A desert again, always a desert and she the saint of uncounted names, her crying eases, no smile appears for this Madonna of the coyotes, her orange-orbed eyes shuttered against the slowly retreating sun. Once her tears watered the desert sands, mixed with the blood of a Christ now long forgotten, trans- substantiated into a spirit we formed in our image, no longer we in his. The Blessed Mother watches, holding hope, holding space, holding a serenity we cannot fathom in our search for divine justification. She remembers, she mourns, for what ought to be, and waits for the windwalkers to pull the blanket of stars over her.
If you go in search of Buddha should you see him, do not stop or speak but run away. If you do not see the Buddha run away from that place. If you stop, to take water from the edge of a still pond look carefully, for the Buddha is there just above the water’s surface.
A reflection on case 80 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)
I remember the afternoon was cold and damp, with a persistent drizzle that escaped the clustered umbrellas, the sky a blanket slowly shedding the water that soaked it as it sat out on the clothesline.
I suspect you would have liked it this way, everyone in attendance, everyone shuffling their feet, wanting to look skyward, knowing they would see only a dome of black umbrella domes.
I recited the necessary prayers, kept a reasonable pacing despite the looks of many urging me to abridge the service, but the rain didn’t care about their wishes and I knew you wouldn’t so I carried on to the conclusion.
As they lowered your coffin into the puddled grave, I imagined you laughing, knowing in the end you had this day gotten the last one.
We sit around the small tables glad to be out of the sun whose midday glare seems to blind the drivers slowly approaching the Jetty Park lot.
A family chatters, the children laughing at nothing, at everything, and nearby a dog lays out dreaming of a good walk and dinner, hoping for scraps.
We can hear the water of the inlet, the waves breaking onto the beach, visuals left to our imaginations, but we are satisfied with that, and the fact that our tacos here are far more reasonable with the “without the view” discount.
The morning was indistinguishable from so many others. Lorenz was taking his morning walk around the pond or lake, it was of that intermediate size that could be either or neither, when in a break with his habit, he sat down on one of the four benches, and stared out over the water. He hadn’t seen the usual egrets or herons or ibis, which did strike him as a bit odd since they were as regular in attendance as he was. As he pondered their absence he was startled by what felt like a tickling on his arm. He looked down to find a Painted Lady butterfly perched on his forearm sitting placidly. He stared at what seemed to be the eyes on its wing staring at him. Neither moved, he for fear of dislodging his visitor, the butterfly for its own, undisclosed, unfathomable reasons. This mutual staring continued until time lost its shape, its defintion, and puddled at his feet, no longer mattering at all. But evenutally a breeze came up and it lifted from his arm, flitted about as if in some farewell and was off. He had no idea that moments later the tsunami warning sirens began up and down Fukushima Prefecture in Japan.
Along the banks of the barge canal in the village park, a man older, his hair white, almost a mane, sits on the breakwall feeding Wonder bread to the small flotilla of ducks. Tearing shreds of crust from a slice, he casts it onto the water and smiles as they bob for the crumbs. He tells them the story of his life as though they were his oldest friends. My Anna, he says, was a special woman, I met her one night in the cramped vestibule of an Indian take away in London during a blackout. We heard the sirens and then a blast, not far off. She grabbed my arm in fear. She was from Marlow-on-Thames, she lived in a small flat in the Bottom, she worked days in a millinery, and at night tended bar at the Local, until the war. She’s been gone two years now and I miss her terribly especially late at night. A goose slowly swims over awaiting her meal, she looks deeply into his eyes. How are you, dearest Anna, it is not the same without you late at night when the silence is broken again by the sirens.
First Published in Friends & Friendship Vol. 1, The Poet, 2021
The clouds build slowly, turning the sky from blue to ever darkening shades of gray. He hopes it will rain, rain heavily, as the ground is parched, the wetland a bog, and the birds have moved on in search of water. He watches the build up, the clouds accreting, and he waits for the first drop of water. The clouds begin to dissipate, the sun peeks through widening gaps, and the sky is soon blue again. And in the distance he thinks he hears a voice whispering “you know mother nature is a cranky old broad, right?”
I am mystic, thief, madman, all that, considerably more, never begging, always taken what is arrayed before me favor curried, passage guaranteed coins gathered, stored so there are none to cover the eyes or pay the ferryman’s wages. I can turn wine to water and hide fish in the midst of loaves, the trick is to distract you so the order is reversed, a sleight unseen. I am truly the prodigal son vaudevillian and fall guy and the spikes are a bitch but the view is something to behold.