WHAT WOULD YOU SAY

I am just wondering
what you would say
if you were called
to testify about all
that you had seen,
all that had disgusted you,
all that you condemned
but did and said
nothing while it occurred.
What would you say
if you had no choice
but truth, no shading,
no mincing of words,
just the harsh light
and you in a chair
in an empty room,
a disembodied voice
asking endless questions?
It is best that you
remain silent, say
nothing at all,
for we have already
judged you, and you
know your own guilt.

First appeared in Literary Cocktail Magazine, Fall Issue 2022, Volume I Issue II
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1VEgeWfNp5SFGSm8nW8QegM1WuNUa_s99/view

GANTO’S SIT STILL

How can I bring
three worlds together?
Sitting still,
deep in silence,
I can carry the mountain
to the shore,
where the sea,
land and sky
merge in perfect
harmony.

A reflection on case 75 of the Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye) Koans

DISCLOSING IS NOT AS GOOD AS PRACTICE

To speak of hours of practice
is not as good as 10 minutes
engaged in practice.
So, too, an hour speech
on practice pales
with even a moment of silence.
But to be silent and also
not practice is to turn
your back on the path
and blind yourself
with your stick.

A reflection on Case 77 of the Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye) Koans

ONE FLAVOR ZEN

How far must you wander
to taste the pure essence,
hear the pure note,
see deeply into beauty,
smell the first flower of spring,
touch another heart.
Will you grow tired
from standing still
in total silence
contemplating this?

A reflection on Case 65 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (Trud Dharma Eye)

WE WANT, AGAIN

We want to cry out,
but we have no words.

We want to scream
but all we give is silence.

We want to curse the invader
but cannot be heard
over the tanks, bombs
and rockets.

We want to mourn
but there are so many
innocents, where
do we begin?

We want to act,
but we are incapable
and can offer
only silent prayer.

NANSEN’S CONTENT AND CONTAINER

Bring me your mind
but leave the body behind,
this is what you must do
to attain enlightenment.
You may sit where you are
in total silence, or
you may come over here
and sit quietly at my feet.
Both paths lead
deeply into the way.

A reflection on Case 64 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)

MIRROR MIRROR

The person I see each morning
looks vaguely familiar, perhaps
someone I once met in passing,
or maybe a distant relative.
But he was so much older
so he was difficult to place.

I do say hello each morning
but get only a nod, a gesture
in response, as if the person
is mute, for he smiles back
so it is not a silence born
of anger or displeasure.

I will of course keep trying
for I know that I will
one day recognize his all
too familiar face, and I
need to act now for he is
aging quickly so my time
is limited, and in any event
the mirror does need cleaning.

IN SILENCE

Sitting in stillness, the silence
is at first shocking, deafening
in a way unimagined but there.
Within the lack of sound lies
a thousand sounds you
never heard in the din of life.
You hear the young monk at Senso-ji
approach the great bell and pull
back on the log shu-moku, straining.
You hear the laugh of school aged
children hand in hand walking through
the Temple grounds as pigeons gather.
You hear the cat, sitting at the foot
of Daibutsudan, staring out
and the deer waiting at the gate.
You hear your breath and that
of a million others as they sit
on their cushions sharing what is.

Publshed in As Above, So Below, Issue 9, August 2022
https://issuu.com/bethanyrivers77/docs/as_above_so_below_issue_9

UNKNOWING

Twenty years ago today
and there was no band playing,
at least not for me, for I knew
nothing of you yet, and you
knew nothing of me either.

I have met you since
in a moment of silence,
looking at a yearbook picture
knowing what was not, what
never was or could be.

I recite the Kaddish
even though my Judaism
has been laid to rest,
knowing what is, and
imagining what might have been.

LOOKING FOR WORDS

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Perhaps so, but many pictures don’t travel in verbose company, and there are pictures worth far, far less, although some will search until the magic thousand are found. In Japan a story can be told in seventeen syllables, a picture painted with a single brushstroke. In the zendo the whole of dharma can be heard in the silence if you stop and listen.