YUN MAN’S EVERY DAY IS A GOOD DAY

Pause and consider why so many questions
require you, you feel, to consult your watch,
to call up a calendar, to appoint time.
Time has no appointments, time is not
an arrow, though we strive always to aim it,
to send it flying in our desired direction.
Time is a point in space, surrounded by
all ten directions, going toward none of them.
Ask why this moment is not enough, why you need
the next though it does not exist.
What are you trying to escape by searching
for tomorrow, lingering in yesterday?
Yesterday no longer exists, so why
do you assume tomorrow does, and what
of this moment, which exists only now,
and what of the red leaf sitting
in mid-air awaiting your awed attention?

A reflection on Case 6 of the Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record)

RUSHING IN

Step right up, don’t hang back,
come and watch the fool perform for you.
You know me, bedecked in motley emotions
worn like so many colorful rags,
a suit of too many shades and hues,
all displayed for your entertainment.
See if you can find ten shades of anger
as I prance around in front of you.
Count the five flavors of tears
that start and stop like a passing storm.
Laugh at me as I pirouette, a dervish
who loved blindly long after
the love of my patron had died.
See me in my fool’s cap, the bells
of rage and guilt dangling from its points.
If that isn’t enough to bring out a laugh,
watch as I rip out my heart
and lay it at your feet, still beating
to the rhythm of the song
to which she grew deaf so long ago.
Rain your scorn on me as I stumble
across the stage, for though they ring hollow,
it is them that I most crave, a redemption
that no monarch could hope to offer.
Step right up, don’t hang back,
come and watch the fool perform for you
and do not pause to think
that you could as easily be here,
on this stage, and I out there marveling
at you, wondering what you did
to ever deserve such a fate.

First published in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008)

IT’S ABOUT TIME

My first inclination, in fact
my strong desire, when he asks me
what time it is, is not to consult
my watch, but to say that we live
in an age of unprecedented uncertainty,
an era of division and incivility,
and days fraught with risk that
each might be the last.

I know he wants to know the hour
and the minute, but if he is late,
the moment wasted in knowing
just how much so merely adds
marginally to the problem.

And if the question lacks
that import to him, then time
is no more than a human construct,
malleable despite our demand
of rigidity, and subject to
the whims of Popes and politicians,
and all the rest of nature
can only marvel at our absurdity.

PERCUSSION

After years of going to live jazz
I’ve honed my skills to a fine level.
I still know next to nothing
about the intricacies of the music,
five years of classical piano and
I barely understand Bach and Mozart.

But I know where to look, who
bears watching in the combo,
and it isn’t the trumpeter, he
with his ballooning cheeks, some
clownish bellows, or the bassist
always striving hard to develop
scoliosis, the sax player with
the rubber spine swaying.

I watch the percussionists, piano
and drums, careening from
sadness to joy and hitting
a glissando of emotions, the pianist
staring at the keys, lecturing them
on expectations for us well met,
for her falling short, and the music
slides into the background of life
in the process of being lived.

CLOCKING IN

Once upon a time
is the oddest of expressions,
for nothing is upon time,
this one, or any other.
And can we be certain
what we think once was
is committed to a memory,
which is fallible
in the best of times.
or more precisely, in the
best of time, for time
cannot be plural, though it
is inherently evanescent
and is gone as we watch.

RELATIVELY SPEAKING

“We created time,”
he said, “so we
are free to ignore it
whenever we wish,
don’t tell me
that I am late,
for that is only
by your clock
and you should know
that most clocks
are never right.
It is only the stopped clock
that is right, and that
only twice each day.”
We nervously stared
at our watches, finally
saying, “so sorry but we
are late for something
critical, and will
see you tomorrow,
same time, same place.”