BOKUSHU’S BLOCKHEAD 鐵笛倒吹 語十語

Seeing your teacher on the road
if he says to you
Honorable Sir, what do you do?
You may turn, bow, and act the fool
or pass, eyes averted
without acknowledgement, silent
equally the fool.

Speak in silence,
face, bow without moving
greet him as you do yourself
in the morning mirror
and once past, offer gassho
and the fool is left on the path
dragging your shadow.

A reflection on Case 55 of the Iron Flute Koans

IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES

It is all well and good to believe
that you will know it when you find it,
that it will be so obvious you could not miss it.

You’ve been down that road before,
and on several occasions were certain
that you’d found it in her face, or hers,
in her smile, or her laugh, or one
of their soft touches and caresses.

You were wrong each time, a facsimile
at best, an avatar if you wish, so you
are determined to be prepared this time,
for there must be a this time you are certain.

You have read all the best books, consulted
on the internet, careful to sort the wheat
from the chaff, skimmed the cream of the offerings,
and have practiced reading the tea leaves.

You dare not miss it so you maintain a high
level of vigilance and a focus that is not
easily interrupted, ready to spring,
but know that it defies logic, that the mind
is useless in its presence, and that it is
the heart not the head that feels true love.

AN AFTERNOON STROLL

There are three of them
and they walk slowly along the side
of the road, proud yes, but are they
old men who see no need to hurry,
or self-assumed royalty who dare not.

Nor is it clear if they are the same
group who gathered outside
the ornate gateway into PGA Village
two weeks ago, perhaps tired of
the endless greens fees to walk around.

We pause to watch them, wondering
if they are merely out for a stroll
on a pleasant spring day, or if
they are en route to Bed, Bath
and Beyond for the clearance sale.

They ignore us, as they are wont
to do, lost in their own world, we
simply part of the landscape,
for that is how things are in
the land of the Sandhill Cranes.

ROADS

The problem with roads
is that they all must lead
somewhere, and if lucky, with
other theres along the way.

I prefer roads that have
no beginnings or ends,
that go where they will
and change direction on a whim.

On my roads you never
arrive late because there
is no point at which to arrive,
so you are always timely.

Friends laugh when I say this,
say such roads cannot exist
at least until I point out
that life is just such a road.

THE MIDDLE WAY

George Harrison said that if
you don’t know where you
are going, any road will
take you there, and on reflection
it was obvious he was correct..
Today, rising from the cushion,
the four vows recited, Buddha
put back on his small altar,
Harrison’s words echoed loudly
for he understood in a moment
what it has taken me years
to grasp, for all roads lead
to enlightenment if you
simply stop searching for it.
Somewhere the spirit
of our departed George
was laughing with me
in this moment.

URBANITY

Walking down this road
I would like to see a rice field
golden in the morning sun
with a great mountain rising behind it
just around the next bend.
I would settle for a town
its lone Temple quiet, awaiting
the morning bell, the call to sit,
with maybe a cat at the base
of a statue the Bodhisattva.
I am ready to bow deeply
to the first monk I see this day,
but my reverie is broken
by the barely dodged wave
thrown up by  city bus
running late and fast
down the crowded street of
this upstate New York city.

KEMBO’S ONE ROAD 鐵笛倒吹 八十四

As you walk along a road
do you know where it begins
or where it will end
and what lies along it.

Perhaps the road
is a twisted loop
with neither beginning
or ending,
but if asked
where you are
on the road
you are always
here.


A reflection on Case 84 of The Iron Flute (Tetteki tōsui)