“Geography”

People of the mountain
are quiet, some say taciturn
preferring to listen for the cry
of the eagle, wind whistling
its familiar tune through a pass
snow rent from the face
tearing down in a crystalline cloud.

People of the shore
merge with the song
of the waves, feel its tempo
punctuated by the bark
of the whale, the horn
anchored in the harbor,
the tavern disgorging
its nightly catch into the streets.

People of the city
stare at the bleakness
of the stone monolith
torn from the earth
white tipped peaks barren,
and the endless wash
of the sea, licking
at land and retreating
an ill-trained pup
but mostly at the ground
lest it slide from beneath them.

First publshed in Lighthouse Weekly, January 17, 2022
https://www.lighthouseweekly.com/post/geography-and-santa-cruz-wharf-september

THREE WORDS ARE MIND

If you stare
at a large stone
and call it a mountain
the ant will agree with you.
If you gaze on a mountain
and call it a stone
there can be no argument.
If I call that tree
a toothpick
clean your teeth carefully.

A reflection on Case 112 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye) Koans

PARENTAL MOMENTS

My adoptive parents died
six years apart, I received
two announcement texts
from the son they had together.

We negotiated her obituary,
and I am waiting for her funeral,
but after seven years, I have
given up hope of that happening.

I did visit my birth mother’s
grave, placed a small  stone 
on hers, watered the ground
with tears of sadness and joy

at having a mother at last,
and I have a picture 
of my birth father’s headstone
so at last I can mourn my parents.

QUESTION POSED, AWAITING A RESPONSE

I stooped and spoke
to a stone, asking the question.
I was here before you arrived
and I will be her long after you leave.
I held the sand in my hand
warm from the sun, asking the question.
I came after your arrived
and I will leave long before you are gone.
I held the winter wind on the tip
of a finger, asking the question.
I am not here now
and I have never been here.
I touched the waters
to my lips, asking the question.
I was above you when you came
and I will be below you when you go.
I saw the flames dance
before me, asking the question.
You were ashes once
and you shall be ashes again.
I stood mired in the clay
clinging to my legs, asking the question.
It is of me you were formed
and it is to me you will return.
I sat at the foot of God
blinding light, asking the question.
You cried to me at birth
and you will cry to me at death.

First Published in The Poet: Faith Vol. 1, Spring 2021
https://www.thepoetmagazine.org/spring-2021—faith

A STONES TOSS

If you toss a stone
into a placid pond
the ripples will wash
away from the landing spot
as so many small waves,
and unseen, the area
of the pond’s surface
will grow imperceptibly.

If you toss a stone
into an vast ocean,
the ripples will wash
away from the landing spot
small unnoticed waves
and unseen, the area
of the ocean’s surface
will grow imperceptibly.

Ask  yourself now,
whether you would want
to enter the pond or ocean
for you are a stone 
arcing through life.

MOST WONDERFUL THING 鐵笛倒吹 六十語

Which is more beautiful,
the fragile flower
or the stone set in the road?
And which is the uglier?
The stone, washed in a stream
may shine like a diamond,
the flower picked
soon withers to dust.

Each contains beauty
each contains ugliness.
When you see this
you may smile
until you feel
the blow of the stick
and your eyes are forced shut
blind for that moment.


A reflection on Case 65 of the Iron Flute Koans

ADAGE

You want to yell at him, tell him
to stop, that it is too soon, that he
is not ready, cannot be, won’t be
for months to come, but you know
he will not listen to you
standing, gesticulating, imagining
a stone in your hand, shattering
the glass walls, the crackling,
gaining his full attention
causing him to realize what is
so very obvious to us.
But you cannot do so, wishes aside,
there are no stones to be found
within the house in which you stand
and if there were, there still are
very clear rules against your throwing one.

THE BURDEN

We are obligated to carry
memories, and as we
get older the burden grows
ever heavier, we bend
under its weight, knowing
we dare not lose even one
for once castoff, the weight
is carried off like the smallest
feather on a storming wind.
Soon enough it is we
who will become the burden
that others must carry
and we hope they will
willingly shoulder the load
lest we become the excised
dust of forgotten stone
grown over with weeds.

THE WEIGHT

We are obligated to carry
memories, and as we
get older the burden grows
ever heavier, we bend
under its weight, knowing
we dare not lose even one
for once castoff, the weight
is carried off like the smallest
feather on a storming wind.
Soon enough it is we
who will become the burden
that others must carry
and we hope they will
willingly shoulder the load
lest we become the excised
dust of forgotten stone
grown over with weeds.