MORNING

Each morning she looks at the small window in her bedroom, just after the sun has broken the horizon and the lake is set ablaze. Each morning she sees the small boat, its oars resting on the gunwale, dark against the orange water. She never asks how the boat got there, why it stays there, seemingly unmoving. Tomorrow she will awaken and the boat will be gone. She will mourn its absence. Or tomorrow she will not awaken and the boat will be there, and will mourn her absence.

PARTIALLY WHOLLY

It is incredibly difficult
to be a truly holy man, it isn’t
enough to inspire peace
with your words and presence,
you had better walk on water,
turn water into wine, heal
with the touch of a single finger.
You can’t simply stand up
for justice at the risk
of your own life and limb,
you have to wander around
a desert, carry tablets
down the side of a mountain.
You cannot be compassion,
you have to forsake everything
and be always available
for questions that have no answers.
It’s a real problem, since we
all seek to be holy, but no one
wants to do the hard work of it.

EVOLUTION

 

We arose from water,
crawled forth and inhabited the land
and claimed dominion
and the land appeared
to cede itself to us,
knowing better
and caring even less.
We return to the water
feel its pull
but immerse ourselves
only partially, willing
to risk only half drowning,
the land and air
usually silent, knowingly
laugh for they know
that a fish
out of water
eventually drowns
in a sea of air.

 

TIPPING THE WATER BOTTLE 無門關 四十

These few words
gathered neatly on a scrap
of simple paper,
what do you call it?

Answer carefully for you response
may carry the keys
to the doors of Mount Tai-i.
Better still, upend
the water bottle, watch
the ink and water form
a gentle pool into which
no pebble drops.


A reflection on Case 40 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate)

DOGO’S GREATEST DEPTH 鐵笛倒吹 六十六

If you walk into the room
and many are meditating,
how will you know which
is the teacher, which the students?

If one sits on a higher platform
will you assume him teacher
and ask the depth of his Zen?
If he comes down to you
and says he has no depth to offer
do not think him a fool.
When you sit at the bottom
of the ocean and look down
the water beneath you is shallow
but the surface of the sea
cannot be seen.


Reflecting on Case 66 of the Iron Flute (Tetteki Tosui)