DAIJI’S INNER CULTURE

Eyes can look within
and discover a boundless universe
but the tongue alone
can speak only sounds
that go false
as they dance away unseen.

The silence of zazen
speaks the dharma,
the teisho is offered mutely.

The space between
eye and tongue
is but three inches
or an unbridgeable void.


A reflection on Case 15 of the Iron Flute Koans.

MISTAKE IN SPEAKING 無門關 三十九

When you speak the words
of the Buddha you are lost.
Light is everywhere in silence
but the tongue must hide
in the dark of the mouth.

Buddha’s words are flowers
unfolding in the dawn
by the side of the still pond,
the eyes hear the song
and respond in silent chorus.


A reflection on case 39 of the Mumonkan (The Gateless Gate)

ANGRY, BUT ONLY A LITTLE

You want it spicy, but just so that
the tongue remembers it a moment
after the mouth has moved on, a lingering
sense of having been present.
It should be a mantilla, a shawl,
not the blanket some claim, gently
caressing, lighting up the plate.
Its host, freshly from the rollers,
was born for this moment,
and welcomes its friend, and
the teeth of its visitors, accompanied
by the grapes carefully pressed
and aged for this occasion.
The tomatoes sigh as the last
of the arrabiatta is consumed
and evening slips quietly into dreams.

BECAUSE

“Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”-Shelley

I write
                                                                    because words must be said
words must be said
                                                                    because they eat at my tongue
they eat at my tongue
                                                                    because they recall the flames of the ovens
they recall the flames of the ovens
                                                                    because they were forced to shower
they were forced to shower
                                                                    because they were Jews
they were Jews
                                                                    because they embraced Torah
they embraced Torah
                                                                    because they walked through the desert
they walked through the desert
                                                                    because they followed the trail of manna
they followed the trail of manna
                                                                    because it led to freedom
it led to freedom
                                                                    because I saw it in a dream
I saw it in a dream
                                                                    because a voice whispered it to me
a voice whispered it to me
                                                                    because I write

A MISTAKE IN SPEAKING 無門關 三十九

When you speak the words
of the Buddha you are lost.
Light is everywhere in silence
but the tongue must hide
in the dark of the mouth.

Buddha’s words are flowers
unfolding in the dawn
by the side of the still pond,
the eyes hear the song
and respond in silent chorus.


A reflection on case 39 of the Mumonkan (The Gateless Gate)

WORD

If I asked you for one word
how would you answer?
In your dreams, do you have
both arms, can you write
your thoughts on a scrap
of paper and tuck it away?
You had a lover, once,
and he would trace
his finger along your thigh.
Do you miss that touch
as you rub the jagged scar?
Can you taste the lamb
simmered slowly, fragrant,
the sauce dredged
by the crusty bread,
or do you only taste
the hard tack tossed
from the truck?
If they gave you
back your tongue
and I asked you for one word
how would you answer?


First published in “Eureka Literary Magazine, Vol. 5, No. 2,(c) 1997, Eureka College