Nansen’s Reason Is Not the Way 無門關 三十四 

If you see the Buddha
you have certainly gone blind,
if you hear his words
you demonstrate your deafness.

Nansen will grow old,
hearing and vision will fade
and he will sit and shout
in a sun warmed rain.

A reflection on Case 34 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate) Koans

THE TIE’S LAMENT

I still have the tie
I wore to m grandmother’s
funeral, one I conducted,
but the suit from that day
is long gone, and just as well,
for it would be several sizes
too large for the present me.

I’ve only worn the tie once
since that rainy day in Maryland
and then to a wedding
to balance out the sadness
with a bit of joy, the tie
deserved at least that
for standing with me
in the downpour, urging me
to recite the ancient prayers
as quickly as possible.

FOR RAIN

The clouds build slowly, turning the sky from blue to ever darkening shades of gray. He hopes it will rain, rain heavily, as the ground is parched, the wetland a bog, and the birds have moved on in search of water. He watches the build up, the clouds accreting, and he waits for the first drop of water. The clouds begin to dissipate, the sun peeks through widening gaps, and the sky is soon blue again. And in the distance he thinks he hears a voice whispering “you know mother nature is a cranky old broad, right?”

BEGGAR’S TALE

I speak clearly, concisely
in an ancient, long forgotten
tongue that none understand.

I tell my tale, leaving out
nothing, a summoner
in a deaf world, whispering

of coins, pulled from
an empty pocket and cast
at your feet, soundless.

I point to signs, lettered
in my careful hand, without
meaning, cryptic to you

You urge me to trust
in your god even as
you deny me my own

who sits by the gate
wrapped in rags, waiting
to for rain to melt the pillar.

First published in Glimpse, Issue 54, Fall 2021

FLIGHT

We imagine that they are
disappearing into the clouds
only to reemerge
in a different place.

Nothing could be further
from the truth for they,
these raptors flying
on monstroius wings,
are shredding the clouds
ripping free their fruit,
eating of the sweetest
parts, letting the rest
fall down on us
as we scurry away
afraid of being soaked
in their remnants.

BLESSED

Barchu, for the slugs of the Chinese
knockoff AK47 which tore
through his legs, twisting
to avoid the artery and nerves.

Barchu, for the moon hanging
in the frosted night
seeking shelter in the mist
cutting into me, lashing me
to reality.

Barchu, for their memory
the small circle of candles
that burn eternally
in the rain.

Barchu, for the sleep
that slides over him
and sets him free
if only for an hour.

Barchu, for the evening
and the morning,
another day.

First Published in AGON Journal, Issue 0, 2021

APPROACHING AUTUMN

This is the season
when the maples
began their rain
of colored tears.

It may still be so,
but not here,
and the palms
know no seasons.

Once there was
a veil of lilac,
bushes trying to
outdo the others.

But at least
the magnolias care
nothing for distance
offering their beauty

here and where we
now have only
memories of the ebb
and flow of seasons.

DEAR ERASMUS, DIE

Today we welcome the rain, hope
that the wheaty winter lawn will
show some other color under its care.

The birds ignore the clouds,
accept the rain, care little how
our lawn looks, their next meal
of always greater importance.

I am losing the vision in one eye,
know I may soon be king
of the country of the blind,
and sadly curse Erasmus
for his gift of proverb, one
that slipped off the tongue
when my eye could still see it.

We will welcome the sun tomorrow
or the day after, for too much
rain or sun demands change
and nothing is really ever
wholly within our control.

DUST AND ASHES

Between Scylla and Charybdis
they cower amidst the ruins
fearful to look skyward
lest they encourage
the rains of hell.

Now and then they visit
the corpses, hastily buried
grief drowned by the sound
of the laugh of the gunner
peering down from the hills.
It is always night for the soul
and lookout must be kept
for Charon, who rides
silently along the rivers of blood,
that flow through her streets.

In the great halls,
far removed from the horror,
self-professed wise men
exchange maps
lines randomly drawn,
scythes slicing a people.
They trade in lives as chattel,
reaping a bitter harvest,
praying there may only be
but seven lean years.

They offer a sop to Cerberus,
three villages straddling the river,
but the army of the hills
knows they will take that and more
and waits patiently for the winter
when the odor of sanctity
no longer arises out of the city
to assail their nostrils
and Shadrach is
no more than a ghost.

First Appeared in Living Poets (UK), Vol. 2, No. 1, 2000.

CHANGES

The finches are struggling
this morning, searching the lawn
for the odd clover seed that’s yet 
to be reduced to dust by a summer
where the rain has painted
our world with a palette 
of parchment, ochre, leaving us
wandering an increasingly sepia world. 

We know that the rains will come 
again, that nature’s green will 
return, however briefly, before
winter encases us all in its white
mantle that we pierce at our risk.

The finches and wrens know,
or simply care nothing of this
and go on with their search, until
the approach of the cat brings
their effort to a sudden end.The finches and wrens know,
or simply care nothing of this
and go on with their search, until
the approach of the cat brings
their effort to a sudden end.