SINGLE CUT

Words have geographic homes
and here old favorites seem
ill at ease, fitting poorly into thoughts
that demand their presence.
I use them regardless, but we both
know that they will hide their shadings,
but in a world where words
are the last option, we both know
that I have no alternative
but to turn to them, to wheedle,
to cajole, and ultimately to submit
to whatever they will allow me.
After all, the alternative
his silence, and for a writer,
that is death by a single cut.

WE BOW OUR HEADS

Today’s prayer
shall be recited in silence
total, not even the breath
indicating a longing for action.
Nor will it invoke
a holy spirit without us
for it is we
we must inveigh
to attain the desired
actions for which we seek
holy intervention, casting off
free will, an accreting
poor decisions, a goat
where where seek scape
and atonement
for the sins of all the others.
Today’s prayer
shall not be recited at all,
but it is this prayer
in which we find absolution.

NIL, ZERO, NADA, NYET

This morning absolutely nothing happened. The newswires were silent, or repeated old stories. The sports wires had nothing of note to say, save repeating yesterday’s scores. Even the gossip news was absent, as though a Saturday night passed without embarrassment. I did not mind the quiet, the almost silence, able to listen to the Mockingbird’s song. But I did wonder how the wrecking ball in Washington so badly overslept.

NANSEN’S HUT

If you have fine china
you will be saddened when it breaks.
If your pantry is full
your anxiety grows
as the food diminishes.

But if you are alone
with nothing, the apple
that falls on the road
is a feast, and the stream
runs free with the finest wine.
The silence of sun and moon
is an orchestra.


A reflection on case 52 of the Iron Flute Koans

DAIJI’S INNER CULTURE

Eyes can look within
and discover a boundless universe
but the tongue alone
can speak only sounds
that go false
as they dance away unseen.

The silence of zazen
speaks the dharma,
the teisho is offered mutely.

The space between
eye and tongue
is but three inches
or an unbridgeable void.


A reflection on Case 15 of the Iron Flute Koans.

MISTAKE IN SPEAKING 無門關 三十九

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 (The Gateless Gate)