The manatees hide just below
the surface sticking up their heads
every few minutes, for a breath
or to thrill the tourists who watch
intently, because it is a thing to do
in this part of Florida in winter.
The restaurants in the harbor
don’t mind, it draws a crowd and takes
pressure off the kitchen, for people
waiting for sea mammals do not
grow impatient like those waiting
for just burgers or an order
of fried clams with a side of fries.
The manatees will never understand
humans, why they queue up in the sun
to eat animals, when the sea
provides a free feast for herbivores
if you are only willing to immerse
yourself in the search for a meal.
He’d been searching for ever,
or so often seemed, for no-self,
and he couldn’t fathom why it was so difficult
to attain simple absence, nothing
must be less than something, after all.
He knew, like Sisyphus, he would continue
to search until he succeeded, the gods
of his soul decreed it and you don’t fuck with them.
It was difficult recalling how much time
had been wasted in the search for mirrors
and when he found one, looked, there he was
selfsame, self-filled, and he imagined, selfish.
He took to always carrying a hand mirror
and when he thought he might have found it
he glanced at the polished surface in his hand
and there he’d still be, his endless self
older now, but there, very much still there.
One day, frustration getting the better of him
he wandered deep into a massive forest, hours later
sitting on a fallen trunk, he reached for his mirror, gone.
There was tree and sky and earth, that was all,
as night enveloped everything, even his no-self.
I’ve been searching for a teacher
for such a long time but despite
every effort, the goal eludes me
They say that when the student is ready
the teacher appears, but i know
in my heart I am truly ready.
I looked in all of the likely
and a number of unlikely places,
to the point i now look everywhere.
I saw man stoop to pet a random dog
this morning and wondered, hoped, he
could be the teacher i am seeking
but then he attached the leash
and pulled the reluctant dog
into the waiting van, inpatient.
I thought that the barista
in my favorite coffee shop
might be the one, her smile
always gentle, inviting, and
clearly a yogini, but she had
too much goth skin art for my needs.
I’ll continue the search for I know
the teacher is there if only I wouldn’t run
into mirrors whenever I was getting close.
Baso knows well
only the ox truly
understands the yoke
but if you offer it
the ox will not accept.
Why would you seek
to become the ox
as it would be better
to burn the yoke.
A reflection on case 33 of the Mumonkan (The Gateless Gate)
There is a reason for all things
and therefore there is a reason for this
although we cannot begin to fathom
what that reason could possibly be,
which may be reason enough,
for reason has a twisted soul —
now playful, now angry, now vengeful
in irregular turns without warnings.
The problem with seeking the reason
for things is deeply hidden, and not
as some imagine, that it is difficult; no,
the problem is that the search for the reason
has its own reason needing to be discovered
and so recursively back to the Big Bang
which still, to this day, has
the ultimate undiscovered reason.
There are moments,
he said, when everything
is suddenly clear,
and obvious to me.
But they slip away
and their shadows
She said, if you’d stop
looking for the fog,
the clarity might linger.
Besides, she adds
how do you know
what is clear
and what is not.
If I tell you there is
a still more precious gem
will you ask “what is it?”
If I respond “it is not a diamond:
what will you do then?
The wealthy fool
will throw off his rings
and begin a futile search.
Are you such a fool,
or do you look inside
secure in knowing
the greatest gem
lies waiting within.
A reflection on Case 77 of the Iron Flute Koans