POOR JACK

He does not want to hear it,
but someone needs to tell Jack
just how foolish this makes him look.

It shouldn’t require a degree
in hydrogeology or philosophical logic
to realize that water, like all matter

obeys the basic laws of physics,
the concept of gravity being a principal
that says you don’t climb to find water.

Some, quite unfairly it should be noted,
place the blame on Jill, as though Jack
was a starstruck boy taken by her beauty.

One went so far as to suggest that
the story would have had a different
ending, and no medical bills, if only Jack

had fallen for Gayle, or better still, Sally
for everyone knows how easy it is to fetch
water from a well in a dale or a valley.

FREEZE FRAME

When you see a photograph of a drop
of water hitting a still pond, you realize
that it is nothing at all like what you see.

The photo freezes time, and that is why
we are so taken, for we want nothing more
than to slow or stop that unerring arrow

for we know all too well where its target
sits and we will never see its point
for the intended point is infinitely far

and we are but a small interstitial step
on its path, and so we want to freeze
the arrow’s flight , to grasp it, to turn

it around if possible, certain we can
wish it, certain that the archer knew
we would, certain in the end we will fail.

JOSHU MEASURE THE WATER

When your mind is raging
thoughts flowing, eddying
when you enter the zendo
what do you do in sitting?

Do you take your stick
and measure the water
to insure a safe fording,
or do you sit amid the stream
and let the flood
wash over and around you
dry and silent within?

A reflection on case 47 of the Iron Flute Koans

NEW LISTING

Consider them very carefully
for you will have only this chance
and you don’t want to add
those which ought not be included
or be forever burdened by those
you overlooked or misassumed
you wanted to retain.
When you are quite certain
you are finished, that your list
is exactly as you wish it,
that all your dislikes and regrets
are properly delineated, then
walk slowly to the river,
pen at the ready, and write them
with a precise hand upon the water.

ONE OF US? NEVER!

I now live among birds, and they
accept me, listen to me endless complaints,
and never demand I cease kvetching.

I know they speak about me behind
my back, but they are kind, and generally
do not remind me of my shortcomings,

no doubt certain I am all too well aware
of my failings, and they remind me they have
their own problems, a shrinking

environment, water and air that only
we might drink or breathe willingly,
and when I object to their complaints,

when I say that I am not the one
to blame, they seem to laugh, and say
perhaps so, for we birds have much

in common with you, no one wants
to listen to us complain, and you do
all look pretty much alike to us.

YEATS IF ONLY

Cheever was having a bad day,
that much was immediately obvious.
Perhaps it was the two martini’s in town
before lunch, but he says it only made him giddy.
We all know better and by late afternoon
his mood has soured completely, his emotions
have slipped back into turmoil.
He says a few cocktails will cure him,
or at least make him bearable.
He will soon consider AA again,
drinking dry the liquor cabinet in the consideration.
Elsewhere and in another time, Borges reminds us,
an Irish poet, held prisoner in the last days
of the Irish civil war, knows he will be executed
in the morning, and so slips out of the house
that serves as his prison, and into the water
icy, frigid, now hating the Barrow river.
He swims as best he can, promising
that if the river god allows him to live
he will present her with two swans.
He does live, he does place two swans
onto the river the following spring,
and he dreams one day of visiting Coole.

DRY CREEK 鐵笛倒吹 四十

When you are parched
and come upon a dry creek bed
will you assume there is water
flowing freely beneath
the soil and rocks, and how
will you drink it?

If you give up your thirst
your attachment to life
may wash downstream
and the bitter waters
may run both sweet and deep.
You may bathe in them
alongside old Joshu
without need for drinking.


A reflection on Case 40 of the Iron Flute Koans.

NAM

He said, “I survived the war,
was up to my armpits in water
wading through the night
through the rice plants
that would never bear grain
once we called in the orange.
I walk through minefields,
the noise a deafening silence
since the only sound that mattered
was the click that shouted death
You think Ii have issues now
and in your mind I certainly do
but you my issues didn’t go away
like Jamie’s, he heard that click and a moment
later his issues were gone, and the moon
was painted blood red that night
and it inhabits my dreams still.

RIVER CROSSING

We crossed the Hudson this afternoon
on a Dutch named bridge
in a driving rain so strong
you could hear little over the beat
of the wipers throwing sheets of water.
You wondered why the superstructure
was only on the Eastern end.
I wondered why they had to have
a Dutch name no one can translate.
The river’s surprisingly wide here
and you can’t even see the dead fish
or the waste from the plants up river,
its just a silver sheet of water
and the slashing of the wipers
and that name no one can translate.


First appeared in Calliope 21:1, 1997

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 reflelction on case 40 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate)