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.

FOSSIL FUEL

It should give you pause
to consider that, in the midst
of boundless greed, enmeshed
in the near cult of self, rushing
always to go nowhere quickly,
certain the problems of the world,
can be solved tomorrow, using
resources that may never be
replenished or substituted for,

when we are dead and buried,
we will be the fossil fuels
that future generations
rightfully shun in horror.

TODAY

Today we want very much to pray
but words fail us yet again, and we doubt
God would hear our entreaty anyway,
since this is a disaster of our own making.

This is the problem of free will, as so many
discovered across Europe during the second
of the wars to end all wars, as did the people
of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well.

If God listened we would hear a reply:
“You made this mess, it is up to you to fix it
so get on with it, but do wait until
the pandemic subsides a bit more if you would.”

THE TALK

She sat us down this morning for a heart to heart conversation. We had mentioned the neighbors’ new dog, their second, this one little smaller than a pony. She smiled at us, but we could tell it was a false smile, something was hiding about to be set free. “That is the problem with dogs,” she said, “they come in all sizes and temperaments. You never know what to expect, except that in any weather, but mostly the kind you hate, you have to walk them, or they walk you. And loud, they all seem to come without volume controls. So be thankful you have me. Now excuse me, my litter pan beckons.”

NEXT IN LINE

It was the moment they said, we picked you, that I knew they had not. They thought they had to say it. They knew they shouldn’t. I was the next gumball down the chute. You put in your nickel, move the lever and wait. Actually it wasn’t quite like that. If you don’t like the color or flavor of gumball, you throw it out or give it to someone else. Spend another nickel, simple. In adoption, there was no do over. In my case as well. Well there was, actually, but if you give one back, you don’t get another unless there was a really big and hidden problem. Read the fine print, the lawyers say, adoptees come with no warranty, and you take us as is. You wouldn’t buy a car that way, would you.

UNANSWERED

As strange as it seems, I can
spend hours in a used bookstore
lost in the marginalia, and textbooks,

particularly those in psych and sociology
are generally the most fertile,
for those students, though they would

never admit it, pursued those fields
hoping to find answers to their own
problems without having to ask.

Yesterday’s visit was particularly fertile,
but it was a college introductory text
in biology that grabbed and held me.

In the margin of a short chapter mentioning
thoracic anatomy was a question
for which I have no possible answer:

Does the diseased heart in the metal
operating room basin curse the body
on the gurney who was supposed

to join it in the ground, and what of the
donor who goes back to the soil
heartless and utterly and eternally alone?

ROUND ABOUT

The great minds in Transportation have decided
that the answer to all traffic problems
is simple, you replace troublesome intersections
with traffic circles, but you call them roundabouts.
They know that the young and wish they were
in their muscle cars will avoid them like the plague,
for even they cannot defeat centrifugal force,
and inertia is one thing they never lack.
And for the old, the plodding, either they won’t
enter the circle, or will revolve around its center
like a small planet bound tightly to its star
marking the center, and then only after they
have paused for an indeterminite period, trying
to figure out how to get in, where to get out
and wishing they had called Uber to begin with.
And I, behind them know, I can take this time
to get in a day’s meditation counting my breath.

LOOKING BACK FORWARD

Between now and eventually lies all of history. We are unable to see it
though it lies in our field of vision. That’s the problem, we only know
how to look backward. We are barely able to see where we are. It isn’t
that we don’t want to be here, merely that here is difficult to see, for
we have a tendency to block our vision. Imagine a map with an X or other
marker saying “You are Here.” Yet seeing that we know we are not there for
in that instant we will look down and see where we truly are. But the better
statement to the “you are here” sign is not to call it wrong, but rather
to simply ask it, how did you know. It will answer, your visit was history
lying between my now and my eventually.

DYING TO MEET YOU

The single greatest problem
In writing about death
Is that everybody does it, dies
Sooner or later, so it’s hardly
All that special unless, like Twain,
it happens more than once.
But perhaps multiple deaths are not
All that uncommon, for Buddhists,
Among whom I count myself
It happens all the time, karma demands it.
And if I had any doubt, Google will confirm it.
I, for instance, died the seasoned lawyer
in Calgary in 2009, the trade I practice for 36 years,
And I ironically died on my birthday
In 2011 in Palm Beach Gardens, though
I’ll be damned if I felt 84 then, and
I kicked bucket in 1754 in Orbach, France
But I’ve never been a real fan of the French
although it is my next best language
And when the wine is good, it’s great.