THE GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL 鐵笛倒吹 六十九

Standing at the window
looking down on the street
is the passing man enlightened?
Call out this question to him.
If he looks upward and says yes
what do you know of his enlightenment?

Looking at a flower
is it different than its seed.
If you hold a seed in your hand
what can you say of the flower
that may some day appear.


A reflection on Case 69 of the Iron Flute Koans.

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WINTER MEMORY

As I stare out the window and watch
the snow slowly build on the limbs
of the now barren sugar maple, painting
it with a whiteness that bears heavily
giving the smaller branches a better
view of the ground in which their
fruit of the summer lies buried.

I am forced to wonder if the maple
continues to watch me, if its vision
is clouded by the snowy blanket
in which it wraps itself this day,
and if it does, what must it think
of someone so sedentary when it,
bearing its winter burden can still
dance gently in the morning wind.

As a young child I recall my mother
justifying all manner of disasters based
on miscommunication, mostly hers, by
saying, “Does Macy’s talk to Bloomingdale’s?”

I didn’t care, no one did and the excuse
never worked as far as I can tell, and I now
know from experience, that of course they
talked to each other, and today they are
owned by the same corporate overseer.

So why is it that I spent the better part
of my day trying to get my old iPhone
to speak nicely to my new Samsung phone?

I wasn’t asking much, just to share contacts
and photos, but they weren’t having it,
no how, now way, not never, so I
was left to turn to a mediator, and it
pained me to call in Microsoft, but they did
have a window on a solution, so they
thanks to their outlook got to have the last word.

SETTLING

Settling into perfect
stillness, each of us
in our brown robes
on brown chairs, benches
cushions, note his entry
is somewhere between
the thundering of a forgotten
storm or the garbage trucks
crawling slowly down the street.
His gray-blue shirt and jeans
flash by. He is large
in every dimension,
even his breathing
nice and even
is large, but regular.
No breeze, only a large moth
comes through the open windows
and dances around
the rice paper light shades.
The incense hangs
over the burner on the altar
waiting to be carried into the room.
You return to thoughts
of thoughtlessness
invite ideas to come
and quickly leave.
You grow heavy
sinking into the earth
your weight and his
equally heavy.
The moth grows bored
and slips out the window.


First Published in Recenter Press Poetry Journal Vol. 2, Fall 2019
http://www.recenterpress.com/issue-two-fall-2019.html

BODHIDHARMA’S “VAST AND VOID”

You want holy teachings
boiled down, synthesized
digestible in bites

so dine on the holes
nothing, emptiness
is sustenance
enough

look at me, at a window
as you do a mirror
no knowing,
a familiar face
but whose?

the face will depart
yours or his
you will awaken
to endless absence

learn no
thingness
overflowing void


A reflection on Case 1 of the Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku)

STARING

A crane stands placidly
staring through the window
as we earnestly attempt
to imitate him, hoping
he will honor the effort
if not the result.
The master is graceful
and we are far less so, and
out of the corner of my eye
I see on the crane what could be
a smile, or as easily derision,
and take comfort in the thought
that the root of the word
is shared with laughter,
and we can accept that
not as a mark of failure but effort.
The crane returns to the pond
the master to his neigong
and we imagine we are
all noble birds awaiting flight.

MAGIC

The money wasn’t really real then,
it came in a box with a board,
dice and property deeds, and it
was in colors, one for each denomination,
(kind of like and Canada and other countries).
It was fun having a lot of it
until the first time I snuck some
out of the house and went off
to the variety store, I’d had my eye
the magic kit they had tucked
in the front window, forgotten, now
clearly the only one of its kind.
I asked the shopkeeper how much,
he said it’s been here so long
I can’t remember, so it’s yours for a buck.
I gave him a 10, pale yellow
he laughed, said that’s foreign
so it will be 990 for the magic kit
and I can’t make change but I’ll
throw in a Mars bar if that’s okay.
It was the one and only time
that trick worked.

WITHOUT WITHIN

When you peer through the glass
are you looking out, or
are you looking in, and how
would you know which is true,
and does it matter.
When you walk through a gate
are you entering or leaving.
If you ask where the gate
is located, you cannot find
where you are going,
for all gates lead nowhere
except where you are,
and if you are not at the gate
you might as well
just look through a window
and ask yourself should you
look in or out of the window
to find the missing gate?

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.

MAL ANNEE

On the anniversary
of the start of a war
one feels almost compelled
to speak to its horrors,
its cause, its effect.
But we live in an age
where wars are plentiful,
when peace is the exception
and war seems to loom
around every corner.
So on this anniversary
I watch the snowy egret
stare into the pond
outside my window,
the great bird calmly
imagining that
in her world
all of the people
are merely fish.