THEM, AGAIN

They say that you should
never approach or touch
a small bird, lest it he shunned,
perhaps to death, by your scent.

I’ve never been one to listen
to any “them” with whom I
cannot argue face to face,
and so seeing the small

bird on the ground curled
in its nest, staring up
at the branch from which
she parachuted groundward

I scoop her up in cupped
palms, a nested nest, and place
her gently back at her point
of departure, under the eye

of her mother higher up
in the tree, then walk back
as the mother returns
to the nest and child, and

with a sidelong glance
at me, appears to nod,
saying “this is why we dare
not listen to an unseen them.”

KOTEI STRIKES A MONK 鐵笛倒吹 八十一

Bow before a king
and you may be rewarded
but bow before a teacher
and expect to be shunned.
Which has something to offer?
Ask the teacher why he shuns you
and he will turn you away.

One offers a bit of gold,
one offers a priceless gem.
Gold can buy you many things
but the gem is worthless
to all but he to who it is given.
Pick carefully, for here
the fool and wise man
walk separate paths.

A reflection on Case 81 of the Iron Flute Koans