MOST WONDERFUL THING 鐵笛倒吹 六十語

Which is more beautiful,
the fragile flower
or the stone set in the road?
And which is the uglier?
The stone, washed in a stream
may shine like a diamond,
the flower picked
soon withers to dust.

Each contains beauty
each contains ugliness.
When you see this
you may smile
until you feel
the blow of the stick
and your eyes are forced shut
blind for that moment.


A reflection on Case 65 of the Iron Flute Koans

TOZAN’S THREE BASKETS 鐵笛倒吹 四十一

Tozan said
the whole of knowledge
can be expressed
in a single letter.
Hakuun, the great Master
set to writing verse.

You, who hold the brush
with shaking hand,
what will you write
in answer to Tozan.
Think carefully
of each stroke
and imagine
Joshu’s endless smile.


A reflection on case 41 of the Iron Flute Koans

THE SENTENCE

I was honored to have this poem recently published by Please See Me, 2019 Issue 3. You can see the original here (and other work by some fine writers:
https://pleaseseeme.com/issue-3/poetry/the-sentence-louis-faber

“Probable metastatic lesions
secondary to breast cancer.”
Complex words set
at the bottom of a page,
impenetrable jargon.

Two spots where pelvis
and spine are joined,
where motion fulcrums
down legs, a torso
and its twin concavities
lever up, fold down, torque
in slow rotation
living.

The words stare out
from the page; defiant,
aberrant cells nestling bone
foretell a pillow
blanketed in hair,
rosy skin sheltering
burning flesh beneath.
I offer platitudes,
empty aphorisms
neither she nor
I believe. For me
self-serving hope,
weak bracing
for a hastily built bridge
spanning a gulf
of absence and neglect:
a young girl abandoned,
a woman rediscovered.

For her, baby sister,
a smile born of the pain
of the surgeons’
hollow handiwork
across skull and chest,
an unguent smile
to soothe my
festering guilt.

We watch words
shatter against
the impenetrable reality.

MOURNING

You never know how the news will arrive
you are just certain of its arrival.
You know it on some level, even as the event
is happening, but that doesn’t blunt
the piercing tip of the blade
that finds the soft spot in you and cuts deeply.
You hoped for a miracle for her, for her son,
her husband, for those who knew her
gentle smile, warm compassion, cutting wit,
when the situation demanded.
She was a friend who would appear
when needed most and slip away
when the need began to dissipate.
The news came today, the hole is fresh
and you can only attempt to fill it with memories,
knowing even as it seems again full
as do so many others as you age,
when you step into it you will plunge
back into the well of loss
and again struggled to find the sun
hiding in a too often darkening sky.

WE CAN FIX THAT

He is only four years old,
has decided he will be
“an X-ray doctor” in a few years
because he wants to see
broken fingers and legs, but
if he sees bad things
he can take them out
and throw them in the trash.
He is more perceptive
that even he can imagine
for without any medical training
it is clear he can see
right through any adult
he comes across, and he
does it was a gentle smile
that says: your secrets are
safe with me, probably, maybe.