I suspect that I am not alone in wondering
if there is a corner of literary hell set aside
for those who foist clichés on the world
and at the head of that table should sit
the fellow who first said “time marches on.”
Even Einstein realized that time is relative,
and as one who served in the military
I can assure you that time does not march,
does not follow a neat, tidy cadence,
and all to often doesn’t know where it is going.
Time does many things, it can meander
like an early morning walk along the shore,
it can rush forward like the youth
discovering what he is sure is love,
it can even plod, when the pain is growing
and the doctor is ever so slow to respond.
Oh, and sitting next to our marching friend
I nominate the fool who thought that time
might actually fly, maybe hell will be fun for him.
He believes he would like the ocean,
imagines standing on the shore watching
as the waves wash up to his feet,
and as quickly retreat, smoothing the sand.
He has never seen the ocean, only
ponds and on large lake, but he
imagines the ocean is just
a giant lake with bigger waves.
He would like to see the fog
roll in erasing the horizon,
shrouding the seas in a deeper mystery.
He recalls standing in the bar
of the Grand Hyatt in Tokyo
late one night as the fog settled
over the city, and only the lights
of the tallest buildings
seemed afloat on endless sea.
Each day he stops briefly
in the small park along the path,
and picks up a pebble which he tucks
in the coin pocket of his jeans.
There it rests until he comes
the pond where he sits on the shore
staring out into the heart of the water.
He pulls the pebble and tosses it
in a high arc, always trying to land it
in the center of the pond, where he
can watch the ripples slowly proceed
toward him, and hitting the edge,
echo back toward the center, diminished.
This morning he followed his pattern,
sat on the edge and let fly the pebble
which landed squarely, but this day
there were no ripples, just the mirror
still surface of the pond, and he
began the slow walk home, knowing
he would never visit this pond again,
for he was now on a very different path.
Dreams are the gentle sea
across which we float
as night embraces us.
This is the preferred view,
but in the stormy dark
our dreams turn violent
tossing us against thoughts
we have long suppressed.
It is how we row, how
we ride he swells, searching
for the calm on the horizon
that allows us to see
the shore of a new day.
The sea steals the edge
of the shore, replacing it
with something familiar
and yet different.
It is much the same
with the waves of sleep
that lap at my dreams
leaving fractured memories
and holes left to fill
with desire and imagination.
Walking along the shore
of dawn and awakening,
I feel time creep
between my toes.
This wave touches the shore
just as it should,
that wave touches the shore
just as it should.
You may wait
for a wave that touches
but not as it should
or you can sit
and let the waves
wash over you.
A reflection on Case 53 of the Shobogenzo (Master Dogen”s True Dharma Eye)
The clouds shimmer
in echo of the peel
of the great temple bell.
Hearing the chorus of monks,
a small red maple
sheds a leaf.
It is the butterfly
whose wings gavotte
to the inkin bell
which causes waves
to lap the shore
of a distant sea.