He stands transfixed
on the bridge,
arms outstretched,
staring at the river
always flowing slowly by below.
He wears a garland of gold,
an inscription in Hebrew,
the holiest of holies,
mocking those
who hold him a man.
Did he peer out
of the corner of his eyes
as they marched them
across the bridge
to the trains
to the camps
from which they
would never return,
never have headstones
in small, ghetto cemeteries,
would be merely names
on a wall of remembrance?
What did he want to say,
what would they not hear,
for surely
he must have known,
in the way a son
knows so much more
than a father imagines.
They are gone,
he remains, forced
to be ever silent,
and the river flows
under the bridge
beneath his ever constant,
mournful gaze.

Basho’s Staff 無門關 四十四

Do you have old Basho
hidden away in your home?
If you do, I will gladly
give him to you, but if he
is not within your walls, you
should produce him immediately.

If you need to cross the river
walk carefully on his back
on a moonless night.
If there is a moon, walk
along a darkened road,
hand him your shippei
and he will light your path.
If there is a pouring rain
you will both be soaked.

A reflection on Case 44 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate)


She stands on the bridge
and stares down
into the slowly flowing river.
She wonders what it
might feel like
to climb the railing
and pushing off, gain flight.
The river would welcome her,
enfold her, carry her
to its heart. She
will not leap this day
just as she did not
the day before, but
she often has this conversation
with the ever-changing water.
She reaches
into her pocket, pulls
out a penny
and throws it into the river.
She does not make
a wish, nor does she
feel wishes are foolish.
Today she merely wants
to see the polished coin
glistening in the sun, it’s
copper golden reflection,
as it tumbles in
its downward arc.
This is sufficient for her
on this day, as on most days.
She will soon walk
slowly like that to the shore.
The river will
continue to flow slowly
in her absence.