She says if you could only
peel back the photograph, you could
read the entire story that lies beneath.
It is deeper than the image below which
it lies trapped, and wider, imbued with a meaning
the image could not capture, just as,
she says frowning, there are no words
for parts of the picture, a symbiosis
that we of unitary senses cannot unite.
This one, pointing to a crucifix, shows him
where he ought to be, the pain, his pain
apparent, but so much deeper than
any image or sculptor’s hand can fashion.
Undeserved pain, not by sacrileges, by rebellion
but he would understand it, he would
revel in it, for he was the greatest rebel
and he would easily peel back the picture
in step wholly into the story beneath.
Ox and man
walk the dusty
path to the small hut
sit along the fence
and look deeply
into the bottomless
as they have
for the endless
the man senses the ox
is in the pen, the ox
smells the man
in the small
slowly collapsing hut.
there is no ox
there is no hut
a brilliant sky
a rhapsodic stream
stones clattering together
in equipoise rhythm
the cedar smells faintly
sweet in the honeyed rain
of early autumn.
All is present, unnamed
Old man, now,
steps toward the market
one among hundreds
he sips sake
speaks to many
many men, women, children
many oxen emerge.
I am a child of ghosts, my parents
adopted and birth, all visit me,
but only in my dreams, for ghosts
prefer the reality that dreams allow.
Some say that dreams are not real,
but they live in the mind as do
every other reality I experience
each day, my senses merely
inexact lenses for the mind.
Perhaps dreams are more accurate,
a deeper reality in the end,
for they arise without passing
through the lenses of the senses,
whole and complete, and as quickly gone.
I am a child of ghosts, and I
will eventually join them,
haunting the dreams of others.
The greatest teacher
is one who offers nothing
and shouts it silently
once the student has departed.
You cannot know
what the blind man sees
for you cannot see
through his eyes
and the deaf woman
may hear a symphony
in a flower.
When asked what is
do you answer: life?
A reflection on case 71 of the Iron Flute Koans
The thing he wants most
is to experience life and all it offers.
By that he means he wants to see
what is there, to smell it, to engage
it with all of his senses, for
those are what he trusts, they
provide him reality, without them
his mind could not frame the moment.
The thing she wants most
is to be in life, an integral
part of what is offered, to
be indistinguishable from life,
so that they eyes cannot see it,
the nose cannot smell it,
the mind cannot frame anything,
for she is that thing
and that moment and there is
nothing else, except perhaps him
staring, sniffing and cataloging
his own illusory world.
First you should draw the scene
with as much detail as possible,
using the full palette of colors
and adding depth and dimension.
Next you should write the scene,
again with detail, color, depth,
for words are capable of all of this.
Now compare the scenes, are they
the same, and if not, how do they differ.
Now close your eyes and envision
the same scene again, noting
whatever you can, listening
to your mind’s description,
as you gaze through your mind’s eye.
Pause and consider that none of these
are real, each is an illusion
you have created, and then know
that you, too, like I,
am illusory as well.
When the Buddha offered
true wisdom, no one
was present to hear it.
Those who were not there
understood it fully.
Where will you look
for true wisdom?
Will your ears here
what your mouth cannot say?
Only with closed eyes
will the light become clear.
A reflection on Case 36 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye).