A POINTED REPLY

Between this point and that
lies a vast uncharted space
noted on every cartographers chart.
If you ask how this
could be possible, I reply
it’s like listening to silence
and hearing each sound
deeply embedded in the one
next to it, a glissando of
what exactly? Uncertainty?
That is the whole point
in the final analysis, for
between that point and this one
everything exists in that one place.

A MURDEROUS CACOPHONY

The crows were at it in the park today,
unable, it seemed, to agree on anything
and unwilling to let any other have the last word.
I asked them to stop, and that bought
all of fifteen seconds of peace before one
decided the debate needed to go on.
It was a cacophony hard on the ears,
and I wondered if the person who decided
that crows in groups were a murder
had ever stopped to listen, for to me
any group of crows is a cacophony.
As I thought this a small gathering
of wrens took up their autumn song,
and in the face of that sweet,
trilling chorus even the crows fell silent.

TOKUSAN’S ASSEMBLY 正法眼蔵 三十六

When the Buddha offered
true wisdom, no one
was present to hear it.
Those who were not there
understood it fully.
Where will you look
for true wisdom?
Will your ears here
what your mouth cannot say?
Only with closed eyes
will the light become clear.


A reflection on Case 36 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye).

IN DREAMS

Late in the night
a train rolled by
through the city, a few
miles down the hill
from here, its horn
muted but still required
at crossings.
I know it appeared
in my dreams,
but I cannot tell
if it was as the heron
in flight over the lake,
or the long bearded
hiker with the oversize
backpack who wandered
down our street
and became a slat
in the fence
at the dead end.

AS THE CROW FLIES

Leaving the fields
of the countryside
for the city, it is the birds
that tell you when
the invisible boundary
has been crossed.
There are usually signs
along the roads
bolted to steel poles
but the birds know better.
In the country, birds
sing long arias to the day,
to cornstalks making
the slow green to gold transition,
of a cat chasing a field mouse
among the fruit burdened trees
of the late-summer orchard.
Crossing to the urban world
their songs grow shorter
a kirtan with a squirrel
cut off by a car horn,
the briefest prayer
to the morning sun
a tentative greeting
to a dog or cat sleeping
on a sidewalk.
We would do well
to listen to birds.