HOJU TURNS HIS BACK 鐵笛倒吹 七十二

If a beggar approaches
do you turn away from him.
If a rich man calls to you,
do you receive him openly.
How do you tell them apart?

If a poor thief in fine, stolen silks
stands before you
what do you offer in welcome,
and what for his battered victim
now wearing the thief’s discards.
The fool finds an easy answer,
the wise man awaits the stick.


A reflection on case 72 of the Iron Flute Koans

ON LANDING

They have a youth that you think
should make you envious, poured
into clothing that would be
a second skin, if skin were silk
and polyester, patterned tights
hair ironed straight, colored highlights
and you still recall when this
what a fascinated you, when
you would have found it alluring.
You probe the corners of your memory
knowing the trigger is there, unable
to find it in the vague images of velvet,
flowing and draping, colors more vibrant
in the acid fog, knowing it would all
crash down too soon, that the cocktails they hold
should be cheap jug wine in plastic cups
to prolong the slow descent back
into the real world from which the blotter
paper and cactus provided a welcomed escape.