BROKEN TRAY 鐵笛倒吹 九十

If you accidentally break
a wise man’s possession
do you leave him
with one that is incomplete
or two awaiting completion.

If he asks you to replace it
you may search endlessly,
bring him a thousand replacements
but expect him to reject each one
as never being the same
as the original.
If you grow dejected, remember
he still has the original
in the cupboard.

A reflection on case 90 of the Iron Flute Koans

NOT TWICE

It is said that you can never go home again
presuming, of course, that you have left at some point.
The fallacy of this statement is apparent,
for there is often nothing preventing your return.
What would make the statement accurate
is that you can never go home again
to exactly the same home you left
for your leaving alters the place and your return
creates only a new status quo, it can’t restore the old one.
It is like this with rivers, the Buddhist knows,
you never step into the same river twice
for each steps has you greeting new water
and even the rock upon which you step
has microscopically eroded.
So feel free to go home again, for there is
much to be gained from returning to a place
that is so familiar, and yet which you have
never before actually visited.

ONLY NOW

Tomorrow, in all likelihood,
the park will still be there,
we will still be walking there,
the Austrian Pines will still
stare down at us on the path,
and the cardinal will flash by,
his cry for attention in a red blaze.
Tomorrow all this will likely happen
as it did yesterday and last week,
and yet nothing will be the same,
nothing, nothing at all.

MORNING BECOMES

We awaken and look at each other
as though we are meeting for the first time.
Your eyes seem new to me, but well
remembered, a place I have often been,
which is always new, always where
I want to go, from which
I want to never return.
I trace your chin, your shoulder-blade,
and my fingertip knows its way,
finding anew what it desires, this
day like every other, unlike any other.
We soon, too soon most days, arise
and begin a day that is so much
like the one before it, and before it,
and totally different, but our love
is an unwavering constant, a thread
that easily spans both space and time.