A NOVEL IDEA

If I were a character in a novel, say
by Kawabata, that evening we met
twenty years ago, I would have
placed my hand lightly on your shoulder,
and I would have felt a heat,
embers of a passion that would,
in hours, leave me consumed by it.

I was a middle-aged, soon to be
divorced man on his first date
in thirty years, imagine a teenager
knowing what not to do, but with no
idea of what to do save chatter
and periodically gaze at his shoes.

I was, as the evening progressed,
bold enough to take your hand,
and hoped that my fear and anxiety
might be mistaken as romantic,
or bold and daring, anything but
the reality that was consuming me.

We’ve been together twenty years,
and as I read Kawabata again, I
recall those first moments, but
in this revised edition it was
your passion I felt in that first touch,
a flame that consumes me to this day.

THE WEIGHT

We are obligated to carry
memories, and as we
get older the burden grows
ever heavier, we bend
under its weight, knowing
we dare not lose even one
for once castoff, the weight
is carried off like the smallest
feather on a storming wind.
Soon enough it is we
who will become the burden
that others must carry
and we hope they will
willingly shoulder the load
lest we become the excised
dust of forgotten stone
grown over with weeds.

UMMON’S TWO SICKNESSES

 

If you truly believe that you
will soon enough meet your teacher
you must gather together all
of your questions concerning the Dharma.
Carry them with you at all times
in a satchel thrown over your shoulder,
for you will be allowed
only a single meeting with the master.
When you meet the master, pull out
all of your questions for each
is a stick with which you will be hit.
When you meet the master, throw
your questions into the windy sky
and gather the answers
like leaves scattered at your feet.


A reflection on case 11 of the Book of Equanimity (Shōyōroku 從容錄)