The meeting drags on. Time is frozen. The space between a smile and a grimace is the edge of a fine blade and the width of a canyon. And you maintain the smile hoping it is not seen as the rictus you feel. Politeness requires a smile, your heart requires a fast escape. So you stay and tweak all of the little facial muscles to maintain the semblance of a smile. You don’t watch the clock on the wall, for it is only a source of frustration. When you leave for home, your face feels almost sore around the lips.
Walk slowly up to Bodhidharma
but do not pull him away
from the wall before which he sits.
Keep your arms close about you
lest you cannot grasp
what he will ask.
Hold tight to your mnd
for it will grow still only
as it slips through your fingers
When you see it fade away
Samadhi bathes you.
A reflection on Case 41 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate) koans.
The wall is black granite,
highly polished be an unseen hand
and the fingers of countless thousands
present but each unseen by the others.
At first glance you want to count
the names, but you lack fingers
enough for the task and others
are quickly withdrawn as are their eyes.
You know where the names are,
Willy, who they now call William,
Little Joey, who was so large in your
memory, climbing into the cockpit.
You wonder if things had been different,
if you hadn’t enlisted, chosen
the Air Force, if the Draft Board
anointed you cannon fodder, who
would trace their fingers along
the cold unfeeling stone that has
been washed by untold tears bidding
you farewell or thanks, rarely both.
We have grown so good at wars
we no longer need etched walls,
bronze statues, for before a design
is complete, the next must be begun.
First published in The Parliament Literary Magazine – Issue 5- Masks and Manes
It is one thing
to build a wall
stop and admire,
yet make it
they don’lt think
of climbing over it.
Walls are meant
to keep, in
or out is never
clear, and actually
it is always both,
for a wall
takes no sides,
a silent sentinel.
And no wall
save that surrounding
the heartless ones
who are destined
to die alone
The true artist,
to draw a perfect tree
will lead you to the garden
and have you sit
under the great maple.
The true master
asked to speak of Dharma
face the wall
A reflection on case 118 of the Shobogenzo, Dogen’s True Dharma Eye Koans
that if you build
a ten foot wall
someone will bring
an eleven foot ladder.
I have always
wanted to take
to the sky freely
and not in some
to be a bird
but all I have
is an eight
and I am
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.