NEXT QUESTION

It was a short questionnaire,
and he wasn’t sure why they
had chosen him to answer, or
for that matter, who they were.

He was one to follow rules, so
he sat down to complete it,
they, whoever they were, said
it would only take fifteen minutes.

“Who is the one poet you would
want to be forced to spend
an entire day with, and why
did you select that person?

In true High School fashion
I skipped it, went on to the next:
“who is the real person you would
gladly spend a day with and why?”

As a poet myself, it was easy now,
and I filled out the answer
and wondered why I paused, then
froze: did I know any real people?

NANSEN’S AGE 鐵笛倒吹 二十四

When you enter the hall
which seat will you take?
Your seat is determined
by how long you
have walked the Way,
how long has it been.

If you can measure the time
that marks your entry
sit at the far end
for the honored seat
is reserved for the ancients
who enter the Way again
at each passing moment.


A reflection on case 24 of the Iron Flute Koans

It was the other evening,
the first of two this month, they say.
This only happens once in a blue moon
or a couple times every two or three years
and often twice in the same year.
So once in a blue moon isn’t that long
but she said she could feel its pull,
everything threatening to topple over
and she moved very cautiously.
I have to admit I didn’t feel very much,
but I come from the people for who
the lunar cycle is the norm, so the moon
really proceeds as it should, it’s face
having little to do with my time or tide.
The moon will be full again later this month
and I will pay careful attention
to what I’m certain I will not feel then.

STYX IT TO YOU

They clearly don’t get it
and odds are they never will.
They think perhaps prayer will work
or youth will provide some
sort of immunity, maybe
an executive decree, good
luck with that given the
swinging there to that old White House,
with the ridiculous spiked fence
in the middle of an avenue named
first state that’s actually a Commonwealth.
They can’t imagine I have a list
And all I do is make pickups
and drop offs, no thinking, no planning
just show up, tie up to the pier
and then it’s off down and across the River
all day and night, in and out
for a payment you ‘llonly make
begrudgingly, as if I care, for I
have a family to feed too, remember.

ONCE

It was the other evening,
the first of two this month, they say
This only happens once in a blue moon
or a couple times every two or three years
and often twice in the same year,
So once in a blue moon isn’t that long
but she said she could feel its pull,
everything threatening to topple over
and she moved very cautiously.
I have to admit I didn’t feel very much,
but I come from the people for who
the lunar cycle is the norm, so the moon
really proceeds as it should, it’s face
having little to do with my time or tide.
The moon will be full again later this month
and I will pay careful attention
to what I’m certain I will not feel then
but will affect me in so very many ways.

SEPPO’S TURNING THE WHEEL

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 38 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo