A MORNING PRAYER

My words are carried
on the winter morning wind

echoing off the obsidian mound
and shattering in silver crystals

reflecting the frigid sun.
The barren moon recedes

as my son, the wolf, ravens
devouring knowledge of the world,

listening to the song of the dolphin.
She is a rose, soft petals fluttering

thorns poised to punish a misstep,
dangerous beauty.

He wears the feathers of the owl
staring into the night

fixing stars in their courses
holding gaseous orbs.

He sings to the bear
carrying the world
into its glacial den.


First appeared in Active Muse, Varsha 2019 issue.

A 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 (Gateless Gate)

MADNESS

There are things in life
that are quite clearly beyond
any rational explanation.
Take, as an example, the song
that crawls into your head
and absolutely refuses to leave.
If it were Mozart or Bach
it might be excusable, if Beethoven
at least reluctantly forgivable,
but it is never the great masters.
Tonight, it is the ancient song
“Lemon Tree,” and there is little worse
then Trini Lopez crawling around your head.
refusing adamantly to leave.
I could live with Peter,
Paul, would welcome Mary
But this is Trini’s night and I
must be thankful Tony Orlando
and Barry Manilow took the night off.

A SIMPLE SONG

Much as every person is a Buddha
every guitar can play a simple song.
Some will lay it badly, some will
break a string, some will play
with an unspoken regret, but all
have the capacity, recognized or not,
to create a moment of memory.
On this night there are two,
both skilled, honed of fine wood,
carefully strung, a purity of tone,
and you know neither will
fail to honor the song they play.
But while one shows its mastery,
intricacy of notes dancing
from the soundhole, while the other
sets a gentle rhythm, it is when
the other takes up the song,
that you realize it is playing it
with a depth of soul
that you will not soon forget.

I AM ODOBENUS ROSMARUS, WHO ARE YOU?

From time to time it sneaks back
into my mind, and once there
is so hard to ignore or dislodge.
It begins softly, “I am he,
as you are he, as you are me.”
It grows ever more present, foreground,
“I am the eggman, they are the eggmen,”
and all to soon, I become the walrus,
but only one chorus and then my egg man
is Humpty Dumpty, not he
of the nursery rhyme, but
the wise one who said “when
I use a word it means just
what I wish it to mean,
neither more nor less,”
and I, like Humpty, in that moment
am the master of words,
and the song fades, but now
what is that song you can’t
get out of your own mind?
Oh, well, goo goo g’joob.