HOGAN’S HAIR’S-BREADTH

What is it you are looking for,
what you expect to find
and how will you know
if you find it?

You expected your teacher
to present it to you?

What would you do with it
if you did receive it?

You must first see that you
are both the searcher
and the teacher and
you already have
what you are searching for,
for you find things when
you stop looking for them.

A reflection on Case 17 of the Book of Equanimity (SHôYôROKU 従容錄)

SIEGAN’S COST OF RICE

How long have you wandered
always searching for the one
answer, the hidden truth
that, when revealed to you,
will show you enlightenment?

Where have you searched
for this one truth, one
that will collapse the past,
present and future into
a single moment of pure
presence which you can grasp
and carry with you through life?

Stop and ask the infant
strapped to his mother’s chest,
for he has the answer
and his silence will speak
of it if only you will listen.

A reflection on case 5 of the Book of Equanimity Koans

WHEN

We are told that we cannot
live in the past, that would be
a senseless waste of the present.

But we cannot live without
the past for then there would be
no true present in which to live.

So we are left to hover between
the past and its absence,
knowing the present will soon

be the past, there or gone,
caught in the abyss as we
plunge ever forward in the now.

THE WALL

The wall is black granite,

highly polished be an unseen hand

and the fingers of countless thousands

present but each unseen by the others.

At first glance you want to count

the names, but you lack fingers

enough for the task and others

are quickly withdrawn as are their eyes.

You know where the names are,

Willy, who they now call William,

Little Joey, who was so large in your

memory, climbing into the cockpit.

You wonder if things had been different,

if you hadn’t enlisted, chosen

the Air Force, if the Draft Board

anointed you cannon fodder, who

would trace their fingers along

the cold unfeeling stone that has

been washed by untold tears bidding

you farewell or thanks, rarely both.

We have grown so good at wars

we no longer need etched walls,

bronze statues, for before a design

is complete, the next must be begun.

First published in The Parliament Literary Magazine – Issue 5- Masks and Manes 

THE LANGUAGE OF ZEN

The greatest problem
with our language
in the practice of zazen
can seem insurmountable.

We are lovers of tenses,
a dozen to choose from,
one spawning offspring,
time ever important to us.

In zen, on the cushion
there is no past, no future,
perfect or otherwise, nor
our friend the conditional.

We strive to always be
in the moment, there is now
and nothing else, and we
ought to strive to never be tense.

ZOOM ZEN

In the middle of a rouund of zazen
I hear the bells of a nearby church,
although I am nearby no church.

Zen teaches you to be present
in each moment, to be immersed
in and not witnessing life around you.

The bells break my struggle
to not think, they introduce time
again where there should be none.

Just as soon, the bells are silent,
and the silence of 1300 miles away
pervades our small zendo,

so just perhaps Zoom, or the ability
to control its transmission, is
after all, a mindful Buddhist tool.

HISTORY

We only see the present as history,
by day history is a matter of minutes,
by night of seconds, years or centuries.

There is no future to be seen, only
imagined, the mind writing a story
that can never be read, never told.

It is only when we close the eyes
that the present truly exists,
independent of the past, free

and the past is merely waves
washing over and around us,
and the mind can find freedom.

IMAGINE THAT

You said you can only accept
what is real and tangible,
everything else
is a delusion or figment.

I cannot accept your premise
as a generalization, it eliminates
so much, for what you call real
may be otherwise to me.

And given that you are not
always present, perhaps
when you are not, when you
are not actually tangible
you are a delusion, and that
is something I can do well without:
In other words, farewell.

ON KNOWLEDGE

There are things children know
that parents will never understand.

Odder still, things a person knows
as a child are forgotten in adulthood.

A child measures the success of a day
by the duration of the parent
demanded bath at its end.

A child know that boundaries, especially
those parentally set, are flexible
and you don’t know where
the limit is until you cross it.

Presents are not special, they are
expected periodically, and only
a parent imagines that Santa
would ignore a child no matter
how “bad” the child had been.

But happily, when a parent
crosses the boundary into the land
of grandparenting, somehow
the knowledge of the child
is refound, very often accompanied
by one or more conspiratorial winks.