He will do it again tomorrow as he did yesterday and each day before that for as long as he can remember. He would like not to have to do it, but he knows he must, just as he knows the outcome will be almost the same, just the slightest of changes imperceptible from day to day. He doesn’t like the changes, and wishes he could reverse them. But although he has asked, the morning mirror says he cannot. And the mirror is not smiling.
GENSHA’S ONE BRIGHT PEARL
If you ask me
what I can say
about the way
I will tell you
it is perfect peace.
If tomorrow I ask you
what you can say
about the way
will you tell me
it is perfect peace.
We may both
be fools, but you
inhabit the darker cave.
A reflection on Case 15 of the Shobogenzo Koans (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)
Arising into night
the departing sun
tangoes away with its cloud,
memories soon forgotten.
Other dancers take the stage,
now a romance, now
a war dance, feathers raised
in prayer to unseen gods.
Night will soon bring
its curtain across this stage,
the avian cast’s final bows taken
the theatre will darken, awaiting
a new script tomorrow,
but for this solitary moment
of frozen grace, it is we
who write the conversation,
our lines sung by actors who
know only nature’s
then another, another
only this one
a world of delusion
yesterday and tomorrow
Buddha says Now!
Egrets take flight
we stare awestruck
nature pities us
DEAR ERASMUS, DIE
Today we welcome the rain, hope
that the wheaty winter lawn will
show some other color under its care.
The birds ignore the clouds,
accept the rain, care little how
our lawn looks, their next meal
of always greater importance.
I am losing the vision in one eye,
know I may soon be king
of the country of the blind,
and sadly curse Erasmus
for his gift of proverb, one
that slipped off the tongue
when my eye could still see it.
We will welcome the sun tomorrow
or the day after, for too much
rain or sun demands change
and nothing is really ever
wholly within our control.
WHAT IF THEY
Today they gave a party. Today, so far, no one came. Today, so far and until some come, we will breath easier. Tomorrow they may give another party. We hope that no one comes. The same for Tuesday and Wednesday, although that was supposed to be our party, but we can no longer come, because they may come and we cannot be at any party they are attending. Maybe they won’t come either, and there will be no party at all.
YUN MAN’S EVERY DAY IS A GOOD DAY
Pause and consider why so many questions
require you, you feel, to consult your watch,
to call up a calendar, to appoint time.
Time has no appointments, time is not
an arrow, though we strive always to aim it,
to send it flying in our desired direction.
Time is a point in space, surrounded by
all ten directions, going toward none of them.
Ask why this moment is not enough, why you need
the next though it does not exist.
What are you trying to escape by searching
for tomorrow, lingering in yesterday?
Yesterday no longer exists, so why
do you assume tomorrow does, and what
of this moment, which exists only now,
and what of the red leaf sitting
in mid-air awaiting your awed attention?
A reflection on Case 6 of the Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record)
ISAN’S TIME 鐵笛倒吹 十六
A cold day
how many other winters
can you remember,
how many future winters
can your mind grasp?
Can you hold yesterday
in the palm of your hand
can you wrap tomorrow
around your thumb?
Between the palms
lies all life and being.
A reflection on case 16 of the Iron Flute Koans
Tomorrow this poem will
most assuredly no longer be here,
though when during the night
it will slip away, never again
to be seen, I don’t know or perhaps it
will return in a form I would not recognize,
recrafted by the hand of an unseen editor.
It may take on a meaning unfamiliar,
or translate itself into a tongue
that I can neither speak nor read,
or perhaps, most dreadedly, assume
the shape of prose, accreting words
until the embedded thought is bloated
and wholly unrecognizable.
Even if I tried to stop it, watched
carefully, it would no doubt
remind me that poems have a life
of their own once cast to paper
or pixels, and I am at best only
another editor or reader, and it
takes kindly on most days to neither.
Today I again took up the brush,
carefully mixed the sumi-e ink
and with hand poised over a sheet
of anticipating rice paper waited,
knowing that the moment for a stroke
was imminent but not yet at hand,
and I dare not force it for brush
painting is a practice that cannot
be compelled, a gentle merger
of idea, brush, ink and paper,
and if any are missing, a sadness
that can only be irreversible.
Today the brush considered the ink
and decided it was not a good day
and so I cleaned it carefully, set it
aside with the block of ink,
and rolling the rice paper, promised
it, myself, that we would repeat
this exercise until the moment was
right and the image was ready to appear.