As you stoop
to pick up fallen leaves
are you cleaning spring,
summer or autumn?
What seasons are deep
within the winter branch?
How does your work
and that of the tree
truly differ, and
do you shed?
A reflection on case 83 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)
She isn’t used to the cold,
she never will be, and she hates it
with the sort of passion she once reserved
for people of a different
political philosophy than hers.
She grew up here, but she left.
She has never regretted the departure.
She visits only in late spring
or in the heart of summer, or early autumn
and is here now only for a funeral, which she hates
more than the cold this winter.
She wishes that the death could have occurred
in late spring, early autumn, the heart of summer.
She is certain she will die in one of those seasons,
or at least in the deep enough south
that no one attending a funeral
will have to freeze and curse the winter.
She has no intention of dying anytime soon,
for she has a great deal left to do
and some of that clearly involves
cursing winter and hating the cold with a passion.
The night wraps us
in the faint light
of the glowing moon.
The snow falls, reflected
in the street light’s glow,
and settles on the snow fields
of recent days that obscure
the earth that suffers beneath.
We will flee tomorrow
and leave the snow in our wake,
hoping that on our return
a week hence, some if not all
of it will have washed
into the lake, and we,
having borne the brunt of the sun,
will remember what summer
will eventually offer us.
We are in the season of stasis
where nothing wants to move and nothing
should shed the mantle of snow
that has announced winter’s arrival
in terms we full understand, as do
the finches clinging to the feeder
casting nervous glances skyward.
The neighbor’s cat has decided
that the remote chance of catching
a bird or squirrel is easily outweighed
by the warmth of the house, and even
the dogs down the block have found
their own lawns much more to their liking.
We know our feet will thaw
after our morning walks, but suspect
this may happen only with the Spring
that seems impossibly far away, and so
we imagine ourselves bulbs, clinging
to what warmth the earth offers
knowing the bloom has infinite patience.
The sooty snow
blankets the fields
a still ocean
off the precipice
of the horizon.
of ash tinged cotton
hug the earth
under which all life
from the ghosts
To the wanderer
which the cave mouth
which the cave?
above only sky
beneath only dark gray clouds
the sun is content
a mountain of clouds
rises from white tufted bed
the earth is watered
in winter’s icy chill
ripples from autumn’s pebble
await the spring sun
the leafless ginkgo
taunts the first snow of winter
with the dream of spring
A skeletal tree stands
too many winters
bones grown brittle, crackling
ashen gun-metal gray,
Tokyo Bay at evening’s onset
a bird perches, staring
at a last leaf clinging
knowing frozen earth awaits.
It is winter, sap pools
in roots seeking
earth’s dying warmth.
We warm our hands
by the fire, as bones
of other trees fall
to the grate in ashes.