ENO DOESN’T UNDERSTAND 正法眼蔵 語十九

You ask me
if I understand
the precepts
and follow them.
You frown when
I say I do not.
Remember well
that the young child
has no understanding
of the precepts
and walks easily
along the Way.


A reflection on case 59 of the Shobogenzo Koans (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)

LAMBERT FIELD

The gravestones, in random shapes line the hill
the morning chill
creeps between them and onto the runway
until washed away
by the spring sun slowly pushing upward
as the jet noise washes the hill unheard

He passed away quietly in his bed
ending his dread
of the cancer slowly engulfing him
his vision dimmed
by the morphine that pulsed through his veins.
He paused to remember the first spring rains.

She selected the plot on the hillside
she would confide
to friends, so that he might see the valley
at long last free,
to see the flowers bloom in early spring,
the land that was his home and he its king.

One summer the caskets were carried out
while the devout
cursed the sacrilege of the master plan
of the madman
who decided that the airport must sit
on the hill, his valley forever split.

The jets rush over the cemetery
February
snows blown across the gravestones in their wake
as one snowflake
melts slowly on the ground, a falling tear
which, unheard, marks another passing year.

First Appeared in Candelabrum Poetry Magazine (UK), April 2002.

A SMALL REQUEST

If those in the camps
knowing their fate,
the inevitability
of their impending death
could call up music,
for orchestras, play
or sing with
their final breaths,

is it too much
their ghosts silently
ask, for you
to pause and
remember us,
and sing
a dirge
for our souls.

SUDDENLY MORTAL

I now struggle to remember just when
my childhood suddenly ended, when
I became mortal, and the childhood fears
were replaced by those of the real world.

It might have been watching the news,
the planes at Dover disgorging coffin
after coffin, each neatly flag draped until
the flag became a symbol only of death.

It might have been the first time a kid
on the playground at school called me
Jewboy and asked why I didn’t also
perish in the ovens with my Polish kin.

It might have been as they wheeled me
into the operating room, my fever 105
unsure of what they would find, I then
unsure I would be alive to learn about it.

It might have been that as an adoptee
I knew I never had the childhood
of my natural born siblings, I always
the outsider, mom’s words notwithstanding.

First Published in Cerasus Magazine (UK), Issue 3, 2021

JANUARY

It is an odd feeling, in the middle
of January, to no longer consider
becoming a bear, choosing
to hibernate until Spring arrives
demanding an awakening.

I did that for years, never
grew the heavy fur coat needed
and wasn’t much for digging dens
in the snow, so I sat inside
and dreamed of bearishness.

Living now among the birds
where we shiver when it is
in the 40’s, and I sweat and
complain when it is 90, I try
occasionally to remember

once wanting
to become
a bear.

LIKE DUST

We are obligated to carry
memories, and as we
get older, the burden grows
ever heavier, we bend
under its weight, knowing
we dare not lose even one
for once cast off, the weight
is carried off like the smallest
feather on a storming wind.
Soon enough it is we who
Will become the burden
that others must carry
and we hope they will
willingly shoulder the load
lest we become the excised
dust of a forgotten stone
grown over with weeds.

AWAITING THE WAVES

“Describe yourself,” she said
“that I might capture you
if only for this moment
a footprint left once you
have departed this place and time.”
I am, I should think,
biologically plausible
though straining the bounds
of reason once and again.
I tend to philosophic androgyny
hovering on the fulcrum of paradox.
I am the cynic, hurling
great brick bats at God,
relying on her forgiving nature.
I am the imprisoned child
who can see through
unclouded, smiling eyes
beauties and joys just beyond reach.
This is the impression my foot
will leave, until the first wave
erases it from memory.