Ever since I was a child
I spoke a language known only
to me. I’ve had great conversations
on all matters and weighty topics.
I don’t speak this language in public,
for people are increasingly scared
of things they assume to be foreign
and truth shown to them is no defense.
That, and I’m certain some
would think me crazy, like the one
man who overheard me and said
as much to his imaginary friend.
And that’s the key difference:
everyone knows imaginary friends
can’t answer you, you’d be nuts
to think otherwise, but to speak
a language known only to yourself
and to speak it fluently, is
a linguistic feat not to be trifled with.
I now live among birds, and they
accept me, listen to me endless complaints,
and never demand I cease kvetching.
I know they speak about me behind
my back, but they are kind, and generally
do not remind me of my shortcomings,
no doubt certain I am all too well aware
of my failings, and they remind me they have
their own problems, a shrinking
environment, water and air that only
we might drink or breathe willingly,
and when I object to their complaints,
when I say that I am not the one
to blame, they seem to laugh, and say
perhaps so, for we birds have much
in common with you, no one wants
to listen to us complain, and you do
all look pretty much alike to us.
Only in a French movie
does a girl stand on a bridge
threatening to jump or not
and weave a story
that so draws us in
that by the end,
when the couple is together,
she now pulling him
from the same brink
we almost forget
that the movie
was in a language
neither of us speak.
As a young child I recall my mother
justifying all manner of disasters based
on miscommunication, mostly hers, by
saying, “Does Macy’s talk to Bloomingdale’s?”
I didn’t care, no one did and the excuse
never worked as far as I can tell, and I now
know from experience, that of course they
talked to each other, and today they are
owned by the same corporate overseer.
So why is it that I spent the better part
of my day trying to get my old iPhone
to speak nicely to my new Samsung phone?
I wasn’t asking much, just to share contacts
and photos, but they weren’t having it,
no how, now way, not never, so I
was left to turn to a mediator, and it
pained me to call in Microsoft, but they did
have a window on a solution, so they
thanks to their outlook got to have the last word.
Along the shore, this morning,
the clouds piled up, refusing entry
to the promised sun, which hung back forlorn.
The waves charged onto the sand
like so many two-year-olds
in full tantrum, banging against
all in sight and retreating,
only to charge again, pushing away
any and all in their path.
The wind pummels the sand,
and as we walk along the street
the wind-borne sand tears against our skin
urging us to take shelter,
reminding us that nature does
not bend to the weatherman, and will
from time to time play havoc
with their forecasts because
nature speaks, she never listens.
First appeared in Active Muse, Varsha 2019 Issue
There is a great deal left
to be said, and we assume
more than enough time
for the task, but
the ferryman hews
to his own schedule
and our plans, intentions,
desires are beyond
his knowledge or caring.
It is best to say
what you need before
silence is eternal.
You may seek to follow
the path of the dove
a fool know many roads.
You may wrap yourself
in fine linen, an infant
wears only his skin
and knows this moment
is already gone.
Think long before you speak
of how to walk
along the path, of where it leads.
The baby says nothing,
will not speak of where
he has been,
where he is going, for to him
there is only here,
is descriptive enough.
A reflection on case 92 of the Iron Flute Koans
If you are asked “who are you?”
how will you reply, and who
is the person asking the question?
If you answer, you are blind
if you say nothing you speak loudly.
The sage will tell you
that there is no you and if
you doubt him he will hold up
a mirror and ask what you see.
If you answer “I see myself”
he will laugh because no one
can see themselves unless
they see everyone, for you
are both the reader
and the writer
of these poor words.
A reflection on case 131 of the Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye)
Today we only speak silently
and know everyone hears.
Today we cry only dry tears,
and others gently wipe our eyes.
Today we mourn what we fear is lost
and together vow to retain it.
Today the sun shines less brightly
and we know the dark cloud
will eventually pass.
Today we hug, each
to all the others, though
we sit alone as a sangha.
This is but a single moment
and we sit with and within it,
breathing in and breathing out.
In this case, a Sangha meeting the day after the shootings at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, but as easily the day after any tragedy of which there are too many.