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)

THE TRICKSTER RESPONDS

The man liked to cry out into the night,
asking questions for which he knew
there could be no answers, or if
there were, they would be things
he would never wish to hear.
The coyotes in the hills would listen
to his pleas, his entreaties, his
moaning, and they would remember
the spirits of the old ones gone,
and yet back in their now-animal forms.
One night a trickster sat on the mesa,
and when the man began his questions,
the trickster, orange eyes aflame
spoke clearly, loudly, telling the man
that the answer to each of his questions
lay within himself, and he need only
look there, if he had the courage,
which the coyote knew, he lacked.

HYAKUJO’S SECOND VISIT 正法眼蔵 語十四

You may come asking questions,
and perhaps the teacher
will answer you with a discourse.
If you go deaf and hear nothing,
if the words flit
like so many mayflies
just as soon gone,
if no word finds purchase,
you will have grasped
the heart of the Dharma.


A reflection on case 54 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)

PARSINGS

The old monk sits
cross legged
on a grass mat,
a faint smile
dances across his lips.
He invites me to sit,
our meeting, he says,
is notable.

I sit, legs
folded as best
I can, and
begin to ask
but he silences me,
“First tea.” 
He sets the cups
down on the hardpack
dirt floor, there
is no table.

He asks me
to listen to
the conversation
 of passing birds,
to hear the silence
of the sun.
I ask him
to tell me
how I can find

enlightenment,
but he

is not able.