STARING

She stares at you, unwavering.
You find this strange, wanting to see
something more in her looks,
but you get nothing from her,
as you have gotten nothing
from so many others before her.
You know men are as capable
of such stares as she, but you
don’t tend to see them, your own
gender blindness perhaps, or just
that men are less interesting
and more seldom seen
in these surroundings, usually
standing, posing, looking away.
You want to know what she
is thinking in this moment, what
she sees in your face, transfixed,
but the artist didn’t reveal that,
and so she will stare as well
at the next viewer throughout
the gallery’s open hours.

NOTHING, AND LESS

The hardest thing, he said
to his teacher, both sitting
on their mats, is not
not thinking, but what to do
when the thoughts come anyway.
I can’t seem to get rid of them
no matter how hard I try.”
“Do not try to do anything,”
the Sensei said, “for anything
you do introduces another thought,
and soon enough you have an onion
of thoughts to peel, layer by layer.
When a thought comes, look at it
with the mind’s eye, say, with
the mind’s voice, look a thought,
and do nothing more, and before
you know it the thought
will be gone and the next
in line will enter your mind.”

PRACTICE

It always seems odd that the teacher
asks me to think about my practice
when the heart of my practice is learning
how not to always think about things.
But the heart of practice is exactly
these oddities, for nothing is exact.
In the fourth vow I strive to attain
the great way of Buddha, but I know,
as the Heart Sutra reminds me, that
there is “not even wisdom to attain,
attainment, too, is emptiness.”
And so I sit in confusion each day,
and bits of delusion fall away,
like the hair on my ever balding scalp.

COGITO

She said, “I truly think
that a large part of your problem
is that you spend too much time
thinking about what other
people think of you.”
He wasn’t inclined to agree,
but she did think that so
he had to give it consideration.
“I don’t think so,” he replied,
“but if you think so, then perhaps.”
“What I think doesn’t matter,”
she said, smiling, “I remember
some of the best advice
I have ever been given,
‘What other people think of me
is simply none of my business.'”

LIVING

They sit in a small wine bar
on an out-of-the-way street
in an out-of-the-way city, she
sipping a Oregon Pinot Noir
while he is on his second
Alsatian Pinot Gris.
She asks him if he
ever thinks about death.
He peers into his wine glass,
than at her and smiles
a gentle smile, “I don’t,”
he says, “because I
have died too often already.”
She looks at him quizzically,
“What do you mean?”
“Simply that every moment
spent thinking about death
is a moment of death itself,
for I most certainly
stop living during that
contemplation, and I
prefer life in the moment
to death in the same moment,
because we both know
it will arrive sooner
than we desire or imagine.”