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.

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 (The Gateless Gate)

DISTANT SONG

I thought I heard
a woman singing
somewhere in the distance,
an ethereal song whose melody
floated over me, dropping
momentarily into my consciousness
then as quickly flitting away.
I walked off
the carefully tended path
stepped into the clutching brush,
the smell of Juniper
filled the air.
Pushing through a thicket
I thought I saw a woman
retreating into the trees
but the melody lingered
and I sat and listened
never seeing the singer
only hearing the song.

CHORUS

The man sits, waiting patiently
for the wolf to arrive. It has
been far too long, this wait,
as the Wolf has his lair in
the distant mountain, and
has little use for the people
in the city, in the place
where the man sits waiting.
The man is sure they met once,
although he is now beginning to
wonder if it was simply coyote
assuming the shape
of his lupine imagination.
The man cannot or will not say
why he wishes to see the Wolf,
it is enough for him
to have the desire, and he knows
that once wolf arrives,
he and the Wolf together
will sing a piercing
song to the moon.