THOU SHALT NOT

“I don’t want to”
is hardly a sagacious
way to run a country
and “just because” probably
didn’t work when you
were a child, why
would you think adults
would accept it now?
And when we all
expressed our displeasure,
disdain and contempt,
which part of “no”
did you have trouble
grasping, Mr. President?
The apple may not
fall far from the tree,
but let it sit
on the ground long enough
and the worms will have it.
Ambrose Bierce said diplomacy
is lying for one’s country,
Mr. President,
not lying to it.


First appeared in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press, 2008.

GOING AND RETURNING 鐵笛倒吹 三十八

 

Only the fool
will wander
from teacher to teacher
seeking answers.
They will offer only questions.

The wise one returns
to the question again
and again for she may find
many answers within,
just as the apple tree
bears many ripe fruit
if carefully tended,
each with the seeds
of a new tree.
Pick carefully.


A reflection on case 38 of the Iron Flute Koans

THE SIXTH ANCESTOR’S “YOUR MIND IS MOVING”

As you look out the window
you say the branches of the tree
are dancing, the clouds barely stopping
to gaze down on the scene.
Walk outside and feel the breeze
skitter along your skin, see
the seed pods of the maple
take wing and fly off.
Ask yourself why this is,
is it the wind you see moving things
or is it the things moving
creating a breeze, which?
Consider that it is only your mind
that is moving, for if you do not
look or think of these motions,
how can you know if they stop?


A reflection on case 146 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)

TRUE MEANING

The iguana sits in the tree and stares at me. It isn’t clear whether he is daring me to climb the tree, knowing that I like most humans well into middle age are incapable of the task, or merely showing off, appreciative of an audience. A little child walking by points to the iguana, says, “Mommy I’m tired too and want to get ready for my nap like that monster in the tree.” The iguana nods in agreement.

DROPPING IN

He drops suddenly
from a branch of a tree
which you don’t see
for all of the others.
He lands a foot from you,
you pause suddenly
and he looks up at you,
trying to determine if you
are friend, foe, or lunch.
He concludes you are
not lunch and scurries off
under a nearby bush
on the edge of the pond
where the rocks will
provide the sun
for an afternoon nap.
You gather your wits
and thoughts, knowing
you will retell this story,
but for him, it is just
another day it the life
of your average iguana.

THE VIEW FROM ABOVE

The hawk sits in one of the highest
branches of the tree, his red shoulders
blazing in the morning sun, both
staring down on those of us trapped
by gravity, by the weight of our thoughts,
as we pass by slowly below.
From time to time the hawk
will offer a short commentary, never
ceasing her stare, an amiable Goddess
who finds mere mortals pleasant
entertainment, but soon she
is more interested in a meal,
and as we depart, the squirrel
watching from the foot
of a nearby palm realizes
it is time to quickly practice
frolicking among the fronds.

UNGAN’S SWEEPS THE GROUND

As you stoop
to pick up fallen leaves
are you cleaning spring,
summer or autumn?
What seasons are deep
within the winter branch?
How does your work
and that of the tree
truly differ, and
what leaves
do you shed?


A reflection on Case 83 of the Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye)