NANSEN’S REJECTIONS 鐵笛倒吹 四十四

 

If you come before Master Nansen,
will you come holding the posture
of a monk or a lay person,
and when Nansen turns you away,
how will you exit the room?

Nested hands
and gassho hands –
both are so easily manacled –
why leave the room at all?


A reflection on case 44 of the Iron Flute (Tetteki tōsui 鐵笛倒吹)

BODHI VILLANELLE

Sitting beneath the Bodhi tree
I wrestle with passing thoughts
in an unending struggle with me.

The true face of the pain I see
results from what I have wrought
sitting beneath the Bodhi tree.

I grow tired, wish to flee–
above all, to avoid being caught
in an unending struggle with me

for a single moment. I can be
something greater than I thought
sitting beneath the Bodhi tree.

That will be my apogee
until overcome by the battle fought
in an unending struggle with me.

For that brief moment I and we
will be one, as the Buddha taught
sitting beneath the Bodhi tree
in an unending struggle with me.

TAI YRA MANO MOTINA (THIS IS MY MOTHER)

It’s odd how your stature
has grown as I dream of you
occasionally staring at
your yearbook picture.
It was only four years ago
that I knew you existed, but
hadn’t the faintest idea of who
you were, anything about your life,
why you gave me up, and, therefore
who it was I might have been.
Now you are a selfless icon, caring
more for siblings who needed education,
at the immediate cost of your own,
a child who needed two parents
in a world that frowned deeply
on anything less than a pair.
Someday soon, I will visit your grave,
place a small stone upon your stone,
and a kiss, the closest
I can ever hope, ever dream
to coming to the face of my mother.

NOW LISTEN UP

I read a poem
today, about a cat
and it reminded me,
actually the memory
of my last cat came to mind,
that cats
have an innate sense
of people, that people
utterly lack.
It may be that cats
are completely unfooled
by the masks we wear,
or simply that
they could care less
how we see ourselves,
and only measure us
by what we offer them.
In that sense, of course,
they are people, too.

AWAITING THE WAVES

“Describe yourself,” she said
“that I might capture you
if only for this moment
a footprint left once you
have departed this place and time.”
I am, I should think,
biologically plausible
though straining the bounds
of reason once and again.
I tend to philosophic androgyny
hovering on the fulcrum of paradox.
I am the cynic, hurling
great brick bats at God,
relying on her forgiving nature.
I am the imprisoned child
who can see through
unclouded, smiling eyes
beauties and joys just beyond reach.
This is the impression my foot
will leave, until the first wave
erases it from memory.

RESURRECTION

In the picture
he is young, wearing
a uniform that fits him,
has his name over the breast,
but his hair is longer.
The picture is a bit askew,
there is a clock on the wall
but the time does not matter.
He knows it was the radio studio
but others would not, the mic
is out of focus, the dials
of the transmitter peeking in
from the periphery.
He can barely remember it,
that is what 50 years will do,
but he remembers the parade ground
at Lackland Air Force Base
and the hospital
where they told him
his trip to Da Nang
would be canceled
and his life reinstated.