MEOW

Again today I am inside this so called
box, unchanged perhaps, but who
is to say, not you, still Schrodinger’s cat.

Don’t bother to ask if I am dead
or alive, for like the Master Daowu, you
can bet that I won’t say, so there.

And do not assume I know what I am,
for if I were dead, I’d hardly know it
and what guarantee is there that

I’m actually alive merely because
I think I am, or is it that I think
I think that I am, it’s all so Descartean

that I’m never quite certain, so let’s just
assume that old Schrodinger was right,
I’m alive and dead, and leave it at that.

REMEMBER THIS

He awoke this morning, and was
surprised to be there, he said,
because when you are ninety,
and can’t get around at all,
you don’t look forward to tomorrow,
for it will simply be a repeat
of today when nothing will happen.
And it is harder still, he says,
because he can’t remember much anymore,
so it’s hard to say if today
is any different than a week ago
or a month ago, though they say
he was in the hospital then,
but he don’t know why he was there.
When I stop for a visit the next day
his is surprised to be there, he says
as though it was a new thought
that just came to him in the moment.

A PEN FOR YOUR THOUGHTS

It has a certain heft
that says something substantial
lies within, waiting to be freed.
It glides easily, suggesting an
effortlessness you know is a tease,
that labor still waits.
Still, it does said comfortably,
is appealing to the eye,
has the deep jade green 
along its barrel, the knots interwoven
top and bottom that say what lies
within cannot be easily unraveled.
As you draw it across the page
you hope that somewhere in Neamh
old Robbie will look down on you,
smile and share a thought or two,
but that you know, is for another day.

LEAVING STILL

He never wants to leave this place.
He never wants to leave
wherever he is at that moment.
Moving is the hardest thing
for him, arriving is easy.
She points out that you
cannot arrive here
without leaving there.
He reminds her that
something being easy
is not the same thing
as something being desired.
He can and does arrive, but it
is easy only by comparison
to the greater pain of leaving.
She says, I am leaving now,
but you can join me.
He says I cannot even bear
the pain of that thought.

FINIS

When it all ends,
just what will you
being doing
the moment before.
Of course you cannot
know, for you have
no idea just when
it will end. And
if it ends as a result
of your actions,
then you won’t know
that it is your action
that is ending it,
so that is no winner
in this game.
And before you
get lost in thought,
ponder this simple
concept deeply first.
Since I haven’t told you
what it is, you
can’t know even
when it ends.
And by the way
it just did.

IN THE BEGINNING

You so very want
there to be no ending
but there must be, just
as there had to be a beginning
and you had no say about that.
Endings are hard, they remind you
of small deaths, all but one,
but each is also a birth of sorts,
and like you know, they arise
and you have no say about them.
These few lines will
soon enough draw to an end
although that may be one
you don’t so much mind.
But as you put them away
they are the beginning of a thought
you never imagined would arise.

CRYPTIC (an acrostic)

God, it was a long night, unending
needs unsated, brought to the edge
man is a cruel beast, half master
as pleading supplicant, half slave
much the child, begging, wanting
as if food or thought would give
man humanity, elevated above
needs, existing outside, independent a
God, ruler of illusion and fantasy.


First Appeared in Aura Literary Arts Review, Vol. 3, No. 2, Summer 1996.

SLOW STREAM

The river that I imagined,
a torrent of words and images
is little more than a dry trickle,
construction cranes along one shore
hauling away half- and ill-formed thoughts,
leaving only desire and frustration
as a marker of what might have been.
I looked at each bend, hidden from sight
as harboring that epiphany
that I promised myself, and not
further evidence of my own delusion.
We will make port this afternoon
Where I can, at last, offload
my frustration and these shards
of a fantasy now gone to dust.

SOUTHERN MOUNTAIN 鐵笛倒吹 四十二

When you visit the Southern Mountain
what will you say
of its Northern brother?
Returning northward what words
will best describe the Southern peak?

Answer carefully after much thought
or remain silent, both choices
are yours to select, as both
mountains caress the passing clouds
and reach out for the sun
which neither may grasp.


A reflection on case 42 of the Iron Flute Koans.

CHOSHA’S STOP ILLUSORY THINKING

Before life there is death,
before death there is life.
In life there is death,
in death there is life,
a worm cut in two,
each half moves,
in each a new worm
or is there one worm.
This I ask you, but
answer or no answer
both are full
of Buddha nature.


A reflection on Case 20 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)