Each morning, once I have completed
the often unpleasant task of dragging
myself from the womb of blankets, I make
my appearance in front of the mirror.
I stare closely into it, and am unsurprised
to find it returning my stare,
and on every occasion, I notice
that the mirror has once again
chosen to wear the same clothes as I,
albeit not as well or stylishly, no doubt
the result of its limited sense of dimensions.
It is odd that I know so well what
the mirror looks like, how it masquerades
as this or that until it can no longer
hope to avoid me, and yet despite
its familiarity, I have no idea at all
what I really look like anymore.
First Proposition: You were put up
for adoption because your birth
parents couldn’t or didn’t want to raise you.
Second Proposition: We or I adopted you
because I wanted you and not another
and to give you the good life you deserved.
Argument: Given all of the possible
alternatives, you ought to be thankful
that we saved you from that other life.
First Fallacy: My birth mother feared
rejection for getting pregnant but would
have been a loving, educated parent.
Second Fallacy: My adoptive mother
had two children with her second husband
after they married, her children at last.
Opinion: You will he told that you are
one of the family, a coequal part inseparable
from and of the others, and the same.
Fact: You were made an orphan and
always will be one, and the best you can
hope for is to be just like family, a simile
that you know will always be a transparent
wall that you can never hope to climb
and which keeps you always separate.
I would reach out
in touch you
but as it is
reach the keyboard.
I would take
the next time
I see you, but
it would appear
instantly, no waiting
for someone to tell me
as you were merely
a blurred image
appearing days later
pulled from an envelope.
Perhaps I’ll leave
a posting on your
and simply hope
you are still alive
out of reach.
There is little you can do about it,
less that you want to do,
although they are not pleased
with your decision.
Remind them that they
are the ones that left the decision
to you, mostly in the hope you
would do what they hoped, taking them
off the hook, but they now realize
they have been hoist
with their own petard
and the walls, gates they wanted
breached still stand
with you on the sideline
watching their farce unfettered.
They will not ask again
and you laugh, for if they did it
you would give it a try
just to see the look on their faces.
If you want an answer
do not ask a question –
your answer cannot be mine
nor can mine be yours.
Instead, ask the stone wall,
it has nothing to say
and in its perfect silence
all questions are asked
and all answers are found.
A reflection on Case 41 of the Shobogenzo, Dogen’s True Dharma Eye
Ginkgo trees laden
with leaves fanning the dawn sun
Seeds lie in waiting
The morning bell sounds
the monks pause from their labors
Buddha sits zazen
The wall does not move
only the breath is moving
count it carefully
When you assume the mat
and gaze at the wall,
what is it you see?
If you see nothing,
what do you think?
If you are certain
that you see nothing,
that is what you think.
Do not see, do not think,
and let the cushion
fall away until the moment
you no longer exist,
but let the moment
fall away as well
and there is only
the emptiness of peace.
A reflection on case 17 of the Entangling Vines Koans
The old, weathered maple
leans into the sun, its trunk
stroking the cobbled cottage
which sits against the foothill.
The square window peers out
over a wildflower garden
as the roof’s peakline
into old age.
Walking around it I see
the back roof has collapsed
the back wall ever threatening
to return to the earth
of its mountain home.
He sits on the cushion
staring through hooded eyes
at the wall in front of him.
He expects exactly nothing to happen,
expects there to be no sound
within his mind, only what
happens without, expects that time
will cease for him, or
will at least cease to matter.
He is not disappointed.
The bell rings, he arises,
and walks back into the world
where everything happens,
there is only sound, and
he stares at his watch knowing
time has moved on in ways
he can never hope to fully grasp.
No one is certain who
painted the words on the wall.
No one knew when the painting occurred,
someone noticed the words
one morning and told others,
and the word spread through town.
People stopped to look at the words,
but few understood what they meant.
Soon there were pictures drawn
around the words, familiar faces,
and people would stop, add words
until the wall was a mural
that could not be forgotten,
only ignored by those
who simply wouldn’t understand.