WHAT WOULD YOU SAY

I am just wondering
what you would say
if you were called
to testify about all
that you had seen,
all that had disgusted you,
all that you condemned
but did and said
nothing while it occurred.
What would you say
if you had no choice
but truth, no shading,
no mincing of words,
just the harsh light
and you in a chair
in an empty room,
a disembodied voice
asking endless questions?
It is best that you
remain silent, say
nothing at all,
for we have already
judged you, and you
know your own guilt.

First appeared in Literary Cocktail Magazine, Fall Issue 2022, Volume I Issue II
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1VEgeWfNp5SFGSm8nW8QegM1WuNUa_s99/view

A SIMPLE TASK

You misunderstand me, he said,
I did not ask you to write a poem
about a flower, anyone can do that,
I asked you to write a poem with a flower.

Do not ask me what the poem
will be about, ask the flower, but
first you must learn to speak
the language of the flowers.

If you find this difficult, consult
the sky, it is fluent in almost all
species of plant life, mother to
them at one time or another.

When you have finished, cast it
to the morning breeze, that
it might find purchase somewhere
and sing its song to a new audience.

DISCLOSING IS NOT AS GOOD AS PRACTICE

To speak of hours of practice
is not as good as 10 minutes
engaged in practice.
So, too, an hour speech
on practice pales
with even a moment of silence.
But to be silent and also
not practice is to turn
your back on the path
and blind yourself
with your stick.

A reflection on Case 77 of the Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye) Koans

JOSHU’S BUDDHA

If you go in search of Buddha
should you see him, do
not stop or speak but run away.
If you do not see the Buddha
run away from that place.
If you stop, to take water
from the edge of a still pond
look carefully, for
the Buddha is there
just above the water’s surface.

A reflection on case 80 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)

BANISHED

Yet again this morning
there was a shadow
closely following me.

When I turned, it stood
in front of me, daring me
to do something I guess.

When I asked it who
it was, it said I am you
you dottering old man.

I told it that such a lie
defied belief, for it was
far taller than me.

It was about to speak
when I banished it
and it disapeard.

I smiled up
at the large cloud
blocking the sun.

PARADE

They strut across our lawn oblivious to our stares. The cat sits watching these large objects, birds perhaps she thinks, but nothing like those she once hunted for food when she was homeless and pregnant. She is content to sit and watch them, speaks a momentary hello, and realizing that they do not speak cat, settles down for her pre-dinner nap.

HOME

I have never been
to Liszkowo but I have been
to Charleston, West Virginia
and visited the B’nai Jacob Cemetery
and for me, that is as close
as I need to come to Liszkowo
for I don’t speak Lithuanian
though it runs through my veins.
I have visited the Highlands
and the Isle of Islay
but I never saw my
father’s kin reach out to me,
although they speak to me
in my dreams.

R.I.P.

We are planning the funeral
for Roe today, eulogies
fully ready, for we are certain
the death was slow and painful
and now all we can do is mourn.

Some we know will not attend,
Brown out of fear, knowing
the eventual consequences
of this loss, Miranda because
he is already marked, hounded
by those in power, an easy mark.

Sullivan may be there, happy
that he can go after them again
if they even speak his name
innocently or by mistake.

It will be a sad moment, one
we have dreaded of late, one
we thought would never come
and we will mourn our dear friend
Stare Decisis*, stabbed in the back
by those who vowed to defend him.

N.B. As you may know or have guessed, I am a happily retired attorney, who was taught that stare decisis should be sacrosanct. Brown is the landmark school segregation case, Miranda the much eroded protection for those under police custody, and Sullivan the case on defamation establishing a higher standard that plaintiffs must meet if they are public figures. It remains a hallmark of First Amendment law regarding freedom of the press.

Stare decisis is the doctrine that courts will adhere to precedent in making their decisions. Stare decisis means “to stand by things decided” in Latin.  

SIEGAN’S COST OF RICE

How long have you wandered
always searching for the one
answer, the hidden truth
that, when revealed to you,
will show you enlightenment?

Where have you searched
for this one truth, one
that will collapse the past,
present and future into
a single moment of pure
presence which you can grasp
and carry with you through life?

Stop and ask the infant
strapped to his mother’s chest,
for he has the answer
and his silence will speak
of it if only you will listen.

A reflection on case 5 of the Book of Equanimity Koans