STORY

You are still there. You have a patience that I will not know in this lifetime. I know I can always find you, even though you never reach out to me except in my dreams. There I tell you my life story and you listen intently. You have no need to ask questions, knowing I will tell the whole story in due time, And time is one thing you have that I, increasingly, lack. So I’ll be back for another visit soon and you will be waiting for me, mother.

UNANSWERED

There are so many questions for which I have never gotten an answer. What, for instance, does one who is lactose intolerant cry over? If the rest is history, can’t we just stop now and read it later? And if every cloud has that silver lining, it has been well seeded, so why isn’t it raining? If you sleep on the left side of the bed, do you always get up on the wrong side? And when I answer your next question, I will start by saying “to be dishonest with you.” What will you do with that, Epimenides?

MARVEL

We are, after all, merely human
so we are fraught with questions
and lacking answers, willing
to take things on faith on occasion.

Take God, for example, although
some say He is uniquely exemplary,
we want to know if God is a he,
a she, or to cover all our bases, a they.

And when we ask for a sign we
often look to the heavens as if
God only operate locally, even
Moses knew a bush would suffice.

Actually we hunger for signs now,
in a world gone mad, cursing free
will, wanting proof, when all we
need do is marvel at nature around us.

WORKSHOP

Grace settles into the chair,
less an act of sitting than
of floating down onto the seat.
She has borrowed my grandmother’s
smile, kind, gentle, inviting.
She pulls a book from her bag,
its pages or most of them
dog eared, and I glimpse
some annotations in the margins.
We sit around her like children
awaiting presents on a holiday,
as acolytes seeking knowledge
from a font of poetic and prosaic
wisdom, or so we think.
She reads in a voice that is
at once soft and loud enough
to reach the back of the room,
opening the book to a random
page and diving in, then after
what seems like a minute and
an hour, she stops and asks
for questions. We sit dumbstruck
for a moment then fire at her
like machine gunners on the range.
She answers each, claims she is
a simple grandmother who writes
but we know better, know we
are in the presence of a true master.

CALLING

In the dark heart of night
time is suddenly frozen,
the clock’s hands stalactites
and stalagmites, unyielding
denying the approach of morning,
leaving the sun imprisoned
under the watchful gaze
of its celestial wardens.

It is then you appear,
call out to me, beg me
be silent, not asking
the lifetime of questions
I have accreted, providing
my own hopes and
imagination for answers,
but you have faces, not
those of that weekend
but of other days, she
younger, in college, he
in a college yearbook
at a school he never attended
save as part of the ROTC
contingent of the Air Force.

I bid you farewell, finally,
and time again takes motion
and morning welcomes the sun.

THE RIGHT WAY

In a world beset
by poverty and pandemic,
global warming and hunger,
there are a myriad
of questons urgently
requiring answers.

Among them
is not the question
of the proper way
to eat with a fork,
or more precisely
how to hold it
when bringing food
to the mouth
from the plate.

I was taught to hold
it like a pen, but
tilted so I looked
down on the tines
bent in concavity.

But in watching
too many European
films and TV shows,
it seems I should
look down on
the tines’ convexity.

This conundrum
is easily solved
by using only
a spoon.

BARGING IN

It would help, she said, if you
would stop imagining your life
as a barge moving slowly down
the Mississippi River, one
in an endless procession, following
like so many lemmings looking
without hope of finding a cliff.
Yes, she adds, from time to time
one may break free, it happens
but you have to admit that is
usually a disaster requiring
a significant clean up, not
to mention countless hours
of hand-wringing and questions
as to just how something
so untoward could have happened.
And, she concluded, it
just so happens that I
am sick and tired
of dragging you along
on my path to the Gulf.

FIVE QUESTIONS, NO ANSWERS

He no longer cared when
it would happen, he knew
it would or would not according
to its own whims and desires
and it would happen when
it chose to do so.
He could not control who
would be there, it might be him
or might not, so if he was, fine,
and if not, so be it.
And he knew not to stand still
assuming it would happen there,
for it was likely to happen there
or somewhere else, a place of its choosing.
It would have its own reasons
and he could ascribe a reason
and it might suit him, but
he knew at a deep level that
he would be engaged in the sort
of self-delusion he so
despised in others.
And when he understood all of this,
he knew exactly what he needed to do
and retired from the news
uncertain who he would be,
where he would go or when,
what he would do and why
anyone would care, and he was happy.

ERR GO

There is a reason for all things
and therefore there is a reason for this
although we cannot begin to fathom
what that reason could possibly be, which
should be reason enough,
for reason has a twisted soul:
now playful, now angry, now vengeful
in irregular turns without warning.
The problem with seeking the reason
for things is deeply hidden, and not
as some imagine that it is difficult, no,
the problem is that the search for the reason
has its own reason needing to be discovered
and so on recursively back to the Big Bang
which still, to this day, has
the ultimate undiscovered reason.

UMMON’S TWO SICKNESSES

 

If you truly believe that you
will soon enough meet your teacher
you must gather together all
of your questions concerning the Dharma.
Carry them with you at all times
in a satchel thrown over your shoulder,
for you will be allowed
only a single meeting with the master.
When you meet the master, pull out
all of your questions for each
is a stick with which you will be hit.
When you meet the master, throw
your questions into the windy sky
and gather the answers
like leaves scattered at your feet.


A reflection on case 11 of the Book of Equanimity (Shōyōroku 從容錄)