QUESTION POSED, AWAITING A RESPONSE

I stooped and spoke
to a stone, asking the question.
I was here before you arrived
and I will be her long after you leave.
I held the sand in my hand
warm from the sun, asking the question.
I came after your arrived
and I will leave long before you are gone.
I held the winter wind on the tip
of a finger, asking the question.
I am not here now
and I have never been here.
I touched the waters
to my lips, asking the question.
I was above you when you came
and I will be below you when you go.
I saw the flames dance
before me, asking the question.
You were ashes once
and you shall be ashes again.
I stood mired in the clay
clinging to my legs, asking the question.
It is of me you were formed
and it is to me you will return.
I sat at the foot of God
blinding light, asking the question.
You cried to me at birth
and you will cry to me at death.

First Published in The Poet: Faith Vol. 1, Spring 2021
https://www.thepoetmagazine.org/spring-2021—faith

SOTO

If you are able to speak
maintain silence,
If you can bear the silence,
listen to the song the sea sings.
If you can sing with the sea
count the grains of sand
that wash in on the next wave.
If you lose count, begin again
before the wave recedes.
If the wave recedes before
you finish counting, bid it farewell.
After you bid farewell
return to your cushion
and listen to the silence
which is the body of the dharma.

First Published in The Poet: Faith Vol. 1, Spring 2021
https://www.thepoetmagazine.org/spring-2021—faith

ARIZONA IS A STATE OF MIND

Looking out the window, I
am reasonably certain this is
not Arizona and it is not just
the palm trees that suggest it.

Well, in part it is the palm trees,
although they have some there,
but here it is the variety of palms
and the limited number of lizards.

We have the occasional gecko,
and the iguanas have begun
to arrive, though they don’t
particularly like the morning chill,

but ours is a desert of strip plazas
half empty, abandoned,gas stations,
and fast food joints, and our sand
is carried off by the ocean, daily.

UNSEEN

“There is an art,” the old monk said, his samu-e belted tightly, “to spreading peanut butter. Consider this carefully for it is a matter of gravest importance. Spreading peanut butter requires care just as meditation does. You wouldn’t think so, but try it in your robes and see how unruly your sleeve can be. It is like raking the sand in a dry garden. It seems easy enough to do, but you know how hard it is to ensure that your presence is unseen and unfelt when the job is done.”

NATURE SPEAKS

Along the shore, this morning,
the clouds piled up, refusing entry
to the promised sun, which hung back forlorn.

The waves charged onto the sand
like so many two-year-olds
in full tantrum, banging against
all in sight and retreating,
only to charge again, pushing away
any and all in their path.

The wind pummels the sand,
and as we walk along the street
the wind-borne sand tears against our skin
urging us to take shelter,

reminding us that nature does
not bend to the weatherman, and will
from time to time play havoc
with their forecasts because
nature speaks, she never listens.



First appeared in Active Muse, Varsha 2019 Issue

MORNING AT THE SHORE

Along the shore, this morning,
the clouds piled up, refusing entry
to the promised sun, which hung back forlorn.
The waves charged onto the sand
like so many two year olds
in full tantrum, banging against
all in sight and retreating,
only to charge again, pushing away
any and all in their path.
The wind pummels the sand,
and as we walk along the street
the wind borne sand tears against our skin
urging us to take shelter,
reminding us that nature does
not bend to the weatherman, and will
from time to time play havoc
with their forecasts because
nature speaks, she never listens.

KENSHO

It will arrive before you know it,
will be gone again
before you realize it was even here.
This is how it is supposed to be,
Even if not how we want it.
We will know it had been there
and that needs to be enough
for we would try and grasp it,
try to contain it, hold it.
But we are a sieve to water,
an hourglass to sand,
and satori would have
no other way.

CHIH MEN’S BODY OF WISDOM

As you search for the source
of all wisdom, will you stop
along a beach and consider
that it can be found, fully
in a single grain of sand.
Be careful, for the beach
contains countless grains
of sand, so choose carefully.
If you are uncertain which one
contains the source of all wisdom
select one at random
and it will be the correct
bearer of wisdom, but only
if you look deeply within it,
and then cast it back
onto the beach, carried
on the gentle morning breeze.


A reflection on Case 19 of the Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record)

MANDALA

Day one, and they are hunched
over the mat meticulously drawing
faintly on its deep blue surface.
Day two and sitting, leaning forward
they precisely place
the first grains of sand.
Day three, the same
and the picture begins to emerge
though they dare not breathe.
Day upon day, minute upon minute
hours on end they place the sand
until the almost electric mandala
rises off the mat, and even we
can imagine Buddha’s home,
only wishing we could enter
any of its four gates
and find the compassion within.
Today, day six it is done,
and they gently sweep
all the sand and carry it
to the river where its blessing
may go wherever the river
carries it, and we bid it
a sad and joyous farewell.