YOKUSAN’S LECTURE 鐵笛倒吹 六十三

If you go to a lecture
and listen carefully
will you become wise?
If you go to a hundred lectures
are you a hundred times wiser?

Where did the teacher find wisdom,
did he sit in endless lectures.
Watch him most carefully
is he not wise with sleeping,
and when eating, when he walks
to the lectern and from it?
Watch in silence
and find his wisdom.


A reflection on case 63 of the Iron Flute Koans

JUST WATCH

It has been said, wisely,
that all children speak
a common language,
regardless of what adults
believe they are hearing.

The proof of that proposition
is simple enough, pause
and watch a parent make
demands of a child
in the presence
of other children, see
the reluctant child glance
at his foreign peers and gain
silent and instant affirmation
of adult unreasonableness.

When do we cease
being able to communicate
without words, in that
language of childhood
that is at once universal
and capable of silence.

PRAYER

We bow our heads
and utter words
not to the cicada
speaking through
a spring night
or the beetle
crawling slowly
across the leaf
searching for the edge.
We bid the crow
silent, the cat mewling
his hunger, just
to crawl under a porch
awaiting morning,
the child to sleep.
The stream flows
slowly by, carrying
a blade of grass
and the early fallen leaf.


First appeared in Albatross, Issue 13, (2001)

GROVE

Living in a bamboo grove, she said,
is very much like living in an old house.

Look up at noon, into the canopy
and imagine you see rays of light
piercing the ill-thatched roof.

Listen to the growing winds or autumn
and hear the ghosts of the old house
making their way up creaking stairs.

And when you truly find the silence
imagine the Buddha sitting nearby
the morning breeze his breath
slowly drawing you into the day.

A MISTAKE IN SPEAKING

When you speak the words
of the Buddha you are lost.
Light is everywhere in silence
but the tongue must hide
in the dark of the mouth.

Buddha’s words are flowers
unfolding in the dawn
by the side of the still pond,
the eyes hear the song
and respond in silent chorus.


A reflection on Case 39 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate Koans)

THREADS

This morning I plucked
a thread of silence
from the dawn, watched,
carefully by a cardinal
who knew not to break
the purity of the moment.
I do this as often as I can
sometimes grabbing one
from the moon, as it sits
overhead, holding out
its promise of quietude
as people retreat into homes.
From these threads
I have begun to weave
a shawl, which, when done
I will drape over my shoulders
as I sit on the zafu
and welcome nothingness
into a space I create
from everything around me.

SETTLING

Settling into perfect
stillness, each of us
in our brown robes
on brown chairs, benches
cushions, note his entry
is somewhere between
the thundering of a forgotten
storm or the garbage trucks
crawling slowly down the street.
His gray-blue shirt and jeans
flash by. He is large
in every dimension,
even his breathing
nice and even
is large, but regular.
No breeze, only a large moth
comes through the open windows
and dances around
the rice paper light shades.
The incense hangs
over the burner on the altar
waiting to be carried into the room.
You return to thoughts
of thoughtlessness
invite ideas to come
and quickly leave.
You grow heavy
sinking into the earth
your weight and his
equally heavy.
The moth grows bored
and slips out the window.


First Published in Recenter Press Poetry Journal Vol. 2, Fall 2019
http://www.recenterpress.com/issue-two-fall-2019.html

BLESSING

There is a blessing in silence
that we so often deny ourselves,
unaware that it lies just beyond
the noise of our minds and lives.
We crave it, beg for it, and
hearing the beggar, shun him
for the noise he carries
like the skin he cannot molt.
Beethoven understood silence
in his later years and
filled with a music
none of us will pause to hear.