowl of rice
shared with mountain
and wind.

A reflection on Case 18 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)

SHADOW

I want to be your shadow,
and not in your shadow,
but the shadow itself,
so that I might be with you,
often unnoticed, forgotten
but present in the light
of day and night.

It is a closeness
I deeply want, without
intruding, a presence
you have with you always,
for that is what lovers
crave in silence, something more
for which they dare not ask.

SHOWERS

We sat on our lanai last night
in our twin rockers, the cat
curled close by but carefully
removed from the rockers
and stared into the sky hoping
meteors would grace us
with their fleeting presence.

The moon did appear, shrouded
in thin clouds, spectral ghost
waxing slowly in hiding, but
the stars had fled this night,
fearing the rain that
the cloud mantle promised.

We never did see a meteor
but we know they will return
next year and the cat says
it is hardly worth interrupting
a good nap for a momentary
flash of light, and we just
touched hands and
retreated to bed.

VISITORS

We keep looking, some of us
certain they are there,
others as certain they are not,
as God didn’t mention them.

We hope to see them
to reach out to them
to understand them,
to learn from them.

Of course, we know
that if they are here
they are so much more
intelligent than we

and hardly likely
to announce their
presence given what
they must know about

how we behave
with immigrants
and aliens of all sorts.

PATIENCE

Even a cat knows when the screen is on Zoom, you sit and wait. Or stick your head in the picture so all can acknowledge your presence. Either works, and you know patience is not a virtue, but at times a necessity. You are a cat, after all. Patience is for dogs, poor beasts, having to be walked regularly. There is no freedom being a dog, and when they call you bad, that day is shot for you and you slink off. But cats must sometimes be patient when they are on Zoom, but it gives you time to plot your revenge, which the humans will never expect, but always soon enough forgive.

THE CHARM

The first one felt right,
there was nothing deeper considered,
just that feeling that now,
I know, anyone might have provided
but then, it was something
in a world of nothing.

The second, really, was
certainly right, for life this time,
the wisdom of a single failure
enough to ensure success,
and when it came apart
thirty years later, it was
apparent it was never right,
just more than nothing.

This one is right, for it
does not require feeling so,
merely being in her presence,
a completeness I never knew,
which explains why this time
nothing can get in the way
of the ultimate everything.

RINZAI’S REAL EYE 鐵笛倒吹 九十語



You say there are
a thousand ways
of seeing this moment
but which is the real way?
I respond there are
a thousand ways
of seeing this moment
but which is the real way?

You may take my place,
you may look
through my eyes,
but you will still
be blind
to this moment
or that.

A reflection on Case 95 of the Iron Flute Koans

HAUNTING MOMENTS

All too soon, I will return
as a ghost and how you
and others deal with that
has yet to be seen, although
know that ghosts are
reflective, and your thoughts
will determine both my presence
and mood during such visits
as I choose to make to you.

You may not believe
in ghosts, I did not for years,
but as you approach
that state of post-being
you realize that ghosts
arrive in dreams and you
are helpless to control them,
so lie back, enjoy me
when I visit, for I have
an eternity of options
too soon at my disposal.