APPROACHING

The perfect time of day
occurs only as the dead
of night approaches, that
moment when the heart
of the city falls almost silent.

In smaller cities this moment
is protracted, arising as the moon
reaches toward full expression
and such as pass for tall
buildings settle into sleep.

In the great cities, those
that claim never to sleep,
the city reverberates, echoing
off the endless walls of glass,
and silence never fully
arrives, so we cling
to moments that approximate
what we imagine
silence sounds like.

GRANDCHILD

You more easily remember
the birth of a grandchild
than his or her parent

whether from a memory
sharpened by age
or regular sleep

or by a vision
more acute for knowing
what to look for,

or simply a clinging
tightly to any symbol
of youth denied you.

It may be as well
that grandchildren see
you differently than parents

a hope for a long life
and the possibility of
one day being old

or someone whose mind
more closely resembles
in innocence and simplicity

or simply as adults
whose rules can be ignored
with no real consequence.

INTIMATIONS OF MORTALITY

It is easier to think about death
on a wintery evening, when so much
of life slips into stasis, and there is
nothing to do but concede your mortality,
and with good fortune, then slip
into sleep before being lost
in a sea of depression.

I must be thankful for my dreams
for they keep the night from becoming
the little death of the ancient philosophers,
and on awakening in the morning,
the mantle of snow that has painted
the world in a glittering white, does
not demand the shovel as yet, but
celebrates the world’s rebirth,
and with a nod to the sun, my own.

ON ARRIVAL

This morning arrived
with a painful slowness, the sloth
of irregular dreams refusing to concede
to the light struggling to creep around
the blinds that hide the oversize windows.

It had been that sort of night,
sleep arriving and departing with
a frustrating lack of constancy, my body
uncertain of its proper placement ,
the mattress offering no easy solutions.

Conceding the failure of the night
to provide shelter to an overactive mind,
I roll to my side, note the response
of sinew and muscles forced
into unaccustomed forms, and reach

out an arm which snakes across
your waist, as I press in more tightly,
squeezing out the last vestiges
of remorse, and I pull you close as you
reach back and stroke my thigh,

and we give ourselves over to a new day.

NOT SLEEPING NOW

The kid is late again today, but that
is sadly not unusual, the old man said.
I ought to get rid of him, but I know
he needs the job to feed his family.

In the meanwhile, I’ll now have
to hobble down to the meadow
and hope my collie, who’s as old as I,
is up to the job of herding sheep still.

And I know that he will only shrug
when I threaten to dock his pay
for the loss, hell, even just the profit
I lost on the corn the cows consumed.

I get that he’s tired, those late night
gigs at club in town, and I hear that
he’s thinking of joining a trio in Chicago,
though I have no idea how they ever

heard his playing out here in fly-over-ville,
but I guess I’d better let him get his rest,
for if he becomes a star, maybe he’ll
remember me in his first CD’s liner notes.

THE EDGE OF DREAMS

On the razor edge of dreams
the periphery of consciousness
a face appears, and I am left to wonder
who this person is, who he might be.
At first he is a child
with a pixie cut, a bowl placed
over the head, the bangs cut
without considering the face peering out
and others peering in.
But, as sleep washing the last
sands of consciousness out
to the sea of Morpheus,
the face morphs and
it is Science Officer Spock
who is peering back at me,
his ears pointed to the heavens
reminding me, as I slip
into Morpheus’ orbit
that I can yet
live long and prosper.

AGAIN THE DREAM

The dream came to him again last night. He could never be certain if it was on the barren high mesa outside Taos or in the endless sands of Morocco. It really didn’t matter, since the action of the dream took place in a restaurant, and its location was ambiance, although he suspected it did have some deeper psychological meaning. In the dream he was grating cheese, when he awoke, nervous. Try though he knew he wouldn’t slip back into sleep until he determined if he was grating Roquefort or Gorgonzola, and he knew the cows would be soon enough calling him to the barn for the morning milking.

TUESDAY TRUTH: BROTHER JOHN

Are you serious? You have the temerity to ask me if I am sleeping? Seriously? If, for a moment, you thought that I was sleeping, why in hell would you jostle me and then ask me if I was sleeping? And how many times do I have to tell you that I never liked the name John. I am Jack and you know damned well that is what I want to be called, by everyone. It is not that hard. Here’s a hint, I was sleeping until you woke me. You realize if we weren’t family what I would be doing to you right now. But mom and dad would have a fit, so just consider yourself lucky, but know that someday I will get even with you. Remember I was there when you were a baby, so I have seen it all. And if the bells didn’t wake me, why should I care if they are ringing? Answer me that. Now go away, preferably forever.

ISAN’S I HAVE EXHAUSTED MYSELF 正法眼蔵 四十四

Approach the master
sitting on his seat.
The fool will seek answers
having slept through the lesson
but the wise student will bow
silently and retreat
having learned all there is
and knowing absolutely nothing.


A reflection on case 44 of Dogen’s True Dharma Eye Koans