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
He is bent over, walks with a shuffling stumble. He follows the path, inscribing it center or as close to it as he can get. He wants to say hello to those who would acknowledge him. He doesn’t understand why his mouth refuses to smile, refuses to form even the simplest of words. All he sees is her face, he sees it clearly when he walks each morning as they used to, and he will follow it until he sees it again the loamy soil they will share soon enough.
The white crested duck
waddles from the pond
headed for the path
on which we take
our morning walks.
He is accompanied
by wives or girlfriends,
we prefer to think
one of each for propriety’s sake.
Want to tell him
that Liberace tried
that hairstyle years ago,
and it never worked
on bad hair days,
and in any event
he always sashayed
and never waddled.
She wants to know why the oriole
we sometimes see in the park
never visits our backyard feeder.
I remind her that she isn’t usually here,
only visits occasionally, but she says
that I would have told her if I saw one.
She says I got excited when I saw the one
in the park during our walk. She is
right, of course, I would have told her
but all I see at the feeders are finches
of several sorts, doves and wrens, and
when he wants particularly to be seen
as he often does, one cardinal
who is far less interested in the seed
than in having a perch in plain sight, and
when he knows were watching, upthrusts
his fiery crest and spreads his wings.
I tell her cardinals are such show offs.
She is seven, laughs and says yes they are,
just like grandfathers, don’t you think.
You may seek to follow
the path of the dove
a fool know many roads.
You may wrap yourself
in fine linen, an infant
wears only his skin
and knows this moment
is already gone.
Think long before you speak
of how to walk
along the path, of where it leads.
The baby says nothing,
will not speak of where
he has been,
where he is going, for to him
there is only here,
is descriptive enough.
A reflection on case 92 of the Iron Flute Koans
Wherever you stand still
you can see the rainbow
but walk to find its end
this one or that one
and it will be gone
on your arrival.
Sit in the fine mist
and look at the earth –
how many colors
do you see?
A reflection on case 42 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)
He is never certain what to do on days
like this one, when the winter takes
a particularly nasty turn, the temperature
hovers at utter emptiness, and the wind
elects to try to enfold everything it can reach
in a coat of frost, that bleaches life away.
He walks each day, through the nearby park
if the weather is the least bit cooperative,
through the neighborhood when not, where
at least he can take a small shelter from the wind
in the shadow of houses closed up tightly,
life walled away within, smarter, he imagines
than he is, his fingers ill-gloved, slowly losing
all feeling, but this is his practice, something
he does because it requires doing, heeding
an edict from an unspoken voice. And later
emerging from a hot shower, feeling limbs
restored, he glances at the weather in hopes
the next day will be kinder, and slow in coming.