LUNA PENDING

From the heart of the night
the moon appeared, or a small
crescent of it, coy this night
as she is on a regular basis.

She hinted at her fullness,
but we knew that was still
days off, the moon kept
to a rigid schedule always.

But her reticence this night
invited the stars to take
the stage, some we rarely see
whether hiding in clouds

or obscured by the moon’s
radiance, and the stars
seem pleased for this brief
moment on the celestial stage.

STARS

Once the winter stars
wrapped in their cloudy shroud
shed frozen tears, unwilling
to come out of hiding.
We searched for them in vain,
knowing our failure,
retreating to the warmth
of home, only to repeat
the failed effort on so
many other nights.

Now, here, the winter stars
are usually fearless,
some drowned by the moon,
but she waxes and wanes
and they reappear, the brightest
never fearing the chilled sky.
We stare at them in wonder
having forgotten for so many
years just how beautiful
they can be in their glory.

THE QUESTION

Even long after he had left
his childhood behind, or such
of it as he had actually had,
he could still stare up into
the night sky, at ceiling of stars
with more than a little awe.

And even though he had left
childhood behind, no one
had yet answered the one
question his parents ducked
time and time again, one
so simple a child knew
its answer, but asked anyway,
for validation or irritation.

If God created the heavens
why did He or She arrange
the stars so that people
could see in their order
other people, lesser gods
and all manner of animals?

SEPPO’S TURNING THE WHEEL 正法眼蔵 三十八

The wisest of men,
when asked at what time
it is best to pursue the Way,
will answer when a thousand stars
have made their presence known.
The wisest student will say
when cleaning myself
by bathing in the mud.
This will become clear
when the frog
consumes the dragon.

A reflection on Case 35 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)

ON THE MESA

On the mesa you can step outside
and look up at the sky,
clouds building mountains
that threaten to eat the sun,
swallow the moon whole.

On the mesa you can step outside
and feel incredibly small,
listen to the coyotes with
the ears of scared children,
unable to run like the jackrabbit.

On the mesa you can step outside
and look up at the sky,
more stars than are possible,
and listen as the wind
whispers in the voice of God.

SHOWERS

We sat on our lanai last night
in our twin rockers, the cat
curled close by but carefully
removed from the rockers
and stared into the sky hoping
meteors would grace us
with their fleeting presence.

The moon did appear, shrouded
in thin clouds, spectral ghost
waxing slowly in hiding, but
the stars had fled this night,
fearing the rain that
the cloud mantle promised.

We never did see a meteor
but we know they will return
next year and the cat says
it is hardly worth interrupting
a good nap for a momentary
flash of light, and we just
touched hands and
retreated to bed.

ELEMENTARY

Each morning we stood
as the Principal intoned
the Pledge of Allegiance
over the tinny PA system.
One morning as we rose,
hands over hearts,
we noticed someone
had put up the Canadian flag
in the holder over the door.
The Principal threatened
to call all of our parents
unless the guilty party
came forward, and we
struggled vainly
to swallow our giggles.
No one came forward
and they found
the Stars and Stripes
stuck in a large mixing bowl
in the kitchen.
The Principal scheduled an assembly
to remind us of our need
to honor the flag and the country,
because it stood for all that was good,
for all that we had
and that everyone else wanted,
but we were under our desks
in the painful tuck position
we would assume if they
ever dropped the bomb.
They didn’t tell us that
if we were close enough to ground zero
the position would let us
leave a neater shadow on the floor.
Some days we sang
My Country ‘Tis of Thee
all except for Larry
who preferred God Save the Queen
until the Principal told him
it was sacrilege, since
we created it and the Brits stole it.
Years later, outside the Federal Building
the Principal, now retired and girding
for battle with Social Security, saw me,
protest sign in hand, flag sewn
across the seat of my jeans.
He stared, then looked away
ashamed at still another failure,
not like his two sons who lay
in eternal repose in the Federal cemetery
on the Island of Oahu.

First published in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press, (2008)

STARING

He liked nothing better
then to sit outside
his small cottage
and stare into the pond
once the blaze on the water
set by the sun was consumed
as fire must always be by water.
As night deepened, he stared
into the sky, seeing the moon
slowly rise, chasing along
the sun’s now deserted path.
He knew the myriad of stars
shared his interest, staring
but he abandoned the sky
as the sun had yet again,
and watched as the voracious pond
slowly consumed the ever
fewer stars, and saw the pond’s
moon take up its liquid
dance to the tune of the night breeze

SKYWARD

It was a Thursday in August when he first noticed it. It was an unusually cool day, not the sort you’d expect in the middle of summer, but he knew the weather was ever more unpredictable. He was certain it hadn’t been there the day before, but he was surprised it was still there the day after, albeit ever so slightly larger. When he asked the elders about it, they merely laughed. “It is what you get for suddenly giving him a bedtime after dark,” his father said, “wait until he discovers the stars.”